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Montreal Canadiens Organizational Players of April

Jan 12, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens right wing Cole Caufield (22) celebrates his goal against the Nashville Predators during the second period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

NHL Player of the Month: Cole Caufield

The season didn’t go the way we thought it would for Cole Caufield. Posting 26 goals in 46 games a year ago, he appeared poised for a breakout offensive season, but at the end of March he had just achieved the 20-goal milestone. Things changed in a big way in April, as the winger notched eight goals in nine games to end the season with a new career high of 28.

Seven of those eight goals came at even strength, which tied him with Lucas Raymond for the most in the final weeks of the regular season. Caufield found his greatest offensive success of the season by shooting from close range, but also finding the target from distance on occasion, which he had difficulty with all year long.

It’s fair to predict an increase in goals again next year. Perhaps not the 50 he was on pace for in 2022-23, but 40 doesn’t seem like a far-fetched total. He will also be doing it as the complete 200-foot player he became this season, doing his part to push the team to a playoff spot, which I’m sure he would say is the more important thing.

Honourable mention: Brendan Gallagher

While we’re on the topic of encouraging end-of-season performances, Brendan Gallagher completed his campaign with 10 points in the final nine games, five of them goals. His story went a bit like Benjamin Button’s as there were some real concerns that he was in the twilight of his career when the season began, but he actually gained as step in the final weeks, and he may be going into the off-season the healthiest he’s been in recent years.

As fun as it was to see all the young players making progress, you can argue that Gallagher looking comfortable both physically and in the system being built around the young core of the team is just as important for the Habs’ post-season aspirations. The team no longer requires him to be a top offensive player, but his contributions in a bottom-six role could help turn some of the competitive losses the Habs were dealt this year into wins.

— Justin Blades

AHL Player of the Month: Lias Andersson

While the Laval Rocket came up just short in their quest for a third straight playoff berth, it wasn’t for a lack of effort on the part of some key players. Chief among them was Lias Andersson, who battled through various injuries to end up as one of the team’s most reliable producers.

Down the stretch in April, when every single game was do-or-die, Andersson posted three goals and five assists in six games. It isn’t any surprise that he was the catalyst down the stretch either, as he had been the most dynamic part of the forward group since the first game of the season. He continued that in April, posting a pair of three-point games to help win a pair of crucial games in emphatic fashion.

The rumours are swirling that he’ll be heading back to Europe for next season. That will leave a massive gap in the Rocket lineup, one they’ll need to fill quickly to help insulate what is likely to be another young roster.

Honourable mentions: Jakub Dobeš & Philippe Maillet

— Scott Matla

European Prospect of the Month: Oliver Kapanen

Kapanen came into his own during the Liiga playoffs, and in the end he finished tied for first place with 14 points (7G, 7A) in 13 games. Tied with Tappara’s Anton Levtchi who won out due to more goals scored.

Kapanen rose to become a big-game player and his confidence grew with every point scored. Even if KalPa was outmatched against eventual winners Tappara, he played a strong game of hockey, adding his mean streak but not crossing the line into dangerous and dirty play. He has learned to use his size to better effect, using his hand-eye coordination and quick stick-work to keep the puck, or force it out of board battles.

It remains to be seen where Kapanen plays next season. Wherever it may be, he will have a good foundation to build upon.

Honourable mention: Filip Eriksson

Eriksson was one of Växjö’s best players in the semifinal series against Rögle, bringing in the confidence and swagger form his time in Nybro. He almost pulled his team back into the series himself by scoring twice in the third semifinal to tie the game in the dying minutes.

He created havoc when on the ice and was “a player tough to coach against because of his smarts,” Rögle’s assistant coach Max Bohlin told us after the series had finished.

— Patrik Bexell

North American Prospect of the Month: Filip Mesar

April is always a tough time to pick out a winner in this segment, with a lot of prospects seeing their season cut short due to playoff elimination. Jacob Fowler only played two (albeit stellar) games in April. The same goes for Lane Hutson, who even graduated to the NHL and earned an assist in his first two games with the Habs. In fact, the only prospect still playing meaningful hockey heading into May is Owen Beck, who only put up five points in 12 post-season matches in the past month.

Mešár, however, was stellar until the closing whistle for Kitchener, despite them getting dominated and ultimately swept by the powerhouse London Knights in the second round. He earned at least a point in all but one of his games in April, including points on eight of Kitchener’s 11 goals scored against the Knights in the four-game series. Factoring in his two points at the tail end of the first round, that’s 10 points in eight games total for the month of April in Mešár’s case.

The Habs’ late first-rounder in 2022 really stepped up his playmaking in this post-season run. The creativity and dynamism off the rush was still very much present, but adding some small-area passes and off-the-wall plays to his playmaking arsenal allowed him to be effective in more ways than one. In the playoffs, Mešár played into that versatility extremely well, cutting back and finding a trailer when needed, and driving through defensive structures to feed the puck to the slot when needed. 

It is highly unlikely that Mešár plays another Junior game. The Laval Rocket should benefit from a much-needed injection of skill, directness, and pace to their system this fall.

— Hadi Kalakeche

PWHL Player of the Month: Erin Ambrose

After assisting on Canada’s World Championship-winning goal in overtime, Ambrose came back to the PWHL ready to rock. In her first game back after the break, she had four primary assists in a 4-3 win. She finished the month with one goal (at the Bell Centre, no less) and six assists in four games played. All while logging the most minutes of anyone on the team, leading Montreal’s defence at even strength, on the power play, and on the penalty kill.

She has emerged as the PWHL’s leading scorer among defenders, and her responsibilities on the team make her a front-runner for the PWHL’s Defender of the Year award. Known mostly for her offence, it’s Ambrose’s defensive game that may even be more impressive.

Honourable mentions: Laura Stacey, Ann-Renée Desbiens, Marie-Philip Poulin, Kristin O’Neill

The entire contingent of Canadians who won a gold medal have led this team over their four games in April. Stacey had three goals and three assists, Desbiens had a 2-0-1 record with her first shutout, 1.66 goals-against average, and .948 save percentage. Poulin had a goal and four assists and is in striking distance of the PWHL scoring title. O’Neill had three goals and an assist and has emerged as a top player after being named one of Canada’s three best players at the tournament.

— Jared Book

NHL Player AHL Player EU Prospect NA Prospect PWHL Player
April Cole Caufield Lias Andersson Oliver Kapanen Filip Mesar Erin Ambrose
March Cayden Primeau Jakub Dobeš Oliver Kapanen Owen Beck Marie-Philip Poullin
February Nick Suzuki Jakub Dobeš Oliver Kapanen Owen Beck Claire Dalton
January Sean Monahan Logan Mailloux Filip Eriksson Lane Hutson Marie-Philip Poullin
December Juraj Slafkovský Jakub Dobeš Filip Eriksson Jacob Fowler
November Alex Newhook Brandon Gignac Adam Engström Jacob Fowler
October Cole Caufield Joshua Roy Oliver Kapanen Cedrick Guindon

Players of March
Players of February
Players of January
Players of December
Players of November
Players of October

EOTP Players of the Month archive

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