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Prospect Watch: Daniel Audette torches the QMJHL

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In the first installment of a bi-weekly series covering the most intriguing performances by Habs prospects, Daniel Audette shines with his scorching start to the season.

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On June 28, 2014, the Montreal Canadiens selected Daniel Audette. Audette, the son of former NHLer and current Montreal Canadiens' scout, Donald, was hailed as one of the best picks of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.

In the following season, Audette managed to eclipse his previous goal totals, while playing less games. However, he continued to struggle in faceoff dot, winning at a meagre 44.7%, and overall play not only stagnated, but regressed.

As his ice time dipped due to the emergence of Kay Schweri and Tim Wieser, Audette became more selfish and disengaged in the offensive zone. On the powerplay, where Audette racked up 47% of his points in 2013-2014, Schweri took over as the team's top puck distributor.

This season has gotten off to a great start for the speedy forward, tallying 14 points in six games. While the step forward in production is encouraging, it's important to remember that Audette got off to a tremendous start last season, only to have the final two-thirds of the marred with inconsistency.

Audette continues to demonstrate a high-end skill level in the QMJHL. Combining excellent top speed and tremendous stickhandling ability, he easily separates himself from the defenders and gains the offensive zone.

Since his draft season, his long-range shooting has made noticeable improvement, which has been on display early into this season (two of his four assists versus Gatineau on September 27 showcased this). Of course, Audette's bread and butter is his playmaking ability, which continues to shine in all situations.

In the middle of a five-game point streak Audette tallied five points in a good showing versus Gatineau. However, it was his performance versus Halifax (October 2) where Audette demonstrated his high-end talent. Through numerous excellent rushes, 10 shots on goal, and three points, he showcased a variety of skills.

While encouraging, Audette's overall play continued to be hampered by various issues. While an excellent playmaker, Audette tends to be selfish with the puck, especially off the rush. He commits needless turnovers and often takes unnecessary low-percentage shots instead of linking up with an open teammate. Audette's defensive play continues to be wildly inconsistent, and he can be quite lazy with his stick.

The first overall pick in the 2012 QMJHL Entry Draft, at least production-wise, has lived up to the expectations so far. While Audette's overall play leaves a lot to be desired, the season is just getting underway. There's no doubt that Audette could finish the season among the league's elite scorers.


Michael McNiven: A Man on a Mission

After getting passed up with an NHL contract in hand, McNiven return to the OHL as a man on a mission. In four games, McNiven has a 2.13 GAA and .932 SV%, along with three wins.

Following the announcement that McNiven would return to Owen Sound, overage goaltender Jack Flinn was sent to the Mississauga Steelheads, making McNiven the undisputed number one.

Riding the confidence from an NHL contract and a new huge role on the Owen Sound Attack, McNiven recorded a 30-save shutout versus Guelph, and followed it up with a 30-save victory and a 37-save shootout loss.

McNiven is a rare breed in today's world of goaltenders. McNiven's technical game is severely lacking, yet he makes up for it with tremendous athleticism.

A fiery competitor, McNiven is consistently engaged in the game and aggressively fights through traffic to locate the puck. Already one of the OHL's most athletic goaltenders, with more experience and practice with a goaltending coach, his technical game will surely improve.

Impressive Return for Matthew Bradley

Matthew Bradley, a little-talked-about prospect, missed all of Montreal Canadiens training camp and the start of the WHL season following surgery for a benign tumour.

On October 2, Bradley return the Medicine Hat Tigers' lineup, where he almost immediately made his mark. Bradley grabbed an assist with a nice one-time pass across the slot and fired six shots on goal. The following game, he scored his first goal of the season with a speedy rush and a wicked backhand shot. Bradley continued to make solid plays in his own zone, demonstrating a high level of smarts and competitiveness.

With veteran forwards Cole Sanford and Trevor Cox playing their overage seasons, Bradley will play a secondary offense this season. Last year, he performed admirably in a shutdown role, and it's expected that he will take another step forward.