Many Montreal Canadiens prospects had strong 2013-14 seasons

By David Thicke

Charles Hudon - Montreal Canadiens

Photo: Forward Charles Hudon had a strong 2013-14 season in the QMJHL, managing 26 goals and 50 assists in 57 games. Hudon was traded in January from the Chicoutimi Sagueneens to the Baie-Comeau Drakkar. (courtesy of Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

The 2013-14 season saw solid improvement and excellent development across the Montreal Canadiens prospect pool. Michael Bournival made the jump to the NHL level this season while Nathan Beaulieu, Louis Leblanc, and Jarred Tinordi saw more time with the parent club this year.

Further down the pipeline, prospects like Jacob de la Rose, Zachary Fucale, Charles Hudon, Artturi Lehkonen, and Martin Reway performed very well amongst their peers on the big stage at the 2014 WJC tournament. Sven Andrighetto, Connor Crisp, Mike McCarron, and Jeremy Gregoire also showed excellent improvement in their overall games.

Hardest Worker: Zachary Fucale, G, Halifax Mooseheads (QJMHL)

Fucale is usually the first player on and the last one off at each team practice and works on all aspects of his game both on and off the ice. He will study hours of game film to look for player's shooting tendencies. The technically sound netminder is also a student of the game. He seems to enjoy repeating the task until it is perfected to his satisfaction. Despite long periods of inaction due to his strong offensive team, his reading of the play and control of his defensive zone can be heard from the stands. The young goalie is his team's best penalty killer and mature beyond his age.

Also under consideration for this award were Josiah Didier, Jarred Tinordi, Jack Nevins, Jacob de la Rose, Gabriel Dumont, and Sven Andrighetto.

Hardest Shot: Magnus Nygren, D, Farjestad BK Karlstad (SHL)

Nygren ripped a 104.6 mile per hour slap shot at the AHL All-Star competition this year which puts him well ahead of the other Canadiens prospects. Not only does his shot have excellent velocity but his accuracy allowed him to score 13 goals this season. The mobile defenseman also uses his quick release in order to get the puck through to the net and makes it difficult for the opposition to shut down the shoot lanes on him. These abilities make an excellent weapon on any power play and could land him a spot on the Canadiens' blue line corps in the very near future.

Darren Dietz, Morgan Ellis, Greg Pateryn, and Dalton Thrower were also considered for this award.

Best Offensive Prospect: Charles Hudon, C/W, Baie Comeau Drakkar (QJMHL)

Hudon possesses the total package of offensive talents along with excellent hockey sense which allows him to play equally as well away from the puck. He has the vision and playmaking ability to make his teammates better. His compete level, physicality, and overall game raised several notches when he was traded to Baie Comeau in early January. Despite back and wrist issues for most of the season, he still managed 26 goals along with 50 assists in 57 games. His drive, desire, and work ethic should help the former fifth round pick of the Canadiens to make an impact at the pro level this upcoming season.

Other prospects up for this award were Sven Andrighetto, Tim Bozon, Artturi Lehkonen, Martin Reway, and Brady Vail. This was a closely contested award.

Best Defensive Prospect: Nathan Beaulieu, D, Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)

This is the toughest category because all the candidates have different attributes and weakness to improve on before playing at the next level. Beaulieu has the offensive tools and is improving in the defensive zone. He continues to excel at controlling his teams' power play and jumping up to join the play in the offensive zone. With a couple more opportunities at the NHL level this season, he proved capable enough but still needs more time and maturing before making the jump to a full-time NHL player.

Jarred Tinordi, Greg Pateryn, Magnus Nygren, Darren Dietz, Morgan Ellis, Mac Bennett, and Dalton Thrower were also under consideration.

Fastest Skater: Jacob de la Rose, C/W, Leksand IF (SHL)

De la Rose already possesses NHL caliber skating speed and a motor that does not stop. He plays a 200-foot game and breaks up scoring plays with his relentless back checking. The big forward possess an excellent skating stride, along with good speed and acceleration. It is one of the main attributes of his overall game and will help him get to the NHL level in the near future. The others considered might have better four-step acceleration than de la Rose but not the top-end speed.

Other prospects considered were Sven Andrighetto, Christian Thomas, Tim Bozon, Martin Reway, and Artturi Lehkonen.

Prospect of the Year: Sven Andrighetto, RW, Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)

Andrighetto was passed over in the NHL draft and made the jump from junior to the pro level in the AHL look almost seamless this year. The talented winger was the Hamilton Bulldogs' offensive engine and second leading scorer in his rookie season. His offensive numbers were 17 goals along with 27 assists and a minus-four rating in 64 games. If not for missed time due to an injury, the shifty winger might have led the team in offensive production. He scored many highlight reel goals, while showing flashes of what he could become at the NHL level in the near future.

Zach Fucale, Jeremy Gregoire, Charles Hudon, Dustin Tokarski, Nathan Beaulieu, Greg Pateryn, and Jarred Tinordi were all up for this award.

Breakout Player for 2014-15: Greg Pateryn, D, Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)

Pateryn was one of Hamilton's best defenseman game in and game out. His offensive game came to life this season where it was almost nonexistent at the University of Michigan. He became a more steady influence on the Bulldogs' young defense corps. The big defender has put himself in the conversation for an NHL roster spot going into the Canadiens' NHL training camp next season. His game is right up there with the likes of Beaulieu and Tinordi.

Jeremy Gregoire, Connor Crisp, Artturi Lehkonen, Jack Nevins, Dalton Thrower, and Brady Vail were nominated for this award.

Most Improved Prospect: Jeremy Gregoire, C/RW, Baie Comeau Drakkar (QJMHL)

Gregoire doubled his offensive production from 32 points last season to 69 points this year. He finished second on the Drakkars in scoring behind Charles Hudon and 24th in the QJMHL scoring race for the regular season. The versatile forward always had a good two-way game and does the little things that win hockey games, but this year his scoring was winning games for Baie Comeau as well. In his third QJMHL season, Gregoire was shooting the puck far more often and spent the entire season on the first power playing unit where he tallied 14 markers.

Other candidates considered for this award are Greg Pateryn, Mike McCarron, Dustin Tokarski, Dalton Thrower, and Brady Vail.

Overachiever: Brady Vail, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Vail really stepped up his offensive game to go along with his shutdown role for the Windsor Spitfires in his final year at the junior level. He finished 19th in the OHL scoring race for the regular season with 32 goals and 51 assists in 67 games. His two-way game improved with more offensive production as he took on a much bigger role for the Spitfires after the trade of Kerby Rychel (CBJ). He could make the NHL as a checking/defensive forward that can chip in some timely offense, but he is not likely to become a top six forward unless his offense game really blooms at the pro level. At this time, Vail is still unsigned by the Montreal Canadiens and will be one of the difficult decisions facing the team's management group prior to the deadline.

Jack Nevins, Jeremy Gregoire, Dustin Tokarski, and Mike Condon were all excellent candidates for this award.

Underachiever: Joonas Nattinen, C/W, Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)

Joonas Nattinen did not bring his offensive game to the next level in an important contract year. The big forward possesses the offensive and skating skills, along with a good shot, to have far more success than he has shown to date in Hamilton. He appears unable to find the right spot for himself in the Bulldogs lineup and is yet to put it all together. There is a possibility that Nattinen will not get re-signed by the Canadiens' management team over this summer.

Others considered were Louis Leblanc (expectations of more offensive production), Patrick Holland and Christian Thomas were both slowed by injuries, while Robert Mayer was still inconsistent in his overall play.

Highest Risk/Reward Prospect: Martin Reway, C/W, Gatineau Olympiques (QJMHL)

Martin Reway possesses elite offensive skills but his size could be a concern, and his defensive play needs more improvement. At times, he is capable of producing highlight reel plays and big multipoint games. The talented forward is highly competitive with a combative nature but so far injuries have kept him playing a full season in the QJMHL. There has been attitude and maturity issues with Reway as well, which could see him leave the QJMHL or be traded before the upcoming season. The fifth round pick is a possible steal of his draft class if he can become stockier and learn to not try to do too much by himself.

Prospects under consideration for this award were Jeremy Gregoire, Connor Crisp, Mark MacMillan, Colin Sullivan, and Mike Condon.

Most Perseverance: Jack Nevins, LW, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QJMHL)

Nevins bounced around the OHL and was released after two years by the London Knights. As a 19-year-old, he switched leagues to the QJMHL and became the Charlottetown Islanders' captain as an overager this year. His solid all-round play, physicality, and toughness managed to catch the attention of the Canadiens management. He was signed to an NHL entry-level contract in December. His never back down attitude is just what is needed in the Canadiens prospect group and on the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Stefan Fournier, Mike Condon, Dalton Thrower, and Tim Bozon were all considered for this award.

The Unsung Hero (Jacques Beauchamps Award for the Canadiens): Dustin Tokarski, G, Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)

Tokarski put up excellent numbers on a young Hamilton squad that struggled to score goals on a nightly basis. He kept the Bulldogs in most their games with his stellar play and was rewarded with an AHL All-Star team selection. Without Tokarski, Hamilton would have been out of the AHL playoff race well before January. Yet all the talk seemed to be about how his defensemen Tinordi, Beaulieu, Pateryn, Ellis, and Dietz limited the opposition's chances. In the end, it was the competitive goaltender that covered up a lot of giveaways, positional and passing errors by his defense corps. Tokarski rightly earned his new contract from Montreal with his brilliant play this year.

Josiah Didier, Gabriel Dumont, Greg Pateryn, and Mark MacMillan were all excellent candidates for this award.