Several Montreal Canadiens prospects enjoyed long and productive postseasons

By David Thicke

Dustin Tokarski - Montreal Canadiens

Photo: Goaltender Dustin Tokarski made his NHL playoff debut on May 19th, 2014, starting in place for an injured Carey Price. Though the Canadiens lost in six to the New York Rangers, Tokarski was solid, managing a 2-3 record and a 2.60 goals against average. (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

With the Hamilton Bulldogs failing to capture an AHL playoff spot, the Montreal Canadiens recalled a large group of prospects, including Nathan Beaulieu and Dustin Tokarski, as the Black Aces practice squad. Michael Bournival and Jarred Tinordi were already playing at the NHL level at the end of the NHL regular season and were part of Montreal's playoff roster.  

At the CHL level, the Canadiens were fortunate enough to have Mike McCarron playing for the 2014 Memorial Cup, which was hosted by the London Knights.

NHL

Bournival brought energy to the Canadiens fourth line and caused problems for the Lightning, Bruins, and Rangers defensemen with his forechecking and speed. He gained more confidence as the NHL playoffs progressed, but sat out three games to allow healthy veterans to play. The coaches returned him to the Canadiens lineup when Brandon Prust was suspended for two games. The young forward contributed only one assist in 14 NHL playoff games, but brought much more than what appeared on the score sheet.

Beaulieu entered his first NHL playoff game against the Boston Bruins and helped the team stave off elimination with his offensive game. The young defender finished up the series playing game seven and started the first three games of the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers. After being solid in the Boston series, he struggled a little against the Rangers speed and heavy forecheck, along with much of the Canadiens team. The mobile defenseman played five of the six games of the Eastern Conference Finals, which was an excellent learning experience for him moving forward in his development. Averaging about 10 minutes per game, Beaulieu contributed two assists and had a plus-three rating in seven NHL playoff games.

Tokarski was handed the reins over backup goalie Peter Budaj when Carey Price went down with a knee injury in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals, and was ruled out for the rest of the series. His numbers, a 2-3-1 record, a 2.60 goals against average, and a .916 save percentage, are okay for a rookie in the playoffs, but do not tell the whole story. The young goaltender showed his competitive edge, composure and gave Montreal a chance to win every game he started in the series. In his first road appearance in the playoffs, he stole game three for Montreal in the hostile environment of Madison Square Garden, which is no easy task. It was a coming out party for the young netminder at the NHL level.

ECHL

Mike Condon played incredible for the Wheeling Nailers in their round one sweep of the South Carolina Stingrays. He would steal the only two games his team would win in their second round match-up with the Greenville Road Warriors. The big netminder put up a record 6-3-1, a solid 2.50 goals against average, and a very good .926 save percentage in 10 ECHL playoff games. His outstanding regular season and playoff performance at the ECHL level may have caused the Canadiens to release Robert Mayer from the last year of his contract.

OHL

The Sudbury Wolves and Connor Crisp lost a hard fought series 4-1, to the Barrie Colts in the first round of the OHL playoffs. Only the final game was a blow out as the rest were closely contested. Crisp failed to bring his game to another level during the series, scoring one goal along with one assist and a minus-four rating. He would score his first professional goal while playing for the Bulldogs and acquitted himself very well over his seven games.

After easily getting by the Windsor Spitfires in their first round series, McCarron and the London Knights were knocked out of the playoffs in five tough games by the OHL Champions, Guelph Storm. The big forward played well with limited ice time in a supporting role. He managed to score three goals along with two assists and 22 penalty minutes in the nine games. His plus-six rating for the playoffs was second on the team and best amongst the forwards. The London Knights failed to win a game at the Memorial Cup despite outshooting their opponents.

QMJHL

Zachary Fucale and the Halifax Moosehead went deep again in the QMJHL playoffs this year. The team lost a difficult seven-game semi-final series to the eventual Champions, Val D'or. Halifax failed to finish off the Foreurs in game six and were edged out 3-2 in game seven. The young goaltender had an up and down playoffs and battled inconsistency in his game. Fucale finished with a 9-4 record, a 2.87 goals against average, and a save percentage of .882 in 15 appearances. He faced an average of 23 shots per game and was pulled twice during the semi-final series. It was uncharacteristic of Fucale, who is normally known for his mental strength, to lose his focus and confidence in net. His heavy workload over the past three seasons may have finally caught up to Fucale and he will need to work his on strength and conditioning over the summer.

The Baie-Comeau Drakkar had a deep run in the QMJHL playoffs with large contributions from Jeremy Gregoire and Charles Hudon. In the finals, the team lost a hard fought seven-game series to the President's Trophy winners, the Val-D'Or Foreurs. Losing the sudden death game on a goal scored with 52 seconds left in the third, was tough pill to swallow for the two players. Gregoire led the Drakkars in playoff points, collecting nine goals along with 14 assists and a plus-three rating in 22 games. Hudon was not far behind him, scoring 10 goals with 11 helpers and a minus-three rating in 22 games.

Jack Nevins and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies handled their first round opponents the Quebec Remparts in five games. The team was swept out of the QJMHL playoffs by the Baie-Comeau Drakkars in the second round. The tough winger showed his offensive game, scoring five goals along with three assists in nine games. Nevins played three games at the AHL level with Hamilton to finish up his hockey year. He collected his first professional point and acquitted himself very well in his three AHL fights. A gritty, physical forward, Nevins will be a welcome addition to the Bulldogs' lineup next season.

The Gatineau Olympiques and Martin Reway swept their first round series with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. The Olympiques were knocked out of the QJMHL playoffs 4-1 by the Halifax Moosehead in the second round however. Reway played with an edge and tied for the leading scorer for the Olympiques in the playoffs. He potted 15 points and a plus-15 rating in nine games. After exiting the QJMHL playoffs, the 19-year-old received the opportunity play for Team Slovakia at the 2014 IIHF World Championship and contributed three assists in seven games.

WHL

Tim Bozon and Dalton Thrower both were unable to compete in the WHL playoffs with their respective teams. Bozon still has a long road to recovery from meningitis but he is improving nicely in a European Clinic. Thrower tried to play on a bad left ankle but was forced to shut it down for the year and had surgery to repair ligament damage on May 6th. He expects to be ready for training camp in September.

Notes and Signings

Tokarski was signed to a new two-year deal on April 12th.

Jacob de la Rose signed a three-year NHL entry-level contract on April 14th.

Daniel Carr and Crisp were signed to a two-year and three-year NHL entry-level contracts respectively on April 24th.

Thrower was signed to a three-year entry-level deal on May 30th.

Magnus Nygren competed for Team Sweden at the 2014 IIHF World Championships in Minsk, Belarus. He scored one goal along with four assists and a good even rating in his 10 tournament games. It could be interesting to see what happens next for the young Swede and his hockey career.

Forward Brady Vail was not signed by the Canadiens and is eligible for selection in the 2014 NHL Draft.