HF NHL Prospect of the Month, March, 2016: Meier, Huskies roll into second round of QMJHL playoffs

By Chris Roberts
Timo Meier - HF NHL Prospect of the Month, March, 2016

Photo: Rouyn-Noranda Huskies forward and San Jose Sharks prospect Timo Meier, shown here competing for his home country of Switzerland, has helped take the Huskies to another level since he was acquired from Halifax in January of 2016 (courtesy of Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

 

 

Heading into the CHL playoffs, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies locked down the number one seed in the BMO CHL Top 10 Rankings, ahead of OHL powerhouses the Erie Otters and London Knights. The Huskies finished the regular season leading the QMJHL with a record of 52-9-3-2; they were a consistently strong team all season long, but bolstered their potent lineup with a few transactions prior to the league’s trade deadline.

Their most notable acquisition, San Jose Sharks prospect Timo Meier, is the Hockey’s Future NHL Prospect of the Month for March of 2016.

Meier, the ninth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, finished the regular season with 89 points, 36 of which were scored in 23 games with the Halifax Mooseheads. Halifax failed to qualify for the playoffs and opted to unload at the deadline and Rouyn-Noranda pounced, picking up the Swiss forward for a trio of draft picks – a first and second in 2017 and a fourth in 2018. And he paid immediate dividends for the club, scoring twice and picking up an assist in his first game. With Meier, the Huskies ended the season on a 14-game winning streak and have carried that momentum into the playoffs, sweeping their first round series in March by a combined 33-4 score.

The big-bodied winger was solid in his first two months with the team, but had the odd game where he failed to record a point. In March, however, Meier was as dynamic as ever, recording 22 points (10 goals and 12 assists) in nine regular season games. He also had five power play and five game-winning goals. He finished the season with a 12-game point streak, dating back to Feb. 23rd.

Meier recorded points in all four postseason games against the Drummondville Voltigeurs, finishing with 13 points in the series. In Game 1, he notched a hat trick, scoring twice on the power play and once on the penalty kill. He had a five-point night in Game 4.

Honorable Mention

Brock Boeser, RW, University of North Dakota (NCHC)

The University of North Dakota has advanced to the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four thanks to its depth, but primarily because of its top forward line of Nick Schmaltz (CHI), undrafted senior Drake Caggiula, and recent Vancouver Canucks draft pick, Brock Boeser. These Prospect of the Month articles have given a lot of love to Michigan’s Kyle Connor (WPG) as one of the country’s top freshman, but Boeser has been just as impressive in his own right. The 6’1, 191-pound winger, who just turned 19 in February, led the Fighting Hawks in scoring with 54 points (26 goals, 28 assists) in 40 games. In March, Boeser racked up 17 points in just nine games and carried a 10-game point streak into the team’s 5-2 win over Michigan in the Midwest Regional final.

Frank Vatrano, LW, Providence Bruins (AHL)

Twenty-two-year-old Frank Vatrano has become an unlikely folk hero in Boston this season, and in March, the Massachussets native had his best month. Vatrano, who was signed by the Bruins as a free agent out of UMass-Amherst in March of 2015, had 33 goals in 33 AHL games as of the end of the month and had even competed in 34 games with the Boston Bruins. Those numbers are significant given that Vatrano scored 18 times in 36 games with UMass-Amherst the year prior. In March, with the Providence Bruins of the AHL, Vatrano scored in six of eight games, recording a total of eight goals and five assists. Most impressive is that all eight of his goals in the month came at even strength. Vatrano was again recalled by Boston toward the end of the month to provide some scoring spark and did just that, recording three points in four games.

Juuse Saros, G, Milwaukee Admirals (AHL)

In his first season in North America, 20-year-old Juuse Saros (NSH) has split time with 24-year-old Czech netminder Marek Mazanec (NSH) in Milwaukee, combining for the best goaltending tandem in the AHL. Both goaltenders have been tremendous throughout the season, with Mazanec playing five more games than Saros. But in March the quick and athletic Saros played the majority of the games, posting a 7-1 record to go along with a 1.61 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage in eight starts. He also had two shutouts. Heading into the AHL playoffs, Admirals head coach Dean Evason can do no wrong in choosing to go with Saros or Mazanec, but the former is making a strong case to be the number one goaltender when the playoffs begin.

Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Though pointless in four playoff games, Russian rearguard Ivan Provorov (PHI) had a spectacular end to his 2015-16 regular season. Anchoring the blueline for the high-scoring Brandon Wheat Kings, Provorov scored seven goals and added 10 assists in nine regular season games in the month, while compiling a +20 rating. He had three multi-goal games and scored both a shorthanded and power-play goal. In addition, Provorov had just one minor penalty in the month (and eight all season), which is impressive considering he can get involved physically and logs heavy ice-time in all situations. He finished the season leading all WHL defensemen in points (73) and the entire league in plus-minus (+64).

HF NHL Prospect of the Month, February, 2016

Follow Chris Roberts on Twitter via @chrisroberts_7