Prospect Happenings in Hab-Land

By Chris Boucher
The Montréal press seems to be confused when it comes to Arron Asham’s performance this year in the AHL. Granted, he is playing well. He’s competing consistently and is leading the Citadelles in scoring with 23 points (9-14-23) in 24 games. But the reality of the situation is that Asham’s production is actually down this year compared to last season. He averaged 1.10 points per game through 15 AHL games last season.

The problem here isn’t with Asham or his game, but with the expectations this misunderstanding might bring. The 5’11”, 194-lbs Asham will likely never put up comparable numbers in the NHL. To assume so would be doing both he and the franchise an injustice. He wasn’t recalled based on his offensive production. Mainly it was due to injury problems combined with his increased competitiveness. Equally important is the fact that he’s a right-handed shot.

Lost in the Citadelles’ success, and more recently their lack of success has been the strong play of Marcel Hossa. He’s playing a solid overall game. The Slovakian is competing hard, and consistently putting his strong puck-protection skills on display. Although he’s not lighting it up offensively, he is getting his share of chances; he’s currently second on the team with 55 shots on goal. The adjustment to left wing has been relatively smooth, although his transition game (particularly along the half-boards in the defensive zone) could always use improvement.

The 20-year-old’s play comes into particular focus when we consider his relatively young age. If we look at where fellow Hab prospect Mike Ribeiro was at he exact same age, we see that Ribeiro was playing in the 2000 QMJHL playoffs with the Québec Remparts. Mike had just come off a disappointing performance at the World Junior Championship, and was just beginning to regain his confidence. By this stage of his career he had played 19 NHL games, but had only played 3 games with the Citadelles; and was still looking for his first AHL point.

Mathieu Garon’s performance this season; particularly his play during an October 30th game against the Edmonton Oilers seems to have led some Hab fans to write-off the young goaltender. Garon however, still remains the Habs’ number one prospect. He’s the one player with the potential to have the biggest impact on an NHL franchise. He has above average speed, lateral movement, flexibility, reflexes, and glove hand. He has good size, and is exceptionally strong down low.

He needs to work on positioning, consistency, and reading the play. Like many young goalies (Jose Theodore included), Garon needs to improve his rebound control. High shot-counts during many AHL games have been the product of poor rebound control. Improving this facet of his game will produce lower shot counts, which will in turn mean fewer goals against.

Although Garon’s lack of playing time in recent weeks is a concern, the opportunity to see NHL-calibre shots during practice, along with the hands-on teaching of Roland Melanson may prove equally valuable to his development.

The anointment of Mike Komisarek as the next Hab to win the Norris Trophy remains slightly premature. He has great size to go with solid mobility, and is a consistent competitor. He’s also shown the biggest point-per-game improvement among Hab prospects this season. The Michigan defenseman has raised his point per game totals by a margin of 0.55 points per game. Last season he averaged a solid, if unspectacular 0.38 PPG, while this year he’s putting up points at a 0.93 PPG pace.

That said, Komisarek’s offensive output still lags behind numbers produced by Ron Hainsey last season. Although the two defensemen will likely develop into different types of players, both are solid bets to have long and successful NHL careers. The Norris Trophy however, remains another matter altogether.

Matt Shasby can be described as a dark horse among Hab prospects. His dark horse status is not based on talent level or commitment; it is solely a product of geography. The 6’3″, 200-lbs. defenseman plays for the University of Alaska-Anchorage. Although the area scenery could easily be described as awe-inspiring, it doesn’t receive an overwhelmingly large amount of interest from Montréal hockey fans.

This is surely the fans’ loss, as Shasby has the talent to develop into a solid NHL defenseman. He already has NHL speed, and is a workhorse on UAA’s blueline. The Alaska native plays upwards of 35 minutes per game. He leads the Seawolves’ top powerplay and penalty killing units, and always seems to be leading an offensive rush. Shasby has excellent decision making skills. He makes a solid first pass, while maintaining a solid game down low in the defensive zone. Like most young defensemen, Shasby needs to get stronger in order to match up against NHL forwards. That said, his work ethic and commitment should lend itself well to the tasks at hand.

Click on the Canadiens’ logo at the top left of the page to see a listing of the Habs’ top prospects. Including biographical information, and up-to-date stats.

Feel free to E-MAIL me with any questions or comments (in English or French). Just click on my name at the top of this page. I am a former goaltender with writing, scouting, and coaching experience.

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