Contracts for Shasby, Dyment and Komisarek?

By Chris Boucher
As the season began there were high expectations placed upon some of the Montréal Canadiens prospects, and lower expectations placed upon others. Of course this type of situation creates the possibility for some players to disappoint, while leaving others with the opportunity to do nothing less than exceed expectations.

To date, some Hab prospects have enjoyed breakout seasons; particularly among the Habs’ defensive prospects playing NCAA hockey.

The University of Alaska Anchorage’s Matt Shasby has had an impressive junior season. He’s increased his offensive output from 0.55 points per game last season to a strong 0.84 PPG this season. He’s become the WCHA’s second leading scoring defenseman in intra-conference games, while maintaining the ability to shutdown opposing teams top guns. He’s a very strong skater, and is considered by some WCHA observers as a one-man breakout machine.

Chosen in the fifth round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Shasby’s strong play may force the Habs into offering the 21-year-old a contract at season’s end. He’s improved his stock dramatically, although his point total might be even higher if he was playing on a stronger offensive team.

He’s third on the team in scoring, and has nearly twice as many points as any other UAA defenseman. The Alaska-native is only two points out of the team’s top scoring spot, as no forward on the Seawolves is scoring at a point-per-game pace.

The fact that both Chris Dyment and Mike Komisarek are enjoying strong seasons might leave Shasby on the outside looking in at contract time. However, both Dyment and Komisarek are right-handed shots, while the 6’3″, 200-lbs Shasby shoots from the left side.

Dyment is a University senior this season. Therefore if the Habs intend on signing the 6’3″, 210-lbs defenseman, they’ll definitely do it by the end of the current off-season, if not sooner.

The Boston University Terrier rebounded from a disappointing 2000-01 to put up numbers reminiscent of his 1999-00 campaign, when he averaged 0.74 PPG. He’s currently averaging 0.56 PPG, while continuing to play a leading defensive role. He leads BU in plus/minus with a stellar plus-24 rating, and has scored 5 of his 6 goals on the powerplay.

Like Shasby, Dyment is a strong skating defenseman. He’s particularly strong laterally, and rarely gets caught out of position in the defensive zone. Grabbed by the Habs in the third round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Dyment has been named Hockey East’s top player on three different occasions this season. Once as the overall, top player of the week, and twice as the top defensive player of the week.

Many feel Michigan’s Mike Komisarek has the highest upside of any Canadiens prospect. He’s a huge man who can skate, shoot and pass extremely well. He loves to hit. In fact, it was the physical aspect of hockey that initially drew the 20-year-old to the game. The Habs’ top pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Komisarek is the top scoring defenseman on his team, and currently enjoys the team’s third-best plus/minus rating at plus-17.

Only in his sophomore season, the New York native is the Habs’ most improved prospect offensively. He’s increased his point-per-game output from 0.38 PPG last season to on impressive 0.83 PPG this year. His PPG average places him just behind Matt Shasby in the race for the title of top offensive defenseman in the Habs’ system (based only on statistics and excluding Ron Hainsey).

Komisarek has stated publicly that he hopes to complete his University eligibility. Whether this is still the case when the Canadiens approach with a lucrative contract remains to be seen. The basis of any argument in this regard begins, and ends with whether or not Komisarek’s development would be better served by a higher level of competition.

Although the Canadiens have a surplus of defensemen at the NHL level, the possibility still exists that upwards of four defensive roster-spots may open up at the AHL level next season. Keeping that in mind, there might never be a better time to sign all of the above defensemen to contracts. Although all three players remain projects of sort, no organization can have too many strong skating, big defensive prospects with good hands, and NHL-calibre upsides.