Montreal Canadiens prospect awards feature diverse, skilled group of players

By David Thicke

Jarred Tinordi and Alex Galchenyuk - Montreal Canadiens

Photo: Jarred Tinordi (left) and Alex Galchenyuk (right) are two prospects who are considered crucial parts to the Montreal Canadiens future. (courtesy of Minas Panagiotakis/Icon SMI)

The Montreal Canadiens 2013 Hockey's Future Prospect Awards are based on the 2012-13 regular season performances in all the leagues in which a Canadiens prospect has played. The award winners are selected by the HF writers and decided on after all the tabulations of the opinions from the HF staff.

Hardest Worker: Michael Bournival, C, Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)

Bournival works hard in practice, the gym, during games, and he never stops skating. He plays hard every shift in every game and never seems to take a night off. His consistency with his work ethic is slightly better than his fellow prospects and the rookie pro will only improve his overall game as he adjusts to this new level.

Other prospects considered for hardest worker are Gabriel Dumont, Brendan Gallagher, Darren Dietz, Jarred Tinordi, and Erik Nystrom.

Hardest Shot: Darren Dietz, D, Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

Dietz has a heavy rocket of a slap shot and a quick accurate wrist-shot. He can blow the puck by goalies in the WHL and it has been clocked at 98 mph this season. The solid two-way defenseman is just finishing his junior career but could be a Sheldon Souray type defender, with a right handed shot that might rival P.K. Subban. The other four prospects have quick and hard shots but not quite the velocity of Dietz.

Magnus Nygren, Morgan Ellis, Greg Pateryn, and Dalton Thrower all have excellent shots and were also considered for the award.

Best Offensive Prospect: Alex Galchenyuk, LW/C, Montreal Canadiens (NHL)

Galchenyuk is playing nightly in the NHL for the Canadiens at 19 yearsold and has a solid two-way game with explosive offensive talent. He is not putting up the point production of Gallagher at the NHL level yet but he dominated the OHL before joining Montreal to start the 2012-13 NHL season. Despite playing four minutes less per game and no power play time compared to Gallagher, Galchenyuk has only one point less than him so far this season. He will only get better has his confidence grows and the coach is forced to use him more often.

Danny Kristo, Charles Hudon, Tim Bozon, Sebastian Collberg, and Gallagher were all under consideration and had excellent years in the respective leagues.

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

Beaulieu has the most offensive upside potential as a smooth puck mover with excellent puck distribution skills. He has shown that he can operate his team's power play in his rookie season. His defensive game should improve as his size and confidence increases and that is the only part of his overall game that will keep him from reaching the NHL level sooner. The young defender has all the talent, it is just a matter of gaining more strength and weight, physicality down low in the defensive zone, and maturing in to a consistent pro hockey player.

This is the toughest category because all the candidates have different attributes and weakness to improve on before playing at the next level. Other prospects considered were Mac Bennett, Tinordi, Pateryn, Dietz, and Ellis.

Fastest Skater: Danny Kristo, RW, North Dakota (WCHA)

Kristo is a flat out burner with or without the puck. He has very quick acceleration and excellent balance with a powerful stride. It is a textbook power skating reverse C technique which allows him to gain even more speed as his stride lengthens. He will need to use this talent to excel and create space at the pro level.

Beaulieu, Nygren, Collberg, Nystrom, and Bournival were all considered but do not have the explosive acceleration or the perfect technique, although all do possess good overall speed.

Prospect of the Year: Brendan Gallagher, RW, Montreal Canadiens (NHL)

Gallagher has performed way above his projected potential by making the Canadiens this season after the NHL lockout and has forced himself onto the one of the team's top lines. He has become the Canadiens heart when they are behind late in the game. The little spark-plug will not quit or give up until the final buzzer and is almost hyper in his efforts to score or make things happen for his team. The rest of his teammates seem to follow his lead and attack the opposition as well. The other candidates have also played extremely well but as of this moment, Gallagher has to be considered a Calder trophy candidate.

Galchenyuk, Kristo, Dietz, Bozon, and Nygren were among those considered for this award. All had excellent seasons.

Breakout Player for 2013-14: Jarred Tinordi, D, Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)

Tinordi is most likely to make the jump and have a breakout NHL season next year. He seems to be the most NHL ready of the prospect group not yet playing in the NHL. The big defender plays a simple game, has the physical size, maturity, and skating speed to play at the NHL level. He can play big minutes as a shutdown defenseman, excels at penalty killing and shot blocking. As the tall blueliner fills out his large frame, he could become a very important piece in the Canadiens' defense corps of the future.

The other prospects considered were Louis Leblanc, Kristo, and Beaulieu. Galchenyuk, and Gallagher will be playing again next year in the NHL and are highly likely to improve their overall offensive games.

Most Improved Prospect: Gabriel Dumont, C/RW, Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)

Most of these Canadiens' prospects shown very good development this year but Dumont really stepped up and took his offensive game to another level after the Bulldogs lost Joonas Nattinen, Aaron Palushaj (COL), Blake Geoffrion, and Leblanc to injuries early in the year. He is Hamilton's leading scorer despite missing time playing at the NHL level. He was only returned to the AHL level because management felt that the waiver pick up of veteran, Jeff Halpern would not give Dumont enough playing time.

Daniel Pribyl, Robert Mayer, Michael Cichy, Mark MacMillan, Olivier Archambault, and Dietz were also considered for the most improved prospect.

Overachiever: Daniel Pribyl, C, HC Sparta Praha (Czech)

Pribyl played his first full season in the Czech league as a 19-year-old and put in solid offensive numbers despite seeing very little ice time during the NHL lockout. He really became better as the year progressed, improving his two-way game and finding time on the penalty killing unit. The sixth round pick might have worked his way into an NHL entry level contract from the Canadiens this summer. The big center needs to work on his four step acceleration and gain strength to play against men at the pro level in North America.

The other prospects considered were Cichy, MacMillan, Nygren, Nystrom, and Dietz.

Underachiever: Ian Schultz, RW, San Francisco Bulls (ECHL)

After showing so much improvement to his overall game last season, Schultz was expected to play a bigger role in Hamilton and might have received a call-up to the Canadiens. He arrived to the AHL training camp overweight and out of shape which prompted Marc Bergevin to send him in the first cuts down to the ECHL Wheeling Nailers. The physical winger did not respond well to the message and has bounced around the ECHL from team to team with only a two game trial in Hamilton this year. It is very possible that Schultz will not be given a qualifying offer this summer by the Montreal Canadiens.

Alain Berger, Alexander Avtsin, Leblanc, and Thrower have all underachieved for various reasons as well this season.

Highest Risk/Reward Prospect: Colin Sullivan, D, Boston College Eagles (Hockey East)

Sullivan was a freshman defenseman for the power house, Boston College Eagles but managed to stay in the starting line-up for 30-plus games. The seventh round pick acquitted himself very well considering that he never played any junior level hockey just US Prep school. The mobile defender has a strong defensive game, plays on the edge but stays disciplined, and has good offensive upside potential. This year was a good learning experience as he saw more time due to injuries on the blue line for the Eagles and it will only help his overall development.

Archambault, Nystrom, Nygren, and Pribyl are also high risk to reward prospects.

Most Perseverance: Dustin Walsh, C/W, Dartmouth College Big Green (ECAC)

Walsh overcame hip surgery at the end of last season and only played eight games last year. His skating stride was severely affected by the injury and took the first half of this season to recover his offensive game. He just kept working hard both on and off the ice to return to pre-injury form. He finally seems to be showing the offensive potential just as his senior year ended. The winger put up some points in the playoffs but couldn't get his team to the NCAA tournament. It is still possible that he receives an AHL tryout or contract from the Canadiens this spring or in the fall.

The Unsung Hero (Jacques Beauchamps Award for the Canadiens): Brady Vail, C, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)

Vail did everything his coaches asked of him and more this season. He was pushed to add offensive production on the top line for Windsor to start the year, and when his team struggled to keep pucks out their net, he was asked to be the shutdown center. He played on the team's power play and excelled on penalty killing unit. After the WJC, Windsor received Alexander Khokhlachev (BOS) back as the team's first line center and Vail quietly moved to play second fiddle. Later in the season, after injuries to the Spitfires' top two defensemen Patrick Sieloff (CGY) and Slater Koekkoek (TBL), he requested to play defense to help out his team after first discussing it with the Montreal Canadiens' management team. He did an excellent job on the blue line for Windsor and Montreal rewarded the young centerman by signing him to an ATO contract with Hamilton when his team failed to make the OHL playoffs. Vail has already collected his first pro level points, scoring a goal along with an assists and a plus one rating in five AHL games. He is the Canadiens prospect group's HF 2013 Unsung Hero this year.

Josiah Didier, Dumont, and MacMillan were excellent nominations for the award.