With the World Junior Championships keeping many top young prospects away from their regular teams during December, the AHL produced some of the top performances for the past month.
Reigning two-time Prospect of the Month Jordan Eberle had another World Junior tournament to remember that will likely put him back in the running for the honor in January, though due to inactivity during team Canada’s training camp, he was unable to crack the list this month.
Desjardins has been having a great, if not career, year for the Bulldogs this season. He had been a backup for the club the past three seasons and with the addition of Curtis Sanford this year, he was all but expected to back up once again. However, the Bulldogs have implemented a loose “win and you’re in” system between the pipes and Desjardins’ play, especially in December, has certainly warranted the undrafted netminder the majority of starts.
Desjardins’ eight wins for the month of December is quite impressive, yet even more so is the fact that he recorded no losses. The 24-year-old went 8-0, only conceding nine goals in doing so, boasting a 1.16 GAA and a .949 save percentage. He posted shutouts in back-to-back starts on the 13th and 18th to go along with a shutout to begin the month.
His rise up the Canadiens’ organizational depth chart has been slow, but has certainly picked up steam this season. With current Canadiens’ backup Jaroslav Halak rumoured to be all but out of the picture for next season, and considering the fact that Desjardins has out-played veteran Curtis Sanford, he could potentially get his first taste of NHL action next season.
Desjardins had help as the Hamilton Bulldogs went 10-3 during the month. Rookie defenseman and former World Junior standout Subban had a very average start to his rookie campaign, but after picking it up in November, he had an exceptional month of December. In just 11 games, Subban scored four times and added eight assists for over a point per game, yet the most impressive stat of the month for Subban was his +16. Heading into January he led the team with a +23, a whole +10 higher than Brock Trotter, who sits second on the team. Subban became well known with his play at the past two World Junior Championships and so far he has not disappointed. He’ll likely be a fixture on the Canadiens’ blue line sooner than later.
Couture had spent the first two months of the season bouncing between San Jose and Worcester of the AHL, thus unable to get into a groove. He was posting respectable numbers in the AHL, however, in December during an extended stay in Worcester, Couture had a month to remember. In 10 games, Couture was held pointless just once, recording five goals and 10 assists. Couture’s month of December can be attributed to consistency as the former first-round pick didn’t particularly have one or two big games that made his month, rather Couture had four two-point games and just one three-point game. He has already showed he can be an impact player in the AHL, and by as early as next year, Couture will likely be a fixture in the San Jose Sharks’ line-up.
If there’s one thing the Washington Capitals aren’t lacking, it’s star Russian players. A second-round pick in 2008 currently playing for the Quebec Remparts of the QMJHL, Kugryshev certainly fits the Capitals’ bill. He had a great rookie season in North America last year, posting 74 points in just 57 games. He had a slow start to his second season with the Remparts, however, a stretch of games in December has put him back on pace with last year’s numbers. Kugryshev recorded 21 points in just 10 games, with 18 of those points coming in just five games.
The former second-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks, now property of Atlanta, O’Dell is improving on the point-per-game pace he set in junior last season with the Sudbury Wolves. O’Dell struggled mightily in November with just seven points in 13 games and only one goal, but has since made it up for it with a tremendous December. He broke a 12 -game goalless streak on Dec. 4 against Brampton while adding two assists, then went on to score 10 goals in eight straight games and in total registered 16 points in just nine games. The difference between months for O’Dell has been night and day – the 6’1 pivot must improve his consistency down the stretch of the season.