TSP: Montreal Canadiens Prospects

Nick Suzuki
PETERBOROUGH, ON - NOVEMBER 15: Nick Suzuki #37 of the Owen Sound Attack skates against the Peterborough Petes in an OHL game at the Peterborough Memorial Centre on November 15, 2018 in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. The Petes defeated the Attack 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Welcome to the 2019 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2019 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. We will be following the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no traded draft picks) and you can find all the articles here.  Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2019 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today we look at the Montreal Canadiens Prospects.

What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2019-20 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.

Montreal Canadiens Prospects

After a horrible 2017-18 season, the Habs came out of the gate strong in 2018-19.  Off-season moves for Max Domi, Tomas Tatar, Joel Armia, and Brett Kulak worked out brilliantly for the Habs, while rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi made an instant impact at both ends of the ice and proved he belonged in the NHL. Add in a full season from Carey Price and the December return of Shea Weber and the excitement was back in Montreal. The team put up 96 points, a 25 point improvement over the previous year. Unfortunately, it was not enough, and the Habs missed the playoffs by two points. The Canadiens total of 96 points tied the NHL record for most points for a team to miss the playoffs.

The off-season led to changes. Andrew Shaw was traded while Jordie Benn and Antti Niemi left as free agents. Into their spots, general manager Marc Bergevin signed goaltender Keith Kinkaid, defenceman Ben Chiarot, and forward Nick Cousins as free agents. That said, despite it being August, Bergevin may not be done. He still has plenty of cap space and last season he made the Max Pacioretty trade on the eve of training camp, and the Kulak deal on October 1st, right before the start of the regular season. If not, the team will look to some of their impressive prospect pool to provide an impact in 2019-20.

2019 Draft Picks (Grade B+): Cole CaufieldJayden StrubleMattias NorlinderGianni FairbrotherJacob LeguerrierRhett PitlickFrederik Nissen DichowArsen KhisamutdinovRafael Harvey-PinardKieran Ruscheinski
2018-19 Graduations: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Victor Mete, Matthew Peca,

 

Top Prospect: Nick Suzuki

Centre/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born August 10th, 1999 — London, Ontario
Height 5’11” — Weight 183 lbs [180 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by Vegas Golden Knights in the 1st round, #13 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Traded to the Montreal Canadiens in September 2018.

Suzuki started the season well with 45 points in 30 games with Owen Sound. With the Attack rebuilding, he was sent to the Guelph Storm in a monster trade. The move paid off for the Storm, as Suzuki put up 49 points in 29 games. He was even better in the playoffs, putting up 16 goals and 42 points in 24 games and leading the Storm to the OHL Championship. Suzuki was named playoff MVP. He also played well at the Memorial Cup with three goals and seven points in four games. He also played for Team Canada at the World Juniors with three points in five games.

Skating

Suzuki is a good but not great skater. He has a quick first step and good acceleration but can improve his stride and have better top-end speed. He uses that acceleration and first-step to chase down loose pucks and gets in quickly on the forecheck, throwing hits or pressuring defenders into turnovers. Once he gets the puck, he uses his agility and edgework to create space and open up passing lanes.

He also has good stickhandling skills and can beat defensemen one-on-one with quick cuts, and changes of pace and then driving to the net. Suzuki could stand to be a little stronger, to improve his balance, and protect the puck better in the cycle as well as battle along the boards at higher levels. He does very well in these areas in junior hockey, but he should add muscle before he heads to the next level.

Offensive Game

Suzuki is extremely intelligent as a hockey player. He thinks the game very well, spotting openings that other players do not see and seems to be a step ahead of where the puck is going. When he has the puck, he makes smart plays, and when he does not, he finds openings to get the puck and create a scoring chance. Suzuki has excellent vision and is a very good playmaker. He can feather tape-to-tape passes through tight openings and can put his linemates in a great position to finish his passes. Suzuki uses his stickhandling to change angles quickly and open up passing and shooting lanes.

Also impressive as a goal scorer, Suzuki has quick hands and drives the net, where he can finish plays in tight. He’s also quick to pounce on rebounds and has the hand-eye coordination to deflect point shots. Suzuki is strong enough to battle for position in front of the net and slippery enough to avoid a defender and find a soft spot in a good scoring area. From further out, Suzuki has a good wrist and snapshot. His release is very quick and can be deceptive for goaltenders. Suzuki is effective on give-and-go plays, passing to a teammate and then finding open space for a return pass.

Defensive Game

Suzuki has an excellent work ethic that serves him in all three zones. He brings the same relentless approach to battling for pucks in the neutral zone and the defensive zone, that he shows on the forecheck. He has good positioning and when he is able to create a turnover, Suzuki is quick to transition to offence and create a scoring chance. His face-off skills are also advanced for a young player.

Outlook

Suzuki could challenge for a spot in the Habs top nine. One potential opening is on the right-wing in Shaw’s old spot. However, the Habs do have depth at forward and at just 20-years-old, it seems that he could use a year in the AHL adjusting to bigger and faster opponents in the pro game. Expect Suzuki to start in Laval and only be in Montreal for injury call-ups. He should be ready to make a big challenge in 2020-21.

 

Prospect #2: Cole Caufield

The Canadiens drafted Cole Caufield with the 15th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Caufield. As no significant games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.

 

Prospect #3: Alexander Romanov

Defence — shoots Left
Born January 6th, 2000 — Moscow, Russia
Height 5’11” — Weight 185 lbs [180 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2nd round, #38 overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft

Romanov got limited minutes (around 10-12 per game) playing with CSKA Moscow in the KHL last season. With that in mind, his one goal and four points in 43 games do not quite show his offensive potential. He also only played in four playoff games as CSKA won the Gagarin Cup. His potential really showed during the world juniors, where he put up one goal and eight points in seven games, helping the Russians to the Bronze Medal and winning the award for the Best Defenceman in the Tournament.

Skating

Romanov is a very good skater. He can rush the puck up the ice and still get back in his own zone defensively. His acceleration and speed are very good in both directions. He also has a very good first step. His agility and edgework allow him to quickly change direction, keeping himself in front of opponents, exploding into hits, and transitioning from offence to defence and vice-versa. Romanov is also strong on his skates for his age. However, he can add core strength and upper-body strength to be more effective in front of the net.

Offensive Game

Romanov has offensive skills. He is a smart player who sees the ice well and makes smart plays with the puck. He is also a very good passer, starting the transition game or setting up in the zone on the power play. Romanov is poised with the puck and uses his stickhandling and lateral movement to open up passing and shooting lanes. Quick changes of the angle through quick stick work make it possible to open up even more passing opportunities.

Romanov also has a good, but not great shot from the point. His slap shot and one-timer have decent power and he has a knack for getting them through shooting lanes and on the net. He understands how to keep the puck low and give his teammates opportunities for rebounds and tip-ins. Romanov sometimes sneaks down to the top of the face-off circle where he can unless a strong wrist shot with a quick release.

Defensive Game

Even in his limited KHL minutes, Romanov has impressed in the defensive end of the ice maintaining good gap control and keeping his opponents to the perimeter. He is willing to play a physical game and is always looking to throw a big hit against an opponent. He is especially tough to beat off the rush with his good agility and backwards skating helping him to keep himself between an opponent and the net. As he adds muscle to his frame, he should be even better along the boards and in front of the net.

Outlook

Romanov’s contract in Russia runs through the end of the 2019-20 season. The Habs will try to get him signed next summer with the hope to let him compete for a spot at the 2020 training camp. That said, he might still need a bit of AHL time even after coming over. His ascendence this season has been exceptional though and with a similar improvement, this year could be NHL ready at that point.

 

Prospect #4: Josh Brook

Defence — shoots Right
Born June 17th, 1999 — Roblin, Manitoba
Height 6’1″ — Weight 192 lbs [185 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2nd round, #56 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft

Brook had an outstanding season in Moose Jaw. He put up 16 goals and 75 points in just 59 games for the Warriors. Used in all situations, Brook played huge minutes against the opponent’s top lines. If the Warriors were trailing late in a game, his offensive abilities saw the coaches put Brook on the ice as a winger. He truly did it all. Brook led the league in points by a defenceman and was named to the Conference 1st All-Star Team. The Warriors were swept in the first round of the playoffs, but Brook put up three points. He also played for Canada at the World Juniors, scoring two assists. Brook made his pro debut with Laval, scoring one assist in seven games.

Skating

Josh Brook has a very good first step and strong acceleration. This helps him to retrieve loose pucks and to dart into openings. He is more quick than fast though. This is true in both directions. While his top-end speed is good, he is not a speedster. Brook also has very good edgework and agility. His pivots are crisp and clean. His agility makes him difficult to beat in one-on-one situations, and his overall mobility is a strong asset in his game. Brook also has a strong lower-body. He has good balance when battling for pucks in the corners or fighting for position in front of the net. He also is strong on the puck when carrying it.

Offensive Game

Brook transitions the puck from defence to offence quickly. He can stickhandle and skate the puck out of danger. Brook also has good skills in making the first pass or controlling things at the blue line. He tends to be a bit of a risk-taker though, and this can lead to some inopportune turnovers. It is an area of his game that he will need to refine going forward. Overall though he makes many more good offensive plays than giveaways and helps his team maintain possession and drive the play forward. Brook has even been known to take the puck end-to-end to create an offensive chance. He can also play the role of power play quarterback, setting things up on the blue line.

Brook also has a decent shot. His slap shot is accurate and he keeps it low and on the net. He also has a very good wrist shot and will pinch in from the point to get it off. His strong lateral agility allows Brook to walk the line, and to open up passing and shooting lanes.

Defensive Game

Brook’s bread and butter is his defensive game. He maintains very good gap control and can be very hard to beat one-on-one. He also clears the front of the net effectively and battles hard in the corners. Brook is not afraid to fight for pucks and to use his frame to contain an opponent, but he is not the type to go looking for a big hit. Instead, he looks to get the puck and quickly transition to offence. From time to time he can be a bit overaggressive in puck pursuit though, getting him into trouble.

Outlook

Brook was outstanding at last year’s training camp and a similar performance could earn him a spot on the Canadiens blue line. However, it is more likely that he goes to Laval and gets a year of pro experience before pushing to be a member of the Canadiens in 2020-21.

 

Prospect #5: Ryan Poehling

Centre — shoots Left
Born January 3rd, 1999 — Lakeville, Minnesota
Height 6’2″ — Weight 185 lbs [188 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1st round, #25 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft

For a player who scored just eight goals in 36 college games last season, Poehling’s year was defined by a pair of hat tricks. Poehling scored three goals in a 6:25 span late in the third period of Team USA’s preliminary round game against Sweden, tying the score at 4-4, though his team would lose in Overtime. With five goals and eight points in seven games, Poehling won a silver medal and was named tournament MVP. The second hattrick came in Poehling’s first NHL game. He scored three goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the last game of the regular season. Poehling even scored again in the shootout, clinching a win for the Habs.

Skating

Poehling is a good skater. He has decent speed and acceleration, which has really improved as he cleaned up his stride over the last two years. He has good size and uses his speed to get in quickly on the forecheck, looking to pressure defenders and cause mistakes. Poehling has good lower body strength and balance. He is tough to knock off the puck, especially when working down low. He also is very good in puck battles. Poehling has the power to fight through checks and continue to the front of the net. His lateral agility and edgework are decent for a player with his size.

Offensive Game

Ryan Poehling plays a gritty game, battling in the corners and in front of the net; as well as being effective on the forecheck. He also has a decent wrist shot and release. Poehling can use that shot more and this would lead to more consistent goal-scoring production. He still has a tendency to pass up shooting opportunities in order to make an extra pass to a teammate.

Poehling’s stickhandling is decent, but he plays a very straightforward north-south style of game and isn’t the type to take on defenders in one-on-one situations. Instead, he looks to move the puck to an open teammate and then try to find an open area on the ice. He loves to run the give-and-go style plays with his teammates. His vision is very good, and he seems to almost always make the smart play with the puck. Poehling is especially strong in the cycle game. He protects the puck well and extends plays, giving time for his linemates to get open.

Defensive Game

Poehling is already a reliable defensive player at the NCAA level. He reads the play well and anticipates what opponents will do with the puck, to create turnovers, and start the transition game. His positioning is solid and he uses that in combination with an active stick to cut down passing lanes. Poehling is willing to put his body on the line and block shots. Poehling back checks effectively and supports the defence down low. He continues to play his gritty style in his own end of the rink, getting involved in puck battles in the corners, and helping to keep the front of the net clear.

Outlook

Poehling looked like a man amongst boys in the Canadiens summer camp. He seems very close to NHL ready. If Poehling shows the same type of game in this fall’s training camp, he will force management to keep him on the main roster. However, it would not be a surprise for him to play big minutes in the AHL for a year. The question here is about his upside. Habs fans will need to recognize that despite the historic first game, Poehling projects as more of a two-way centre than a big-time point producer.

 

Prospect #6: Cayden Primeau

Goalie — shoots Left — catches Left
Born August 11th, 1999 — Voorhees, New Jersey
Height 6’3″ — Weight 198 lbs [191 cm / 90 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 7th round, #199 overall, at 2017 NHL Draft

After a tremendous freshman season with Northeastern, he picked up where he left off in 2018-19. In 36 games he put up a .933 save percentage and 2.09 goals-against-average. He won nearly every individual award he could at the NCAA level, including winning the Mike Richter Award of best goalie in all of college hockey. He also played for Team USA at the World Juniors, winning a silver medal. Primeau had a .936 save percentage and 1.61 goals-against-average.

Skating and Talent Analysis

Primeau has good size for a goaltender, and he takes full advantage of it. He comes out of his crease to challenge shooters and maximize the amount of space that he takes up. Primeau is a strong skater, who can back up quickly, or get post-to-post in a flash. Good butterfly technique and quick legs take away the bottom of the net. He has very good rebound control for a 19-year-old goalie. While this can improve, he’s already ahead of where most goalies are at his age. When a rebound is given up, Primeau has a knack for staying square to the puck and being ready for the next shot.

Primeau was criticized for having issues with rebound control with his blocker, and for not having a good enough glove hand. These issues seemed non-existent in his time at Northeastern. He made a big jump in both areas and showed big-time improvement. Primeau can also get out of his net and handle the puck. At times he acts like a third defender, moving the puck up quickly to his defencemen and starting the transition game.

Mental Makeup

The son of Keith Primeau, Cayden Primeau grew up around hockey. He experienced the pressure and expectations that come from being an NHLer’s son while playing minor hockey from a young age. This has helped him as he goes through his hockey career. Primeau is very good at keeping his emotions under control. He is able to continue to stand tall, even in the face of heavy traffic. He also is quickly able to shake off a goal against and is ready to make the next save. Even though he was still a teenager, Primeau showed leadership, as a steady presence in the net that his defence could rely on.

Outlook

Primeau has signed with the Habs and heads to Laval looking to win the number one job. With Charlie Lindgren and Michael McNiven also likely to be in the Canadiens minor league system, there will be plenty of competition. A loan to the ECHL would not be a negative for Primeau at this point as he needs to play big minutes to continue his development.

 

Prospect #7: Noah Juulsen

Defence — shoots Right
Born April 2nd, 1997 — Abbotsford, British Columbia
Height 6’3″ — Weight 190 lbs [191 cm / 86 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1st Round, #26 Overall, at the 2015 NHL Draft

Noah Juulsen made the Canadiens out of camp last year and scored a goal and five points in 21 games. He then got sent to Laval.  An eye injury ended his campaign early. Despite rumours that the injury was career-threatening, it now seems that Juulsen should be ready to go for the start of training camp.

Skating

Juulsen is a strong skater, with a smooth and fluid stride. While he is not an absolute speedster, he does have good speed and acceleration. It is in his edgework and agility though that he really shines. Juulsen pivots quickly and this allows him to cover large areas of the ice. He is able to use his agility to walk the line on the point and open up shooting and passing lanes. The ability to quickly change directions makes him tough to beat one-on-one and helps him to quickly explode into huge hits if a forward tries to beat him to the outside.

Juulsen has good balance, helping him in board battles, but he could really stand to add lower-body strength to really excel in this area. He has improved this area over the last couple of years, but will likely find even more strength is needed now that he is in the pros.

Offensive Game

Juulsen is mainly known for his defensive game, but there are some untapped offensive skills. He has good hockey sense, making smart plays with it on his stick, and choosing good times to join the rush or pinch in at the blue line. He combines his strong skating with good stickhandling and is able to make plays in the neutral zone. Juulsen has the poise necessary to control the play at the line and was able to quarterback the play from the blue line when he was in junior. It doesn’t seem that this will be his game at the pro-level though.

He also has very good vision and makes strong passes both to start the transition out of the zone, long breakaway passes, off the rush, or controlling the play in the zone. Juulsen has a decent slap shot, and a good one-timer, as well as a good release on his wrist shot. He gets the puck through to the net and creates deflection and rebound opportunities for his teammates. He plays an extremely conservative game, but when he gets the chance to open things up, the skill is there.

Defensive Game

Juulsen plays a physical game in his own end. He throws hits and battles for loose pucks in the corners. He also does a decent job clearing the crease. His aggressiveness can get him into trouble though, as there are times he seems to get out of position looking for that big hit. He is learning to pick his spots though. Juulsen is tough to beat off the rush due to his good skating and edgework. He has really worked on his hockey IQ and reading the play when the other team has the puck down low. Juulsen does a really good job of anticipating plays and causing turnovers. He also transitions well into the offence when that happens. He is more than willing to do what it takes to win, including block shots.

Outlook

Now recovered from his eye injury, Juulsen will compete with Christian Folin for the third pair RD position in training camp. Expect him to make the Habs roster, but how many minutes he gets will be based on his performance in camp.  That said, a poor camp could see him beaten out by Cale Fleury or Josh Brook.

 

Prospect #8: Jesse Ylonen

Right Wing/Left Wing — shoots Right
Born October 3rd, 1999 — Scottsdale, Arizona
Height 6’1″ — Weight 172 lbs [183 cm / 78 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2nd Round, 35th Overall at the 2018 NHL Draft

Ylonen put up 13 goals and 27 points in 53 games, playing third-line minutes for Pelicans in Finland’s top men’s league. He also added an assist in three playoff games. Ylonen played for Finland’s National Under-20 team, putting up four goals and 13 points in 12 games. This included three goals and six points at the World Juniors, winning a gold medal.

Skating

Ylonen is a very strong skater. He has excellent speed and acceleration. His smooth stride generates plenty of speed and does so in just a few steps. Ylonen has the ability to take a defender wide and cut to the net. He also uses changes in speed as a weapon, slowing down to create a passing or shooting lane. He also has the agility to make quick cuts and changes of directions, allowing him to weave through traffic and make plays. Ylonen improved his muscle mass over the past season but could still add more lower-body and core strength. This would help him to be stronger on the puck, and better in battles along the boards.

Offensive Game

Ylonen couples his strong skating with good stickhandling skills. He protects the puck well and can make moves while at top speed. He combines his quick cuts, with strong dangles and toe-drags. This makes him dangerous off the rush. While he works to protect the puck down low and does a decent job in the cycle game, he could be even better with added muscle mass. Ylonen is getting stronger on the puck and this has improved his game but there is more room to go. He has the patience and poise to wait for an opportunity to make a play and then hit a teammate with a tape-to-tape pass.

Ylonen has a good wrist shot and release. It features both power and accuracy. His release is quick and deceptive and can fool goaltenders. His slap shot needs some work though, as it lacks some power. Ylonen is a bit of a perimeter player though, he does not do well in traffic or in front of the net. He needs to get stronger to be able to compete in the key areas of the ice. This may come in the next several years. He pressures defensemen on the forecheck due to his speed but doesn’t really play a physical game on the boards. It is important to remember that he is a teenager competing in a league with fully grown men.

Defensive Game

Ylonen’s defensive game continues to improve as well. He has shown a better work ethic in his own end supporting the defence down low and not flying the zone as often. He has also done a better job of keeping his feet moving and avoiding puck watching. There really have been big strides this season but there are still other areas to improve. Future coaches will need to continue the work on his defensive fundamentals especially when he comes to the smaller sized ice. Just like the offensive zone, he struggles to play a physical game and can have trouble containing forwards against the cycle.

Outlook

Ylonen is likely to spend another season in Finland. Expect to see him make the jump to North America in 2020. He might need a season in the AHL at that point but he is a potential top-six talent on the wing.

 

Prospect #9: Cale Fleury

Defence — shoots Right
Born November 19th, 1998 — Calgary, Alberta
Height 6’1″ — Weight 203 lbs [185 cm / 92 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 3rd round, #87 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft

One of the younger defencemen in the AHL, Fleury was impressive in his first pro season putting up nine goals and 23 points in 60 games with the Laval Rocket.

Skating

Fleury is a very good skater, as his mobility allows him to play an effective two-way game. He has a good first step and strong acceleration. He also has very good top end speed. This is true in both directions. Fleury is able to pinch in from the blue line, or join the rush and still get back defensively. He also has very good pivots, transitioning from offence to defence, and vice-versa very quickly. His lateral agility is good as well. This allows him to walk the line in the offensive zone, opening up passing and shooting lanes. It also helps Fleury to defend against the rush, keeping him between his man and the net. Fleury has good lower body strength. He is strong on the puck and has good balance when fighting for pucks in the corners or in front of the net.

Offensive Game

Fleury has some offensive tools. He has a hard and accurate point shot. Fleury makes good use of both his slap shot and wrist shot. He can sneak down from the point and get his wrister through traffic. It features good power and a quick release. He also has decent puck handling skills and good vision and passing ability. Fleury makes a strong first pass to start the transition game, and also has the poise to quarterback the power play from the blue line.

Fleury sometimes tries a little too hard to push the play out of his own end. This can lead to taking risks, and to mistakes such as giveaways. However, he really reduced this tendency as the season went on, becoming more responsible defensively and picking his spots well under the coaching of Joel Bouchard.

Defensive Game

Fleury works hard in his own end, engaging physically in the corners and in front of the net. He has gotten stronger but still has room to grow. His positioning is good most of the time and he works hard to contain his man on the boards and in front of the net. Fleury’s skating helps him to keep his man in front of him and keep shots to the outside.

Outlook

Fleury could challenge in camp for a spot on the right side of the Habs defence. However, given the competition on the right side, it is more likely that he will head back to the AHL and continue to work on his defensive game.

 

Prospect #10: Joni Ikonen

Centre/Right Wing — shoots Right
Born April 14th, 1999 — Espoo, Finland
Height 5’11” — Weight 172 lbs [180 cm / 78 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2nd Round, #58 Overall at the 2017 NHL Draft

Coming off knee surgery in the summer of 2018, Ikonen started last season on the sidelines. He missed the World Juniors, where he was expected to be a big part of the Finnish team. When Ikonen finally got healthy, he joined Kalpa in the SM Liiga. He came back strong, putting up five goals and 10 points in 13 games. Considering that he put up four goals and 14 points in 2017-18, it was a big improvement and showed that his development wasn’t slowed down much by the months on the sidelines.

Skating

Ikonen’s skating is a bit of a work in progress, especially following his return from the knee injury. He seems slower and hasn’t shown the good top-end speed, and the very good first-step quickness and acceleration that were part of his game prior to the injury. He also had very good balance and edgework. At his best, Ikonen is very difficult to defend, one-on-one. He can quickly change directions to avoid a defender, and once he gets a step on his man, he is gone. He also has very good lower body strength. This leads to excellent balance and makes Ikonen tough to knock off the puck. He uses a wide stride when carrying the puck, helping him to protect it.  It is hoped that as Ikonen continues to rehab his knee that he can regain that level of skating ability.

Offensive Game

Ikonen pairs his skating with top-notch offensive skills. The ability to stickhandle in tight spaces and weave through traffic adds to the difficulties that defenders have with him. He has a non-stop motor, chasing down loose pucks as well as getting in quickly on the forecheck. Despite his size, he is not afraid to play physical, or get to the dirty areas of the ice. Ikonen can create offence both through his skill and his relentless work ethic.  He has the vision and creativity to set up teammates and make plays. If defences back off too far on him on the rush, he can pull up, slow down the play and make a tape-to-tape pass to a teammate.

Ikonen is also dangerous as a goal scorer. In fact, he is more of a shoot-first type of player when given the opportunity to shoot or pass. He has a heavy and accurate wrist shot, featuring a quick release. He also shows the quick hands to pounce on rebounds in front of the net and to beat goaltenders in close. Throw in good hand-eye co-ordination and he can produce offence in a multitude of ways. The question here is if that game will translate to the NHL level. He will need to add size and strength to take the next step.

Defensive Game

Ikonen shows his work ethic and his relentless puck pursuit in all three zones. He works hard to chase down attackers and to support the defence on the backcheck. However, he could use some work on his positioning. The biggest concern here is the size though. He has trouble containing bigger opponents who are working the cycle game.

Outlook

Ikonen is set for another season with KalPa in the SM-Liiga. According to an SBNation interview with his coach, Tommi Miettinen, its time for Ikonen to take the next step in his career. If he does that, he should move to North America next summer and could be a threat to make the roster.

 

Sleeper Prospect: Cole Fonstad

Left Wing/Centre — shoots Left
Born April 24th, 2000 — Estevan, Saskatchewan
Height 5’11” — Weight 163 lbs [180 cm/74 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 5th round, #128 Overall at the 2018 NHL Draft

Fonstad had an excellent season with a powerful Prince Albert Raiders team last season. He put up 29 goals and 73 points in 67 games. While the Raiders won the WHL Championship, Fonstad’s playoffs were a bit disappointing as he had just six points in 21 playoff games. He seemed to get things back on track with three points in three Memorial Cup games.

Skating

Fonstad is a very good skater. He has very good top-end speed, which allows him to get behind the defence and create breakaways and odd-man rushes. He reaches that top-end speed quickly with excellent acceleration. Fonstad can beat defenders by changing speeds. If he gets a step to the outside, he can turn it up and cut to the net. He can also slow the play down to create space and open passing lanes. Fonstad also has good agility and the ability to make quick cuts to beat defenders. He can stand to add more lower-body strength. This will help him to be stronger on the puck and win more board battles.

Offensive Game

Fonstad is an excellent playmaker. He slows plays down and has the patience to wait for plays to develop. Fonstad has excellent vision. He is a very smart player, anticipating where his teammates will be and hitting them with a tape-to-tape pass. Fonstad can put the puck through tight areas, whether it is threading the needle through traffic, or making a saucer pass. He controls the play on the half-boards on the power play and creates plays from there.

Fonstad has a good release on his wrist shot, and it is accurate. However, it lacks some power and he can have trouble scoring from outside the slot. As a result, he does not use his shot often, and that makes him somewhat predictable. Increasing the power in his shot and using it more often will be key going forward. He also does not seem to get involved in the corners or in front of the net. When he does, Fonstad can be overpowered. He could use a bit more muscle on his frame.

Defensive Game

Fonstad’s defensive game is very inconsistent. There are times that he shows a high effort level, cuts down passing lanes and creates turnovers. There are other games where he seems disinterested in his own end. He can fly the zone looking to create offence. He also can get into the bad habit of puck watching, and leaving his man open. Further coaching in his own end will be needed. One area of particular concern is Fonstad’s work along the boards. This is another area where he needs more upper-body strength.

Outlook

Fonstad should be back in the WHL this season. With the Raiders likely to take a step back, it would not be a surprise to see him traded before the WHL Trade Deadline. Fonstad will also have the opportunity to impress and is on the radar for a spot on Canada’s World Junior team, being invited to the Summer Camp (but missing out due to injury). Fonstad will likely move to the AHL in 2020 and his development in the pro game will be key at that point. His future seems to on the wing, not at centre.

 

System Outlook

The Habs have built an exceptionally deep system. There are few teams who can boast the type of one through ten the Canadiens have, and there is depth even outside of that. The team also has goaltenders Charlie Lindgren and Michael McNiven who are worth keeping an eye on and just drafted Frederik Nissen Dichow. On defence, Jordan Harris, Jayden Struble, Mattias Norlinder, Gianni Fairbrother, David Sklenicka, and Otto Leskinen are all worth keeping an eye on. There is real depth up front with Jacob Olofsson, Lukas Vejdemo, Jake Evans, Allan McShane, Joel Teasdale, Rhett Pitlick, Cam Hillis, Brett Stapley, Jack Gorniak, and Arsen Khisamutdinov in the system.

 

Montreal Canadiens Prospects Main Photo:

PETERBOROUGH, ON – NOVEMBER 15: Nick Suzuki #37 of the Owen Sound Attack skates against the Peterborough Petes in an OHL game at the Peterborough Memorial Centre on November 15, 2018, in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. The Petes defeated the Attack 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

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