The Boston Bruins second-rounder is leading the QMJHL Huskies in scoring from the back end as the team looks forward to a playoff run. Elsewhere, there were some big performances in the Big Ten this weekend, while WHL Kelowna keeps churning out quality defensive prospects.
It’s home stretch time in the CHL as trade deadlines have passed and all the newbies are settling in to their new uniforms. In 2016 draft news, the NHL’s Central Scouting bureau released its mid-term rankings and not surprisingly, Auston Matthews topped the European skaters list (because he’s playing in Switzerland). Team USA linemate Matthew Tkachuk of OHL London was tops amongst North American skaters, while Filip Gustavsson (Lulea) and Carter Hart (Everett) lead the goalies. Here’s a look at some of the other prospects making noise right now:
Jeremy Lauzon, D – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL): Though he wasn’t even invited to the summer camp, Lauzon nearly made Team Canada’s world junior squad this season. The Boston Bruins second-rounder from 2015 has been a force all year for the Huskies and that played a role in his invite as an injury fill-in for Jake Walman.
“I compete every shift,” Lauzon said. “I play hard, make a good first pass and I’m a good skater so I can bring some offense. But I have to concentrate on my defense first.”
Offense has not been a problem for the 18-year-old, as Lauzon is one of the top-scoring D-men in the QMJHL with 35 points through 29 games. His Huskies are soaring and will be one of the favorites heading into the post-season.
“We have a super team,” Lauzon said. “Every guy is doing well, the team intensity is really good too, and everyone works the same way.”
One of the teams Rouyn-Noranda is jousting with is Val-d’Or, a geographic rival that also happens to be the hometown of Lauzon. And though hunting is big in Northwestern Quebec, Lauzon’s family isn’t actually local – his parents are both doctors who came to practice in the mining town.
“My parents are from Montreal, so we’re not used to it,” he said. “But I live near a lake, so I do more fishing than hunting.”
Once the playoffs start, the Huskies will indeed have a target on their backs, however. But thanks to Lauzon and his crew, Rouyn-Noranda will be well equipped to fire back.
In the Pipeline
Conor Garland, RW (Arizona): It’s getting silly with Garland, the uber-skilled playmaker for the Moncton Wildcats. The fun stat everyone is trotting out right now? He would win the QMJHL scoring race just on assists alone. Garland has 71; the next highest scorer has 70 points total.
Tyler Motte, C (Chicago): The University of Michigan is scoring in bunches lately and Motte put his stamp on things with a hat trick and five points in a comeback win over Ohio State. Undersized but never outworked, Motte earned Big Ten first star of the week honors for his efforts.
Ziyat Paigin, D (Edmonton): The towering 6-foot-6 blueliner has found his offensive groove since joining KHL Sochi from Ak Bars Kazan and has been rewarded with a slot at the KHL All-Star Game for his efforts. Paigin has seven goals and 21 points in 29 games for Sochi and won silver with the Russians at the Toronto world juniors.
2016 Draft Stars
Clayton Keller, C – U.S. NTDP (USHL): Don’t look now, but Keller legitimately has a shot at Auston Matthews’ single-season points record with the NTDP. Keller is averaging 1.94 points per game, basically even with Matthews. The Boston U. commit kills with his smarts, playmaking and consistency. Keller also has a chance at NTDP career records in assists and points, plus top-10 in goals.
Lucas Johansen, D – Kelowna Rockets (WHL): The Rockets have been a blueline factory for years and Johansen in the latest product. Great physical attributes and skill make him one to watch and his 26 points through 42 games leads Kelowna’s back end.
Zach Sawchenko, G – Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL): The CHL goaltender of the week, Sawchenko is a late 1997 birthday with a pretty good pedigree, helping Canada win gold at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka. His only loss so far in January was a 37-save performance in which he gave up one goal in an overtime loss to Red Deer.
Luke Kunin, C – University of Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten): Kunin has been an impact player for the Badgers, as expected, leading the team in scoring with 18 points in 20 games. The big-time shooter and true freshman has been very effective 5-on-5 and also has a shorthanded goal to his credit.
Filip Hronek, D – Stadion Litomerice (Cze.): It’s not going to be a great year for Czechs in the draft, but Hronek is holding his own back home, playing for a men’s team in the nation’s second tier (he’s on loan). Competitive with an offensive bent to his game, Hronek also got his first taste of the world juniors this season.
Injury Report: Top 2017 prospect Maxime Comtois has been a revelation for Victoriaville in his rookie QMJHL campaign, but he was knocked out of an eventual loss to Chicoutimi on the weekend due to a hit that saw his head hit the glass. Comtois is skating, but the Tigres are wisely taking their time here and he won’t play tonight – he’s listed as day to day.