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  • Scott Cowan

Puck and Roll: Canadiens Three Stars of the Week (October 24th to 30th)

Good afternoon and welcome Habs fans to the first edition of the Puck and Roll Podcast three stars of the week for the Montreal Canadiens organization. Here we’ll be doing a week-by-week recap of who were the standout players in the Canadiens organization over the course of each week of the NHL season, whether that be Canadiens players themselves, AHL contributors, or even prospects in leagues like the NCAA or CHL. With that being said, let’s get into this week’s picks.

Honourable Mentions

Brandon Gignac: Laval Rocket (2 goals and 5 points in 7 games)

Part of what made the Laval Rocket so fun to watch last season was the performance of their AHL-contracted players like Danick Martel, Kevin Poulin, and Gabriel Bourque, and early into 2022-23, yet another AHL option has stepped up in Repentigny native Brandon Gignac. A long-time member of the New Jersey Devils farm system as a third-round pick of the team in 2016, Gignac never fully panned out for the Devils at either the AHL or NHL level, struggling to find a regular role while appearing in just one NHL game in the 2018-19 season.

After spending most of the 2020-21 season with the ECHL’s Jacksonville Icemen, Gignac was picked up by the Rocket on a one-year deal and quickly found a home in the lineup as a fan favourite, posting 10-16-26 totals over 48 games and 5-4-9 totals over 15 playoff games, emerging as a top contributor when it mattered most. While the Rocket have struggled out of the gate this season with just two wins in their first eight games (with Poulin struggling to regain his form from last season) Gignac has shown little if any rust with 2-3-5 totals over his first 7 games. After sticking around past the initial list of cuts with the Canadiens in training camp, Gignac is one of many AHL-contracted players on Laval who have proven they're deserving of an NHL deal, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he finds one in the not-too-distant future.

Anthony Beauregard: Trois Rivieres Lions (3 goals and 5 points in 6 games)

If there’s one thing most ECHL teams struggle with, it’s consistency in their lineups from season to season, and the Trois Rivieres Lions are no exception. Typically, most ECHL top scorers are searching for gigs either overseas or in the AHL rather than sticking with the same club for extended periods of time, largely due to the less-than-ideal pay in the ECHL. In the case of the Lions, most of their top offensive options from last season like leading scorer Anthony Nellis and Alexis D’Aoust, parted overseas for Slovakia and Sweden respectively. I had thought Olivier Archambault was the star player the Lions were needing in their inaugural season, but in spite of posting point-per-game totals, the former Canadiens draft pick was a defensive liability and frequent healthy scratch by season’s end.

However, in this past off-season, I was convinced the Lions had found their hometown star, in former Concordia University standout Anthony Beauregard, and thus far this season, my thoughts haven’t been disproven. The ECHL MVP in the 2020-21 season and a brief member of the Rocket in their dreadful 2017-18 season, Beauregard was picked up by the Rocket on an AHL deal out of the Swiss second division and thus far has looked every bit and more like a player who can lead the Lions offensively night in and night out. While his ECHL career has been brief so far, Beauregard emerged as a star with the Wichita Thunder in a shortened Covid-19 season. He should continue to serve that role as a rarely-seen reliable, star ECHL forward with the Lions, one who may even see action with Laval down the line.

3 Stars

Third Star: Lane Hutson (3 goals and 8 points in 7 games)

Hutson came into the Canadiens organization with high expectations and potential as a talented offensive defenseman out of the US National Development Program. An admittedly undersized defenseman at 5’09 and 148 pounds, the 18-year-old Hutson has shown no signs of growing pains over the course of his first collegiate season with Boston University. With 3-5-8 totals over 7 games, Hutson sits second on the team in scoring behind 23-year-old forward Matthew Brown and has shown considerable promise with excellent skating and playmaking abilities.

On a depth-filled and talented Boston University squad alongside the likes of fellow Habs prospect Luke Tuch, Domenick Fensore, Ryan Green and Drew Commesso, he should continue to produce and showcase his NHL potential, whilst filling into his frame more akin to that of a regular NHL defenseman. While it’s still early days for the 62nd overall pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, the future already looks bright for this potentially promising member of the Canadiens blue line corps.

Second Star: Nick Suzuki (1 goal and 4 points in past 4 games)

Going into the 2022-23 season, The Athletic had ranked Suzuki as the ninth worst-valued contract in the NHL, and admittedly, this was understandable from purely a performance standpoint. Even with impressive and immensely promising 20-41-61 totals whilst being the only Canadiens player to appear in all 82 games last season, the newly-enshrined Captain of the team was set to make $7.9 million over the next eight years after having just come off his first 60-point season. However, not wanting to lose yet another franchise forward, Montreal ultimately locked up Suzuki long-term based on what he was going to do, not what he had done, and early returns have suggested they were correct in this assumption.

In spite of a slow start to this week going pointless in his first two games, Suzuki played a big role in Montreal’s 7-4 win over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, posting a goal and two assists including a beautiful tight-knit pass to Cole Caufield to put the Habs up 4-3. With 4-6-10 totals over his first 9 games this season, Suzuki has played up to the role of Captain and led the Habs on both sides of the puck, and this is something that should only continue as the season goes on. Considering Cody Glass’s role as a fourth-line center for the Nashville Predators this season, it’s safe to say the Vegas Golden Knights picked the wrong prospect in this situation, and the Canadiens are now reaping the benefits.

First Star: Cole Caufield (3 goals and 5 points in past 4 games)

It goes without saying that Caufield has shone and shone brightly to start this NHL season after recovering from a quite frankly unbelievable, disheartening, and ultimately underserving, nightmarish stint under former head coach Dominique Ducharme. After posting just 1-7-8 totals over his first 30 games, Caufield exploded under coach Martin St. Louis, finishing the season with 23 goals and has only continued that pace going into this season. With 3-1-4 totals over 4 games this week, including a two-goal, one-assist performance against St. Louis, Caufield has looked everything and more like the star the Habs expected him to be, with 7-3-10 totals over his first nine games this season, sitting tied for second in the NHL in goals, and first in goals at home.

After bouncing up and down the lineup (including a brief stint in the AHL) under Ducharme’s defensively-focused, yet somehow defensively porous system, Caufield has been given the opportunity to shoot under St. Louis and is always a threat to score when he’s able to do just that. While he’s yet to find a consistent first-line linemate to start this season alongside him and Nick Suzuki, Kirby Dach looked promising on Saturday and the pair of him and Suzuki should at least continue to thrive as the Canadiens' one-two punch of the future, and with a nose for the net unlike anything seen across most of the NHL, Cole Caufield has earned this week’s Puck and Roll, first star of the week, for the Montreal Canadiens organization.

Photo Credit: David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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