When they talked about this kid prior to the Top Prospects game, I dismissed him as a target for the Canadiens due to his size, currently listed at 5'10" and 181 lbs. We already have a lot of slick or never-quit but undersized forwards in the system, I figure, he doesn't fit in our picture.
Watching him play however, I weakened. I began to allow that if Trevor Timmins could make him one of his late-round specials like Brendan Gallagher, Charles Hudon or Daniel Audette, I could bear it. Then as he niftied up my screen, I started to count him as a hatched chicken and feeling mighty good about this steal. And then as he kept piling up the spectacular plays and points, I began to despair that we'd have to spend a third-rounder on him, maybe even a second if we wanted to be sure to snag him. If Anthony Duclair went to the Rangers in the third round after a so-so season and whispers about his attitude, how the heck does this squeaky clean can-do super-productive kid last past the second round? He's at 72 points in 47 games and picking up steam.
Canadiens goaltending prospect Zachary Fucale on the other hand wasn't as impressive. The Remparts' netminder struggled on a couple of occasions with rebound control, something we've seen during his stint with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.
I know we need to be patient with prospects, but my expectations for the highest-drafted goalie in 2013 would be that he played at another level in Junior this year, that he be a couple notches above everyone else. That's not what's transpiring. His save percentage this season prior to puck drop was at a pedestrian .892, while his counterpart Marvin Cüpper, an undrafted German goalie, sported a .910 save percentage.
We can hope that gearing up for a Memorial Cup run with the Remparts will allow Zach to focus and improve on his uneven performance last season and so far this year. He'll need to bear down for Québec to be successful, since based on what I saw they are far from a powerhouse, compared to some of the Memorial Cup contenders the past few seasons. Sure there are some big names, Adam Erne, Anthony Duclair, Ryan Graves, but they don't inspire a lot of confidence in this fan's eyes that they'll win the Cup on home ice.
A word on Vladimir Tkachev of the Remparts, made famous this autumn by another Oilers bungle. They'd invited the undrafted 18-year-old to their rookie camp, and he impressed enough that he stuck around for the main camp, and eventually was offered an NHL contract by the Oilers. Trouble is, he wasn't eligible for such an offer, due to a technicality. The fact that he'd played a couple of games in the KHL before coming over to play for Moncton meant that he had to go back in the draft. Craig MacTavish's lame excuse was that he and the player's agent failed to read the relevant section in the Collective Bargaining Agreement completely.
And:"There's a subsection in the CBA that defines prior season. When we looked at it, it looked like Vlad fulfilled all the criteria to sign a Standard Player's Contract," MacTavish began. "He went through the draft -- 30 teams had a chance to draft him -- and he played the prior season in North America, which he did in Moncton."But when you go down two paragraphs further, in another subsection of article 8, it defines 'prior season' as a complete season. Vlad had played some games in the KHL and that went unnoticed."
Tkachev's agent also thought that there was an opportunity for Tkachev to sign with an NHL club.
"I spoke with the agent and he read the clause and then stopped reading after it looked like he was eligible."
Well during this game, Steven Finn, the TVA Sports Junior Hockey colour analyst, mentioned a couple of times that Mr. Tkachev had showed frustration toward his teammates, and been undisciplined. He alleged that it was in keeping with his season so far, that the young man is talented but a bit of a handful and a prima donna.
This is somewhat ironic, in that when it seemed that he would start the season in Edmonton, there was talk about how Nail Yakupov was one of his mentors, who was showing him the ropes and translating the proceedings for him. Also, at the time, it was argued that having Mr. Tkachev on the team would help Nail Yakupov feel more comfortable, in keeping with Paul Maurice's take on the difficulty Russian players must face adapting to North America, and Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins saying that Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Alex Galchenyuk would play a role in helping Nikita Scherbak eventually integrate into the Canadiens' dressing room.
Based on Steven Finn's comments, it appears that Nail Yakupov and Vladimir Tkachev aren't what the other needs right now.