Aside from the NHL Entry Draft in June, December might be the biggest month for hockey prospects. The IIHF World Junior Championship kicks off on December 26th, and this year 3 future Senators were set to make their mark on the international stage: Lassi Thomson (FIN), Shane Pinto (USA), and Jacob Bernard-Docker (CAN).
IIHF World Junior Championship
Considered a bit of a long-shot to make Team USA, Shane Pinto raised a few eyebrows when he was slotted in as the Americans' top line centre. He quickly let his play do the talking, scoring Team USA's first goal of the tournament just minutes into their opening game on Boxing Day against Canada. Pinto finished in a tie for second in preliminary round scoring with 4 goals and 7 points in 4 games. Just as impressive was his work at the faceoff circle, where we won nearly 70% of his draws.
Lassi Thomson was honoured before the tournament began when he was named captain of Team Finland. Thomson was a leader on the ice as well, where he recorded 3 assists and logged nearly 18 minutes per game, tops among Finnish defenceman. His physical style of play was on display, leading to 4 minor penalties in 4 preliminary round games.
Another 1st round pick, defenceman Jacob Bernard-Docker was the lone NCAA player named to Team Canada. Bernard-Docker was paired with current Ottawa 67's blueliner Kevin Bahl as Canada's go-to shutdown duo, leading Canada to a 3-1 record en route to top spot in their preliminary round group.
Headin' Out On The 401
Down in Belleville, the B-Sens had a 6-4-1 month to remain right in the thick of a competitive North Division. A number of familiar faces had strong showings, led by Drake Batherson. Batherson leads not just Belleville, but the entire league in scoring with 12 goals and 40 points through 32 games. His 77 AHL points in the calendar year of 2019 were the most among skaters league-wide.
Unfortunately Vitaly Abramov has battled injuries of late, appearing in just 6 games last month. When healthy, Abramov has been a key contributor for Belleville. In December he recorded a point in every game he appeared in, racking up 6 goals and 10 points - including a hat trick.
If you've been following the Farm Report so far this season, you'll be familiar with Josh Norris - he's making his third consecutive appearance. Norris is showing remarkable consistency for a rookie, recording points in 8 of 11 games in December, totalling 7 goals and 4 assists. With 29 points this season, he sits second in AHL rookie scoring.
Another carry-over from the November Farm Report, Joey Daccord has taken full advantage of his opportunity in Belleville since Marcus Hogberg has been on recall to Ottawa. Daccord had an excellent first month as an AHL regular, posting a 4-1-1 record en route to a team-leading .910 save percentage.
December is a slow month in the NCAA with most teams only playing a handful of games due to the holiday and exam season. Despite that, a few prospects managed to stand out in limited showings.
Jakov Novak had a pair of goals and 3 points in 5 games for Bentley University. He leads the team in goals (11) and points (19) in just his second collegiate season.
In 3 games for the University of New Hampshire, Angus Crookshank chipped in a goal and an assist. He leads UNH with 8 goals.
With just 2 games on the schedule in December, the University of North Dakota scheduled an exhibition game against the US National Development Program. Defenceman Jonny Tychonick scored in the 3-1 victory and was named the game's second star.
That's a wrap on 2019! Stay tuned for more monthly updates and be sure to reach out if there's a prospect you'd like to see featured in next month's report.
Follow Henry as @SensProspects on Twitter and subscribe to the SensProspects YouTube channel.