The Brampton Beast, the ECHL affiliate of the Montreal Canadiens, have had an interesting start to the 2016-’17 season. Like the parent club, they do not have a regulation loss. In the five games so far, not one has ended in regulation time. They have gained at least a point in every game this season.
Although it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Discipline has been an issue: the Beast lead the North division in penalty minutes. In the game against Missouri on Sunday afternoon, they were very undisciplined allowing the Mavericks nine power play chances, surrendering a pair of goals while shorthanded. They have been mildly efficient on the penalty kill at 85.3 per cent during the opening five games, but allowing too many power play chances will eventually catch up.
At 17.9 per cent efficiency, the power-play is in the middle of the pack in the league through the first five games.
The addition of goalie Zach Fucale sent down by the St. John’s IceCaps should help shore up the Beast’s defensive liabilities. Fucale made an immediate impact in his first game played on Sunday. Fucale was rock solid during the first 40 minutes of the game as the Mavericks almost had a 2-to-1 shot advantage over the Beast.
It’s clear that Fucale can’t be expected to do it all alone. There are issues with rebound control and he loses focus at times. But overall Fucale played very well, earning first star honours. He will improve as he becomes comfortable with his teammates and the Beast’s style of play.
The most consistent player for the Beast this season has been 27 year old forward Luke Pither. Along with veteran linemates Brandon Marino and David Vallorani the trio plays in all situations, recording multi-point games for Brampton head coach Colin Chaulk.
The Beast are a veteran laden team as evidenced by defenceman Jordan Henry who recently played his 500th professional game. With a team comprised mostly of free agents, expect a lot of player movement throughout the upcoming season. There are only two Montreal Canadiens draft picks on the team, defenceman Dalton Thrower who was drafted in second round (51st overall) in 2012 and recently re-assigned Fucale who was a second round pick (36th overall) in 2013.
The talent level has increased by leaps and bounds in the ECHL over the past few seasons. The league has become a pipeline of talent for the AHL and eventually the NHL.
The Beast will make use of a few days for for valuable practice time until they welcome the Kalamazoo Wings on Friday and the Fort Wayne Comets on Sunday.