Ten games is all that’s left to the Montreal Canadiens’ schedule. With the team knowing for a long time that they would not be making the NHL playoffs, coaches and management have been evaluating their assets for a while now. With perhaps the exception of a few players recently returning from injuries and the new acquisitions in recent trades, management and the coaching staff have a pretty good idea of what they’re dealing with.
In the mean time, the Canadiens’ farm team a few minutes North West of Montreal, in Laval, are in a dog race for a playoffs’ spot. If it has been a tough year in Montreal with injuries, the Rocket has been affected just as much with call-ups and injuries of their own. But Jean-François Houle’s group has the opportunity to give some of the organization’s prospects something the big club can’t: the experience of a playoffs’ run.
Importance of Playoffs experience
In a recent meet with the media, Canadiens’ GM Kent Hughes mentioned how important it was for young players to participate in the playoffs and that, at any level. He went further by stating that he would look at helping the Rocket and their coaching staff by providing them with players to do just that.
We know that the Canadiens have signed Emil Heineman to his 3-year Entry-Level Contract (ELC) and at the same time, they signed him to a Professional Try-Out contract (PTO) with the Rocket to finish the season.
Few can go down
According to capfriendly.com, a few players don’t have to be placed on waivers before being sent down to Laval. Cole Caufield, Ryan Poehling, Jesse Ylönen, Alexander Romanov, Justin Barron, Corey Schueneman and Jordan Harris all fit that requirement. However, due to AHL and NHL rules, only Ylönen, Barron and Schueneman are eligible to participate in the AHL playoffs.
While it is very likely that we’ll see Ylönen return to Laval soon, will Hughes send the other two down as well? Have the Canadiens seen enough of Justin Barron? It’s doubtful, particularly that he was injured recently. Corey Schueneman has been playing some solid hockey for the Canadiens since the arrival of Martin St-Louis in Montreal. Can one, or even both be sent down? Both would benefit from a long playoffs’ experience.
The Rocket currently sits second in the North Division with also 10 games remaining to their schedule. They do have some games on hand on some of the teams they’re competing with. It’s a cliché, but they must win those games to retain their lead. Of the 10 games remaining, only three of them are at home. The next five games are on the road.
Here’s a combination of the remaining schedule for the Canadiens and Rockets to finish the season.
Crowded at NHL level
With players coming back from injuries, it is getting crowded on the Canadiens’ roster in Montreal. While they still want to see what they have on hand, some will have to be sent down. On defense, Joel Edmundson has been back for a while. Kale Clague is back. Jeff Petry returned on Saturday. In fact, only Justin Barron is out right now and it’s day to day.
At forward, Mathieu Perreault, Ryan Poehling and Michael Pezzetta are back. We know that Jonathan Drouin is gone for the season after having torn ligaments operated on in his right wrist in New York on Friday. Paul Byron is currently out due to injury. Everyone else appears to be healthy.
If I were a betting man, which I’m really not, I would guess that Ylönen and Barron (when healthy) will be joining the Rocket soon. Schueneman is 26 years old and he’s the likely reason why the Canadiens felt like they could trade Brett Kulak instead of offering him a contract extension. He is already a NHL player, in my humble opinion.
But the experience that could gain young players like Barron and Ylönen could come very valuable down the road, for their development. Remember that both Hughes and Jeff Gorton want to put the emphasis on better developing players and providing them with that experience is more important than how the big club is performing right now.