Wild Card – Jesse Ylönen

By JD Lagrange – Every year, there are players who surprise at training camp, players that fans and even teams penciled in to a development league, whether it’d be the AHL, junior or Europe. Those players seem to be coming out of nowhere to earn their spot on a NHL roster, launching their NHL career.

Due to some good drafting (since the 2018 reset) and finally some luck, the Canadiens have a few prospects who could surprise at the upcoming rookie and main camp. One of them is 22 years old (will turn 23 in October) Finnish winger Jesse Ylönen.

Skills and experience

This upcoming season will be Ylönen’s third season in North America. In his rookie season, he managed nine goals and 17 points in Laval and last season, he followed that up with 36 points (14 goals) in 54 games for the Rocket. He also benefited from a short call-up with the Canadiens where he managed five points in 14 games. He’s not coming into camp like a deer in the headlights. He knows what to expect and that’s a bonus for a young player.

Jesse Ylönen

Ylönen skates very well and displays excellent skill. He also thinks the game well, so he can create offense on his own and not rely solely on his center. An extremely agile forward, he’s a quick stickhandler who likes to play the game at a high pace. Like most players from Finland, Ylönen is defensively responsible. Sometimes, he does play a quiet game so he could stand to become a lot more assertive on the ice, something that often comes with experience. Standing at 6-feet tall, he needs to fill out and add some muscle to the 168 lbs he’s listed at, in order to maximize his output in the NHL.

Competition on the wing

The young Finn’s biggest challenge is the competition he’s facing to earn a spot on the Canadiens. With left defense, the wing is the Habs’ deepest position in the organization. There are many veterans ahead of him that he needs to out-perform in order to catch the eye of the coaching staff. The list includes:

  • Cole Caufield
  • Jonathan Drouin
  • Josh Anderson
  • Brendan Gallagher
  • Mike Hoffman
  • Joel Armia
  • Evgenii Dadonov
  • Paul Byron (injured?)
  • Michael Pezzetta

And then, he is fighting with other young prospects like:

  • Juraj Slafkovsky
  • Rafaël Harvey-Pinard
  • Joshua Roy
  • Emil Heineman
  • Filip Mesar

With the recent addition of veteran Sean Monahan to a group of Nick Suzuki, Christian Dvorak and Jake Evans, there are also a few center candidates who could be moved to the wing, including some prospects:

  • Jake Evans
  • Jan Mysak
  • Ty Smilanic
  • Nate Schnarr

The list is deep and the battles will be fierce for a spot on the team, that’s for sure. But with his experience, his age and his skills’ set, Ylönen is one of my favourite underdogs not named Slafkovsky to force the hand of GM Kent Hughes to make room for him this upcoming season. Time will tell, I guess, but with competition and depth come battles to keep your job. And that is a good thing to fielding a competitive team.

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