By JD Lagrange – As most fans have carved Cayden Primeau’s name on his locker in the Laval Rocket’s dressing room, we don’t know where he’s at with his game. Young players do progress throughout the year and they do so even in the off-season, with a combination of dieting and workouts. That’s why we often see players coming out of nowhere to surprise and earn their shot at the NHL.
In my recent article naming the Canadiens’ 12 most NHL-ready prospects, I have Primeau listed at number number nine. However and admittedly, it is very much a subjective take. It’s trying to project based on what we saw of him last season, and it leaves a lot to opinion and interpretation. I don’t have a crystal ball and from what I can tell, I’m not the only one in that situation.
Penciling Primeau in as the starter in Laval is legitimate and realistic. To claim that it’s the only option is a bit presumptuous and speaking out of turn. In fact, there are two options that I can see with Primeau and both will be based on how he does at training camp this year.
Starter in Laval
We can all agree that for his development, Primeau needs to play. Of course, being the starter in Laval will, barring injuries, guarantee him a lot of ice time. He has shown, at the end of last year and into the playoffs, that he can not only play in that league, but that he can be very good.
So if he shows up at camp and he doesn’t clearly beat Samuel Montembeault to the punch, even if it’s close, he should be sent down to Laval to start the season at the very least. And again, that’s where everyone sees him, at least reading and listening to the fanbase and a few media members. He’s a bit of an afterthought.
1-B in Montreal
Let’s get something clear here. I’m not talking about being the backup in Montreal. If he’s going to play once a week, he should be in Laval. I’m talking about if he outplays Samuel Montembeault and earns a spot in Montreal, to share the starts fairly regularly.
If he does so, then he should share the starter’s duties with Jake Allen. In fact, Allen knows all about it as that’s where he’s at his best. He’s not a true starter who can play 60-70 games efficiently. But he can play 45-50 games and offer some good hockey. That would then leave 30-40 starts to Primeau, which would be just as good for his development as being the starter in Laval. He would benefit from NHL-caliber practices and shots, and face a better competition.
There is one thing that we will all agree on, Primeau needs to play in order to continue developing. So whether he’s the starter in Laval or a 1-B starter with Allen, he will be playing so either way is just as good.
What we do want to avoid at all cost is what the Canadiens did with him last season. They brought him in when he clearly wasn’t NHL-ready. They almost ruined him by doing so, shattering his confidence in the process.
But the kid is a seventh round pick. He has been battling doubters at every level that he’s played. Never, ever count these guys out. The organization has a few of them in it. Brendan Gallagher was a fifth round pick and became a 30-goals’ scorer. Jake Evans was a seventh round pick. Head coach Martin St-Louis and his assistant-coach Alex Burrows were not drafted. Counting Primeau out would be a huge mistake.