By JD Lagrange – Stating that I don’t follow or write about prospect often might be an understatement. There are plenty of people following them more than I do, including my colleague Bob Trask on this very site. Admittedly, I don’t know much about them as I start taking a bit of interest when they get to the AHL. And even then, I pay more attention when they are getting closer to deserving a shot with the big club.
So far, there are six players who are drawing my attention as being deserving of a call-up to see where they are at in their development. Those who attend Rocket’s games might have a few more, or disagree with my choices, and it’s okay if that’s the case. This is only one man’s opinion based on what I see.
Anthony Richard: He did very well at camp and was one of the last players cut. Fast, intense, he has 12 goals in 19 games so far for the Rocket and leads the team with 18 points.
Justin Barron: After a bit of a slow start, likely shocked and digesting being sent down, he has since been on fire. The right-handed defenseman has 6 goals and 6 assists in 19 games so far and has been solid at both ends of the ice.
Rem Pitlick: It is my humble opinion that Pitlick doesn’t deserve to be down, but he’s the victim of the numbers’ game in Montreal. Excellent penalty killer, he should be in the NHL.
Jesse Ylönen: Here’s another guy who should be in Montreal. Like Barron, he had a slow start to the season in Laval but he has since picked up his game. A good, fast, 200-foot player who happens to play at a position of depth in Montreal, on the wing.
Peter Abbandonato: The 24 year-old forward is a surprise for me. With 11 points in 13 games, he is showing signs of progression in his development. It might be good to keep a close eye on that kid and perhaps give him a couple of games in the NHL to see where he’s at.
Xavier Simoneau: In his case, I’m not suggesting a call-up but I wanted to acknowledge his contribution and where he’s at in his development. The rookie has been on fire for the Rocket lately and now has 15 points in 18 games at the pro level.
Hughes working the phones
The issue now is that the Canadiens simply don’t have room for these guys. The Canadiens have a lot of dead wood, particularly up front, that Kent Hughes is trying to move. In fact, Hughes told reporter Anthony Martineau yesterday that the phones are busy everywhere in the NHL.
“We’re always in discussion with teams”, he said. “A lot today [Saturday], since we’re driving back. We’ve reached the quarter season mark, I think that every team is take calls to see what other teams wish to accomplish at this stage of the season.”
Hughes confirmed to Martineau that ideally, he would like to add another first round pick for this upcoming Draft. Asked about which prospects he was particularly please with, he didn’t name anyone from the Rocket, surprisingly. I could be an oversight, or he doesn’t consider players already turned pro as “prospects” per se.
“We’re very happy with Luke Tuch, Lane Hutson, Jayden Struble, also Sean Farrell, collegian players”, advanced Hughes just to name a few. “Of course players that we’ve drafted this year like Owen Beck, Filip Mesar have a good start. Engström also in Sweden is having a good start so we’re really happy, we think that we have some very good players joining in the future à Montréal.”.
Does he have a window, a time frame or a goal to return to the playoffs and for his team to become a contender? In short, no he doesn’t. Of course, a lot of it will depend on the young players’ development pace but also, things can change quickly in the NHL.
“I couldn’t tell you in June that we predicted getting a guy like Sean Monahan and a first round pick”, Hughes explained. “Things chance so quickly.”
But one thing is for sure, he won’t trade picks and prospects if the Canadiens are close to a playoffs’ spot by trade deadline. “We don’t want to make sudden decision without thinking enough, detrimental to the future of the team, we won’t want to do that.”
As the Canadiens’ GM is patiently looking to unload a few players, the team is responding extremely well to the coaching staff and the young guys have taken over the team. Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield are comparing favourably to Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner, Kaiden Guhle is already playing like the number one defenseman on the team, Arber Xhekaj is building a reputation of a guy you don’t want to mess with, Samuel Montembeault is challenging Jake Allen and Kirby Dach is making boo-birds eat crow. The future is bright, Habs’ fans. And there’s no need for tanking and throwing games.
You can see the two minutes interview in French down below.
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