By JD Lagrange – For a second year in a row, the Montreal Canadiens will finish the season with the most man-games lost to injuries. While that’s nothing to be proud of, this unfortunate string of bad luck has allowed the organization to evaluate some of its prospects closer to being NHL-ready. And due to the quality of the players missing, these young men were given plenty of opportunities by head coach Martin St-Louis to perform in key roles.
To say that Belzile has been a pleasant surprise would be an understatement. In 22 games since being called up, the 31 year-old AHL veteran has managed four goals and eight assists for 12 points. In his last six games, he has put five points on the board, three of them being goals.
After being called up, Harvey-Pinard caught fire with seven goals in his first 11 games. He has since cooled off with only one goal in the following 13 games, but he’s getting chances. The one nicknamed “Lavallagher” as a comparison to his style of play, which resembles Brendan Gallagher’s, is a ball of energy each time he touches the ice. He has 13 points, including eight goals, in 24 games since getting the call.
Ylönen was having a good season in Laval before the Canadiens called him up and he started rather slow at the NHL level this season. He has 11 points in 27 games this season with Montreal but he is displaying more and more confidence with more games under his belt. Always responsible defensively, he is now carrying the puck more, using his speed and making plays. In fact, since February 12th, a period of 16 games, only Josh Anderson and Nick Suzuki, with 10 points each, have more points than Ylönen who has nine.
Barron wasn’t happy when he was cut by the Canadiens late in training camp, and had to start the season in Laval. To his credit, he got over it and started working on a list of things to improve on. Helped greatly by Director of Hockey Development Adam Nicholas, the improvement is noticeable on the young defenseman. His decision-making is quicker and better, his positioning is better and we are seeing some of the offense that we know that he has. In 25 games since being called up, Barron has managed three goals, eight assists for 11 points. He played a season high 19:24 minutes against Philadelphia on February 24th.
It’s been a frustrating season for Pitlick, who was a very pleasant surprise last year after being picked off waivers, earning him a new contract with the Canadiens. Starting the season with one point in his first 15 games has forced the coaching staff to make him a healthy scratch, and management to send him to Laval a couple of times. With six points in his last 14 games, and a current stretch of three points in his last four games, things seem to be turning around for him.
Richard is showing why he hasn’t been able to secure a spot in the NHL yet. He is showing flashes of what he can do, but he can’t seem to be able to put it all together over a stretch of games. His goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins on a brilliant pass by Justin Barron is just one example of what he can do when he’s on. In 11 games so far with the Canadiens this season, he has two goals and an assist.