By JD Lagrange – Admittedly, and I’ve said so many times, I’m not a prospects’ expert, far from there. Because I follow predominantly the big club, I usually start following the Canadiens’ prospects when they reach a level where they are more promising, closer to being NHL-ready. But this season, I have written a weekly update on the team’s most prominent prospects, in a feature called “In The System“, which shows the progression from week to week of most of the Canadiens’ top prospects.
Some of them really impressed while others, well… were underwhelming. Granted, in order to determine what’s impressive or disappointing, the criteria being used are very much very personal and debatable. So what I’m about to share here is certainly open for debate and it is definitely not the ultimate truth. It is, however, my truth.
I have decided to highlight the Canadiens’ top-5 prospects in two categories: those whom left me on my appetite, and those who have really opened my eyes. This obviously was based in my own expectations of them, or what I knew (and didn’t know) about these young men.
There are some prospects for whom I had higher expectations for than what they’ve shown this season. Here are the top-5:
1- Jan Mysak
Perhaps my expectations were too high on Mysak, but I saw a mini Tomas Plekanec in him in junior. Injuries have definitely slowed him down this season, as has the Rocket’s slow start to the season. But when he was playing, he was mostly used on the fourth line and with a production of six points in 34 games, it’s hard to blame the coaching staff for the utilization of the team’s second round pick in 2020.
2- Otto Leskinen
Leskinen had shown some good things at the Canadiens’ camp in 2020 and after a disappointing first season in the AHL, he returned home to continue his development. When he came back this year, more mature, I was expecting him to battle for a spot on the Canadiens’ blue line. I would have thought that he would have beaten rookies like Kaiden Guhle and, at the very least, Arber Xhekaj but it wasn’t the case. With eight points in 24 games in Laval this season, it is unlikely that we will see him back in the organization next year.
4- Mattias Norlinder
While in Sweden, the former third round pick was once seen as a future power play quarterback, an offensive, puck-moving defenseman who could skate, shoot and pass. His 15 points in 56 games this season in Laval have not convinced anyone that he’s progressing enough to eventually challenge for a spot in the Canadiens’ defense, particularly not with the depth of quality prospects the team has at that position.
3- Jayden Struble
I know, I know, he’s in Laval now, having signed his Entry Level Contract with the Canadiens. But as a fourth year player in NCAA, I was expecting Struble to pick up his offense a bit more, playing against younger competition. In 31 games, he only managed a single goal and 11 assists. His coach and scouts all say that he brings other things to the game and I’m more than willing to give this young man a chance. But much like Jordan Harris last year, the 21 year-old has more maturity than other prospects and therefore, less time to show what he has to offer.
5- Luke Tuch
Having a brother in the NHL can sometimes be a benefit, or a downfall other times. In Tuch’s case, it seems to be the latter. Many Habs’ fans, myself included, were drooling at the idea of getting a player with similar tools as Buffalo Sabres’ winger Alex Tuch. The Canadiens second round pick in 2020 has nine goals, 19 points in 36 games at Boston University in this, his third year in the NCAA. At 21, it will be interesting to see what he decides to do between turning pro or playing his fourth season in College.
Most impressive prospects
Wanting to end on a positive note, let’s have a look at some of the most exciting prospects in the organization. Force is to admit that the duo of Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins, since the 2018 reset, have selected some pretty amazing prospects and Kent Hughes has continued in that vain.
1- Riley Kidney
Kidney, to me, was flying under the radar up until he was traded to the Gatineau Olympiques prior to the QMJHL’s trade deadline. With Acadie-Bathurst, the Canadiens’ second round pick in 2021 was averaging a more than respectable 1.45 points per game. But since in Gatineau, his points per game sits at 2.28. If this 19 year-old was not on your radar, you may want to reconsider and start paying attention to him.
2- Lane Hutson
What can be said about Hutson that hasn’t been said already. When the Canadiens selected him late in the second round of the 2022 NHL Draft, not many batted an eye. After all, defensemen standing at 5-foot 9-inches not even passing the 150 lbs mark on a scale usually isn’t anything to write about, right? Wrong… as it turns out. This year, he just took off! 45 points in 35 games as a defenseman in your freshman year in the NCAA, and playing at the World Junior Championship, is incredible production and feat.
3- Logan Mailloux
Think what you will, but the past couple of years haven’t been easy for the young man. After the scandal, he asked not to be drafted but the Canadiens didn’t listen, putting him even more on the spotlight… all of it through COVID seasons and a shoulder surgery. Mailloux rebounded this year with 51 points in 55 games so far with the London Knights. He had played a total of 39 games combined the previous two seasons. Adversity builds character, they say. He oozes character, then! The soon to be 20 year-old has signed his ELC earlier this year and should start his professional career as soon as London is out of the playoffs.
4- Sean Farrell
When you place a prospect like Sean Farrell fourth on your list, the others must be doing something special as it feels like he should be higher up. As a sophomore at Harvard University, the Canadiens’ fourth round pick at the 2020 draft has managed 51 points in 32 games. He also had six points in four games representing Team USA at the 2022 Olympics, playing against men, against professionals for the most part. Yes, folks, he is the real deal.
5- Joshua Roy
Much like Farrell, it’s weird to put this guy this low on the totem poll. Credit the young man for taking his career into his own hands after being selected in the fifth round by the Canadiens back in 2021. At the time of the draft, he had a total of 38 goals and 79 points in three seasons in the QMJHL. Since then (less than two seasons), he has 89 goals and 204 points. He was also a key reason, with Connor Bedard, for Team Canada winning the Gold Medal at the WJC. He too is under contract and is looking at starting his professional career soon.
There are plenty of names that are left out of this article, some whom could arguably be in this list. If you consider that the Canadiens have young core of players Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach, Juraj Slafkovsky, Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Arber Xhekaj, already at the NHL level, and you look at the young prospects coming up, it’s enough to be excited. I know that I am…