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- The Recap: Game 5 – ECQF: Rangers vs. Habs
- The Recency Bias: Round 1 – Game 5
- What Just Happened? Rangers top Habs 3-2 in OT
Habs Rookies Ready To Play Large Role
- Updated: July 15, 2015
In order to look forward, it is important that we first look back.
January, 2013: the nightmarish lockout of 2012 has just ended and the Montreal Canadiens’ new management team is looking to make steps in the right direction after a horrendous season. While the Habs probably could have blown the whole team up and started from scratch, Marc Bergevin warned of the dangers of building through free agency and the trade market and stressed the necessity of building from within.
Having the third overall draft pick is usually a good start. Alex Galchenyuk, the skilled center out of Sarnia of the OHL, would be the biggest add for the team in an offseason that saw Bergevin bring in role players like left-winger Brandon Prust and right-winger Colby Armstrong.
How did the team improve with so few changes after a dead last finish in the prior season? I should get this out of the way now: P.K. Subban had a Norris-winning season and Carey Price was Carey Price.
But there was another new player that played a huge role with the club in 2013.
Enter Brendan Gallagher
After seeing only 36 games with the Canadiens’ American Hockey League affiliate in Hamilton, right-winger Brendan Gallagher was called up to the Habs after the lockout ended. In 36 games with the Bulldogs, Gallagher put up 20 points and did not look back. Gallagher played in 44 games with the Canadiens in the shortened season, scoring 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points. Proportionately, had the 2012-2013 campaign been a full one, Gallagher would have suited up for about 75 games and scored about 47 points. The “Little Ball of Great” would go on to be a bright light in a very disappointing playoff run, scoring twice in five games, and would be named to the NHL’s all-rookie team. Gallagher would eventually finish second in Calder voting for rookie of the year.
So what is this I hear about Bergevin “missing out” on valuable free agents? Bergevin signed only depth players the year Gallagher broke into the league, so it is possible that Bergevin is hoping to find another gem in the farm system.
As it stands, there are three forwards that have a pretty good shot to make the Habs out of camp, the first being Charles Hudon.
Charles Hudon: 5’ 11” 21 years-old 5th round pick (2012) LW/C
The Quebec native played his first full season with the Bulldogs in 2014-15 and finished second in rookie scoring. In 75 games, Hudon scored 19 times and added a healthy 38 assists. Hudon even posted a +5 on a team that was a -7 as a whole.
Sources outside of the Canadiens organization are excited about Hudon’s NHL potential. Hockey’s Future had this to say about Hudon’s skill set:
“Hudon is mainly known for his offensive skills but can also play defensively as seen by his solid plus/minus differential over the last two years at the junior level. The talented winger is blessed with superior hockey sense, a great vision and quick hands which allow him to control the play in the offensive zone and create scoring opportunities for him and his line-mates. He has maturity beyond his age while providing leadership, character and a strong work ethic for his teammates. The smallish forward will need to add more muscle mass to withstand the physical play along the boards at the pro level while working on his skating edge control and his four step acceleration.”
With the Canadiens boasting a plethora of bottom-six forwards, Hudon could hypothetically play himself into a top-six role by using his vision and hands to chip in offensively while remaining defensively strong to stay out of the coach’s doghouse.
The second option could be Sven Andrighetto.
Sven Andrighetto: 5’9” 22 years-old 3rd round pick (2013) LW/RW
There are two words that come to mind when I think of Andrighetto: speed and consistency.
As a small forward, Andrighetto always looks to use his size to his advantage with great mobility and vision for holes on the ice. Habs fans got a small taste of Andrighetto’s speed last season when the Swiss winger suited up for 12 games with the Canadiens. In this brief stint, Andrighetto scored twice and added an assist.
If Andrighetto’s speed gets him into the lineup, his consistency will keep him there. Andrighetto has spent two complete seasons with the Bulldogs. Here are his stat lines:
GP G A PTS
64 17 27 44
60 14 29 43
In two strikingly similar seasons, Andrighetto created offense for his teammates while chipping in himself. One aspect of the Canadiens’ game that has been lacking is the powerplay, and it is believed that Andrighetto could help. Hockey’s Future wrote the following before the 2014-15 season:
“Andrighetto will play on the Bulldogs’ top-six at the AHL level in Hamilton but could see time in the NHL level as an injury replacement. He’s expected to bring offensive production and play a major role on the team’s power play unit this coming season.”
If Andrighetto could make his way into the Habs’ lineup full time next season and improve the powerplay even slightly without being a liability defensively, he could make a real difference.
Finally, the Habs could benefit from Daniel Carr’s services next season.
Daniel Carr: 6’0” 23 years-old UNDRAFTED LW
Carr seemed to come out of nowhere for the Bulldogs last season and Bergevin is noticeably excited to see him in the Habs’ preseason camp at the end of the summer. After selecting Noah Juulsen in this year’s draft, Bergevin was interviewed by TSN 690 and was asked about the possibility of rookies making the team out of camp. Several times in his response, Bergevin mentioned Carr. And why shouldn’t he be excited about Carr? Carr led Union College in scoring as a senior while the Dutchmen went on to win the national championship for the first time in school history.
In his first pro season, Carr suited up for 76 games with the Bulldogs, lighting the lamp 24 times. Carr would add 15 helpers and finish with 39 points. While he has a lower point total than Hudon and Andrighetto, Carr is a bigger body with a great shot and a higher goal scoring potential in the NHL. Hockey’s Future adds the following scouting report:
“Carr plays a solid 200-foot game with excellent speed and hockey sense. He is a skilled puck possessor that can create opportunities for his linemates as well as finish them with his hard accurate shot. His work ethic and character are what made the Canadiens sign the free agent after his senior NCAA year. His potential upside is a top nine forward that can defend and add offense at key moments.”
Habs fans should keep a close eye on these three forwards when camp gets underway in September. Are there more options for the Habs? Absolutely. However, I think Bergevin has made it painfully obvious that the solution is going to need to come from within the organization and these three players could fill a desperate need for a top-six offensive talent. With several Canadiens top AHL prospects ready to make the jump to the big league, Habs fans should get excited about the prospect of young exciting talent making its way onto the roster. New chemistry can be created and one of these rookies may have what it takes to give the Habs’ offense a much needed boost. The preseason will be filled with competition for full-time NHL jobs and the Habs might just find another rookie with Gallagher-like impact.
Follow me on Twitter @ihabs1995.