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Montreal Canadiens send Cole Caufield down to Laval

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From Montreal Canadiens Calder trophy candidate to bound for the bus.

The Montreal Canadiens announced today that they have sent winger Cole Caufield down to the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League. Caufield hasn’t scored yet this season and has only picked up one assist in 10 games so far this season.

Caufield’s struggles this season mirror the struggles of the club as a whole. He was a creative and dangerous high-energy player in the playoffs, picking up 12 points in 20 games. This year, he looks devoid of confidence. The puck constantly bobbled off his stick and the more he tried to do on the ice, the less likely it was to work.

Shouldn’t be surprised

When asked about Caufield’s struggles and the AHL after the Montreal Canadiens 4-2 loss to the Ducks yesterday, head coach Dominique Ducharme sounded open to anything.

“He’s searching right now,” Ducharme told reporters in French at the Honda Center. “It’s more complicated for him. We watch him with the puck and he isn’t how we know he can be. It’s part of the progression of a young player. Looking back, he played with us in the playoffs last year after playing a few games during the season. To be primed for a full season, that’s been a different challenge for him. The way you approach it to, it’s not like coming in at the end of the year where you already have the rhythm of your (college) season. It’s part of the learning process for him.”

McLean's Pub

Based on those comments, it isn’t all that surprising that the 2019 first round pick is heading down to Laval. But the Montreal Canadiens don’t exactly have a track record of success when it comes to sending players down to gain confidence. The process did somewhat work with Jesperi Kotkaniemi in February 2020 before he turned it on in the play-in bubble back with the big club. Far too many times however, a young player has been sent down to the AHL never to be heard from again.

On the farm

Rebuilding Caufield’s confidence will be the first real developmental challenge for new Laval Rocket head coach J.F. Houle. Houle replaced former bench boss Joel Bouchard in the summer after being an assistant coach with the Bakersfield Condors for five seasons. The Rocket have started the season with a record of 4-3-1 with reportedly one of the stronger rosters in the league.

The positive for Caufield is that he can hopefully generate some chemistry with fellow first-round pick Ryan Poehling. Despite missing a few games with a head injury, Poehling has five points in four games down on the farm after not making the big club out of training camp. 2018 second-round pick Jesse Ylonen is also coming off his first two goals of the season against Rochester. He has five points in six games so far this year. If those three could gel as a line, Habs fans would likely be begrudingly happy that Caufield was sent down to Laval.

Now, the Montreal Canadiens and their fans will wait with baited breath to see how Caufield performs with the Rocket. But this is just the latest development in a season that continues to not go according to plan for the Habs.

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