The Montreal Canadiens are looking to complete their top line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, and Jesse Ylönen is a player that has the aptitudes to fill that role.
At a time when youngsters like Justin Barron and Jordan Harris are being given the opportunity to play in critical situations, Ylönen should be tried on the top-line with the teams’ top offensive stars to see what he can do. Ylönen was never projected to be a top-line offensive producer at the NHL level, but continued to work on the aptitudes that would make him a valuable player under the Montreal Canadiens’ new vision for the team, predicated on speed and skill, and it’s time to put it to the test.
Ylönen has worked extensively on his offensive game in the AHL with the Laval Rocket, playing on their top line and first powerplay wave as the triggerman, while playing a sound defensive game. He improved his possession-based style of play, as he was Laval’s go-to guy for defensive zone breakouts and, especially, offensive zone entries. That work has been put on full display over the last week for the Canadiens, as Ylönen has one of the best zone entry ratios on the cub and could be of great value to Suzuki and Caufield.
Ylönen has played primarily in a fourth-line role to start his career in the NHL and continues to be one of the top players for the Canadiens in transition when in uniform. He’s carried the puck with confidence and is in constant motion, while executing a very aggressive forecheck when he didn’t have the puck. When used in offensive situations this season, he has delivered more than adequate results, especially when he was put on the Canadiens’ top-six in December while 20 regulars were out with Covid. During that time, while paired with Jonathan Drouin and Laurent Dauphin, Ylönen showed off his shooting abilities and puck protection skills, making him a perfect complement to any line he could play on.
Nice tip by Anderson for this goal. Absolutely love that they're utilizing Ylonen as a trigger man on the PP.
He might not see Laval next year. pic.twitter.com/fiQMFtuogI
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 28, 2022
Speed and Skill To Keep Up
With Caufield being tried at left wing, the right side of Montreal’s forward corps is limited to Josh Anderson and Joel Armia, with Mike Hoffman taking games on his offside. All of these players have failed to complement Suzuki and Caufield on a consistent basis for various reasons, but mostly due to a mismatch in hockey sense. Caufield and Suzuki are two of the most creative players the Canadiens have had in over a decade, and thus require players that can skate and execute as quickly as them, as seamlessly as possible. Enter Ylönen.
Ylönen has been bounced around the lineup all season when dressed for the Montreal Canadiens. In the ten games he’s played in the NHL this season, and the plethora of games played in Laval, not once has he ever dragged down his line. In fact, Ylönen has shown a penchant for complementing talent with his skating and good hockey sense, making every line he plays on more noticeable, something former Canadien Artturi Lehkonen did to perfection. Having that adaptability and showing good offensive instincts when given enough rope to express himself. A game or two on the top-line could be just what the doctor ordered.
— Hockey Daily 365 (@HockeyDaily365) March 29, 2022
Despite an ever-changing cast of linemates, Ylönen constantly plays the same game; predicated on strong skating and forecheck. Many of his offensive chances, especially lately, have been generated by his strong hustle and relentless forecheck, which allows him to open ice for his teammates and quickly help transition the puck up the ice or into a scoring opportunity. His vision, speed and size allow him to play a grinder style, but he can then turn on a switch and catch you off guard with a quick dangle or shot.
His puck retrievals and zone entry ability make him ideal for lightening the load on Caufield and Suzuki, as he can be tasked with doing the hard work down low and jumping on loose pucks before feeding his linemates. Ylönen has already shown a capacity to do this playing on the fourth line this season, and was able to help his teammates exert and maintain pressure in the offensive zone, especially against faster teams like the Carolina Hurricanes or Tampa Bay Lightning.
4 points en 5 matchs pour Ylönen!
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) April 3, 2022
Since being recalled by the Montreal Canadiens last week, Ylönen has impressed, posting three points in four games, while playing a good two-way game. Jesse Ylönen is doing his best to show the Montreal Canadiens that he is ready for the next step in his career. He’s shown growth in his game and an ability to generate offense in a plethora of ways through good hockey sense and top-end speed and should be rewarded.
It’s an idea. A hypothesis for a problem that has persisted since the trading of Tyler Toffoli two months ago, but it’s also an idea that just might work.