The Montreal Canadiens are set to have one of the most interesting training camps in recent memory, with a handful of prospects that could crack the roster come September.
The Canadiens will be looking to continue the process of making their rosters younger and faster by providing their top youth with a chance to prove that they belong at the NHL level next season, There are other prospects that could have made this list, as there are many youngsters that are looking to make an impact at camp next month, but, with so many contracts already handed out, only a select few have a legitimate chance of cracking the roster this fall.
The Montreal Canadiens’ 1st overall pick is going to be primed and ready to make the most of his first NHL training camp. The youngster has been working hard in Slovakia this summer to get faster and stronger in time for training camp. He’s already back in Montreal to acclimate to his new environment before the start of training camp. Due to being drafted out of Europe, the Canadiens have many options as to where they could play Juraj Slafkovsky, and the young power forward will want to give the Canadiens no choice but to keep him on the roster come October 12.
Jesse Ylönen is the most NHL-ready forward in the Montreal Canadiens system at this time. This is likely the most important training camp of the 22-year-old’s career, as he finds himself at the crossroads between the AHL and NHL after knocking on the door to the NHL for almost a year now. The former 2nd round pick in 2018 has greatly improved his speed and offensive implication on the rush and looked like he belonged in his 14 games with the Canadiens this season. Ylönen’s versatility will be his greatest asset when it comes to standing out above the other prospects attending training camp, as he could play in a bottom-six or top-six setting in a pinch. His speed, vision and tenacity make him a serious candidate to usurp an NHL veteran slated to be on the main roster with a strong performance at camp.
This is a big camp for Justin Barron, who will look to prove that he belongs in the NHL as a full-timer. The fact that the Montreal Canadiens have moved veteran Jeff Petry opens the door wide open for a player like Barron. His combination of fluid skating and puck-moving abilities make him exactly the type of player that Martin St. Louis is looking to have on his backend as the Canadiens continue to alter their game to be more predicated on speed and transition. Although Barron is just 20 years of age, he had shown some noticeable growth in his five games with the Canadiens last season and looked to be about to take off prior to his unfortunate ankle injury that ended his season early. Having the entire offseason to heal and build up his body, Barron could be one of the young prospects that will rise to seize a roster spot and push other veterans like David Savard or Chris Wideman a notch lower on the depth chart.
The topic of whether or not Kaiden Guhle is NHL-ready has been a hot one this summer, especially after his MVP performance in the WHL playoffs this past season with the Edmonton Oil Kings. The 20-year-old is arguably the Montreal Canadiens’ most promising defensive prospect and already plays a very mature game for his age. This past season, he was able to build upon his already stellar defensive play by adding offensive elements, especially on the counter-attack, to his game. His time with the Oil Kings helped Guhle gain the confidence to hold onto the puck a little more and initiate the transition himself by using his deceptively strong skating to move the puck up the ice and overload the opposition on the rush. Being able to add those elements to his game makes him a strong candidate to impress come training camp, as he will be one of the more impressive physical specimens at first glance. Whether or not Guhle starts in the NHL might come down to a numbers game, but you can expect him to leave a lasting impression on management regardless of where he starts the 2022-2023 season.
After jumping into the NHL from the NCAA last season, Jordan Harris will look to hit the ground running with the Montreal Canadiens right out of camp. The 22-year-old will face some stiff comeptition on the left side of the Canadiens defence, but has a head start on other prospects within the organization due to the experience he gained last season playing in plethora of situations. Harris has an ability to adapt uickly to his environment and looked better and better with each passing game last season. With a full summer to rest, regroup and train; the young defender will be poised to take the 3rd pair role on the left side at camp. It will be interesting to see how he and Guhle measure up against each other, as they’ll likely be vying for the same spot on the Canadiens’ blueline. Harris has a few advantages however, as his aforementioned NHL experience and his ability to play the left and right side of the defence in a pinch make him a more versatile and polished player at this junction.
Honorable Mention: Raphaël Harvey-Pinard