For years the Montreal Canadiens were plagued for many years by a disorganized farm system, and are now seemingly turning the corner.
The Canadiens now have established AHL (Laval Rocket) and ECHL (Trois-Rivières Lions) affiliates close to home, making the transfer of players from league to league almost seamless and efficient for both club and players alike. Gone are the days when the Canadiens had to ask prospects to sit at home while they waited to find a minor league club willing to take them on loan; the Canadiens will be doing all their development in-house from now on.
Montreal Canadiens Focused On Development
Last season actually saw the Canadiens utilize almost every contracted player in the organization on their NHL roster after a covid-19 breakout, including Cam Hillis, who played in the ECHL, AHL and NHL all within a month. It was a notable shift in depth that the Canadiens hadn’t had in the past, but, with the arrival of Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton, the goal is to turn that depth into quality moving forward. This upcoming season will be dedicated to development, and that won’t be limited to the Canadiens. Laval and Trois-Rivières will likely see a rotation of the club’s prospects as the Canadiens shuffle their prospects around as they see fit. General manager Kent Hughes has been adamant that there will be a lot of player movement and prospect rotation this year, as the organization will look to improve its ability to optimize player performance.
“Our priority will be to put our youngsters in the right environment to develop,” said Hughes regarding his plan for the development of his youngsters this upcoming season. “Bringing in three rookies to play on our defensive brigade, for example, for a full 82-games is not a risk we’re going to take.”
The Canadiens will be focused on utilizing all their resources in order to give their prospects the right environment to thrive, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see some players shuffled between Montreal and Laval, and, by consequence, others between Laval and Trois Rivières. You could very well see Jordan Harris, Kaiden Guhle, or Justin Barron spend some time in Laval for certain parts of the season, while other prospects like Mattias Norlinder get some time with the big club. It’s the kind of flexibility that had eluded the Canadiens in the past, but can now be used to their advantage, especially in a transition year dedicated to development.
A Rotation Of Players Throughout Organization
For Hughes, the focus will be on developing these youngsters at their needed pace, rather than simply playing the best players available in situations they might not yet be ready for. The Montreal Canadiens have been burned in the past by rushing players to the NHL simply because there weren’t any better alternatives. By bringing in a more patient approach and a more layered developmental strategy, Hughes wants to create the right environment for players to thrive.
“As far as our youngsters are concerned, the decisions we will make in relation to where they play will be more based on what we believe is in their interest developmentally,” said Hughes regarding the club’s top prospects. “I fully expect that we will see some of our young players in the lineup next year. You could see a player start in Montreal, go to Laval, then come back up. It may not be predicated so much on their play, as what we think we need from them from a developmental perspective.”
It will be imperative for Montreal Canadiens to be as fluid and flexible with their youngsters like Juraj Slafkovsky, Jesse Ylönen and Rafaël-Harvey Pinard and more as they continue to grow and mature; aspects of player development that are often undervalued. Hughes is showing a commitment to helping the players grow both on and off the ice, attempting to have their on-ice game match up with their off-ice growth. Allowing his prospects that kind of leeway and patience creates an environment conducive to improvement that will serve the team on the long term.