With so few available spots on the roster, Montreal Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis had some wise words for the club’s prospects attending camp.
St. Louis has acknowledged since the beginning that this season is going to be about development and ensuring the up-and-coming youngsters progress in their development, no matter where they’re playing.
With an uncharacteristically high number of prospects with legitimate NHL ability vying for spots on the Canadiens’ roster during this training camp, there are going to be some difficult decisions coming up in the next few weeks. The toughest decisions for the Montreal Canadiens will likely come at the forward position, as players like Jesse Ylönen or Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, who look just on the cusp of breaking into the NHL full-time, may have to wait a little longer due to the Canadiens’ current logjam at forward.
St. Louis sympathized with many of these youngsters and provided some insight into the process by bringing his own lived experience into his explanation.
“As a player, you’re like your own small business. If people think they’re ready for the NHL, room will be made,” explained St. Louis. “Will it be this year? We don’t know. I know that sometimes you lose players because there isn’t any room. It’s what happened in my career early on; getting squeezed out of Calgary and landing in Tampa.”
Despite the contractual situation, St. Louis wanted to motivate his youngsters; imploring them not to worry about what’s out of their control and to simply take care of their end of the bargain first.
“I would tell the young guys to control what they can. If they can do that, they’ll always improve their outcome,” said St. Louis. “There are contract situations that make things a little more complicated for other players, but it’s always an opportunity to improve your value as a small business.”
The competition will remain fierce for the next couple of weeks, but having a coach that understands the experience these youngsters are going through is a benefit to the organization as they get ready to make some tough decisions.
Keeping Heineman Around?
Speaking of tough decisions, Emil Heineman has been impressive ever since he stepped on the ice in Buffalo for the Prospect Challenge. The 20-year-old has scored goals in practically every game setting he’s been in and has looked like an NHL player recently playing next to Kirby Dach and Rem Pitlick during the intra-squad games. He’s certainly caught the eye of St. Louis, who sent some serious praise his way.
“It’s complicated I guess. We’re evaluating all the time. Our goal is not just to be good this year, but to progress each and every year,” said St. Louis regarding what the club was going to do with Heineman. “We’re trying to build something that is going to bring continued success. From what we see from him, we see a guy that could be part of that.”
Heineman however has a valid contract with Leksand in Sweden for the next three seasons and would have to be returned to his Swedish club if he doesn’t crack the NHL roster. St. Louis maintained again that there isn’t a major rush,
“Is it this year or is it next year? We don’t know. What we’ve seen is good. Now? The AHL vs Europe? I don’t know. It would be nice to be around us more.”
Heineman, along with Juraj Slafkovsky, Harvey-Pinard and other youngsters, will likely be suiting up on Monday night to play against the New Jersey Devils and you can bet that Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes will be paying close attention to the scoring forward’s performance in a real-game setting. It may be a long shot, but Heineman may cause a surprise during this camp that nobody saw coming.