MONTREAL — As NHL rosters start to take shape, the list of players placed on waivers increases almost every day, presenting Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens a unique opportunity to rectify some of the glaring weaknesses in their lineups.
Thursday afternoon saw players such as Slater Koekkoek and Lias Andersson cut from their rosters and placed on waivers, indicating the slow trickle of talent is starting to increase on the waiver wire.
Anderson, the 7th overall pick in the 2017 Draft, is yet to live up to his pre-Draft billing, but very well could find new life with a team that’s yet to find its offensive identity. Koekkeok, the 10th overall pick at the 2012 Draft, has more professional experience than many tweeners currently fighting for a job in the NHL.
And while the Canadiens remain at the front of the waiver queue, a position they’ll maintain until Nov.1, fleeting potential and veteran experience simply do not justify a reclamation project.
At least not yet.
With 18 forwards remaining at camp there’s already a scarcity of ice time on the horizon, a situation both Hughes and head coach Martin St-Louis must navigate carefully as the influx of prospects knocking on the door increases.
The grass often seems greener on the other side, but it’s safe to say every team has a half dozen tweeners in their ranks, players which hold a significant advantage over potential waiver claims, due to their familiarity and the developmental investment made by the organization.
For every Koekkoek added to the roster, a player such as Rafael Harvey-Pinard or Jan Mysak sees their chances to make the NHL decrease. It’s a disheartening phenomenon that leads to frustrated prospects as well as frustrated fans, who would rather watch a relatively promising player they’ve followed since the day they were drafted than a veteran who is awarded a level of trust most mid-level prospects are never given.
Beyond the crowded forward lineup, the Canadiens have other reasons for which they can remain patient when reviewing players on the waiver wire.
Firstly, there’s no rush, whatsoever, and that’s not just a reference to their three-week grace period at the top of the waiver priority list.
The Canadiens are looking for some help on the blue line, ideally a right-handed defenceman with a relatively healthy amount of professional experience, that much has been well advertised. Even when it comes to the waiver wire, right-handed defencemen a few and far between. Since it’s no secret those types of defencemen are rare, teams are in no hurry to expose them to waivers.
Seeing as the Canadiens are unlikely to contend for the Stanley Cup in the near future, Kent Hughes is facing little to no pressure to add a defenceman that would act as an insurance policy for the many defensive prospects on the cusp of making the NHL.
Giving players like Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris and Aber Xhekaj an extended running doesn’t just increase their confidence, a crucial aspect for any young defenceman, it also improves their overall trust in the organization.
Simply put, claiming a defenceman on waivers is not necessary for the team to survive, but rather, something Canadiens management desires. And with the regular season quickly approaching, the options should increase, both in quality and quantity, especially compared to the first few names that appear on the waiver wire.