For the most part, the Montreal Canadiens have dealt with a surplus of players on the roster this season, which has led to a delicate situation when it comes to finding ice time for veterans wingers, while also putting an onus on the development of first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky
But as we all know, injuries aren’t just likely in the NHL, they’re virtually inevitable.
Due to a string of injuries, which includes Jonathan Drouin’s lower-body injury, Mike Hoffman’s addition to the injured reserve, and Brendan Gallagher’s health status keeping him out of the Canadiens’ first game of the western road trip, the roster has quickly gone from overcrowded to being at risk of needing reinforcements from the AHL.
Baron Von Barron
Among the many defencemen in Laval vying for an opportunity in the NHL, first-round pick Justin Barron has stood out from the crowd.
He’s scoring on the powerplay, eating up big minutes for Jean-Francois Houle, and leads all Rocket defencemen in scoring.
Overall, the Canadiens’ defensive prospects in the AHL have had relatively underwhelming seasons, which makes Barron the clear-cut choice if the Canadiens happen to need help on the back end or decide to reassign one of the four rookies on the blue line to the AHL.
The smooth-skating defenceman is on pace for a 20-goal season, which would be rather significant because the last defensive prospect to come remotely close to scoring 20 goals in the AHL was P.K. Subban with the Hamilton Bulldogs, way back in 2009-10.
First NHL goal alert! 🚨
— NHL (@NHL) April 6, 2022
If the Canadiens are looking for help in the form of a goal-scorer, they do not need to look very far.
Anthony Richard is having an excellent season for the Rocket and is currently tied for the league lead in goals, with 13. He also ranks among the top 10 in the AHL when it comes to shots on net (59) and total points (20).
To give you an idea of how good he’s been for the Rocket, his closest competitor on the roster, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, only has 7 goals in 23 games, a little over half of Richard’s total goal output.
The key to Richard’s goal-scoring prowess is his release, which is the epitome of sneaky. He can deceive goaltenders and defencemen alike.
His deceptive release is also paired with fantastic accuracy and an affinity for being able to travel through crowded areas of the ice at full speed while also maintaining control of the puck.
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) October 14, 2022
If Martin St-Louis needs a player that can drive opponents up the wall while providing a healthy source of tertiary scoring, the ideal choice in Laval would be none other than Xavier Simoneau.
The 5’6″ forward is a honey badger on skates, and is currently second on the Rocket roster with 4 goals and 12 assists in 20 games. He’s also managed to earn six points in six games and is fourth in scoring among all AHL rookies.
Xavier Simoneau continues his fantastic run of form in the Laval top six.
His third goal of the year makes it a 4-4 game! pic.twitter.com/8nM1yCf5Yh
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 12, 2022
However, despite how well he’s played in his inaugural professional hockey season, at the moment the Canadiens cannot call up Simoneau seeing as he’s only signed to an AHL contract with the Rocket.
If the Canadiens want to promote a player of his ilk, they can look to their energetic seventh-round pick, Harvey-Pinard.
It hasn’t been a banner year for Harvey-Pinard when it comes to his production, but to his credit, he has earned five points in his last three games.
It’s also guaranteed he’d provide the Canadiens with an honest effort, no matter where he’s used in the lineup.
Justin Barron out of the box creates a chance and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard finishes it off.
3-1 Rocket! pic.twitter.com/CxeefzDkQo
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 17, 2022
Power Play Production
The Canadiens’ power play runs with the efficiency of a three-legged giraffe, which could push their decision toward a player that already possesses an NHL-calibre shot.
Jesse Ylonen fits the bill, owing to his great release, top-notch accuracy and ability to connect on cross-ice one-timers.
An absolute laser from Jesse Ylonen for his first NHL goal. 💥 pic.twitter.com/TKRtGyciet
— NHL (@NHL) December 15, 2021
He’s third in Rocket scoring, and although he only has four goals this season, three of them have come on the power play. His shooting percentage is also well below his career average, which points to a potential uptick in goals.
At 23 years old, Ylonen’s development runway is starting to run out, connoting that the Canadiens may want to take another look at his NHL value before engaging in contract negotiations.