Montreal Canadiens prospect Anthony Richard has waited a long time for his opportunity.
Even calling him a prospect is stretching the definition of the word.
Richard, who celebrated his 26th birthday before Wednesday night’s game against the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, is much closer to what most analysts would describe a tweener.
He’s a little too good for the AHL, but for whatever reason, he’s yet to convince an NHL organization he’s worthy of a legitimate audition.
Since being drafted 100th overall in the 2015 Draft by the Nashville Predators, Richard has only been listed on an NHL lineup four times.
Once in 2018-19, another time in 2019-20, and of course, the two games in which he played for the Canadiens this season.
And while it’s easy to dismiss him given his lack of NHL progress, it’s only fair to say he has not been given the chance to prove his worth in a situation that’s conducive to earning a place in the NHL.
Most teams want to focus on younger players, and rightfully so, but in Richard’s case, the Canadiens may want to give him an extended look to evaluate whether he’s a late bloomer, or simply a player that likes to beat up on AHL-level competition.
It’s just two games, but even with the small sample size factored in, Richard’s play with the Canadiens seems to indicate he may very well be a prospect who was lost in the shuffle.
A closer look at his underlying numbers reveals an interesting phenomenon. When Richard is on the ice, they don’t necessarily control more shots, overall.
They do, however, control more high-danger shots.
And as it stands, Richard leads all Canadiens players with a 59.8 percent xGF%, connoting his style of play, which is powered by high-end speed and an affinity for scoring off the rush, is making a positive influence on a team that genuinely struggles to create high-quality chances.
Un Richard qui compte pour les Canadiens… rien de nouveau 🙃
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 22, 2022
His goal, which was a carbon copy of most of his AHL-leading 18 goals, showed that his recipe for scoring has the potential to translate nicely to the NHL.
Of course, we’re dealing with roughly 20 minutes of 5v5 ice time, and things can change quickly, but Richard cannot control his usage.
But he can help control what happens during his shifts, and so far, so great.
Richard is currently signed to a one-year contract, and thus, will have to be re-signed this summer if the Canadiens hope to retain his services.
There’s no better time than now to put him to the test with a healthy combination of linemates and a reasonable number of shifts.
Because technically, Richard qualifies as a prospect, but at 26 years old, his developmental runway is quickly running out, and there’s nothing left for him to prove in the AHL.