The Montreal Canadiens have allowed Jesse Ylönen to develop in the AHL longer than most prospects in recent memory, and now they need to find out what they have in him before the NHL Trade Deadline.
At 23 years old, Ylönen has ripened to the best of his abilities and has emerged as one of the Laval Rocket‘s most important forwards.
He looked like he could hang in a bottom-six NHL role last season, hovering near 50% in possession (47%) and expected goals (49.6%), while two goals and three assists in 14 games playing mostly bottom-six minutes on a 32nd-place team.
Unfortunately for him, the influx of NHL forwards like Evgenii Dadonov and Sean Monahan ensured he was to spend some extra time in the AHL this season, as the Montreal Canadiens simply had too many forwards.
It’s allowed him to play a more well-rounded game in the AHL, while being one of the club’s biggest offensive weapons, especially on the power play; as he possesses a cannon of a shot from the left circle.
But the Montreal Canadiens calling up Ylönen is not some simple coincidence; they need to start gauging what they have before they start making bigger decisions, be it on Ylönen himself or veteran players in demand from rival clubs.
Nice tip by Anderson for this goal. Absolutely love that they're utilizing Ylonen as a trigger man on the PP.
He might not see Laval next year. pic.twitter.com/fiQMFtuogI
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) March 28, 2022
Trade Deadline Implications
With the NHL deadline approaching, the Canadiens are set to make some important decisions regarding their roster moving forward, and there is a glut of wingers they’d like to move on from.
Having Jesse Ylönen around for a handful of games, being waiver exempt, will help give management an idea of what they should expect from the former 33rd overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, as it’s getting close to decision time for him.
Ylönen’s entry-level contract will come to an end this season, and so too will his waiver exemption, which means he needs to show some signs in the NHL that he could stick and be a player the Canadiens could count on in the immediate and long-term future.
The issue is, the Canadiens also have an incredible amount of depth when it comes to right-shooting forwards, with Cole Caufield, Brendan Gallagher, Josh Anderson, Joel Armia and Kirby Dach all occupying NHL spots on the wing for the club.
There has been speculation that the Canadiens are actively looking to move veterans like Dadonov or Armia, thereby making room for players like Ylönen and Richard to graduate on a permanent basis.
There is also the ever-constant interest in Josh Anderson, who could be moved in a hockey deal to help shore up the Canadiens’ defence on a regular basis. That being said, to pull that kind of a trigger, Kent Hughes and the rest of the Canadiens management team need to evaluate where some of their prospects are at.
But that’s not the only outcome this most recent audition can have.
An absolute laser from Jesse Ylonen for his first NHL goal. 💥 pic.twitter.com/TKRtGyciet
— NHL (@NHL) December 15, 2021
Possible Trade Bait
In the event that Ylönen plays up to par, but simply doesn’t fit with the Canadiens, there’s always the option to include him in future trades.
All the aforementioned forwards above are signed beyond this season, meaning it could be extremely difficult for Ylönen to get some decent playing time down the road.
Couple that with the recent drafting of Filip Mesar, who could very well wind up at right wing down the line, and the line is getting tight on the Canadiens’ former 2nd-round pick.
Be it in a 1v1 trade for a prospect at another position or an extra piece in a larger deal, having Ylönen up will give the Canadiens and other teams a clearer idea of what he could bring to their roster and wiggle out some room.
He’s a tradeable asset, mainly because of his NHL-readiness, and his success in the AHL and by proxy of already having 15 games of NHL experience under his belt.
That being said, what Ylönen brings is likely to be more attractive to the Canadiens on their roster than as a trade chip, at least for now.
What Ylönen Brings
Ylönen is an effortless skater that possesses the two-way ability to play in an NHL 3rd line down the stretch, should his development continue.
He’s the type of player that may, in fact, be better at the NHL level, than the AHL level, given his speed and quickness of execution being more in line with the NHL style, than its minor-league counterpart.
Nonetheless, his eight goals and 19 assists for 27 points in 34 games have him pegged at second in scoring for the Laval Rocket, behind Richard; and his powerplay prowess, five of his eight goals coming on the man advantage, could be of great use to the Canadiens, especially right now.
If the Canadiens are looking to inject speed and skill into their lineup, Ylönen is the closest thing they have in Laval that could fill that need at forward.
Whatever be the decision that Montreal Canadiens management takes with him moving forward, the 23-year-old deserves the opportunity to get his shot at showing what he can do for a few games.
— Rocket de Laval (@RocketLaval) March 1, 2022