Two Canadiens Prospects Could Be Turning Pro This Spring
The Montreal Canadiens will be a much younger team this spring, especially with two NCAA-based prospects likely to turn pro shortly after the NHL Trade Deadline.
There are quite a few Canadiens prospects that are impressing this season, showing interesting progression curves that have fans hopeful of an imminent youth movement within the organization.
This season has been a historic season for the Canadiens in terms of the number of games played by rookies, with Montreal regularly playing five rookies on a regular basis in their lineup.
That number could further increase after the NHL Trade Deadline, as the Canadiens will be looking to move out of expiring contracts and seasoned veterans in an effort to get younger and hungrier.
They currently have the likes of Justin Barron, Rafaël Harvey Pinard and Jesse Ylönen auditioning for future roles on the team and playing at a relatively good pace, but they may soon have competition for ice time from youngsters finishing up their NCAA season.
Generally speaking, NCAA players have their divisional playoffs conclude in mid-March. If their teams win their respective divisional championships or are then named to the Frozen Four tournament, their season could end anywhere between late March and early April ( NCAA Frozen Four Finals is set for April 6 & 8).
Like Jordan Harris last season, a player coming in from the NCAA cannot play in the AHL upon signing with their NHL clubs and burning the first year of their entry-level contracts.
This means the Canadiens might have to make some room in late March or early April for a pair of 21-year-olds that will be ready for the next step.
From Crimson To Tricolore
The most impressive of the bunch has to be the Canadiens’ 2020 4th-round pick, Sean Farrell.
The 21-year-old has been putting up points at a torrid pace in the NCAA this season for the Harvard Crimson; registering a sparkling 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in just 21 games so far this year.
His 1.62 points-per-game ratio is second only to 2023 NHL Draft prospect Adam Fantilli, a former teammate of Farrell in the USHL with the Chicago Steel.
Farrell was recently one of Harvard’s three nominations for the Hobey Baker award, an honour given out to the most valuable player in the NCAA.
The talented winger is expected to be one of the finalists for the award this season when the list narrows to only three players league-wide, as he’s been one one of the top players in the entire NCAA this year.
There has been speculation that the youngster could forgo signing with the Canadiens this spring and eventually become a free agent in the summer of 2024, but Farrell himself has indicated that he’s very excited about potential opportunities with the Canadiens down the road.
In a recent interview with Montreal Hockey Now, Sean Farrell praised the work the Montreal Canadiens had done in fleshing out their developmental staff, including Farrell’s skills coach, Adam Nicholas.
MUST READ: Sean Farrell Interview
In the very same interview, Farrell showed no hesitation when asked whether he could see himself playing with the Canadiens For him, it’s a situation almost tailor-made for him as a player to come in and contribute in a way that would be both sustainable and meaningful.
“I think they emphasize playing fast and playing a fast possession game. That’s something I’ve always been good at and have succeeded in systems like that,” said Farrell about St. Louis’ new coaching approach. “I feel like, once I’m ready and my body is ready, I feel like I’ll be able to step in and help the team offensively. You’ve definitely seen flashes from them this year where they score a bunch of goals and play well on the rush. They’re really fun to watch and hopefully I’ll be able to step into that one day.”
Of all the Canadiens’ prospects, he’s likely the one that is closest to the NHL right now, and the one that is best suited for the style head coach Martin St-Louis wants to play.
Taking The Next Step
Much has been said regarding the progression of 2019 2nd-round pick, Jayden Struble.
After coming out of the gate in his NCAA career as more of an offensive force, Struble has been tasked with more defensive responsibility for the Northeastern Huskies and has grown by leaps and bounds.
He’s demonstrating an ability to adapt according to the needs of his team, as Northeastern has become more of a defence-first team; rather than the flying offensive unit they were when Struble first stepped into the NCAA.
It largely explains the lack of offensive growth in his game, as he hasn’t surpassed 14 points in the NCAA; but looking just at the stat sheet is doing a big disservice to Struble, who is much more of a transition and shutdown defenceman, than an offensive dynamo.
The 21-year-old, a former client of Kent Hughes during his as an agent, spent some time in Montreal around the organization this summer and was impressed with the resources and direction of the club.
He’s focused on his his senior year in the NCAA before he’s likely to have to make some big decisions this summer; but it doesn’t look like it’ll be too long of a process.
“When the senior year reaches an end, I’m sure there’s going to be many phone calls to be made and push through, but we’ll figure it out,” said Struble about the future. “I definitely, ever since I got drafted, thought it would be awesome to play in Montreal.”
Struble wants to keep his attention focused on his team and their success, as one of the leaders of the group. He’s looking to focus on helping the younger players reach new heights and lead by example; and to do that, you can’t have distractions.
However, once all is said and done, Struble could certainly see himself playing for the Montreal Canadiens.
“Yeah, for sure. They’re the team that drafted me and I’ve always had good relations with the people in Montreal; and now obviously with Kent and all,” said Struble on whether he can see himself playing for the Canadiens. “It’s such a cool city too; the fanbase and everything about it and the organization itself. All the stories and legends; I can see myself around that.”
Just want to say how I enjoy not having to hit a link and then (as in presently) to read your article in a very clean easy to read format. I appreciate how hard you work, but I am disappointed when you take a day off!! Keep up the great work!!!
He makes it Skim worthy which allows readers to decide to commit.
Most people only read the headlines then about half a sentence before triggered.
This allows them less distractions by clearly presenting them in a condensed version.
People who know the beggining , middle and end of a story are less likely to be triggered if they understand the Context of it.
I do love that he just Reports the Facts not an Opinion.
A Journalist in an era where 9/10 are Columists meaning all Opinion based.
Agree or Disagree you’ll end up reading again for that very reason.
He provide’s balance in a world turned upside down by short attention spans.
Thank you, Billy!
100% agree. I’ve been reading at A Winning Habit and The Hockey Writers sites for a couple years now, and just started here fairly recently. I’m definitely enjoying the sheer amount of daily content here, and the vast majority are nice quick reads. So far, no yahoos in the comments section yet too.
Thank you, Allan!
Farrel moved to Center to lead CGY/SJS Wingers as a rookie last season.
This Season Condotta-Farrel-Lafreniere is the top undisputed line in the NCAA in just their 2nd year in College. 2/3 are ranked by the NHL and NCAA as top 10 Hobey Baker Finalists Picks with the 3rd falling just outside the rankings.
Everything points to leaving him to develop at Center.
While his value is immense as a Playmaking Winger
His Production and overall ability to play a 200ft game came at Center not Wing.
Harvard is helping all 3 of these guys overachieve and unless SJS/CGY pulls out one of their guys first i dont see MTL giving up on a potential Future Line up in 2024 or 2025 of :
Caufield-Suzuki-Dach(Just the best 1st line MTL skated since 1993)
Slafkovsky-Farrel-Roy(Goals,Playmaking and Flare )
Anderson-Mesar-Gally(It’ll make Lehkonen-Plekky-Gally look weak as a 200ft line)
Condotta-Beck-RHP(Grit,2 Goal scorer’s for basically a Center version of Lehkonen)
Kidney (Likely will steal Andersons job as i feel he’ll be long gone by 2024 or 2025)
I loved Struble aka the one Weber called Mini Me.
We’ll trade his rights before the Draft though as he fell off the depth chart completly.
Xhekaj leapfrogged him overnight and Kovacevic fits our rebuild time playing the same role Struble’s projected too. Even developing him in Laval isnt really ideal with the depth we have showing up there to train as is.
Its the clash of MB vs KH picks all entering our system at similar times. A lot of MB picks like Roy and Farrel took a little more time to get to where Mesar and Beck are out the gate months after being drafted. Hughes doesnt discriminate against MB picks so contracts are piling up more everytime another one of his picks overachieve’s like everyone top 5 rounds of his first draft have so far.
With the rise of Engstrom it underscore’s even more Struble wont be needed here with the only upside to keeping Struble being his Chemistry playing Harris’s RD his first year and a half ish. But even then Harris likely wont be here long term with Ghule, Xhekaj and Matheson here it made him odd man out a lot this year. Beaudin on PP with Barron showed people why he was a former 1st round pick and while his numbers offensively dropped down past a Point Per Game his 200ft game overall has for the first time in 4 years Pro looked like he was NHL worthy. He could easily edge out Harris once Barron’s established based on their Chemistry alone.
I think while i love what Struble could bring he’ll take to long.
I have the same issue with Kapanen who’s always brought to play for Team Finland as their top Faceoff Guy consistently. He’s basically a Finnish Lars Eller in many ways who took a big step forward Captaining his World Junior team so investing in him is something you want to do but who’s contract do you sacrifice when so many are overachieving ?
I think the NHL’s 50 Contracts rule makes sense for the players in many cases but there’s many being left twisting in the wind with their development costs. I think teams should put up to 10 contracts in the Canadian Collegic Hockey Development Program to build and bolster it like the NCAA where they can get an education. Until it reaches the level of producing NHL players like NCAA that is then they’d count. But until then it gives teams a way out so they can save certain players especially Defensman who traditionally need time but are no longer getting it with support.
Your thoughts on collegiate prospect development are interesting. Smart ideas to stay within 50 contract limits and ‘slow the flow’ through ELC to manage cap.
There may very well be more than 2….
Roy and Kidney are ready for AHL at least…
I feel similarly, but because there isn’t space for everyone at the moment, I can see them go to the AHL when their seasons end because the NCAA guys don’t have that option.
Roy and Kidney (and Mailloux) will still be playing hockey in April in their junior leagues.
Their official pro careers won’t start until October.