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Habs Mailbag: Hutson & Reinbacher, Mesar’s Potential, Trades



montreal Canadiens prospect Lane Hutson

Welcome back to another off-season edition of the Montreal Canadiens Mailbag.

We’ll be shifting the mailbags from their usual time slot on Fridays to Mondays this summer, though I do have to apologize for the tardiness of this particular mailbag. The questions were collected on Sunday, but due to a few emergencies that involved travelling, I did not have time to put together the answers.

As long as there aren’t any more unforeseen circumstances, going forward we’ll make sure the mailbag is posted on Monday.

This week we discuss the standout prospects at the development camp, how long the Canadiens will take to become a contending team, possible trade options, the Filip Mesar situation, which prospects could earn a job in the NHL, and much more.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into it.


Let’s focus on players who stood out at the development camp, which is key for young players attempting to garner attention.

The least surprising standout was Lane Hutson. Not only did Hutson appear to be the best player on the ice, but he also showed instant chemistry alongside David Reinbacher, a rather encouraging development given that they should both play an important role for Kent Hughes and Martin St-Louis during the rebuild.

Given that he’s emerged as one of the top prospects in hockey, it’s rather easy to forget that Hutson has just one NCAA season under his belt. Once he returns to Boston University he’s likely to be placed in a situation that is much more conducive to scoring than his role last season. That means top power play minutes and top pairing responsibilities. We shouldn’t expect him to eclipse his rookie production numbers significantly, but there’s a strong chance he ends the 2023-24 season with even more points than he did last year.

Reinbacher also looked good, though it’s somewhat difficult to judge a defenceman with limited offensive potential. Or rather, I should say a defenceman who is yet to play on a team that would lead to opportunities to improve his production. The good news is that Reinbacher seemed to quickly adapt to the situation, and made several smart pinches that led to prime scoring chances during the 4v4 scrimmage.

Luke Tuch also seemed to find his rhythm at the scrimmage, though, given that he’s 20 years old, you’d expect a player that old to stand out among younger opponents. He was intense and engaged, the perfect combination for a player like Tuch who doesn’t necessarily possess high-end production.

Filip Mesar was fantastic, and it goes beyond his goal. His offensive instincts came to the forefront, and like Tuch, he was engaged. It’s a good sign given that Mesar is expected to play in the AHL next year.

Speaking of Mesar, I’ve heard a lot of feedback about where I ranked him among the top Canadiens prospects. I currently have Mesar ranked as the 7th best prospect in the system, which may seem quite harsh.

MUST READ: Montreal Canadiens Prospect Rankings, Top 10 – Summer Edition

When it comes to Mesar, we must remember that he had a very difficult assignment last year. Not only did he have to acclimatize to a new setting at just 18 years old, which means he has to adapt to a new language, a new country, new rules and new food, among other things, but he was also robbed of many of the creature comforts he would have had at home. Such as home-cooked meals or hanging out with his friends.

On top of that, it’s only fair to say the Kitchener Rangers were a complete mess, as evidenced by the lack of production from his teammates and the fact that they fired their head coach in mid-February. If Mesar’s teammates were slightly more skilled, the young Slovak would have finished the year with a much more impressive scoring pace.

However, the reality is that Mesar scored 17 goals and 34 assists in 52 games. It wasn’t a horrible scoring rate, but anything below a point per game in the CHL, even with all the factors we considered, is underwhelming. There were also some games in which Mesar simply did not look like he was willing to engage in every play.

I expect Mesar to improve his play  (and production) once he’s in the AHL, playing alongside talented linemates. If that happens, we can re-adjust his rank among Canadiens prospects.

As for players who carry a little less hype than the prospects I already mentioned, as per usual, I thought Xavier Simoneau played well, which should come as a shock to absolutely no one. Simoneau never takes a single shift off.

Not necessarily. There is value in drafting 20-year-olds, but it’s rather limited. In this case, I simply think the Canadiens thought they were the best players available.

Or at the very least, I hope that was the case.

Let’s just say their draft was confusing, at best. The Reinbacher and Jacob Fowler picks were solid, and I’d argue drafting Luke Mittelstadt in the 7th round was a smart gamble, but overall, the Canadiens went way off the board.

There’s nothing wrong with trusting your scouting team, but historically speaking, there’s definitely a strong possibility going off the board could backfire.

As for the idea that the older players were drafted to fast-forward the rebuild, I don’t think Hughes and Co. expect players like Bogdan Konyushkov to make their way to the NHL any time soon.

It’s hard to speak on their behalf, but judging what they’ve said, as well as their actions, I get the sense that the members of Canadiens management are more confident about the state of the rebuild than most. They’ve mentioned on several occasions that they want to compete sooner than later.

They would like to acquire another high-end piece, but as we saw with the Pierre-Luc Dubois saga, they’re not willing to sell the farm to get there, which is encouraging.

Personally, I think the Canadiens are still 3-4 years away from contending, at the very least. And by contending, I mean being classified as a Stanley Cup contender on the first day of the regular season.

Two or three more high-end Draft picks would do wonders for the team’s overall star power and depth.

Josh Anderson would probably garner a healthy return, but neither Anderson nor Hughes is interested in a trade at the moment.

As for the players who have been cast aside by most fans, I’d suggest that Mike Hoffman should be able to be dealt without paying a team to absorb his cap hit. Should is the operative term, here.

Hoffman may not be the player he once was, but he still puts up a reasonable amount of offence and his contract, $4.5 million per season, is set to expire this summer. His defensive deficiencies have also been exaggerated.

Simply put, he fits the bill as a fairly reliable secondary source of offence in the NHL.

I can also see a scenario in which Christian Dvorak garners some attention, but he’ll need to start the 2023-24 season on fire to improve his perception across the NHL.

Here’s my hot take: Jordan Harris will emerge as the best defenceman not named Mike Matheson.

Actually, statistically speaking, that’s already the case, but it takes a while for people to catch on. A small part of me dies whenever Habs fans casually toss Harris into hypothetical trade scenarios as a throw-in.

Other than the Detroit Red Wings, I’d say every other team should clear the Canadiens in the Atlantic Division with ease. A top 5 pick is a legitimate reality for the Canadiens, especially when we consider they took significant steps backward last year when it comes to how many shots, scoring chances, and expected goals they controlled.

I probably should have mentioned him in the Development Camp question: Adam Engstrom.

He’s incredibly skilled, has a high hockey IQ, and plays with the confidence of a 10-year veteran. Habs fans should not sleep on Engstorm’s NHL potential, he’s a very exciting prospect that has the type of skill set that would allow him to become an impact defenceman in the NHL.

He’s particularly skilled in transition, an area in which the Canadiens struggle.

I don’t want to proclaim him as the answer to all the Canadiens’ woes, but there’s very little about Engstrom’s game that should hold him back once he crosses the pond to North America.


I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party, and yes I’m So Tired of people underrating the Beatles, but if I see one more person compare Abba to the Fab Four, I will Cry Baby Cry.

All I’ve Got To Do is pull up one Beatles album to justify All My Loving.

Whether it’s Here, There, And Everywhere, I may need some Help!  Because some people tell me I need to Let It Be, but this Long And Winding Road only leads to one place Across The Universe.

There’s just Something about The Beatles, maybe it’s because they make it clear that All You Need Is Love.

Maybe it’s just a fondness for the simpler times of Yesterday.

Perhaps it’s because some of their songs were written For The Benefit of Mister Kite.

But any Fool On The Hill will tell you that With A Little Help From My Friends, you will also earn your Ticket To Ride.

The perfect example is my Real Love. One day I thought to myself, “Oh Darling! She’s Leaving Home,” and I would have to Carry That Weight.

But it turns out she was just buying the White Album. Eventually, She Came In Through The Bathroom Window.

I just hope she’s she doesn’t Hide Her Love Away, especially When I’m Sixty Four.

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john harmsworth

Just a guess but a lot pf these players missed significant playing time in the last couple of years due to covid restrictions. I think that means a lot of them are behind where they would normally be in their development. That could mean that their development will accelerate back towards where they would otherwise be. So having a look at a couple of overagers is probably a great idea.


But that would apply to ALL teams, not just the Habs, so its not really a one-way thing directed at only the Habs.

So, all things are equaled in this respect across the league.


I don’t see the Habs being as bad as you do, as in a top – 5 finish is likely. The ONLY way they get that bad and finish that bad is if the same horrible injury bug bites them, and they about equal last season’s man-games lost. Last season, they were headed for a projected 88 pt season until mid Dec when the injury bug bit.

With a “normal” injury amount season, I would expect about 90 pts…just out of the playoffs. And I would not be surprised if the Habs finish over another team or two after Detroit. Tampa is an old team and on the downside. Seems some FLA players will start next season on the IR and who knows when they get back and play as they normally do – including their top forward and Dman. And I just don’t see there being a 100% chance that both Buff and Ott finish better than the Habs.

If the Habs do obtain 90 pts or so, then one or two of those teams I just mentioned would likely finish below the Habs in the standings.

Last edited 4 months ago by morrisk
John Spearing

I think you are missing the fact that every bad team in our division also got better and stayed ahead of us other than maybe the Wings (no guarantee we even get ahead of them) and on top of that, even if some are declining soon – the good teams are still well ahead of us…. we could be getting better and still finish worse just because our competition is also getting better… but patience is a virtue and we are headed in the right direction…


Yes, of course, but the Habs are still not that bad (take out injuries)…would not surprise me one bit if they challenge for a playoff wildcard spot.

Not saying they will be as good as Devils last season (they very likely won’t), but that’s the recent example of how things can turn around quickly (even in the midst of “patience”).


I hope they keep Harris, I’m a fan since I saw him on the Knuckles podcast. The consistently encouraging analytics don’t hurt either. However, I am somewhat concerned that he might get traded. Think about it, Hughes would look like a genius. It wouldn’t be because he finally shipped out an under-appreciated player to “make room” for somebody else, he would look like a genius to those fans because of the impressive return that he got for Harris. I’m convinced that Hughes would never give this guy away justfernuthin, there would have to be a major piece coming back. Personally, I’d much prefer to keep him.

John Spearing

The eventual issue I see with Harris is that Guhle is clearly the better all round guy, Hutson is the better offensive guy, and Xhekaj is the intimidation – this is on top of Matheson (who also likely needs to be moved once all the kids are ready) and a real promising prospect like Engstrom playing the same position….. we also don’t want more than 1 under 6 foot D and Hutson has already locked up the only undersized D spot of our future…
These are the main reasons I see Harris as being expendable down the road… that said, Hughes ain’t giving any of our young D away and depth is nice to have – things could change as the development continues, but if our other guys keep growing into the roles we got them for, I don’t see a spot for Harris in the future, if anyone stunts Harris will be quick to bump them out of a starting role

Curtis Ault

Engstrom will graduate, not next year, but the 24-25 season. Another year at Rogle and he will be ready for at least Laval, if not the Canadiens.


I think Xhekaj will be the odd man out as I don’t he will last with the amount of punishment he absorded last year, He already looks much older than 22 years to me.


Once Rein and Hudson and Mailloux become staples in this lineup with Guhle, there are only 2 spots left for Harris and Barron and Engstrom and Matheson and whoever else (say X). Its a nice problem to have…


Guhle > Harris Not even close.


Maybe the Rangers would accept a Harris for Lafreniere trade. .If ever the habs were interested in acquiring Lafreniere, this is the time , as his perceived value is at it’s lowest…buy low/sell high…


Harris + , and then the Rangers would listen. Otherwise, that trade one for one would never happen.

And you want to add another 2nd/3rd line winger now? There is no indication he will make it as a legit top line winger. So why trade for that? Better to wait on a trade with a definite top line winger, or UFA, or who knows…maybe one of the “kids” will leap up to become one.

John Stone

interesting.. But we all know one for onw trades are rare these days.. to get a first rounder like Lafreniere.. it would cost us atl3ast a first round pick .. 2nd round and a prospect.. but given his production im seeing more of a harris +a first round pick.

John Stone

great article. Loved it. I personally like Mesar. He’s a diamond in the rough so to say. aswell as Hutson.. and Roy.. and we cant forget Kidney.. These guys.. are just wow.

John Stone

also.. i too think.. 3-4 years we have this team contending again.