Now that the Montreal Canadiens have revamped their development team, or rather, put a legitimate development team in place, we’re starting to get a better idea of which prospects have the potential to one day make an impact in the NHL.
And while most of the stories emerging from the Canadiens’ prospect pool have been rather encouraging, including how the team owns the second-best prospect pool in the NHL, there will invariably be some players who are left behind as the team navigates their rebuild.
Oliver Kapanen, 20, Kalpa (Liiga)
It may feel like Oliver Kapanen has been in the Canadiens’ system for longer than most, but the Finnish forward joined the prospect pool in 2021, exactly one pick after the Canadiens chose Riley Kidney with the 63rd overall selection at the Draft.
Kapanen will turn 20 in late July, and though it may seem harsh, time is starting to run out for Team Finland’s Under-20 captain, at least relative to other prospects who were drafted in 2021.
Players like Kidney, Joshua Roy, and Logan Mailloux have established encouraging production rates in their respective leagues, while William Trudeau and Xavier Simoneau have already made their professional hockey debuts in North America.
Fortunately, the Canadiens have until June 1, 2025, to offer Kapanen an entry-level contract, or they will lose his rights, giving them a little more time to evaluate whether or not he will play a part in the team’s rebuild.
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Kapanen did improve his scoring rate this season, scoring 12 goals and 15 assists in 55 games with Kalpa, and it’s worth remembering that he’s also playing in a professional hockey league against older, more experienced competition.
His defensive acumen is excellent, which may offer him more opportunities once it’s time to make the jump to North America, but ideally, he’d produce more than half a point per game in the Liiga if he’s ever to make an impact in the NHL.
Next season will be crucial for Kapanen’s development, as well as the impression he’ll make on Canadiens management, which is important given that the current management group is not the one that originally drafted Kapanen.
Luke Tuch, 21, Boston University (NCAA)
Luke Tuch was one of the prospects that stood out at the Montreal Canadiens development camp, though you’d b hard-pressed to argue that he did not have a significant advantage over most of his competitors.
Tuch is one of the oldest prospects in the system, which means he has more experience and is much closer to being physically mature than most other prospects.
He scored nine goals and 11 assists in 40 games for Boston University last year, which is a slight improvement when evaluating his points-per-game scoring pace, but is still rather underwhelming when you consider he was a second-round pick (47th overall) by the Canadiens in 2020.
He has the size to play in the NHL, but as it stands, that’s just about the only thing that registers as NHL-calibre in his skill set.
Various Left-Handed Defencemen
The Montreal Canadiens lack right-handed defencemen, and they know it.
It was the driving force behind the trade for Justin Barron and was one of the main reasons they ended up drafting David Reinbacher with the fifth overall pick at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft.
And while they lack depth on the right, they’re overflowing with options on the left side of the ice.
Not only do they have young defencemen such as Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, and Arber Xhekaj already evolving in the NHL, but there’s a laundry list of defensive prospects on the left side as well, players such as Lane Hutson, Nicolas Beaudin, Jayden Struble, Mattias Norlinder, Adam Engstrom, Petteri Nurmi, and Luke Mittelstadt.
Seeing as Hutson and Engstrom project to have very encouraging NHL potential, not to mention the aforementioned NHLers are all 23 years old or younger, it’s clear that there are not enough chairs left for the other players vying for a job with the Canadiens.
Thankfully, the logjam should lead to strong internal competition, and it may allow general manager Kent Hughes to trade from a position of strength to address other weaknesses in the roster.
All Montreal Canadiens prospect statistics via EliteProspects.