Now that the Montreal Canadiens have a pair of interesting prospects developing in the National League (NL), the league will certainly see an uptick in interest from fans who may not be familiar with European leagues.
Vinzenz Rohrer (ZSC Lions) and David Reinbacher (EHC Kloten) should play important roles for their NL teams, which means we have to clear up some misconceptions about the strength of the league.
For many years, the NL was considered a third-tier league that produced very few NHL players.
Roman Josi spent two seasons in Switzerland, and Nicho Hischier played a handful of games there, but overall you’d be hard-pressed to argue that Switzerland is a bastion of NHL development.
It’s also worth noting that very few Austrian players have managed to earn a job in the NHL. In total, just 13 Austrian skaters played more than 10 games in the NHL, and of those 13, only three were defenders.
Of those three defenders, only one of them (Thomas Pock) was born in Austria. The other two (Dominic Lavoie and Emanuel Viveiros) were originally born in Canada.
Historically speaking, the odds aren’t in the Canadiens’ favour when it comes to Reinbacher’s development.
But there is hope.
Due to several reasons, including a significant increase in average salaries, the NL has quickly closed the gap in terms of overall available talent and strength of competition, two of the most important aspects when it comes to player development.
League difficulty estimates for 2023. Lower values represent better leagues.
So the top non NHL league is estimated as the AHL, with the SHL, NL, and KHL in a tier as the next best pro leagues with the Czech league, Liiga and DEL right there as well pic.twitter.com/4GetL3YzZ6
— Chace McCallum (@CMhockey66) September 23, 2023
I happened to catch a game recently, as Rohrer was facing Reinbacher’s team, EHC Kloten, in a rather one-sided game that finished 5-1 in favour of Zurich.
Rohrer was given a little less than 13 minutes of ice time, which led to an assist on Zurich’s fourth goal of the game.
Here is #Habs prospect Vinzenz Rohrer's assist in the second period for Zurich.
He's wearing No.9, fighting for the puck by the right side of the net. pic.twitter.com/FRw3uYQtNm
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) September 29, 2023
The assist was just Rohrer’s third point of the season, which means he currently has one goal and two assists in eight games.
It’s not an ideal level of production, but we have to consider the situation in which he’s playing. Rohrer is mostly being used on the third line and is facing a heightened level of competition compared to his time in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
You’ll note that the Montreal Canadiens prospect engaged in a puck battle just before the goal against EHC Kloten. He’s not the biggest player at 5’11 and 170 lbs, but it’s also worth pointing out that he did not shy away from driving to high-danger areas.
#Habs prospect Vinzenz Rohrer fighting for position in front of the net.
Matthew Kellenberger and Rohrer get into a shoving match. pic.twitter.com/94LHLkW5BM
— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) September 29, 2023
The game itself served as a great reminder that I hadn’t watched enough footage from the NL in recent years. The quality of competition is clearly higher than just half a decade ago, which is a very encouraging factor when it comes to Reinbacher’s development.
Unfortunately, there’s a negative aspect to his potential development in Switzerland: his team.
Obviously, playing without Reinbacher has been a challenge for Kloten, which has collected just nine of a potential 18 points so far this season, which means they’re at risk of being relegated to the Swiss League.
It’s still very early, but we should not expect Reinbacher to be playing on a dominant team this season.
However, he’ll play a very big role in a team that struggles in transition, which should offer him ample opportunities to improve his ability to quickly retrieve and drive pucks up the ice while maintaining control of the play.
Other Montreal Canadiens Prospect News And Notes
- Oliver Kapanen is off to a rough start this season in Finland. He only has one assist in eight games, despite being given more than 17 minutes of ice time per game. The Canadiens have until June 1, 2025, to sign Kapanen, which means there’s some developmental runway left, but they’ll surely want to see a significant uptick in scoring if they’re to tender the 2021 second-round pick an entry-level contract.
- One of our favourite prospects, Adam Engstrom, continues to enjoy a strong season while playing for Rogle in the SHL. He has scored two goals and two assists in six games, including a two-point game against Frolunda on Saturday. So far, Engstrom has averaged over 20 minutes of ice time per game while mostly playing on Rogle’s top pairing.
— Patrik Bexell (@Zeb_Habs) September 30, 2023
- As for Bogdan Konyushkov, there’s no debate about his ice time. He’s not just getting a lot of ice time from his head coach, Igor Larionov, he’s one of the busiest players in the KHL. He’s averaging a little over 24 minutes per game, which is fantastic when you remember that young defencemen are rarely given much leeway in the KHL. Konyushkov has one goal and six assists in 13 very busy games for Torpedo Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod.
— Hockey News Hub (@HockeyNewsHub) October 5, 2023