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Canadiens Analysis

Canadiens Prospects: Evaluating Year-To-Year Points Production



Montreal Canadiens prospect David Reinbacher (2)

With the 2024 World Junior Championship just around the corner, it’s a perfect opportunity to take a look at the production rates of various top Montreal Canadiens prospects.

Of course, there’s more to hockey than simply earning points, but production remains one of the best indicators of future success in the NHL.

Rather than simply checking their NHLe (NHL equivalency), we’re going to take a look at the change in their production from year to year.

To accomplish this we must evaluate players who did not change teams this summer. In other words, we’re not going to compare Joshua Roy’s production in the QMJHL to his production in the AHL, because that would be like comparing crabapples to genetically modified oranges on steroids.

Before we get going, we should explain that every player is dealing with a bevy of factors that impact scoring.

Age, team strength, league strength, injuries, linemates, and ice time, among other variables, always have to be considered when evaluating their year-to-year production.

Draft+ 1

Last season the Canadiens traded away a first and second-round pick to acquire Alex Newhook. In addition, they drafted three goaltenders, which limited their skater prospect haul significantly. Filip Eriksson and Luke Mittelstadt were omitted due to their low draft position and their negligible production this season.

Ideally, you want to see significant growth when it comes to Draft+1 seasons. In this case, we’re dealing with two defencemen playing professional hockey and one forward who is older than most of his draft counterparts.

However, David Reinbacher’s production has gone down slightly. The mitigating factors are fairly evident. Reinbacher added a lot of mass this summer, which impacted his overall mobility. He also suffered a knee injury earlier in the season, which means that he’s just now finding his ryhthm. His agility took a significant hit, and it’s showing up in his production numbers. There’s also the fact that Kloten is an awful team that recently fired its head coach.

That being said, it doesn’t justify the lower production level. Top prospects should produce at every level, and that includes defencemen as well.

But it does explain why things haven’t gone according to the plan in Switzerland.

The good news according to hockey analyst Thibaud Chatel is that Reinbacher’s underlying numbers are still very good, but you’ll note that some of the metrics tied to mobility (controlled exits, controlled entries) are still concerning.

Montreal Canadiens prospect David Reinbacher

He’s also shooting less often, preferring to rely on playmaking to produce points. Despite clearly injuring his knee on the play, Kloten actually listed Reinbacher as having an upper-body injury, which may explain the alarming drop in his shot rate.

We’re also dealing with a small sample size. A two-point game would mean that his production year-to-year would improve.

To sum things up, Reinbacher’s production is down slightly, and that’s not an encouraging sign for a player who was chosen fifth overall, but there are legitimate mitigating factors that explain why he’s having a harder time earning points.

As for the other two listed, they both have the type of improvements you’d expect given their situations.

Florian Xhekaj is older than most players in their Draft+1 season, and that’s a big contributing factor to his significant increase in production. But he’s also been given an opportunity to play in a situation that’s conducive to scoring by the Brantford Bulldogs, and he’s seized the bull by the horns.

The same can be said about defenceman Bogdan Konyushkov. He turned 21 today, and age plays a part in every player’s development, but he’s also been given a significant increase in ice time by head coach Igor Larionov.

It’s much harder to score in the KHL than in most leagues, but he still needs to shoot more often. He’s taking 2.1 shots per game, which is decent, but could stand to be improved.

Draft +2

This is where things get very interesting for Montreal Canadiens prospects. Every prospect we evaluated has enjoyed an increase in production.

For those wondering, Juraj Slafkovsky’s production last season was 0.256 points per game, compared to 0.258 points per game this year, which remains the biggest red flag in his game. The process has improved significantly, and the top line has enjoyed solid underlying numbers since Slafkovsky was added to the mix, but the results are yet to catch up.

Filip Mesar enjoyed the biggest uptick this season. He’s playing in a much stronger Kitchener Rangers lineup, something we must keep in mind when evaluating all prospects. The quality of teammates will always have a huge impact on production, but Mesar has shown a willingness to drive to the dirty areas of the ice, something he shied away from at times last year.

It should also be said that the Canadiens made the right decision by quickly re-evaluating his situation earlier this season. Keeping him in the AHL with a coach who did not trust him would not have been an ideal development path for a first-round pick.

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Owen Beck has also seen his production with the Peterborough Petes go up by a large margin. We omitted his numbers with the Mississauga Steelheads last year to keep the playing fields even, but those who follow him closely will note that he’s still scoring a little less this season than he did at the start of the 2022-23 campaign. He’s a cerebral forward who excels defensively, which means his production is a little less important than a player like Mesar, who is purely an offensive weapon.

Cedrick Guindon is enjoying yet another solid year for the Owen Sound Attack. We will have to watch his production toward the end of the season to see if he fades down the stretch again, but for now, he’s playing quite well, and could arguably be labelled as the team’s most underrated prospect.

Adam Engstron’s numbers haven’t changed much. He’s playing a more reserved brand of hockey for Rogle, especially in the defensive zone, and that’s good news for a player who doesn’t always pick his spots wisely. Much like Kloten, Rogle has disappointed this season, resulting in the team firing the head coach last week. On that note, his offensive prowess is still borderline elite, and he possesses the type of agility that would make most cheetahs jealous.

As for Lane Hutson, his production has gone up a little, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue he should have more points given that he had historic scoring rates as a rookie.

This year he’s enjoying playing with Macklin Celebrini, the 17-year-old phenom who has 10 goals and 15 assists in just 15 games. Celebrini’s presence, particularly on the powerplay, is a boon for the Canadiens prospect, however, those who have Boston University play will suggest that Hutson’s presence is the main reason Celebrini is outscoring almost every player in the NCAA while being several years younger than his counterparts.

Draft 3+ Or More

We’re going to finish the article on a less-than-stellar note, by evaluating the players who are playing in their Draft+3 season (or more).

Luke Tuch plays on a line with Celebrini for Boston University, which explains his increase. I don’t want to be too harsh, but he’s a 21-year-old playing against younger opponents alongside one of the best players outside the NHL. He also has Hutson running things on the blueline during most of his shifts. The uptick in scoring is good but remains underwhelming given the circumstances.

At 22 years old, Rhett Pitlick is also older than most of his opponents, which mitigates some of the improvements we’ve seen this year. Development is never linear, and some players take longer to find their rhythm than others, but it’s difficult to project him as a player who could produce in the NHL given that he’s yet to dominate at lower levels.

And finally, Oliver Kapanen is once again having a hard time producing. His value lies in his defensive play, but the Montreal Canadiens should not be in a hurry to fill their roster with players who have limited offensive upside. They have plenty of defensive specialists available, which makes Kapanen’s potential role in the NHL difficult to project.