We’ve just hit the halfway point of the season, and some Montreal Canadiens prospects are exceeding expectations in a big way.
It hasn’t been an easy season in Montreal, with NHL betting sites like FanDuel predicting a significant slip for them in the coming weeks; despite flirting with a .500 record so far this year.
That being said, there have been some bright spots within the organization, as some under-the-radar prospects are blowing past expectations this season and causing significant surprise.
The likes of Jacob Fowler, Joshua Roy and Adam Engstrom have continued to impress this season, but their excellence is somewhat expected, given their past success.
But there have been a trio of prospects for the Montreal Canadiens that have stood out in a big way that deserve some kudos.
The 19-year-old had a lot of catching up to do after a promising rookie season in the OHL was met with a lacklustre end; seeing him collect just 17 goals and 34 assists for 51 points in 52 games.
Admitting that the length of the gruelling OHL and World Junior schedule caught up to him in the second half of last season, Mesar spent most of his summer building up his conditioning and working on smaller details in his game.
That work has seemingly paid off, as Mesar has been one of the most productive players in the OHL, playing a key role on the best team in the league: the Kitchener Rangers.
Despite starting the season late, due to Laval Rocket training camp, Mesar has hit the ground running; potting 15 goals and 20 assists for 35 points in just 22 games.
The skilled forward has almost eclipsed last season’s goal totals, sitting just four goals shy in 32 fewer games; a sign that he is taking charge of the play on the ice, rather than being a fortunate passenger.
Mesar’s two-way game has also improved by leaps and bounds, earning the praise of Kitchener head coach Jussi Ahokas, who has rewarded him with significant amounts of ice time.
The young forward was a major leader for Slovakia at this year’s World Junior Championship, where he notched two goals and seven assists for nine points in just five games.
Although he wasn’t able to help his country secure a medal, the progress has been notable for Mesar.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) January 2, 2024
What can Lane Hutson do to make himself one of the most improved prospects in the Canadiens’ system after an historic season in the NCAA? Take his offensive and defensive game up a notch or two.
Despite becoming the most offensively performant NCAA freshman in the last 30 years last season, Lane Hutson has seemingly reached another level this year with a much younger Boston University roster; playing an even more integral part to the team’s success through the first half of the season.
From an offensive perspective, Hutson has taken over the offensive chance generation for Boston University, often linking up with Mackling Celebrini for extended offensive zone time and highlight-reel goals.
Building off a rookie season that saw him record 15 goals and 33 assists for 48 points in just 39 games, Hutson looks primed to shatter those numbers as a sophomore with nine goals and 14 assists for 23 points in just 17 games.
Not only has his offensive game improved by leaps and bounds, but his defensive game as well; and that was put on full display this season, not only with Boston University but also with Team USA at the most recent World Junior Championships.
Despite recording six assists in 7 gamers for Team USA during the World Juniors, it was his defensive play that helped Lane Hutson to be named to the tournament All-Star team during the 2024 edition of the tournament.
Despite starting off the tournament with a few rookie performances, Hutson quickly regain his composure and was the club’s most used defencemen in the most important games of the tournament; playing over 60 minutes in the final two games of their triumphant goal-medal-winning journey.
As Hutson looks to finish out his collegiate career and eventually turn pro within the next few months, his growing two-way game will better prepare him for the rigours of the pro game; and an eventual starring role on the Montreal Canadiens.
— RDS (@RDSca) January 10, 2024
Not even a year ago, Jayden Struble was not even on the radar of most Canadiens fans and media members; with some even fearing that he would snub Montreal and sign elsewhere due top their depth on defence.
Struble not only signed a professional Try-Out to get his feet wet with the Laval Rocket last year, but, in doing so, delayed the start of his two-year entry-level contract to this season.
The 22-year-old was the most consistent defencemen in Laval the most he touches the ice in the spring of 2023 and carried over that momentum with him into the 2023-2024 season.
Being a hard-hitting and mobile defenceman, Struble immediately stood out in Laval due to his maturity and high hockey IQ; earning him a call-up with the Canadiens after they were hit with a rush of injuries.
Struble got his chance at NHL action in Anaheim and has never looked back, posting two goals and two assists for four points in 25 games, all while playing a strong defensive style of hockey.
His mobility and strong decision-making has turned some heads at the NHL level, and it’s going to be very difficult for head coach Martin St-Louis to scratch him from the lineup at this rate.
Forming a duo with Johnathan Kovacevic, Struble’s ice-time continues to rise as he posts solid performance after solid performance.
His emergence is a pleasant surprise that will likely provide general manager Kent Hughes with some interesting options this offseason, as Struble has now inserted himself into the conversation of the Montreal Canadiens’ future on the back end.
Jayden Struble makes an incredible stop on the goal line to keep the puck out of the net. pic.twitter.com/7TIV7w11qe
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) December 23, 2023
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