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Canadiens Must Remain Patient With Important NCAA Prospect



montreal canadiens jacob fowler frozen four

Montreal Canadiens prospect Jacob Fowler is in the midst of a fantastic freshman season in the NCAA.

The 19-year-old netminder led the NCAA in wins with 27, and he produced some fairly impressive individual numbers, including a 0.923 save percentage and a 2.23 goals-against average.

Consequently, the 2023 third-round pick has garnered his fair share of attention from fans who are looking to him to become the goaltender of the future.

And it has even led to some suggestions that he should make the jump to professional hockey next season.

Pierre McGuire joined the Sick Podcast with Tony Marinaro to discuss Fowler’s potential, stating that if the Boston College Eagles do win the NCAA tournament, the Habs should consider sending Fowler to Laval as early as next season so he can become acclimatized with professional hockey as soon as possible.

It should be noted McGuire also suggested Fowler should stay in the NCAA if the Eagles, one of the strongest teams in the country, do not manage to secure an NCAA title.

There’s some logic involved in the opinion presented by McGuire should the Eagles reign supreme. Some goaltenders don’t require a very long developmental runway and can benefit from receiving professional hockey experience as soon as possible, but those goaltenders are few and far between.

We also have to look to the past to avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

And for the Canadiens, they do not have to look very far in the past to weigh the risk of rushing a goaltender.

Cayden Primeau was convinced to leave Northeastern early, with the promise that he would quickly become Carey Price’s backup in the NHL. The plan backfired, as it took five seasons for Primeau to finally get his chance with the Montreal Canadiens, and even then it required Price’s unofficial retirement and a trade involving Jake Allen to finally open up a semi-permanent roster spot in the NHL.

In retrospect, convincing him to leave the NCAA team after just two seasons only led to Primeau being unprepared for the rigours involved in a professional hockey season, as evidenced by his less-than-stellar numbers with the Laval Rocket.

Not to mention, it created a logjam both in the AHL and the NHL, where Primeau had to attempt to develop while sharing the net with two other goaltenders.

Simply put, it was far from ideal, and the risk was too high for very little potential reward.

The same applies to Fowler.

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Yes, he’s having a great year, but we have to remind ourselves he’s playing on a legitimately excellent team that does a very good job mitigating the scoring chances he has to face on a nightly basis.

And then there’s the matter of finding him 60 games in the AHL, as McGuire suggested.

Jakub Dobes, 22, only recently found his rhythm for the Laval Rocket, and there are very few reasons to put a stop to his development now that he has seemingly turned a corner. There’s no space in the NHL, either, seeing as the Canadiens already have their netminders set for the next few seasons with Primeau and Samuel Montembeault in place.

The suggestion may make sense in a vacuum, as to reward Fowler for his fantastic season, but once you take a closer look at the logistics involved in goalie development, not to mention the much longer development path required to prepare a goalie for the NHL, the concept doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

The Montreal Canadiens have the personnel in place that allows them to take a patient avenue when it comes to top prospects such as Fowler.