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Montreal Canadiens Prospects Set To Join New Teams

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Filip Mesar Montreal Canadiens

Several Montreal Canadiens prospects are expected to play for new teams next season as they prepare to take the next step in their hockey careers.

It’s a rather important step, to say the least.

Making the jump from amateur to professional hockey can be quite a tall task, as young players face an elevated quality of competition that involves much older and experienced opponents.

OHL Exodus

The Montreal Canadiens have a few interesting players currently plying their trade in the Ontario Hockey League, including centre Owen Beck.

Beck is expected to make the jump to professional hockey in earnest. You’ll remember Beck was recalled by the Canadiens in 2022-23 on an emergency basis, which means technically he has already made his professional debut.

He’s scheduled to take part in the Memorial Cup once again, as his team, the Saginaw Spirit, will be the hosts for the 2024 tournament. Much has been made about Beck’s scoring prowess, however, his improved scoring rate in the second half of the season should put the concern to rest.

While the NHL is still in the cards, there’s also a chance Beck could end up familiarizing himself with the playbook by spending some time with the Laval Rocket in the AHL.

There’s a very high likelihood that forward Filip Mesar will join him in the AHL, though we should note that Mesar has already played two seasons of professional hockey in Slovakia prior to the Canadiens picking him 26th overall in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. He also played a pair of games with the Rocket last season, though head coach Jean-Francois Houle quickly deemed him to be unready for the rigours involved in a full AHL season.

It should be said that Mesar had a solid season with the Kitchener Rangers, finishing with 52 points in 45 games. That’s a 1.16-points per-game scoring pace, slightly lower than what we saw from Beck last season when some suggested he does not have the scoring touch necessary to succeed in professional hockey.

His defensive play improved, as did his effort level, but seeing as he’s one of the few prospects in the system that is considered to mostly be an offensive-minded player, his overall production was slightly underwhelming.

On that note, Mesar does project as the type of player who will find more success when surrounded by professional teammates who have a slightly higher level of awareness on the ice. Better anticipation from linemates should lead to more scoring opportunities for the young Slovak, but he will have to ensure he shows the same effort level during every shift. This means engaging in board battles and heading to the dirty areas on the ice to capitalize on second-opportunity scoring chances.

Decision Time

Florian Xhekaj can return to the OHL to play another season with the Brantford Bulldogs, though he will be present at the Montreal Canadiens development camp, which could lead to an invite to the Laval Rocket’s training camp if things go well.

In all likelihood, he’s OHL bound, but there’s always a chance he could impress Houle as he’s the type of player who stands out thanks to his hard work and underrated scoring touch.

Cedrick Guindon is another prospect whose landing destination is unknown, however, unlike Xhekaj, he has not been offered a contract by the Habs. Kent Hughes has until June 1, 2024, to sign Guindon to an entry-level contract.

In four seasons with the Owen Sound Attack, Guindon has scored 78 goals and 107 assists in 204 games. That equates to 0.91 points per game, which is lower than the 1.06 points per game produced by Mesar. In that vein, it’s hard to suggest Guindon is one of the most important prospects with a scoring touch, but we also have to remind ourselves that Guindon was picked in the fourth round, not the first round, therefore the expectations should be lower.

Unfortunately, Guindon’s production tends to dry up down the final stretch of the season, so deciding whether to offer him a contract is a little more complicated.

We could see him follow in the footsteps of Jared Davidson, who signed a one-year contract with the Laval Rocket last season rather than signing an entry-level deal with the Montreal Canadiens.

NCAA Input

Most expect Lane Hutson to start the season with the Montreal Canadiens.

His brief, yet successful audition with the team in the final two games of the season gave us plenty of evidence to suggest he should be able to earn a roster spot in the NHL, but given the logjam among defencemen, don’t be surprised if Hutson is sent to the AHL. He is not waiver-eligible, therefore he could be sent to the AHL to buy the team a little more time to figure out their ideal blue-line setup in the NHL. There’s also a possibility he could be loaned to the Rocket to work on some of the finer details that are crucial to excelling in professional hockey.

MUST READ: How Lane Hutson’s Chaotic Approach Benefits The Canadiens

Luke Tuch, on the other hand, is almost guaranteed to start the season in Laval, where he can acclimatize to the lack of time and space. He played two games with the Canadiens AHL affiliate this season, and though he did not register his name on the scoresheet, he did not look out of place.

European Vacation

Much like Logan Mailloux, David Reinbacher is another top-rated defenceman who will have an opportunity to earn a job in the NHL at training camp.

Again, the logjam is an issue, and there’s no doubt Reinbacher has to improve his speed of execution if he’s to become a top pairing defenceman, which means he’s most likely going to be assigned to the Rocket, where he can play big minutes in every situation.

The great news is that following his incredibly difficult season with Kloten HC in the NL, Reinbacher flipped the script once he arrived in the AHL. He scored on his very first shot and finished his 11-game audition with two goals and three assists. More importantly, his gap control and positioning were also much better than what we saw while he was playing in Europe.

He needs more time before he can be thrown to the wolves in the NHL, but perhaps less time than we originally anticipated.

There’s a possibility Reinbacher can be joined by Swedish prospect, Adam Engstrom.

The high-flying defenceman is expected to sign his entry-level contract with the Canadiens this summer, though there’s no rush to do so, as Engstrom has to be signed by June 1, 2026, if the team wants to maintain his rights.

One solution would be to sign him to an ELC, and then loan him to a European club, as the Habs are expected to do in Oliver Kapanen’s case.

If Kapanen cannot earn a job with the Montreal Canadiens at camp, he’s expected to be loaned to Timra in the SHL, a team run by his father, Kimmo Kapanen.

Finally, we can also expect some change when it comes to goaltender Yevgeni Volokhin’s team next season. He had an excellent year in the MHL, the Russian equivalent of the Canadian Hockey League.  His numbers were fantastic, to the tune of a 1.57 goals against average, as well as an impressive .938 save percentage, indicating that a jump to the VHL levels is well deserved.