The Montreal Canadiens made 16 recalls from the St. John’s IceCaps in the second half. Their scoring woes, which started at the beginning of December after the loss of Carey Price, have given the team one of their worst slumps since the 2001-02 season with a record of 32–30–6. While the loss of their most valuable player has had a significant impact on their play, their goal drought has had its upsides, giving a few young prospects a chance to get a taste of the NHL experience.
With five fresh faces trying to make a strong impression in Montreal this season, only a few have found themselves with a permanent roster spot. Others who are already familiar with playing in the big leagues have been able to provide guidance to those few. While Montreal failed to make the playoffs, this season has been a great evaluation as to how much talent the Canadiens have for a future Stanley Cup run.
Daniel Carr, LW, 24
If there’s anyone who knows how to make a first impression, it’s Daniel Carr. Recalled on November 29th, the left winger made his first appearance on December 5th where he recorded a 3 game milestone including his 1st NHL game, goal and point against the Carolina Hurricanes.
In total, he played in 23 games for the Canadiens, picking up six goals and nine points before suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Being a skilled forward who has a knack for puck possession, Carr established himself as a capable player for the Canadiens and perhaps next season can find himself a regular spot away from the minors.
Charles Hudon, LW, 21
Hudon got the proper recognition as a top prospect when he was recalled by Montreal on December 8th, with Devante Smith-Pelly on injured reserve and Alexander Semin on waivers at that time. With 20 points in 24 games in the AHL and being the IceCaps leading scorer when called up to the NHL, he made a solid impression in three games, recording two assists despite limited ice time.
Michael McCarron, RW, 21
McCarron made his NHL debut on December 19th against the Dallas Stars, working a total of 19 shifts and recording 4 penalty minutes and 2 shots on goal. However, with just 12 shifts and another 2 shots on goal on the 21st against the Nashville Predators, the right winger was sent back to the AHL the next day.
The talented 21-year-old got another chance with the club after the Canadiens traded forwards Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann to the Chicago Blackhawks. It didn’t take long for McCarron to be placed in the lineup right away, playing his 3rd game the next day against the Leafs and recording his first NHL point (an assist) on a shot tipped in by Devante Smith-Pelly. Although he had just two points in 20 games, the forward has still shown he’s more than ready to make a permanent stay in Montreal. At 6’6, he used his big frame to his advantage, and his speedy feet and solid playmaking skills will come in handy for the Canadiens in the 2016-17 season.
Morgan Ellis, D, 23
Being the IceCaps top defenseman with 34 points overall, it’s not a shock that Ellis got the call up to Montreal with McCarron on February 26th. The 23-year-old only picked up 2 penalty minutes in 3 games with the Canadiens, but quickly showed that he has the potential to be a great asset to Montreal as both an offensive and defensive-minded player who’s also not afraid to get physical. He has a strong pass and solid hockey IQ.
Darren Dietz, D, 22
Dietz was 58 games into his 16-point season with the IceCaps when he got called up to the Canadiens on an emergency basis to replace defenseman P.K. Subban was injured the same night playing against the Buffalo Sabres. While he wasn’t playing his best season in the AHL, Dietz came to Montreal bringing a very physical play to the ice. In his 1st 2 NHL games, he only recorded one shot on goal in a total of 39 shifts in 34 minutes on the ice, but did pick up 4 penalty minutes. He also recorded a total of 11 hits and 2 blocks and while his game wasn’t too impressive on paper, the 22-year-old was recalled yet again on March 17th, almost 24 hours after being sent back to the IceCaps. He finished with five points in 13 games at the NHL level.
Sven Andrighetto, RW, 22
Andrighetto played 12 games for the Canadiens during the 2014-15 season after being recalled from the Hamilton Bulldogs, where he had 43 points in 60 games and recorded 3 NHL points (2 goals, 1 assists).
This season, they recalled the right winger for a second NHL stint on November 20th, after 17 games and 15 points in the AHL. He managed to put up four goals and one assist 17 games before being sent back on January 15th, but was once called back on January 31st with Lucas Lessio and has since shown off his offensive side. In 44 games with Montreal, Andrighetto had 17 points. He was also promoted to the top line with Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk, with Brendan Gallagher out for 3 weeks with an injury, and has shown that he’s developed into a strong, speedy winger with soft hands that may land him a third chance in the NHL for the 2016-17 season.
Jacob de la Rose, LW, 20
Last season, De La Rose got his first taste of the NHL as he was recalled from the AHL by the Canadiens for 33 games. Even though he played his first game against the Buffalo Sabres on February 3rd, it took him until his 5th game on the 12th against the Edmonton Oilers to register his first point, an assist off of Christian Thomas‘ first NHL goal.
Overall, the 2014-15 season wasn’t the forward’s best for points, but rather for his total of blocks (24), hits (125), and shots on goal (38), showing that he was slowly growing into a physical and puck hungry Canadiens player. This season, the 20-year-old has only played 22 games, scoring 1 assist. While a lack of points seems like a downgrade from what de la Rose has to offer, it’s important to remember that he is known as a defensive-minded forward who has a knack for shutting down opponents as well as creating solid plays for his teammates.
Zach Fucale, G, 20
The 2013 second-round draft pick was recalled on November 30th after Dustin Tokarski was sent down to the IceCaps, becoming Mike Condon’s temporary back up. However, the young goaltender sat on the bench for 3 games before being returned to the AHL on December 6th,with the Habs bringing Tokarski back after his conditioning stint. Despite not having played his first NHL game yet, Fucale has a record of 15-15-4 with 995 saves and a .905 save percentage in 37 games with St. John’s this season.
Top Performing Non-NHL Prospects
Last year, Lukas Vejdemo was only known as a 3rd round (87th overall) Canadiens prospect. This year, however, the 20-year-old centre is starting to show off his skill with the Djurgardens IF of the Swedish Hockey League. In 52 games with Djurgardens, Vejdemo recorded 17 points, a nice offensive breakout along with finishing 10th in goals for the team and 4th in goals in the SHL’s U-20 list.
Artturi Lehkonen is another European prospect who’s had a great year, picking up a career-high 33 points in 49 games with the SHL’s Frölunda Indians, winning the Champions Hockey League title, and finishing second in the SHL for game-winning goals.
Prospect Of The Month: Nikita Scherbak
Nikita Scherbak had a slow start to the season due to a recurring ankle injury on November 17th and being sidelined until January 17th. However, despite just 23 points in 48 games, the right winger made a big difference as the season wound down. Being a puck-hungry forward, his strong stick-handling and puck control have helped ward off opponents, not fearing to be close to the blue paint.
His confidence and offensive outbursts have also helped create great scoring chances for his teammates, including IceCaps point leader and linemate Bud Holloway. His skill could be compared to a young Galchenyuk, as he’s able to create great plays and help get his team on the board, but is still a few years away from having a chance at his first NHL game with the Montreal Canadiens. With that said, he has become one of the most underrated, skilled prospects that Montreal has and with a little hard work, he’ll become a strong asset.