On the bubble is a series examining the players in Montreal Canadiens training camp who are fighting for a roster spot. With limited space on the Habs main roster, there is not enough room for all of them. This series looks to figure out who has the best chance of making the team.
First up: Jacob de La Rose
On the Bubble: Jacob de La Rose
2017-18 is an important year for Jacob de La Rose. While he did get a new contract in the offseason, it is only a one-year extension. It is clearly a message from management that de La Rose’s place in the organization is not guaranteed.
It is a disappointing situation for a player that had such a strong debut with the Canadiens as a 19-year-old. He played in 33 regular season games and 19 playoff games in 2014-15. Expectations were high for de La Rose heading into the 2015-16 season. Unfortunately, de La Rose was unable to secure a regular roster spot. He has only played 31 games with Montreal in the past two seasons.
Last year, in St. John’s, de La Rose enjoyed somewhat of a breakout year. He was deployed in primarily in a defensive role but still finished fourth on the team in scoring. He seemed to gain confidence as the year went. This confidence had an impact on his offensive production as he scored 14-goals and 31-points in 62 games, including scoring 14 points in the final 20 games of the season. This improved production is key in de La Rose’s development. For de La Rose to make an impact with the Canadiens, he has to improve his offensive game.
Jacob de La Rose was drafted for his work ethic and his defensive prowess. His strong play saw him earn a call-up as a 19-year-old. He has developed into an explosive skater that allows him to transition very quickly. His hockey IQ is a major strength. He is rarely caught out of position. His IQ lets him close caps quickly on opponents.
De La Rose has an advanced understanding of defensive zone coverage. This is his biggest strength. He was the top penalty killer in St. John’s last year. He used his excellent positioning and great skating to score an AHL best four short-handed goals in 2016-17.
While his struggles finishing scoring chances and is not an elite passer, de La Rose gets himself into dangerous areas for scoring chances. He does possess a strong shot although he does not have a quick release.
For all his defensive acumen, de La Rose struggles producing points. His points per game in the NHL is a paltry 0.11. While his production in the AHL is better, the improvement is marginal, with a 0.42 points-per-game. While he improved his production towards the end of the year, it is unlikely he will be able to significantly improve on those numbers moving forward.
De La Rose is known for his defensive game. Still, he possesses a 42.7% shot-attempts-for. This suggests that he struggles to move the puck out of his defensive zone with enough consistency. If de La Rose is looking to make an impact at the NHL level as a primary shutdown forward, he needs to improve in this area.
Jacob de La Rose has a difficult task ahead of him. There is no questioning his work ethic and defensive acumen, but he is a virtual black hole of offense. He would not look out of place on the Habs roster, but there are too many players ahead of him to start the season, including Charles Hudon and Michael McCarron. It would be difficult to see him leapfrog all the players in front of him. Still, a strong training camp is important for de La Rose. If he has any hope of making the roster outright he needs to impress the coaches during training camp.
His seven points in 64 NHL games is not enough to justify an NHL roster spot, even for an elite defensive specialist. Even with a strong training camp, he is destined to start the season in the AHL. The situation will be frustrating for him, but he will be one of the first call-ups form Laval if the Habs run into injury trouble.