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.
Next up: Charles Hudon
On the Bubble: Charles Hudon
Charles Hudon comes to Canadiens training camp with a lot of expectations. Fans and media alike have been wanting to see what he can do at the NHL level. In the offseason, the organization gave Hudon a vote of confidence, by signing him to a two-year (one way) contract extension. The Habs seem to be committed to Hudon playing at the NHL level as sending him down to the AHL means exposing him to waivers.
So far his NHL experience has been limited to six games over two years. While he hasn’t looked out of place in his brief NHL stints, he also hasn’t been able to stick with the big club. Hudon has always been a prolific scorer in Junior and the AHL. His ability to produce at the lower level has made him somewhat of a darling of the fans as well as media. When the Canadiens struggle offensively, especially last year, it was commonplace to hear Hudon’s name mentioned to help fix the issue. Unfortunately for Hudon, Canadiens management did not feel the same.
Charles Hudon’s strength lies in his offensive game. In Junior and in the AHL, Hudon is a point generating machine. This past season in St.John’s he formed one of the AHL’s most productive lines, with Chris Terry and Nikita Scherbak. Hudon’s offensive prowess stems from his ability to read the game, which he uses to get to the right areas on the ice.
Hudon is a great skater. He can use his speed to pressure defenders and create turnovers. Last season in St. John’s, defenders needed to be aware of Hudon at all times because his ability to pressure the opposition into turnovers was so great.
What makes Hudon such a prolific player is that he also has the drive to go along with his smarts and speed. Hudon drives the net to create chances for himself or teammates. In loose puck battles, Hudon is relentless, often engaging more than one defender in order to retrieve the puck.
While having the smarts, speed and drive would be enough, Hudon caps it all off with having terrific hands. His quick hands allow him to dangle passed defenders and goalies. He is as comfortable ripping a slap shot to the top corner as he is slotting in a backhand after undressing the goalie.
Hudon has had some issues staying healthy over the past two seasons. Last year Hudon only played in 56 games because of various injuries. While a large portion of games was lost due to a freak collision with a teammate on the ice, Hudon needs to be on the ice to be an effective player.
Another issue in Hudon’s game is his temper. He tends to get retaliatory penalties brought on by frustration. The AHL is home to several goons and dirty players that take liberties with smaller skilled players. Hudon often gets sucked into retaliating, which lands him in the penalty box.
Coming to camp armed with his new contract, it is on Hudon now to prove he belongs. He also has the backing of management and the coaching staff. It would take a disastrous pre-season for Hudon not to be in the NHL this season.
Even in his short stint in the NHL, he has produced four assists in his six games. He seems to have a nose for points and the net, which is something the Canadiens desperately need. The question becomes, how will he be used. In his six previous games, Hudon skated on a fourth line. While it is impressive he was able to produce four points in that role, if the Canadiens want to maximise his potential and ability, Hudon should be deployed in a more offensive role.
This is the year for Charles Hudon. To avoid being tagged as an AHL journeyman, he needs to have a strong season. For Hudon, that means scoring. Hudon is going to be with the Canadiens all season. If he can provide the Habs with some secondary scoring it will go a long way to easing the Canadiens scoring issues.
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