The Montreal Canadiens have been riddled with injuries this season. From Shea Weber getting shut down for the season after playing just 26 games, to Carey Price missing multiple stints, and most recently Max Pacioretty and Victor Mete going down for a possible six weeks, there has been no shortage of time lost for the Habs. While it is not the biggest reason as to why they have failed this season, it definitely has contributed. When a team is faced with so many injuries, you have to look within the organization for players to step up. While no one wants a player to get injured, it does tend to open the door for young players. This has been the case for defenseman Noah Juulsen.
Noah Juulsen: Ready to make the leap
Juulsen was thought to have a legitimate shot at cracking the Habs line up right out of training camp. In their first pre-season game on September 18th in Quebec City, Juulsen blocked a shot which fractured his foot and put him out of the line up for two months. This put a hold on his dreams of making the Canadiens roster.
On November 28th, the Habs activated Juulsen off the Injured Reserve and assigned him to their AHL affiliate, Laval Rocket. Juulsen made his debut with the Rocket on November 29th, launching his professional career. He posted six points in 31 games with the Rocket while playing a solid two-way game. Canadiens management took notice of his strong play and on February 21st, Juulsen was recalled by the Canadiens giving him the chance to prove he was ready to make the leap to the NHL.
Juulsen has established himself as a solid two-way defender starting from his days playing junior hockey with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. On the offensive side of the game, he has a great set of hands, sees the ice very well and is very poised and calm with the puck. This gives him the ability to control the game and move the puck up the ice with great efficiency. He is a very good skater, with quick acceleration. This helps him carry the puck out of the zone quickly on the rush.
He has great agility, which he uses to walk to blueline in the offensive zone opening up shooting and passing lanes to further create offence for his team. Juulsen has a strong shot with a quick release, which makes him a threat on the power play. If he doesn’t hit the back of the net, there’s a good chance there will be a rebound waiting for one of his teammates to put home.
On the defensive side of things, Juulsen uses his skating ability to control/close the gap between him and his opponent, as well as support his teammates. His ability to read the play is outstanding. This allows him to pinch at the most opportune times to either intercept a pass or to take the body on his opponent to take them out of the play. He has a very active stick. This keeps his opponents on the outside as well as allowing him to strip opponents of the puck. He is good at getting possession back for his team. He is also a very good shot blocker, which is music to the ears of Carey Price.
Where does Juulsen fit in the Habs line up?
The Habs have a very strong right side on defence, which is lead by Shea Weber and Jeff Petry. Juulsen would round out that group nicely on the bottom pair. With experience, he has the ability to play in the top 4. He even has the potential to be a top pairing defenceman. Juulsen never stops working and can be a thorn in the side of his opponents with his “in your face” style of play. He’s a very smart player which makes him very difficult to read on both ends of the ice. He also compliments and makes the players around him better, which Karl Alzner has found out first hand. Alzner has looked much better since being paired with Juulsen. This speaks volumes about the kid, seeing how Alzner is also a grizzled vet with 658 games of NHL experience.
Noah Juulsen is an ‘A’ level prospect with all the tools to have a very successful NHL career. Even though it has only been a small sample size, he already looks like a veteran on the ice. Since being recalled, the Canadiens have secured points in six out of eight games. Juulsen has averaged almost 20 minutes of ice time per game which is nearly unheard of for a rookie defender. Juulsen has a very bright future ahead of him. He will be a very important piece to the Habs blue line for many years to come.
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