With the season lost, one thing the Habs do have a chance to do is evaluate their up-and-coming prospects in the final games of the season. The Montreal Canadiens prospects will be looking to leave their mark in an attempt to show they have what it takes to crack the roster on opening night next season.
Montreal Canadiens Prospects Leaving Their Mark
Whether it be in the AHL or at the NHL level, a lot of young Habs prospects have been showing they are ready to make the leap. Two prospects, Noah Juulsen and Nikita Scherbak, have taken full advantage of the opportunity. They’ve made strong cases to have a spot on the roster come opening night. Other prospects, such as Brett Lernout, Michael McCarron, and Kerby Rychel will look to do the same before the season comes to a close.
Brett Lernout is a very intriguing prospect. Standing at 6’4” and weighing in at 214 pounds, Lernout has the frame that teams want in their defenders. What separates Lernout from other big defenceman is that he’s a good skater for his size. Great news for the Habs, as Lernout won’t get left behind as the NHL transitions into a speed game.
Offensively, Lernout plays a simple but efficient game. Making a great first pass, Lernout is able to help his team break out of the zone effectively. He is then able to use his skating ability to transition with his teammates, which gives them options coming into the offensive zone. While not being the most creative offensive player, he is equipped with a booming slap shot as well as a quick wrister which allows him to get pucks to the net through traffic.
Defensively, Lernout plays an aggressive style of game. Using his speed and big physical frame, Lernout likes to jump up and take the body along the boards. Having a long reach, Lernout is able to keep the opposition to the outside, away from high danger scoring areas. His skating ability also allows him to close the gap on his opponents, limiting their options to create scoring chances.
The issue Lernout faces is his decision making on the defensive side of the ice. Lernout tends to take himself out of the play at times while trying to land a hit. As well, even though he has the skating ability to close the gap, he does not always execute effectively which leaves him vulnerable at times and on the wrong end of the highlight reel.
A former first-round pick in 2013, McCarron is currently in his third year as a pro, spending time in both the NHL and AHL in each season. Being 6’6” and 230lbs, McCarron’s biggest asset is clearly his size.
McCarron is able to drive the offence using his size and reach to protect the puck. His large frame, makes it difficult for teams to contain him in the corners which usually leads to him coming out with the puck and winning puck battles along the boards. As well, McCarron uses his size to go to the front of the net, creating a screen and forcing the goalie to fight to see pucks. McCarron’s play-making ability is highly underrated. McCarron gets a lot of attention in front of the net, which allows his teammates to be left unattended. McCarron has the ability to find the open man, creating high percentage scoring chances.
The downfall of McCarron’s game is his skating ability and lack of overall skill. He doesn’t have the foot speed to separate himself from the opposition, nor have the hands to finish in traffic. The combination of both limits his effectiveness at the NHL level.
Rychel, like McCarron, is also a former first-round pick in 2013. The Canadiens acquired Rychel in a trade which sent Tomas Plekanec to the Toronto Maple Leafs. He fell out of favour of both his former teams (Columbus Blue Jackets and Leafs) but is hoping a fresh start in the Canadiens organization can rejuvenate his career.
Rychel has yet to see NHL action with the Habs yet but has been lights out for Laval. He has put up six goals and three assists in 10 games, which may earn him a call-up in the near future.
Rychel has the tools to be an effective NHL player. The question is at what level? His scoring ability has never been in question. What is keeping him back, much like McCarron, is his skating ability and overall skill. He doesn’t possess the abilities to finesse his way into the offensive zone. Also, while his skating has improved since junior, he still doesn’t have the explosiveness to separate him from his opponents. Rychel will rely on his scoring ability and rugged style of play to propel him to the next level.
With the season being such a disappointment, changes will have to be made to get the Canadiens back in contention. None of these prospects are elite. What they can bring however is some much-needed depth which can be instrumental to a teams success. They will all challenge for a spot on the roster when training camp opens in September. At the very least, they will provide some healthy competition within the organization.