We’re but a few weeks from the trade deadline, which is as good a time as you can find during the season to look at an organization’s top prospects.
This month our focus is on the five best in the Montreal Canadiens’ system, plus a nod of optimism to one NCAA player who is having a great season after being picked late in the 2017 NHL Draft.
Ryan Poehling, 19, St. Cloud State Huskies, Centre
Drafted: Round 1, 25th overall, 2017
Season to date: 20 GP | 7 G | 12 A | 19 P | +5
It’s hard not to be optimistic about a 6-foot-2 centre who plays the game well at both ends of the rink.
Since returning from a solid performance in a checking role with Team USA at the 2018 World Junior Championship, Poehling has scored two goals and an assist in six games. That brings his season total to 19 points in 20 games, which is strong output for a player counted on as much for his defence as he is for his offence.
Charlie Lindgren, 24, Laval Rocket, Goaltender
Undrafted. Signed as a UFA in 2015
Season to date: 7-12-1 | .896 SP | 3.04 GAA
On a Rocket team that has loaned many players to the Canadiens and lost a few more to injury, the number that matters most pertaining to Lindgren is games played.
The Minnesotan has made 26 appearances with Laval this season, on top of the eight he made with the Canadiens. The hope is that he plays a fair amount more down the stretch because the path has finally been cleared for him to become Carey Price’s full-time backup with Al Montoya traded to the Edmonton Oilers and Antti Niemi on an expiring contract.
Lindgren has shown great potential for what he can do at the NHL level, sporting a .929 save percentage and a 2.21 goals-against average in 11 appearances with Montreal.
Nikita Scherbak, 22, Laval Rocket, Right Wing
Drafted: Round 1, 26th overall, 2014
Season to date: 24 GP | 7 G | 23 A | 30 P | -2
Since returning from knee surgery, which kept Scherbak out of action from the beginning of November through the second week of December, the kid has recorded 22 points in 18 games.
He’s gaining valuable experience, and the hope is that he’s becoming a more complete player. His minus-2 rating on a Rocket team that ranks 27th overall and has a minus-27 goal differential indicates he’s not faring too poorly at the defensive end.
Noah Juulsen, 20, Laval Rocket, Defence
Drafted: Round 1, 26th overall, 2015
Season to date: 25 GP | 1 G | 1 A | 2 P | -5
Reports are all positive on Juulsen, who missed the first 21 games of the season with a broken foot.
You don’t need to look at his numbers to know he’s not an offensive juggernaut, but he’s a good skater who moves the puck and defends well, and he’s on a trajectory to be a steady No. 5 defenceman at the NHL level.
There’s potential for Juulsen to get there before the end of this season—especially if the Canadiens would like to get a closer look at where he’s at in his development. We suspect that will happen.
Jake Evans, 21, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Centre/Right Wing
Drafted: Round 7, 207th overall, 2014
Season to date: 26 GP | 9 G | 22 A | 31 P | +14
Evans’ tour with the Canadian National Men’s team fell just short of a stop in Pyeongchang for the 2018 Winter Olympics, but it’s been a strong season for him—both internationally and at Notre Dame.
Evans leads the Fighting Irish in scoring and is tied for 13th in points in the NCAA.
Those are good reasons for the Canadiens to get working on signing him to a contract before he ends his time in college and becomes an unsigned free agent.
REASON FOR OPTIMISM
Cayden Primeau, 18, Northeastern University Huskies, Goaltender
Drafted: Round 7, 199th overall, 2017
Season to date: 11-5-4 | .920 SP | 2.06 GAA
The NCAA’s rookie of the month in December had a great showing in January, too, going 4-2-2 and posting a .921 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average.
It’s fair to say Primeau has officially become the starter for Northeastern. That’s no small feat for a freshman.