The Montreal Canadiens have had a lot of prospects make their NHL debut this season in the wake of multiple injuries to regular players. However, despite a large number making their way up the ranks, Montreal has seen some of their prospects take a step back in their development. The prospects on the following list have either been up held by injuries, stagnated or regressed. For them to stay in the picture next season, they will need to bounce back big time.
5. F Jacob de la Rose
It may seem odd to include a player who has had two stints in the NHL but De la Rose hasn’t developed much in the past year if at all. Last season, he stepped in on the third line and had a decent sized role. This year, he has struggled to establish himself in any way. Offensively, he has been non-existent while his defensive game has been just average.
In his draft year, he was regarded mostly as a safe pick as a defensive forward. Since coming to North America, he hasn’t produced much in the way of offense and while not every defensive forward needs to score consistently, they need to at least generate chances. De la Rose will turn 21 this year and he still has some room to grow but his stock is dropping. His size, speed and relatively safe game are keeping him in the lineup but with other prospects pushing their way up and a lot more players coming back healthy for training camp in the fall, De la Rose has to take a step forward to secure a more permanent spot in the lineup.
4. F Tim Bozon
A consistent 30 goal scorer in junior, Bozon hasn’t had that kind of success in his rookie pro season. Perhaps his life threatening bout with meningitis set him back in his development. As a rookie, it is tough to make the jump from major junior to the AHL as many struggle to do it smoothly and has spent time in the ECHL. Some of Montreal’s other prospects could graduate to the NHL full-time next year making room for Bozon to have a more regular role in the AHL. Considering Bozon’s unique circumstance, Montreal can afford to be a little more patient with him.
3. F Connor Crisp
Crisp’s selection was a little bizarre on draft day in 2013 and the pick doesn’t look any better today especially with Montreal native Anthony Duclair (who went after Crisp) doing well with Arizona. Crisp’s NHL upside at best was third or fourth line forward. He has been out since October with a concussion and remains out indefinitely. Besides injuries, Crisp hasn’t necessarily been given the chance to succeed in the AHL. He has mostly played in a fourth line enforcer role which makes little sense. Why put a young player coming out of junior into such a role that limits him? Shoving a player into a role without giving him the chance to move up is head scratching.
2. D Darren Dietz
Dietz hasn’t necessarily regressed in his time in the AHL, it’s more that his game has stagnated a bit. He looked promising after his final season in junior where he scored 24 goals and put up 58 points. Dietz made his NHL debut this season but hasn’t played much and the opportunity was fueled heavily by the amount of injuries in Montreal. He is a restricted free agent this summer and barring an outstanding training camp, he would likely start next fall in the AHL again. Dietz has played better as of late and has had some solid moments in the NHL but he still needs to develop further.
1. D Dalton Thrower
There isn’t a prospect whose stock has fallen as much as Thrower. Drafted in the second round as a scrappy offensive defenceman, Thrower has struggled since his draft year. His offense dropped off in his post draft year and he was plagued by injury in his overage year. The transition to pro hockey has been even tougher for Thrower. He has spent most of it in the ECHL and he has struggled there too. He has another year left on his entry-level contract but he is really going to need to bounce back.
Perhaps he can pull a Morgan Ellis and completely resurrect himself. Ellis’s career was going downhill as he struggled to find his footing to the point where he found himself in the ECHL last year. This year, Ellis bounced back to become an AHL All Star. Many had written Ellis off last year but he forced his way back to being a legitimate prospect.
Projecting how a prospect will turn out is next to impossible. For every undrafted kid that makes it to The Show, there is a first rounder who failed to become the star they were pegged to be by scouts. Every player on the list above still has the chance to rise above and push their way back into the picture. However, with each incoming draft class, they will have to work even harder to avoid being lost in the shuffle.