Avalanche Give Hudon a Golden Opportunity

Charles Hudon is in a pretty rare spot. The 28-year-old winger hadn’t played in the NHL for two seasons and suddenly finds himself on the top line of the defending Stanley Cup champions. Hudon got the chance with the Colorado Avalanche thanks to a glut of injuries, giving him a prime opportunity to prove he still belongs in the NHL.

He’ll get a good look, as the Avalanche currently have eight players sidelined, including five out on injured reserve. Hudon had 125 games of NHL experience under his belt before coming to Colorado – all with the Montreal Canadiens – but he last played in the NHL in 2020. The injury situation clearly isn’t ideal for Colorado, but this could be a great chance for Hudon to make an impression as he lines up alongside the likes of Mikko Rantanen.

Hudon’s Long Road to Colorado

Hudon has been all over the place since his last full season with the Canadiens in 2018-19. He played 15 games with the Habs in 2019-20 but spent most of that season in the AHL with the Laval Rocket. Hudon played the following season with Lausanne HC of the Swiss National League – where he managed 15 goals and 17 assists in 33 games. That earned him a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he spent all of 2021-22 with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL.

Charles Hudon #54 of the Montreal Canadiens
Charles Hudon with the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

He signed a two-way contract with the Avalanche this summer and has performed pretty well with the team’s AHL affiliate. Through 20 games with the Colorado Eagles, Hudon has scored eight goals and eight assists. His eight goals led the way for the squad, and the 16 points made him the second-leading scorer on the team behind defenseman Brad Hunt. He was called up on Dec. 4 and played the next night in a loss to the Philadelphia Flyers, his first NHL action since March 10, 2020.

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Before the recent call-up to the Avalanche, Hudon played in parts of five seasons for the Canadiens. He played in more than 15 games just twice, however, but had a decent 2017-18 season when he played in 72 games, tallying 10 goals and 30 points. Hudon averaged 14 minutes of ice time per game that season, but he’s averaging 15:30 per game through his first two contests with the injury-riddled Avalanche in 2022-23.

Injuries Ravage Avalanche Lines

There has been nowhere to hide from the injury epidemic racing through the Avalanche’s roster. Captain Gabriel Landeskog was the first to go down, hitting injured reserve thanks to knee surgery. Valeri Nichushkin quickly followed the captain to the IR after just seven games. Nichushkin was off to a rocking start with seven goals and 12 points through his first seven games. Thankfully for the Avalanche, both of those skaters have been skating again – but now superstar Nathan MacKinnon is out for the next four weeks.

Gabriel Landeskog Colorado Avalanche
Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog is recovering from knee surgery. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Along with those three major offensive cogs for the Avalanche, the squad is also without Artturi Lehkonen, Evan Rodrigues and Darren Helm up front. Defensemen Bowen Byram and Josh Manson are also on injured reserve. This has opened the door for Hudon and some other Avalanche prospects, as 36 different players have suited up for the team this season.

Hudon might not have a mountain of NHL experience, but his 125 NHL games before coming to the Avalanche have him acclimated to the NHL’s pace and expectations. While the Avs wait for this injury bug to (hopefully) pass, Hudon can bring at least a little bit of experience to the lineup each night instead of head coach Jared Bednar having to rely on an overwhelming number of rookies and other inexperienced players.

Hudon Will Get His Chances

This is not only a critical time for the Avalanche, but also for Hudon. Those injured players won’t be on the shelf forever, so he has to make the most of his time – especially if he is going to continue playing in a top-six role. He has predominantly played on the top line with Rantanen and Alex Newhook. It’s going to take some getting used to, and not only because of the players’ unfamiliarity with each other. Rantanen has been centering the line, and Newhook has been moved over to the left wing – putting both players in unfamiliar spots.

Charles Hudon Montreal Canadiens
Charles Hudon with the Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Hudon hasn’t registered a point in his pair of games since getting called up, but he’s led the club in shots on goal in both contests. However, he’s long been able to generate chances. It’s just a matter of clicking with his new linemates to start piling up some points more consistently. But those results need to come quickly. Colorado’s last contest was a 4-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Boston Bruins. The Avs have been held scoreless in three games this season – including twice in the last five games. Including the playoffs, they were shut out three times in their previous 210 games entering this season.

The chances will be there for Hudon for the foreseeable future, but it’s just a matter of converting. Colorado had depth questions entering this season, mainly after losing Nazem Kadri to free agency, but those early concerns have been compounded thanks to the injury crisis. This is Hudon’s chance. If he can make the most of these opportunities playing with Rantanen and Newhook, it will give Bednar the trust to keep him around after things get healthy. And if the worst thing that happens is more depth scoring for the Avalanche, then that bodes well for all parties.

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