It’s no secret that the Montreal Canadiens have struggled this year. The team is sitting in sixth place in the Atlantic Division and have struggled at both ends of the ice. However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Habs. There are a number of promising prospects in the minors who could be the core of a rebuilt Montreal Canadiens team.
Prospects in the NCAA
The Habs have a pair of exciting prospects playing in the NCAA in Jake Evans of Notre Dame and Ryan Poehling of St. Cloud State.
Evans is the Fighting Irish’s captain and a dynamic player, who can play at center or on the right wing. He has tallied 31 points for Notre Dame this season, including nine goals. Last season, he put up 42 points with 13 goals and 29 assists and could provide an exciting and much-needed spark to the Canadiens’ offense after he graduates. This year, He has been one of the Irish’s key players and he looks like he has what it takes to excel at the next level.
Poehling is also a high-powered talent with the ability to command the ice. He isn’t the fastest skater but has great vision and a high hockey IQ. He is also capable of playing solid defense and is skilled at backchecking. In his first two years at St. Cloud State, Poehling has improved considerably. He told Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News that he wants to be a complete player, excelling at both ends of the ice.
“I don’t correlate success with just offense, but it’s also good to see it be part of my game,” Poehling said. “A lot of people didn’t think I had that.”
In his freshman season, he put up a total of 13 points, scoring six goals. However, 24 games into his sophomore season, he has shown his offensive prowess with 22 points (seven goals and 13 assists). At one point during the year, he was scoring at least a point per game. He also notched three points in seven games with the USA U20 team.
Habs Hopes from Across the Pond
Lukas Vejdemo is a 22-year-old Swede who has shown signs of brilliance in Sweden. The Habs picked him in the 3rd round of the 2015 draft and he played his first game in the SHL for Djurgardens IF. So far this season, he has recorded 20 points, including nine goals and 11 assists. One thing that should get Habs fans excited, is the fact that he is a solid two-way center. He also possesses a great offensive awareness and has shown he has what it takes to score regularly.
Another exciting European prospect is fellow Swede, Arvid Henrikson. Henrikson is a young defenceman playing for Orebro HK in the SHL. He has played 31 games this year with Orebro HK’s U20 team and also played in one game in the SHL. He is currently on loan to Division 1 club Lindlovens IF, which should give him a chance to get plenty of ice time and continue to develop.
One big question mark is Joni Ikonen. The 18-year-old Finn has been on a roller coaster this season in the Finnish Liiga, Finland’s top league. When things are going well for Ikonen, his creative style of play is a talent that the Habs would love to have. But he also struggles at times defensively and can be error-prone. He has nine points for KalPa and played in the SHL with Frolunda HC before then, tallying 41 points with their U20 team. Ikonen could grow into a great player but he needs time to develop and grow.
With Poehling, Evans, Vejdemo, Henrikson and more developing prospects, there are plenty for Habs fans to be optimistic about the future. If this core group continue to grow and perform well, it could be the start of something special in Montreal.