Other Canadiens Season Preview Articles:
- Must-Watch Players at Training Camp
- Defense Pair Predictions
- Forward Line Predictions
- 2021-22 Top Storylines
- 2021-22 Season Predictions
Montreal Canadiens rookie camp opens on Sep. 15 a week before main camp, which will obviously garner more attention and justifiably so. However, rookie camp is still rife with big talent, even if the big names are missing, relatively speaking. That’s not necessarily for long though, as these top five prospects of the 27 camp attendees will aim to prove:
5. Rafael Harvey-Pinard (Left Winger)
Rafael Harvey-Pinard is one of the oldest players at camp, but, at just 22 years of age, he’s still young enough to have his entire pro career ahead of him. He’s also one of the most developed prospects at camp, as evidenced by his 20-point season (36 games) last year with the Laval Rocket in the American Hockey League.
Harvey-Pinard finished fourth in team scoring, just five points behind top-prospect Ryan Poehling. Considering they were born just three days apart, Harvey-Pinard may realistically have NHL potential. Of course, Poehling was drafted in 2017 and Harvey-Pinard had to wait until 2019 to hear his name called, but, as a seventh-round pick (No. 201 overall), the latter can seriously surprise to the upside. He arguably already has… and should continue to.
4. Jesse Ylonen (Right Winger)
Jesse Ylonen is arguably the likeliest attendee to reach the NHL this coming season, at least on a temporary, call-up basis. The American-born Finn did play a single game against the Edmonton Oilers last season, and, while he was held scoreless through 11:23 of action, it’s hopefully a sign of greater things to come.
The son of former NHLer Juha Ylonen, he has shown great offensive potential and instincts, having scored 17 points last season with the Rocket (29 games). With Jesperi Kotkaniemi having signed with the Carolina Hurricanes, he is the highest-picked Habs prospect left from the 2018 NHL Entry Draft (No. 35). Considering Alexander Romanov has made somewhat of an impact (No. 38), it’s far from inconceivable Ylonen can too in the near future.
3. Jan Mysak (Center)
Considered somewhat of a steal at No. 48 in 2020, Jan Mysak is a two-way player with a reportedly excellent work ethic. The 19-year-old Czech center joined the Rocket last season, scoring just two goals in 22 games but, according to scouts, Mysak still fit. He’s not necessarily a lock to make the NHL, but, if he does, a top-six role is in the cards.
2. Kaiden Guhle (Defenseman)
Defenseman Kaiden Guhle’s Draft +1 season was a mixed bag. He did win a silver medal as part of Canada’s entry at the World Junior Championship, but, of course, losing to the United States in the gold-medal game was likely bittersweet.
Add to that a hand injury that limited Guhle to two games for the Prince Albert Raiders in the Western Hockey League (from ‘Guhle returns to the Raiders after being sidelined for almost all of last season,’ Prince Albert Daily Herald, Sep. 10, 2021). Needless to say, greater things will be expected of Guhle this coming season, but also because he’s one of the Canadiens’ best prospects in the system, taken No. 16 overall in 2020.
Guhle did get in three games with the Rocket at the start of last season, before being returned to the Raiders, who he captained. He’ll obviously be expected continue on in the same capacity, as well as take on a greater leadership role with the Canadian team at the upcoming WJC, where the hope will be for a better result.
1. Mattias Norlinder (Defenseman)
In some ways, defenseman Mattias Norlinder can’t make the jump to the Canadiens soon enough, based on the predominantly stay-at-home make-up of the team’s current defense corps. Norlinder’s mobility and puck-moving talent are sorely needed in that respect.
The feeling is Norlinder has the skill to play in the NHL now and has an outside chance to do just that. Where he plays this coming season is dependent on how (rookie and training) camp shake out, with the official plan being a return to the Swedish Hockey League.
Keep in mind, general manager Marc Bergevin admitted recently the Canadiens may have rushed Kotkaniemi’s development by bringing him over too soon. So, it would probably be for the best, because there simply isn’t room on the roster for the left-handed defenseman.
That may change in a year, with both Brett Kulak and Ben Chiarot poised to hit unrestricted free agency. For now though, Norlinder remains one of the prospects poised to make the biggest impact on the team once he does make the team for good, whenever that will be.