The Montreal Canadiens have a group of forwards in their minor league system, playing in the CHL and overseas that could possibly make an impact with the Habs in the near future. The number one need with the parent club this season is a big centre and, as always, scoring. As this season progresses the express lane between Montreal and St. John’s could be a busy one. The Habs will be taking a close look at the group of forwards that are capable of filling a role, giving them the opportunity to prove themselves.
At the top of the list is former first rounder (25th overall, 2013 NHL Entry Draft) Michael McCarron. I have followed his career from his time with the London Knights and Oshawa Generals to the recent NHL Rookie Tournament. He came to London as a lanky 6-foot-6-inch awkward skating forward, with loads of raw potential. Montreal management must have been overjoyed to see his remarkable development over the next couple of years.
When McCarron was traded to Oshawa, he left London as a dominant power forward going on to win the Memorial Cup with the Generals. In the subsequent years as he returned to London with the Canadiens rookies, he showed progression in his game. He will no doubt be one of the first St. John’s IceCaps recalled by the Habs this season and has a very good chance to stick with Montreal for the balance of the season.
Another possible addition to the Habs lineup during this season could be Jacob De La Rose. Another big centre and second round pick (No.34 overall, 2013 NHL Entry Draft), De La Rose was anything but impressive during his 22-game stint with Montreal last year collecting just one point. But he is still near the top of the rankings of Montreal prospects in the AHL and will certainly get another look this season. De La Rose is not known as an offensive centre, but more as a two-way, defense-first player. He can be useful in a bottom-six role.
In my opinion, McCarron and De La Rose will be the two top players who will get a long look in the bleu, blanc et rouge this season. In addition, there are a large contingent of wingers that may see at least a cup of coffee with Montreal this season.
At the top of the next tier is Nikita Scherbak. The former first round pick (No. 26 overall, 2014 NHL Entry Draft) was slowed by injuries last season, but found his game by seasons end with the IceCaps. Scherbak has a great set of hands and has NHL-calibre skating. His playmaking ability is the best in the Montreal prospect system.
To me, it seems that Scherbak’s only drawback his age ( 20 years old.) A player of his talent level should never be rushed into the NHL. He has the potential to be a top-six forward for many years to come. It’s better for him to spend a full, productive season in the AHL before making the leap.
Charles Hudon, a former fifth round pick (No. 122, 2012 NHL Entry Draft), was known as a prolific scorer in the QMJHL before joining the pro ranks with the IceCaps. Hudon has played two full seasons with the IceCaps developing his defensive game while maintaining his scoring touch. If he continues to improve, the Canadiens may have found a gem in the fifth round.
Hudon and Scherbak have played on the same line at times and seem to have good chemistry. It would be rare to see linemates from the AHL make the move to the NHL together, but stranger things have happened.
With the talent that Montreal has at the forward position, I wouldn’t be surprised if one or more are included in a trade for a veteran player as the Candiens make their push to the playoffs this season.