Another phase of the Canadian’s reconstruction will begin in the coming weeks: the reception of new recruits, Sean Farrell in the lead.
The seasons of some prospects in the NCAA and in Europe will end shortly, or have already ended, and contracts are already awaiting the most promising.
Last year, for example, defender Jordan Harris joined the team with about 10 games to play, after Northeastern was eliminated. These few meetings had allowed him to familiarize himself with his new environment and he became a regular this season.
Farrell, 21, is without a doubt the most exciting prospect likely to join the club. This fourth-round pick, fourth overall in 2020, outrageously dominates the NCAA at Harvard this winter, with 51 points, including 20 goals, in 31 games.
His production earns him the second-highest scorer on the college circuit in points-per-game average, behind Adam Fantilli, likely second overall draft pick in 2023. Farrell is one point ahead of Logan Cooley, third overall pick in 2022 , in three games less. He is, however, the oldest of the lot.
By comparison, Cole Caufield had 52 points, including 30 goals, in 31 games in his second and final season in the NCAA.
Due to their birthdays, however (Caufield was born in January, Farrell in November, therefore considered late in the jargon of the industry), Caufield conceded almost a year of age to Farrell during this final season.
Farrell also plays in the ECAC, a less competitive division than the one Caufield played in with Wisconsin. But Adam Fox, John Marino and Alex Killorn, among others, also come from the ECAC, commonly known as the Ivy League.
That can’t take credit away from Farrell, who was shunned for almost four rounds in the draft because of his height, 5-foot-9.
After producing 101 points in 53 USHL games with the Chicago Steel, the second player in U.S. junior league history to reach 100 points, one wondered if Farrell was up to his productivity in the NCAA. He did it.
Farrell and Caufield have short stature in common, although the former towers over the latter by a few inches. But they are different players. Farrell is not a scorer like Caufield. Nevertheless, he remains an extraordinary passer.
Harvard won its quarter-final match at the expense of Princeton on Friday, in which Farrell scored two more goals. The Crimson will face Cornell on Friday.
It will therefore be necessary to wait for the Harvard season before seeing Farrell – also a member of the American team at the Olympic Games and the World Championship in 2022 – wear the CH uniform. Barring an incredible turnaround, Farrell will sign a contract with the Montreal organization this spring. And it won’t be to play in a fourth line…
Unlike Farrell, left-handed defenseman Jayden Struble, 21, a 2019 second-round pick, saw his season end last weekend at Northeastern.
The Canadiens expect him to join the organization soon despite the abundance of left-handed defenders in Montreal and within the prospect bank.
Struble is close to general manager Kent Hughes. He acted as a family advisor before accepting the position in Montreal, Struble played with the sons of the DG at Northeastern and even lived with Hughes during confinement.
Struble is first recognized for its robustness and good mobility for a player of his size. But his offensive production remains weak. He remains behind Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris and Arber Xhekaj in terms of potential for now, and will also eventually have to fight Lane Hutson, Adam Engström and William Trudeau, among others, for a position. Not to mention the presence of Mike Matheson for the next seasons in Montreal.
But choosing the Canadian could nevertheless be a smart choice for him. He would find himself in familiar territory, within a great development team. The organization’s defenders have all made giant strides this winter.
We won’t necessarily be jostling at the gates on August 15 if Struble ever gives up the Canadiens, and in the long run, the young man will have an advantage, in Montreal or elsewhere, develops adequately. But he will need time in the American League.
We could offer him an NHL contract to allow him to join the Canadiens and spend his first year of the agreement more quickly or even sign a professional tryout contract with the American League to allow him to join the Laval Rocket in anticipation playoffs, if the team qualifies.
A third candidate is considered, Emil Heineman, also 21, obtained from the Calgary Flames in the trade of Tyler Toffoli. Heineman has 15 points in 35 games for Leksands in the Swedish Premier League (SHL). Leksands plays a deciding playoff game on Tuesday. Heineman was relegated from the first to the fourth line recently.
He could join the Laval Rocket if his team is eliminated, but given the impressive number of injuries in Montreal, we could call him directly to the Bell Center.
Despite amazing progress this winter, 19-year-old defensemen Lane Hutson and Adam Engström, drafted in the second and third rounds in 2022, will be called up to play an additional season in their respective leagues, the NCAA and the SHL. Engström has 16 points in 43 games at Rögle, Leksands’ Tuesday opponent, and Hutson has 44 points in just 34 games at Boston University.
Patrick Kane is unrecognizable in his new Rangers uniform, with just three points in five games, and often too self-effacing, writes columnist Larry Brooks.
But Martin St-Louis scored just one goal in 19 regular season games, when he arrived in New York in 2014, before roaring in the playoffs and allowing the Rangers to reach the final, reminds our veteran of the daily New York Post.
Brooks would welcome a line of Mika Zibanejad, Alexis Lafrenière and Kane, with Artemi Panarin, Filip Chytil and Vladimir Tarasenko in the other attacking line.
Coach Gerard Gallant has 16 games left to find the right combinations. New York has won just four of its last ten games.