March 28, 2023

Recently, the Montreal Canadiens have leaned towards the NCAA as an increasingly popular development path for their prospects. That may be because the team has an NCAA-bound player’s rights for four years as opposed to the two years afforded those selected from teams under the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) umbrella, which gives the Habs more time to develop late-round picks before they make the leap to the professional game.

Lane Hutson – Defense, Boston University (NCAA)

Lane Hutson has been a wizard with the puck, magically creating offence out of seemingly nothing. He is also skilled at moving the puck up ice in transition. His eight points in seven games rank second in team scoring and make him one of the higher-scoring freshmen in the Hockey East Conference as a defenseman.

On Oct. 31, he was named Hockey East Rookie of the Week for the second time that month. His defence still needs work, as he tends to be outmuscled, so his improved positioning and decision-making in 1-on-1 battles will be key to graduating to the next level.

Jakub Dobes – Goaltender, Ohio State University (NCAA)

With the Canadiens still in search of a future replacement for goaltender Carey Price. Jakub Dobes’ strong play has put him on the map. The 2020 fifth-round pick boasts a 7-2-1 record with a .917 save percentage.

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A recent 27-save performance vs the Minnesota Golden Gophers helped Ohio State rank 11th in the NCAA.

Sean Farrell – Center, Harvard (NCAA)

It is still early in the season for Sean Farrell, who has only played two games for Harvard University but already has two assists. Entering his second NCAA season, the 20-year-old forward has picked up where he left off as a freshman. He has an elite hockey IQ, with situational awareness and vision that are through the roof. His ability to read a play and to generate offence is a skill that cannot be taught.

Last season, he represented the United States at the Olympics and World Hockey Championships. This season, he could regress a little if he doesn’t find new motivation. How he progresses will play a major role in any opportunity to earn an entry-level contract (ELC) this season.

Luke Tuch – Left Wing, Boston University (NCAA)

Luke Tuch, the 20-year-old power forward selected by the Habs in the second round in 2020, is now in his third NCAA season. He is a leader in the room, wearing an ‘A’ as an assistant captain, and at 6-foot-2, 203 pounds, he doesn’t need to mature physically; he needs to develop his skills to earn an NHL contract. In seven games this season, he has three goals and four points – not overwhelming, but his game is similar to his older brother’s, NHL veteran Alex Tuch, who has stated that Luke “hits way harder than me. He hits like a truck.” His production is streaky, like the Canadiens’ Josh Anderson, so he will need to find consistency in his production while playing to his strengths – a physical style and a north-south game.

Jayden Struble – Defense, Northeastern University (NCAA)

Now that Jordan Harris has graduated to the NHL, Jayden Struble is being relied upon heavily as the top-minute-eating defender in all situations with the Northeastern Huskies. While Struble might have been considered ready to take on professional hockey this season, he returned to Northeastern for his senior year. Because of this, he is also playing a leadership role, wearing an ‘A’.

Jayden Struble Montreal Canadiens Draft
Jayden Struble, Montreal Canadiens, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In seven games, the physical, puck-moving defenseman has one goal and four points, which puts him on pace to match his NCAA career-high of 14 points. As a senior, he can become an unrestricted free agent in Aug. 2023, if he is not signed to an ELC this season.

Ty Smilanic – Center, University of Wisconsin (NCAA)

Acquired from the Florida Panthers in return for Ben Chiarot, Ty Smilanic was included to give the Canadiens some center depth and size down the middle. He started this season by transferring from Quinnipiac University to the University of Wisconsin. However, he only has one goal in six games this season.

Smilanic will need to take advantage of the opportunity to grow his game under head coach Tony Granato, who played a key role in Cole Caufield’s development in becoming a more well-rounded player before his leap to the NHL.

Rhett Pitlick – Left Wing, University of Minnesota (NCAA)

Rhett Pitlick, the Canadiens’ undersized 2019 fifth-round pick, is entering his second season at the University of Minnesota. As a freshman, he scored 18 points in 30 games. This season, he has six points in eight games, putting him on pace to eclipse his previous totals. There is no denying his enthusiasm on the ice.

Pitlick took a page out of Trevor Zegras’ book and threw his stick into the crowd after the goal. The result of this “made for TV but not for NCAA” moment was a 10-minute misconduct because it’s considered a distraction. He is young and has time to learn how to manage his emotions and continue to produce offensively as a playmaking winger. 

That does it for this week’s edition of the Canadiens Prospects Report. Stay tuned, as each week we will turn our attention to the young prospects making their way up the Habs’ depth chart.

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