Montreal Canadiens: Canceled CHL Stops Habs Prospects From Lengthy Playoff Runs

WINDSOR, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Forward Cam Hillis #8 of the Guelph Storm skates against the Windsor Spitfires on September 24, 2017 at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)
WINDSOR, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Forward Cam Hillis #8 of the Guelph Storm skates against the Windsor Spitfires on September 24, 2017 at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images) /

The CHL has decided it will not hold playoffs or a Memorial Cup this year. This stops a handful of Habs prospects from what could have been a long playoff run this spring.

The Montreal Canadiens did not make the playoffs last season. However, one of their top young prospects did make the playoffs and keeping an eye on him was a fun ride for Habs fans. That player was Nick Suzuki and he had a tremendous playoffs for the Guelph Storm, leading them to an Ontario Hockey League championship which qualified them for the Memorial Cup.

Though the NHL team was not playing playoff hockey, it gave the fans of the Habs some hope watching such an exciting young player tear up the OHL postseason. Suzuki put up and incredible 42 points in 24 games.

Watching your favourite teams top prospects perform in big moments of their Junior career like the World Juniors in the winter or the CHL postseason in the spring is always a fun distraction if the Canadiens aren’t in the playoffs.

With the announcement coming last night that the CHL has cancelled all playoffs and the Memorial Cup, we won’t get the chance to watch another performance like we saw from Suzuki last season.

This is obviously unfortunate for every Junior player in the country, especially those in their overage years that face uncertain hockey futures. Having their final season wiped out at the last minute just when the playoffs were scheduled to begin is heartbreaking.

This will also have a big impact on several Habs prospects. Looking at the standings in the QMJHL, OHL and WHL as well as the latest CHL Top Ten rankings, there were a number of Canadiens draft picks that were on contending teams and won’t have a chance at a championship this season.

In the QMJHL, Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Samuel Houde are two of the best players on the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. Harvey-Pinard was drafted in the 7th round last year and is the second leading scorer on the Sagueneens with 78 points in 62 games. Houde missed nearly 20 games with injury but is still fifth on the team in scoring with 52 points in 44 games.

Harvey-Pinard is an overaged player this season so his Junior career came to an end via a tweet sent out by the CHL. Houde is a 19 year old but was a 5th round pick in 2018 and needs to be signed by the Habs before the next NHL Draft or he becomes a free agent. A strong playoff run would have solidified his future with an entry-level contract but that remains up in the air now.

Chicoutimi was third in the QMJHL standings and in the last ranking of the top ten teams in Canada, the Sagueneens were seventh. They had a chance at a really deep playoff run in the QMJHL and two Habs prospects would have played a huge role.

In the Ontario Hockey League, the Habs had Allan McShane playing for the Oshawa Generals and Cam Hillis for the Guelph Storm. Both teams were middle of the pack, but it would have been interesting to see how far each team could have gone in the postseason.

McShane had a solid season with 67 points in 62 games and Oshawa had the third most points in the Eastern Conference. They had been playing well since trading several draft picks for Philip Tomasino who had 43 points in 26 games for the Generals.

The Storm would have been in tough in the Western Conference where they were ranked sixth. Hillis had a great season with 83 points in 62 games, but he would have needed a Suzukian effort in the postseason to get Guelph out of a difficult first round matchup with the Kitchener Rangers.

Out west in the WHL, the Everett Silvertips were the second best team in the standings. This was in no small part thanks to Habs draft pick Cole Fonstad who had 59 assists and 74 points in 60 games this season. The left winger is one of the best setup men in the league and the team was deep enough to go on a serious run.

With Fonstad tied for the team lead in points, the Silvertips were ranked fifth in the country in the last CHL Top Ten rankings. They were on a collision course with the Portland Winterhawks who were in their division, but also the only team in the league ahead of them in the standings. It would have been fascinating to follow Fonstad in that second round series with the top two teams in the WHL.

The Habs had two other prospects playing in the CHL whose season came to an end yesterday. Gianni Fairborther is a defenseman who is a teammate of Fonstad’s in the WHL. His season ended on January 12th when he was shut down to undergo surgery on an upper-body injury that plagued him throughout the year. He had 25 points in 37 games as a defenseman who was drafted in the third round last year.

Jacob LeGuerrier is another left shooting defenseman that plays for the Son Greyhounds of the OHL. He had 31 points in 61 games which is a big step up from the 16 points in 68 games he had last season. He was a fifth round pick of the Habs a year ago, but his Soo squad was already eliminated from playoff contention before the OHL season was paused.

Next. Five former Habs that looked odd in another jersey. dark

It would have been fun to watch Harvey-Pinard, Houde and Fonstad attempt to go on deep runs through the CHL postseason. It also would have been interesting to watch what Hillis and McShane could do in the OHL playoffs. Unfortunately, we won’t get to watch a Habs prospect dominate the Canadian Junior playoffs for a second straight season as they have all been shut down.