Montreal Canadiens: Cole Caufield Could Play Half of NHL Regular Season With Habs

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Cole Caufield (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images)
VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA - JUNE 21: Cole Caufield (Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images) /

Montreal Canadiens top prospect could join the team in March.

Montreal Canadiens top prospect Cole Caufield is getting ready for a quarterfinal matchup at the World Juniors later today. When the tournament ends, Caufield will return to Wisconsin to finish the season with the Badgers.

But it won’t be long after that before he has a chance to suit up with the Montreal Canadiens.

Caufield scored two goals and had one assist in four round robin games at the World Juniors. He scored six goals and six assists in ten games for Wisconsin in NCAA before heading to Edmonton to represent his country.

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Wisconsin had a bit of an inconsistent start to their season. They lost Dylan Holloway after two games to Team Canada who opened their camp for the World Juniors shortly after the NHL teams left the bubble in Edmonton. Then they had a few positive Covid tests and lost some key players like Ty Pelton-Byce who was Caufield’s centre and Roman Ahcan who was their MVP last season (though that probably should have been given to Caufield.)

Still, they ended a respectable 5-5-0 before the holiday break. Wisconsin will be back in action next weekend, and will have Caufield back in time to host Minnesota who won all eight games they played so far this season.

That makes Minnesota the favourite to win the Big Ten Conference this season. Though Wisconsin look a lot better than the last place team they were a year ago, they are a middle of the pack team.

If they continue to trade wins and losses the rest of the season, they don’t have a great chance of being invited to the NCAA Playoff tournament at the end of the season. They will participate in the Big Ten Conference playoffs from March 18-20. If that doesn’t go well for Wisconsin, their season will be over.

At that point, normally the NHL schedule would be winding down. But with the 56 game season not starting until the middle of January, the regular season won’t end until early May.

That means, when Caufield’s NCAA season ends, the Habs will only be about halfway through their regular season. To be exact, the Canadiens will play their 31st game on March 20th at the Bell Centre.

If Caufield is knocked out in the first round of the Big Ten playoffs, like Wisconsin was last year, he could sign with his entry-level contract when the Canadiens still have 25 games left to play in the regular season.

Normally, when a player has the option to sign after his college season, there are so few games left that is almost seems like a waste to burn a year of their entry level contract. That’s what happened when Ryan Poehling signed an entry-level contract after his St. Cloud State Huskies were eliminated in 2018-19. Poehling signed and burned off a year of his three year deal to play just one NHL game.

He scored a hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs, so he made the most of it, but it was worth a whole year on his contract.

Next. Reviewing Habs prospects at World Juniors. dark

The Canadiens won’t have a tough decision with Caufield. Signing him to play 25 NHL games would not be a waste at all. Especially in a year where the team is going to be trying to go deep in the postseason. Adding an impressive young goal scorer shortly before the trade deadline could give the team a boost right in the middle of the schedule.