Montreal Canadiens fans are focused on the NHL season, but should keep an eye on these four AHL players too
With the final cuts from this brief training camp having been made, the Canadiens roster for opening night has been confirmed, but so has the Laval Rocket’s to a lesser extent. It remains to be seen which exact players will head to the taxi squad and which will be sent to Laval, but educated guesses can be made. The players that clearly hold the label of “prospect” will find themselves in Laval since they need to play games in order to further their development, which leaves the more veteran players that have cleared waivers as the candidates for the taxi squad.
The taxi squad can hold as many as 6 players and must include one goaltender. That goaltender will likely be one of Michael McNiven and Charlie Lindgren, but Vasili Demchenko has a shot as well, though he did not feature in either intra-squad scrimmage, which likely points to the unlikelihood of that outcome. In terms of forwards, Marc Bergevin would love to have the trio of Jordan Weal, Michael Frolik and Corey Perry on the taxi squad but the latter two have yet to clear waivers at the time of writing, and if one (or both) of them are claimed, Laval’s forward lineup will take a hit and become more reliant on the younger players.
On defence, Laval captain Xavier Ouellet seems like a near-guarantee to feature on the taxi squad. The sixth and final spot could be occupied by Gustav Olofsson or possibly Otto Leskinen, or be left vacant, which would allow Marc Bergevin to perform some salary cap gymnastics by sending a waiver ineligible player like Nick Suzuki, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Alexander Romanov or Jake Evans to the taxi squad between game days to save a few dozen thousand dollars in cap space per day and eventually be able to carry a roster of 22 players rather than the 21 currently with the big club (Victor Mete will be the only healthy scratch in Toronto on January 13th).
This taxi squad situation means that multiple players that would have played a veteran role in Laval under non-pandemic circumstances will not be with the Canadiens’ minor league affiliate. This means that younger prospects will be primed for leadership roles and will be more heavily relied upon to produce offence and play shutdown minutes on defence. Due to this, I would like to highlight four players that should be key to Laval’s success or failure this season (or just really fun to watch) but who may not be getting the most attention from the fanbase at the moment. Therefore, I will not include Cale Fleury, Cayden Primeau, Jesse Ylonen or Ryan Poehling in this article. Keep in mind, this list is in no particular order, simply a collection of fun players that could become big contributors.