Montreal Canadiens: 4 Laval Rocket Players to Keep an Eye On

LAVAL, QC - DECEMBER 28: Josh Brook and Cayden Primeau (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
LAVAL, QC - DECEMBER 28: Josh Brook and Cayden Primeau (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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Montreal Canadiens
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) /

Cam Hillis

Throughout the 2019-20 season, Canadiens fans and analysts were debating which player among recent draft picks Cole Fonstad, Samuel Houde, Allan McShane and Cam Hillis would receive an entry-level contract or if two of the four would get one. McShane seemed to have all the tools but just couldn’t put them together or progress at the Junior level, Fonstad had a similar issue, in that his production plateaued following his draft -1 season, Houde wasn’t even in the picture until the beginning of last season when he exploded out of the gate with Chicoutimi, but cooled down after 25 games.

Then there was Hillis; the player drafted the highest of this group (66th overall in 2018) and the player who was injured for most of the season that saw Nick Suzuki lead his Guelph Storm to an OHL championship and a Memorial Cup appearance, producing just 10 goals and 22 points in 33 regular-season games along with 0 points in just 2 playoff games. Despite the injuries and the mediocre production, Guelph gave Hillis the “C” for the 2019-20 season as well as the slot vacated by Nick Suzuki at the centre of the top line; and Hillis did not disappoint.

The 5’11”, 168 lbs centreman racked up 24 goals and 83 points in 62 games. While no player on the Guelph roster was going to replace the 1.72 points/game Suzuki put up as a member of the Storm (a 106 point pace through 62 games), Hillis showed his worth as a playmaker; his 59 assists ranked 7th in the OHL. The faceoff specialist has a good set of hands, but it is his two-way ability and playmaking that define his game. In the end, Hillis was the only player of the group to be signed.

He should slot into the middle-six in Laval this season and will more than likely play centre. Hillis only turns 21 in June, so even if he starts the season with smaller minutes, count on Joel Bouchard to allow Hillis to carve out a larger role himself as the season progresses. The Oshawa native holds a skillset that could lend itself to a third-line centre spot in the NHL once he reaches his peak. It will be interesting to see how Hillis’ playmaking, two-way play and faceoff ability translate to the pro game and how much responsibility he will be given.