Montreal Canadiens: Jesse Ylonen Proving Worth The Wait

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 22: Jesse Ylonen (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 22: Jesse Ylonen (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

Montreal Canadiens prospect winger Jesse Ylonen should have made his AHL debut just about one year ago.

Thte Finnish right winger played the 2019-20 season with the Lahti Pelicans in Liiga, Finland’s top pro league. Their season ended in early March, and Ylonen signed his entry-level contract with the Canadiens shortly after.

He was dealing with a nagging injury so he didn’t immediately suit up for the Laval Rocket but he seemed days away from doing so. Then, of course the global pandemic swept through and canceled the rest of the AHL season and drastically changed the 2020-21 season calendar as well.

This left Ylonen out of luck and he actually returned to Finland to play for Lahti once again to begin this season. The AHL season didn’t get started until a few weeks ago, but Liiga fired up in October so Ylonen played 21 more Finnish Elite League games than he expected. Though his offensive numbers from Finland don’t jump off the page at you, he did show off plenty of offensive skills with the Pelicans.

When the AHL season finally began for the Rocket on February 12, Ylonen made his North American pro debut that was about 11 months in the making. The 6’1″ and 173 pound right shot wight winger had just one assist in his first three games, but has five points in his last five contests.

He is finding chemistry with fellow top prospect Ryan Poehling and Ylonen’s showing he has the hands, creativity, vision and shot to produce offence at the pro level. At just 21 years old, he is adjusting quickly to the AHL pace and id among the top offensive players on the Rocket already after just a few weeks in North America.

He has also shown he won’t be pushed around in the corners.

Ylonen didn’t score a goal in his first five games, but his first was an absolute beauty. He pulls a toe drag around an outstretched defender and rifles a wrist shot over the goaltender to score his first AHL goal.

In his very next game, Ylonen got a chance in front of the net and roofed the puck from in tight. He could have quickly snapped the puck on goal, but you can see he takes an extra second to get full control before finding the top corner where the goaltender had no chance of making a save. A real goal scorers goal as they say.

It has only been eight games, but Ylonen has made quite the impact with six points. He is tied with Jordan Weal and Lukas Vejdemo for the team lead in scoring. Both of those players have NHL experience under their belt and it won’t be long before Ylonen can say the same thing if he continues to produce at this level.

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The second round pick from 2018 had to wait almost a full year to make his Laval Rocket debut but he is making up for lost time now.