Montreal Canadiens: Jesse Ylonen Needs More Opportunity, But Is Getting Less

Dec 10, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens right wing Jesse Ylonen
Dec 10, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens right wing Jesse Ylonen / David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

The Montreal Canadiens got Josh Anderson back in the lineup last night when they travelled to Boston to take on the Bruins.

For a team that has seen its fair share of long term injuries, it was kind of nice to have a key player miss just four games before making his return to action. Getting a big winger like Anderson back is not a problem, but it did create a problem further down the lineup.

Jesse Ylonen was made a healthy scratch by the Canadiens last night, but he is exactly the type of player that should be playing more right now, and not less.

Ylonen was a second round pick of the Canadiens in 2018 and was known as a two-way winger at that time. He has done nothing to dispel that notion since being drafted, though a naysayer would point out he hasn't scored a lot at the NHL level.

The Finnish native has now played 90 career games for the Canadiens, scoring 11 goals and 28 points. He turned 24 at the start of this season, so he is reaching the point where he is going to need to be a full time NHLer or it may never happen.

The problem is, he isn't being given the chance to be a full timer this season even though he is outplaying some of his teammates that are suiting up every night.

Ylonen has played almost all of his 38 games this season on the fourth line. Recently, that has meant he is on the ice with Mitchell Stephens and Michael Pezzetta every night. Stephens has three points in 22 games this season and Pezzetta has nine in 34 games. With all due respect to those two hardworking and defensively responsible players, it will always be difficult for Ylonen to show off his offensive touch playing with them.

That has led to Ylonen putting up just seven points in 38 games this season. Last season, when he was pressed into top nine duties with the Canadiens due to injuries, he scored six goals and 16 points in 37 games. While in the minors in 2022-23, he put up 11 goals and 32 points in 39 games for the Laval Rocket.

Ylonen appeared poised for a breakout this season and has played well. He has the smarts, vision, playmaking ability and especially the shot of a NHL player. But he keeps getting pushed to the fourth line and made a healthy scratch for players that we know aren't going to be around long term.

Why does Joel Armia, who started the year in the minors himself and has eight points in 29 games need to play with Sean Monahan? Why can't Pezzetta sit for Ylonen? Why doesn't Brendan Gallagher play on the fourth line for a while to make room for Ylonen higher up the lineup?

None of Armia, Pezzetta or Gallagher are going to be key players on this team in a couple years when it becomes a contender. So why invest in them now when a 24 year old two-way winger is sitting in the press box?