Charles Hudon, Left Wing/Centre
2012 NHL Entry Draft | 5th round (122nd overall)
June 23, 1994 | Alma, QC, Canada
5-10, 195 lbs. | Shoots Left
2016-’17: 56 GP, 27 G, 22 A, 49 PTS | St. John’s IceCaps (AHL)
With training camp around the corner, speculation is ripe on how the Canadiens opening day roster will shake out. But there seems to be universal agreement that Charles Hudon is a lock to be wearing the CH to start the season. Some fans contend that Hudon should have more than six games of NHL experience under his belt.
But are there reasons that Hudon has primarily remained in the AHL when others have received the call?
Charles Hudon is a pure offensive talent. He has quick hands and a heavy, accurate shot. Hudon is the type of player who likes the puck on his stick in the offensive zone.
Hudon does not have the size nor elite skating ability to separate himself from defenders. He is not going to win all of his puck battles. But Hudon does have the offensive sense and vision to find the seams and skills to exploit those opportunities.
Questions begin with Hudon’s size and skating but also extend to his play without the puck, particularly in the defensive zone. Consistency issues and injury concerns also enter the conversation.
Last season, the biggest offensive threat for the St. John’s IceCaps was Chris Terry, by far. Jacob De La Rose was the most complete player who could play in all situations. If asked to name a goal-scorer who combined grit and effort, it would be Daniel Carr. As far as leadership and work ethic, hands down, it was Max Friberg. And the most skilled player on the team was Nikita Scherbak.
So, if Hudon can be overshadowed, at times, on an AHL roster, is he ready to make a significant impact at the NHL level for a team who desperately needs offense while being defensively responsible?
One thing is for certain: the Rocket Sports Media team has the best group of hockey writers and analysts to answer that question. Since turning pro, no one has seen more of Hudon’s 217 games and countless practices, most in person, than our contributors from All Habs Hockey Magazine and AHL Report.
Three of our talented staff members have offered to share their thoughts below. Enjoy and share.
Since becoming pro in 2014-2015, Charles Hudon has only raised his prospect value. He has scored 75 goals, and added 87 assists for 162 points in 207 career AHL games playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs and St. John’s IceCaps.
Hudon has completed three seasons at the professional level finishing second in team scoring each year. Some fans have been left wondering why Hudon hasn’t been called upon to join the Canadiens roster on a full time basis. With just six games of NHL experience playing in a limited role, the 23-year-old has four assists.
- 2014-15 – 75 GP, 19 Goals, 38 Assists, 57 Points (2nd in scoring behind T.J. Hensick)
- 2015-16 – 67 GP, 28 Goals, 25 Assists, 53 Points (2nd in scoring behind Bud Holloway)
- 2016-17 – 56 GP, 27 Goals, 22 Assists, 49 Points (2nd in scoring behind Chris Terry)
Simply put, Charles Hudon is one of the Canadiens best young offensive prospects. With depth scoring being as issue in Montreal, Hudon now has the opportunity to crack the Habs roster and provide much needed offensive talent, but making the NHL roster will not be a sure thing.
Hudon will be contending with Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron, Daniel Carr, Jacob De La Rose, Chris Terry, Byron Froese, Peter Holland and Andreas Martinsen for what seems to be the final position on the Habs fourth line. Not yet included to this competition are players that could be brought in on a professional try-out (PTO), or that are signed between now and the start of the regular season.
Potential forward lines to start the 2017-2018 season:
Pacioretty – Danault – Gallagher
Drouin – Galchenyuk – Lehkonen
Byron – Plekanec – Shaw
(Vacant) – Mitchell – Hemsky
Hudon has the scoring ability and offensive skills to be considered one of, if not the best value player on the roster, counting towards just $650,000 against the Habs cap. He would be added to a forward list that at this time includes Artturi Lehkonen ($839,000), Phillip Danault ($912,500), and Paul Byron ($1.16 million.)
It is worth mentioning that Hudon is no longer waivers exempt, and I genuinely believe that if he were to be placed on waivers by the Canadiens, we’d be seeing the last of him in Montreal. However, if he does start the season with the Laval Rocket, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be the first forward called up if an injury occurs at the NHL level.
When off-season training is focused on improving weaknesses, players can enter training camp more prepared and confident. This is exactly what is expected of young Charles Hudon.
Fresh off three complete seasons developing his game in the AHL and earning a two-year contract extension, the 23-year-old is a prime candidate who can make an immediate impact on the Canadiens roster.
The timing for his arrival is excellent. There are bottom-six roster positions wide open for competition. These positions will be key to providing the Habs much needed depth scoring. It is the kind of role that was filled quite ably by then-rookie, Artturi Lehkonen last season. While those may seem like big shoes to fill, Hudon has the offensive potential to do just that.
The opportunity is laid out at Hudon’s feet. Nothing at the NHL level is guaranteed, yet, head coach Claude Julien made his feelings clear when he stated that Hudon will have every opportunity to make the roster.
"He's going to have every opportunity to make this team." – Julien on Charles Hudon #GoHabsGo
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) June 23, 2017
Hudon does not have ideal size for the NHL, which is one reason why he fell to the fifth round in his draft year. He is not a player who initiates physical play and has issues against larger opponents during board battles.
What he does have are sublime puck handling skills, with playmaking abilities and an NHL-caliber shot. He has also worked to improve on his skating, and now skates extremely well with good speed and edge work.
Unfortunately for Hudon, he has run into some injury troubles in his short professional career. This is something that may continue at the NHL level due to his size and the speed of the game. These injuries have somewhat slowed his progression as each return to play required an adjustment to rediscover his timing and rhythm.
Other issues have been his lack of consistency and questions about his defensive game at times at the pro level. When he is at his peak, Hudon can be a dogged puck pursuer. He has the ability to play his position well and to adjust in support of his teammates. This level of commitment wasn’t consistent from game to game until the IceCaps entered their post All-Star game stretch run for the playoffs, where he played a key role before the Ice Caps fell to the Syracuse Crunch in a hard fought first round match up.
Another large hurdle is the depth at left wing (LW) for the Canadiens. This has played against him in the past. This season will be no different as Hudon will be in direct competition with Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen for top nine ice time.
Two other wild cards for this position will be Daniel Carr, who is in the last year of his contract, and Jacob De La Rose, who is also no longer waiver exempt. While De La Rose is more mature defensively, he lacks Hudon’s offensive abilities.
The roster decisions in the end will fall to the head coach, and Claude Julien has a reputation of relying on veteran players due to their more mature defensive game. Despite any perceived offensive advantages that Hudon may hold, it will be his defensive game that will win him his roster spot.
Coach Julien’s thoughts on Alex Galchenyuk’s play provides a window on his expectations of not just his centers, but of every player that dresses.
“A centre has to play a 200-foot game and there are defensive responsibilities which go with the job. It’s no good if (his line) scores two goals, but they give up three and we’re minus as a team.”
Hudon recently signed a two-year extension and must now clear waivers before he can be returned to the Laval Rocket. A two-way deal does not mean he is exempt from waivers, it only means he will have two different pay rates. In my estimation, if Hudon were to hit the waiver wire, it is a safe bet that one of the 30 other teams would stake a claim.
If Hudon can earn a roster spot, he will likely start in a fourth line role. This role may place Hudon in a favorable position. Four of his six points in six NHL games were scored in a fourth line role. There he can exploit lesser talented opposition players while easing into his defensive apprenticeship.
Once Hudon can find a consistent level of defensive responsibility and earn Julien’s trust, it would be quite possible he could wrestle away a third line role from Byron or Ales Hemsky, and provide another offensive weapon to be used on the second wave of the power play. Points-wise, a reasonable expectation for Hudon is 20 points but if everything goes his way, it’s possible for him to reach the 15 goal mark and as many as 15 assists.
Hudon’s chances to make the Canadiens roster out of camp will rely on his ability to balance his offensive skills with defensively responsible play.