As the Canadiens’ season has mercifully ended, we have another edition of Under the Radar to salute those who have performed well with little or no fanfare.
This edition is one that salutes the hard work of two young players who should feature prominently in the future.
Our first Under the Radar performer is Charles Hudon. A 2012 fifth round selection of the Canadiens, Hudon spent three full seasons developing his game in the AHL.
When drafted, the Chicoutimi and Baie-Comeau star left no doubt that he had the offensive skills that could translate to a pro game, however defensively he was a liability. In his apprenticeship under AHL head coach Sylvain Lefevbre in Hamilton and St. John’s, Hudon was able to work on his defensive game. With the Canadiens, Hudon played 72 games scoring 10 goals, 20 assists for 30 points while earning 38 penalty minutes.
In his 72 games, his defensive skills were adequate, but inconsistent. Hudon has shown himself to be a dogged puck pursuer, playing a role of pest as he buzzed around opposition players. While not the fleetest of foot, Hudon uses his vision to find the open spots on the ice.
Hudon is capable of generating offence. His 30 points in 72 games played is a modest output. He finished seventh in team scoring while being used mostly in a third line role averaging just over 14 minutes of ice time.
From my observations, Hudon helps create offense on any line he plays. Hudon has an ability to gain control of the puck and push the pace of the game. His Fenwick For at 5-on-5 is at 51.3 and his Corsi For (CF%) is at 51.22. Hudon sits in the top ten on his team in these categories, in a similar position to Tomas Plekanec and Andrew Shaw.
For his dedication to improving his two-way play and showing that player development is a process that is a long term effort that can pay off, he earns the nod as an Under the Radar Performer.
The other Under the Radar performer this edition is Noah Juulsen. The Canadiens 2015 first round selection was chosen because he was seen as a big-framed mobile puck moving defenceman who can play with some aggression. His first season as a professional has demonstrated that that assessment was true.
Juulsen began his first professional season with a strong NHL training camp, but then he suffered a broken foot while blocking a shot, missed two months. Once he was able to play, Juulsen debuted with the Laval Rocket. In 31 games, he demonstrated his gritty style of play. This earned him a late season call-up to the Canadiens.
Once with the Canadiens, 21-year-old looked like a seasoned pro who had a place in a top four NHL role. While Juulsen has had typical rookie errors in his 23 NHL games, they have been few and far in between. Juulsen is adept at using his aggressive nature and size to gain possession and to protect the puck. His poise and patience with the puck is evident as he makes quick and safe outlet passes to clear the defensive zone.
Juulsen also plays a mature defensive game, earning a top four role with Karl Alzner. Juulsen helped Alzner to improve his game, a skill that not many young defenceman can provide.
Juulsen could have untapped offensive upside. Juulsen is a capable puck mover with good vision and a solid first pass. He also has a cannon of a shot from the point. This makes him a good choice to be used on a second wave of a power-play.
Juulsen has been used effectively in all situations while averaging over 19 minutes per game in 23 NHL games played. With a solid camp next season, it is reasonable to assume that he will make the Canadiens roster. Juulsen, along with Mike Reilly and Victor Mete, provide a young, mobile group of puck-movers to rely upon next season.
This edition of Under the Radar is evidence that despite one of the worst seasons the Canadiens have had in over a decade, there is still positive points to look to. Whether Marc Bergevin meant to do so or not, there is a wave of young players capable of filling key roles on their way to the NHL. It is now simply a matter of defining their roles and giving them the time to develop into them.