When the 5:00pm deadline came on June 1st and no news came out of the Canadiens camp regarding prospects Scott Walford and Jarret Tyszka, we knew that their days as members of the organization were close to over.
For those who are unaware of the situation, both players were drafted in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Walford was selected in the third round of the draft, meanwhile, Jarret Tyszka was taken by the Canadiens in the fifth round. Now, when prospects initially get selected by an NHL organization, that team has a certain amount of time to sign those players before they lose their rights.
Different leagues have different rules. For Example, Ryan Poehling, who was drafted in the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, could have returned to the NCAA for one more year, meanwhile, Joni Ikonen, who’s entering his third year in Europe, has two more seasons left in terms of his rights.
However, CHL prospects are different and the two mentioned above had June 1st 2019 as their deadline. Other members of that draft class include Josh Brook who signed in September 2018 and Cale Fleury who signed in October. Joni Ikonen remains the only prospect Montreal drafted in 2017 who doesn’t yet have an entry-level contract under his belt.
After discovering the nature behind contracts and how exactly the process works, it’s time to discuss why these two left-handed defensemen were let go by Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens.
After their rights were lost, many fans were confused as to why these prospects were not signed since there were still spots available in the organization and both filled a long-term need being left-handed shooters. After looking at the big picture and seeing the overall depth chart, it comes to no real surprise that they were climbing an uphill battle.
While the high-end depth on the left side isn’t ideal, everyone ahead of the two prospects progressed rather significantly. Victor Mete looked really good after his stint with the Rocket in Laval and you can see a long-term role for him, even if he ends up lower down in the lineup. The addition of Brett Kulak from Calgary also solidified the third pairing depth on Montreal and he looked like a good young asset down the line with a three-year contract.
If Jordie Benn were to return, then it would complicate things further. Same thing if Marc Bergevin was to add an everyday top four defensemen with years left in the tank.
Laval doesn’t look any easier to crack. The team brought back team captain Xavier Ouellet on a one-year deal and signed Otto Leskinen out of KalPa in the Liiga. Add them to that group of players like Karl Alzner (for the moment) and David Sklenicka who took strides on a smaller ice surface coming from the Czech Republic a year prior.
A forgotten name has been Gustav Oloffson who was acquired from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Will Bitten. He was mostly injured last season, but has upside and may look to get into a more regular routine in 2019-2020.
While these are the guys in the pros, there are a couple of kids with higher upside who got better and did so fast.
Alexander Romanov made a name for himself at the U20 World Junior Championships as a high flying, dynamic puck mover and finished the tournament being named the top defensemen. To add to that, Romanov looks like he is closer to making an impact in North America than previously thought. He has all the tools to be an everyday defensemen in the National Hockey League very soon.
Jordan Harris went from high school hockey to first pair minutes in a rather short time span. Let’s not forget he played for the Northeastern Huskies, the eventual Hockey East Association champions. During that time, Jordan Harris played with now New Jersey Devils defensive prospect Jeremy Davies.
With Davies gone, it looks like Harris will gain a lot more responsibility and ice time in the upcoming season. He didn’t look out of place much last year, look for him to progress the same way next season.
After naming a wide variety of defensemen who are already members of the team, there are players who could either be signed or acquired to make the pro roster or even get drafted in less than three weeks from now in Vancouver, B.C.. Scott Walford and Jarret Tyszka progressed, but not enough to surpass anyone on the depth chart. It seemed like it was gonna be an uphill battle and the slope was going to get steeper each and every year.
In the end, the Canadiens made the right decision as they usually do with these types of situations and both Walford and Tyszka have a chance of being selected again at the upcoming NHL Entry Draft at Rogers Arena. If they go undrafted, they become free agents and can sign with anyone come July 1st.