The Montreal Canadiens had a busy offseason signing and trading for players that should make a huge difference to their 2020-21 season success. That doesn’t mean prospects and players who are coming on strong through the system won’t be pivotal parts of the overall roster. Continuing to look at the most likely call-ups for individual NHL franchises, this go-round focuses on a Canadiens team who might fill in holes as the organization tries to take a big step in the standings.
Ryan Poehling, C
6’2″, 203 lbs, 21 years old
Ryan Poehling has several of the tools needed to become a good NHLer. He made a big splash in his NHL debut scoring three goals (a fourth in the shootout), and he proved that he can be a scoring threat at the NHL level despite being known more for his play away from the puck.
Following his debut and over the next 27 games, his total point output didn’t match his first game and that was a real disappointment after some early buzz. That’s not all on him however as a concussion and injuries slowed his progress at the start of the 2019-20 season. He was called up in November where he started to show flashes of the future player he could be.
He’s projected to be a depth guy but the amount of players he’ll be competing with for a job stand in his way of making him a shoe-in for NHL duty. If he commits to improving, uses his size, his hockey sense and awareness to continue the play, he could do more than struggle to meet heightened expectations.
Cale Fleury, D
6’1″, 203 lbs, 22 years old.
The younger brother of Hurricanes defenseman Haydn Fleury, Cale is looking to make a name for himself in the NHL. While he has a good chance at making the team out of training camp, if he doesn’t, he is likely high on the list of potential call-ups.
Fleury already has a fair amount of experience at the NHL level as he actually made the team out of camp this past season. He played in 41 games with the Canadiens before he was re-assigned to Laval in late January, much to the disappointment of many Canadiens fans who had hoped that he would stay with the big club for the rest of the season.
He has been described as a “Big, physical right-shooting defender who plays a steady defensive style”, while also showing his ability to be a skilled offensive defender with a steady hand who can hold his own on any defensive pairing. He can play big minutes at even strength, while also working the power play and penalty kill, combined with his skating and shot makes him the ideal all-around defenseman that the Canadiens can use as a reliable call-up to bolster the blue line.
Fleury lost his confidence during the second half of his time with the Canadiens last season and the team sent him back to Laval to continue his development. He’s got a good shot at getting some time with the big club this season but the added pieces on the Canadiens blue line could make for a small window of opportunity.
Alex Belzile, RW
6’0″, 192 lbs, 29 years old.
An older player at 29, Beliziel is looking for any opportunity to get the chance to play in the NHL. He went undrafted before signing a one-year contract with the Gwinnett Gladiators of the ECHL in 2012-13 to start his professional career and he e later earned a tryout with the Hamilton Bulldogs, the former AHL affiliate of the Canadiens where he appeared in 14 games before being released.
Belzile bounced around through the Alaska Aces, Idaho Steelheads, Fort Wayne Komets, San Antonio Rampage, Colorado Eagles, and back to the Rampage before finally landing with the Laval Rocket in July 2018. He tallied 54 points in 74 games before earning his first NHL contract in May 2019. He appeared in his first NHL game at the age of 28 during this past season’s playoffs.
A potential call-up with veteran experience and leadership, Belzile could provide depth at the forward position in case of injuries or just to provide a spark on the fourth line.
With other players in Laval such as, Xavier Ouellet, Cayden Primeau, Noah Juulsen, and Joseph Blandisi the Canadiens have a well-stocked farm team of players ready to step into roles anytime they are needed.
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