You'd be hard pressed to find a Montreal Canadiens prospect more enigmatic than Jacob de la Rose. Often relied upon for spot duty filling in for injured players over the last few seasons, it is very hard to get a read on exactly where he is in his development. A lot of that has to do with his usage, which I'll get to shortly.
De la Rose started the season with the St. John's IceCaps in the AHL, and it was initially expected that he would stay there for the season. Of course, once the injuries began piling up in Montreal, the team had no choice but to bring him up to fill in. What followed was a very tough 22 game stint for the 20-year-old Swede.
Though he has never been the type of player to put up points in bunches, he brings other facets of his game that make him useful. He seems to always be in perfect position, plays very well in his own zone, and can handle tough assignments despite being relatively inexperienced. The coaching staff in Montreal obviously read that as the book on him, and took it to heart.
He averaged 12.3 minutes per game during his stint with the team, and with a very unflattering one assist over that time, it would be very easy to call it an utter failure. That narrative gains more support when you consider that he posted a 41.7% Corsi For at even strength. Even more so when factoring in that he posted a 38.4% Scoring Chances For.
But when you take a hard look at the situation he was placed in, you can also find it somewhat forgivable that he wasn't lighting it up. That may sound odd, but for a player that was started only 25.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone, you have to give some leeway for things like Corsi and Scoring Chance percentages. Especially when you look at who he was playing with for the most part.
One of his most frequent linemates during his time in the NHL was none other than Mike Brown. Aside from Brown, he played with a revolving door of guys including Michael McCarron, Lucas Lessio, Phillip Danault, and a host of other players. To make matters even worse, he was constantly shuffled between centre and the wing all along.
He only played in 22 games, so the fact that he played on a total of 10 different line combos is insane. A lot of that had to do with the injury problems, so it is understandable, but it's pretty obvious that the coaching staff saddled de la Rose with a little more than he could handle
He had no consistency in linemates, and none still in what position he was asked to play. The only constant for de la Rose was that he was asked to play a very defensive role, on a struggling team riddled with injuries. It was really the polar opposite of putting him in a position to succeed if I've ever seen it.
But it is hard to ignore the brutal numbers, even when you look at the situation that allowed for them to be so. You have to go even deeper, when he started very slowly with the IceCaps, and there was definite cause for concern. This was compounded by an injury that forced him out of action for 12 games.
Again, he's not a very offensive-minded player, but when he finally did start to heat up and find the scoresheet, he was called up and thrown to the wolves as illustrated above. Once he got back to the IceCaps towards the end of the year, he was still a dependable two-way forward, and contributed some scoring, but he by no means set the ice on fire.
In the interest of giving him the best chance to develop into an eventual productive NHLer, the best course of action is clearly to leave him in the AHL for an entire season next year. Give him a chance to have a little consistency at least in his surroundings and linemates, and perhaps he can show something more than he did last year.
Hopefully the rough developmental path that de la Rose has been on has some light at the end of the tunnel.