Thrown to the wolves as a rookie first to replace an injured Lars Eller, and then to play on his wing in 2014-15, it seemed unlikely that any time Jacob de la Rose spent in the NHL in the 2015-16 season could be worse.
Coming off wrist surgery during the off-season, de la Rose began the year quite slowly in Saint John’s, where he had been named one of the team’s alternate captains. Unfortunately, he missed a total of 12 games to three different injuries, and was out for most of November as a result.
By the end of December, and through the beginning of the new year, with his injuries finally behind him, he began to pick up some momentum, and it seemed like the scoring part of his two-way game might finally be making an appearance. He was promptly called back up to the Montreal Canadiens on the 15th of January.
On a team already decimated by injuries and plagued with abysmal luck, de la Rose spent his time in the NHL with the likes of Mike Brown, Torrey Mitchell, Brian Flynn, Michael McCarron and Phillip Danault. Seeing a grand total of 274 minutes over 22 games, de la Rose put up a lone assist on a Dale Weise goal before being sent back down to the AHL in April.
After his return to the AHL, he picked up more or less where he left off, ending the year with seven goals and seven assists in a total of 34 games with the IceCaps.
De la Rose’s votes were fairly consistent, and all within the top 25, with the lowest vote coming in at 23, and the highest at 12. The community vote had him ranked one higher than his placement at 14.
Top 25 Under 25 History
De la Rose made his T25U25 debut in 2013, and rose all the way to sixth last year, but now appears at 15th. Now that there’s a sizeable sample of NHL experience, his ranking in now based more on performance than potential. Combine that with a few prospects who have leapfrogged him in the depth chart, and some quality draftees this summer, it adds up a big drop for the young Swede.
The maturity he has shown in his time with the team is still very much present. Touted as an excellent two-way player in his draft year, his defensive game is definitely the most valuable part of his skill-set at the moment, and though he has struggled with his relative inexperience in the NHL, his defensive awareness and positioning stand him in good stead.
He is a fantastic skater, with an effortless stride, and that’s a good base to develop a defensive game from. He’ll always be able to recover into a good position defensively and shadow his check wherever he happens to go, and has the ability to switch from defence to offence in a hurry.
While his play is perhaps not as efficient as it could be, he does give everything he has on every shift. His work ethic has already been impressive enough to earn him a longer NHL stint than the majority of draftees will ever see, and will be a vital trait for his profressional development.
De la Rose has shown glimpses of scoring ability in his time with the organization, though his offensive numbers — throughout his entire hockey career — leave something to be desired. He exhibited signs of improvement in the AHL this year, but even so, one would hope to see a little more consistency in the minor leagues from a second-round pick, even with the injuries.
In the NHL, de la Rose has been plagued with a rather impressively bad run of linemates and deployment, so his limited output there ought to be considered with a grain of salt, but even in the AHL he’s not exactly an offensive powerhouse.
It seems to be the case that he was rushed into the NHL before he was ready, and that could have a long-lasting impact on his ability to develop properly in the lower leagues. He has the underlying traits to improve as a hockey player, so only time will tell how much of an effect his abrupt introduction to the world’s top league will have had on him.
There is no denying that de la Rose has struggled over the past few seasons, but it is important to remember that he is only 21, and has yet to have been placed in position for any kind of success.
It seems fair to say that he will be able to become a serviceable NHLer in the future on the strength of his defensive abilities alone, though he would likely benefit from an uninterrupted season in the AHL to really develop his pro game first.
That could be seen as a step backward by de la Rose, who may think less that he’s working on his game in the AHL and more that he’s not playing in the NHL.
With his size and his speed, his defensive game should develop well. Should his offensive output pick up, he has the potential to become a well-rounded player.