TVA Sports recently released a list of some top undrafted free agents finishing up their junior seasons in various leagues in Canada and the US who might interest Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin as he looks to replenish his prospect cupboard for next season.
Among the names found on that list are top undrafted NCAA prospect Zach Aston-Reese from the recently eliminated Northeastern, Antoine Waked from the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, and the top scorer in the QMJHL, Tyler Boland from the Rimouski Oceanic.
There is apparently a seven team race for Aston-Reese, with Pittsburgh, Edmonton, Vancouver, Ottawa, and Philadelphia reportedly after the star forward. As for Waked, he has been linked to the Canadiens in recent weeks. But the most interesting undrafted free agent could be Boland from the Rimouski Oceanic.
Boland has emerged this season as an offensive force in the QMJHL with a 17-game points streak, a four-game goal streak on four separate occasions, as well as a six-game assist streak. In a game against Chicoutimi in January he set a personal best record by scoring four goals. Against the Quebec Ramparts in December he put up four assists. In his case it’s not a situation of him feeding off of his linemates either. He generates almost as much offence on his own as the second and third scorers on the team combined (101 points for Boland vs. 121 points combined for Dylan Montcalm and Samuel Laberge). The Oceanic are essentially eliminated from post-season play, finishing 16th in the 18 team League, with their final game of the regular season coming up on March 18th.
Boland will certainly be a highly sought-after commodity among NHL teams, and there should be multiple suitors looking to woo him. With the imposed limits on entry-level contracts the maximum earning potential is pretty much capped at $925,000 with a 10% signing bonus, offering no financial advantage between teams, save perhaps for the performance bonuses.
This is not to say that Tyler Boland can fetch these maximums, however it basically sets the baseline understanding that teams cannot overpay him in order to entice him to join their organization.
For an undrafted free agent, the choice of team comes down to player preference and this is where Marc Bergevin might have an ace up his sleeve.
When putting together a sales pitch to Boland to join the Canadiens organization, Bergevin will most certainly dangle the opportunity for him to play out the season on an Amateur Tryout with Boland’s hometown St. John’s IceCaps. The lure of starting a professional career playing in front of friends and family in Newfoundland can potentially be just enough to convince him to join the organization. Bergevin could also sweeten the deal by allowing Boland to burn the first year of his entry-level contract by bypassing the ATO and have the ELC start this season, like Bergevin did with Charlie Lindgren last season. Although that should really be a last resort negotiation tactic.
The IceCaps are in the midst of a tight race for the final playoff spot in the North Division, and the excitement of a rare playoff run at home would be a pretty hard thing to resist for anyone. In addition the IceCaps are not very deep on offensively-talented forwards, and therefore Boland should be able to immediately work his way into the lineup.
As for next season, although the IceCaps move to Laval, Boland could be slated for top line minutes in the AHL if he can translate his offensive game to the pros, and he would also be one of the few offensively-talented forwards in the Montreal Canadiens organization.
Essentially the Montreal Canadiens present an exciting short-term opportunity as well as a promising long-term one. It remains to be seen if Tyler Boland sees it the same way.
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