This past season saw big steps forward for a lot of young players in the Montreal Canadiens organization. Max Domi rocketed himself into star status on the team, Victor Mete provided strong play on defence, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi put forth a great effort in his rookie year.
For Charles Hudon, however, it was a major step back. and one that may have moved him right outside of the Habs’ radar.
The soon-to-be 25-year-old played just 32 games in his sophomore year, down from 72 in 2017-18, and his stats took a nosedive as well. With a respectable 30 points in his rookie year, it seemed he would be poised to do even better. Yet, he tallied just five points in his games, and looked generally lost on the ice, particularly in his role as a fourth-line winger.
Claude Julien needed more defensive stoutness from that line, but by the end of the year, the trio of Nicolas Deslauriers, Matthew Peca, and Hudon were all sitting in the press box while Nate Thompson and Jordan Weal ran the show. It is a tough pill for Hudon, who above all else stated he just wanted to play hockey, and wants to do so in Montreal. Unless he can iron out his defensive issues, he will be hard-pressed to crack the lineup to start next season.
What makes his situation sting the most is that Hudon was one of the very few NHL-calibre players developed in the Canadiens’ AHL system under Sylvain Lefebvre. Outside of the him, the only other two players who immediately come to mind are Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn, both of whom serve mainly as sixth or seventh defenders these days. So if Hudon were to depart in the off-season, the current iteration of the Canadiens will potentially have zero players that they developed through their own farm system prior to Joël Bouchard taking over.
I say potentially only because Noah Juulsen and Charlie Lindgren could possibly be on the NHL roster next year. That is six years of players, and next to nothing to show for it at the NHL level, which is beyond unacceptable.
Regardless, once in the NHL, it is up to the player to make the most of his opportunity. In his initial brief call-ups, Hudon did just that, then followed it up with a solid rookie year. Now, where his future lies is anyone’s guess. He’s not guaranteed an NHL spot in Montreal next year, though Marc Bergevin stated he wasn’t giving up on the Quebec native.
The options are slim with Hudon heading into free agency. The Canadiens can qualify him, and sign him to another cheap deal. They can let him go unqualified and try to bring him back on a two-way contract to save money should they try to assign him to the AHL at any point. Or they can simply walk away, allowing him to become to a free agent.
It seems that both sides want to make something work in Montreal, so it would not be surprising to see a one-year deal, though a team in need of a depth forward with offensive skill could easily come in and scoop him up.
One of the few actual products still in Montreal from a half decade of poor development, it would be disappointing to see Hudon leave the organization. It is one thing to have a few players left from the AHL on the roster, but having none at all is a poor look for the Canadiens. At the same time, his performance this past year didn’t force management to keep him on the roster next year.
It was not the season Hudon wanted, and it most certainly was not the season the Canadiens were hoping for. He could bounce back next year, and he certainly has the talent to do so, but there’s a significant chance that that doesn’t happen in the Montreal Canadiens organization.