Hayden Verbeek is an interesting prospect within the Montreal Canadiens organization. He has speed for days and relentless hustle on the ice, but without major scoring prowess to his name for most of his CHL career. This carried over into his first professional season with the Laval Rocket as well.
There were flashes of great skill, and also a honey badger mentality that always had him involved in the play in all three zones. His spectacular pace keeps opposing teams on their toes, and makes him an ideal player to kill penalties; similar to Paul Byron early in his NHL career. Despite all the speed and skill, the finish is lacking right now, but worry not, because it is more than likely that Joël Bouchard will give him every chance to develop in that regard.
Verbeek played almost exclusively in a bottom six-role for the Rocket this year, eating up defensive minutes, including on the penalty kill. This fit his skill set well allowing the 21-year-old to learn the ropes of the professional game. He wasn’t forced to play out of his depth, and that is a big help for a rookie in any league.
He thrived the most when his skating was unrestricted, able to put opposing defences on their heels. He is not a large player, standing 5’10”, but Verbeek had no fear crashing in on larger players to make plays happen in the offensive zone.
Hayden Verbeek comes flying in on the forecheck and swipes the puck from Erik Burgdoerfer, Antoine Waked finishes the play off for his first goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/qCGbU7183L— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) January 3, 2019
It is that kind of hustle on plays that coaches love, and earns young players more ice time. Verbeek is no exception. But while having the speed and never-quit attitude are great, to stay in the lineup players have to produce some offence as well. That is the current work in progress for Verbeek. He has the talent to produce, but struggled to find consistency to be a reliable source of offence this year.
His seven points in 48 games were not a lot, there is no sugarcoating that, but factoring in time lost due to various injuries, and the overall offensive output of the Rocket there are some explanations as to why that production is so low.
Starting with the positives on that front, Verbeek’s speed is the seed for that offensive growth. Once he’s blown past defenders his hands are quite good, but they’re often a step behind his feet, meaning he might be at a poor angle when he gets his chance away. When he takes his time and keeps it simple, he’s effective, and that may be the key to unlocking more of his offensive potential.
Hayden Verbeek with the nasty finish, his second goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/wvoTeiHh2U— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 1, 2019
Using his skating to weave through multiple defenders, making the goalie bite hard on a deke, then roofing his shot far side makes the above goal one of the better highlights for Laval this year, and something they’ll hope to see more often next year. He found most of his goals this season with his hard work to get to the front of the net, keeping his stick down to direct shots and passes and clean up loose rebounds, and that will remain a big part of his game.
Next year will need to be a step forward for Verbeek to keep pace as a viable prospect for Montreal. The depth coming in is going to force him to up his game or get lost in the shuffle. While his ceiling is not as high as others, he could very well find himself as a useful piece to Montreal if he can continue to improve and round out his game in the coming seasons.