The Montreal Canadiens played their second and final scrimmage of this abbreviated pre-season on Sunday night. They had already waived nine players on Sunday afternoon, with (likely) one more move left ahead of the start of the season on Wednesdy night. The scrimmage gave them a very tough choice to make given the play of one of their young centres, Lukas Vejdemo.
Vejdemo was part of Team White in the intra-squad match, a team made up mostly of players who were just waived and those destined for the AHL or taxi squad. Yet, on a line with Laurent Dauphin and Jordan Weal, he impressed against the Canadiens’ pencilled-in opening night lineup. The strong showing is a huge deal for Vejdemo, who otherwise might have found himself in a sort of roster purgatory until the AHL season fully begins.
While Jake Evans’s strong playoff showing earned him the right to the fourth-line centre spot over Ryan Poehling and the veteran Jordan Weal, Vejdemo might be a ready-to-go option thanks to his time in Sweden. Playing for Södertälje in HockeyAllsvenskan, he compiled 10 points in 16 games, and, more importantly, got himself into actual game shape ahead of the NHL season. With a highly compressed schedule, having a player like Vejdemo who is already at full readiness could be a huge benefit to the Habs, who can slot him into the fourth line without missing a beat.
Vejdemo checks many of the same boxes that Evans does. He’s defensively responsible, can chip in offence on occasion, and in general isn’t going to hamper the team in any way. Against his teammates on Sunday, Vejdemo used his speed to create chances, and even without any points made the most of his chances to make a final impression on Claude Julien and the coaching staff.
It’s not to say that Vejdemo is a make-or-break player for the Canadiens right now. However, in a season where every little advantage can push a team to a playoff berth, it’s something Montreal will want to take advantage of. Vejdemo earned his NHL time last year, now he can further cement that status should Montreal calls his number once again.