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Jacob de la Rose’s last stand

On Sunday, the Montreal Canadiens recalled Jacob de la Rose from the s St. John’s IceCaps. Although he has spent the entire season in the AHL, de la Rose is no stranger to the Montreal Canadiens and their fans.

With this latest recall, de la Rose is potentially facing his final opportunity to prove his worth as he will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season when his entry-level contract runs out. Marc Bergevin has shown in the last few seasons he won’t necessarily re-sign all restricted free agents if he doesn’t think the player has a future with the Canadiens.

Jacob de la Rose was drafted 34th overall by the Canadiens, during the very successful 2013 draft that saw the team also draft current Canadiens Michael McCarron, Artturi Lehkonen, and Sven Andrighetto. In addition to those picks, the Habs also drafted Zachary Fucale who just won gold at the Spengler Cup for Team Canada, Jeremy Gregoire who is slowly starting to put it all together in the AHL, and the enigmatic Martin Reway, whose future is up in the air.

De la Rose remained in the SHL for the season after his draft, but he made his NHL debut in 2014-15, replacing an injured Lars Eller at centre. He ended up playing 33 games for the Canadiens, as well as 12 games during a deep playoff run. He didn’t put up many points, but looked poised to be a depth solution for the Canadiens headed into the 2015-16 season.

Instead, he was sent down to the AHL at the start of the year, and despite three recalls by the Canadiens, he only played 22 games in the NHL all year and frequently looked overwhelmed on the ice.

This year he once again started the season in the AHL, and despite a difficult start, de la Rose took off from there, becoming one of the more frequently used players by IceCaps head coach Sylvain Lefebvre. His main role was to shut down the opponent’s best players, and he is one of the few bright spots on the struggling IceCaps’ special teams.

De la Rose doesn’t boast huge offensive talent, so he shouldn’t be expected to produce very much with the Canadiens, but it’s worth noting that he is having a decent year, with 15 points in 34 games in the AHL.

Where his strength lies is in the defensive side of the puck. This is where he might be able to find his role on the Canadiens is as a dependable player who can help turn around the struggling penalty kill.

One cannot really pinpoint this drop in efficiency on recent injuries to players like Andrei Markov and Andrew Shaw, as the efficiency has been low pretty much right from the start of the season. If de la Rose hopes to establish himself on the Canadiens this season, it is imperative that this is where me makes his impact.

Projecting forward, the team will need to come up with a replacement for Tomas Plekanec who is potentially moving on next season as part of the expansion draft. Plekanec has been the Canadiens top shut down centre for many years, a role in which he has gone quietly unappreciated.  The Canadiens will need a transition plan for a specialist to take over the reigns as penalty kill pivot and that’s where the opportunity is currently available for de la Rose in the lineup going forward.

As a third year professional he will need to capitalize on the chance given, and earn himself a permanent spot on the team ahead of the expiration of his current contract. This very well could be his best, and last, chance to make an impact in the NHL with the Canadiens.

Listen to Andrew weekly on TSN 690 Radio Sundays at 8:05am on Habs Breakfast, part of Weekend Game Plan.

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