Several months ago, Marc Bergevin told La Presse’s Mathias Brunet that he only expected one of the four CHL forwards the Montreal Canadiens selected in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft to be offered a contract. The organization signed one of them, Cam Hillis, to an entry-level contract on May 12. Today, just a few days ahead of the June 1 deadline to sign prospects selected in 2018, the general manager confirmed that initial statement, stating none of Allan McShane, Cole Fonstad, and Samuel Houde would be offered contracts.
Hillis was drafted the earliest of the four in question, nearly chosen in the second round before the Canadiens traded that pick and had to wait until the third. Injuries and slow starts threatened his future with the team that drafted him, but a big year in 2019-20, helped by a great partnership with Guelph Storm forward Pavel Gogolev, led to the breakout the team had been hoping for.
Despite showing signs of a similar explosion, McShane never got himself over the hump for a breakout campaign with the Oshawa Generals. Any decision on which player to sign would have been quite close between him and Hillis until the latter’s good finish to the year. In a different time with fewer prospects already in the system and many more to come from a fistful of draft picks, the franchise likely would have brought McShane in to see how he developed over a few years in th AHL.
Decisions on Fonstad and Houde were likely made earlier, as neither player really projected as an NHL player. Fonstad played his role very well for the Prince Albert Raiders last year as the WHL team went to the Memorial Cup tournament, and again this season as a member of the Everett Silvertips. Professional hockey could well be in his future, but it’s unlikely that will come with an NHL team.
Houde proved to be a slightly better goal-scorer than Fonstad while playing in the QMJHL, but he wasn’t a standout player, and even in his fourth year of Junior hockey finished second on the team in scoring — behind another Canadiens prospect who’s rights are still held for another year: Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. An over-ager when he was drafted in 2019, Harvey-Pinard may be able to join the Canadiens’ AHL team on a minor-league deal. The added flexibility makes him a much better prospect to stay invested in.
All three of McShane, Fonstad, and Houde will be eligible to re-enter the draft this summer for another chance with an NHL club. It’s even possible that the Canadiens will be the ones to take that chance, getting an additional two years to evaluate a player before needing to commit a contract spot to him. As options dwindle toward the end of the 2020 Draft, it’s possible McShane’s name is called once again to rejoin his original organization.