Noah Juulsen earns praise for “excellent” NHL debut

The rookie caught the eye of his head coach and the team’s top defenceman.

Selected in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, and spending the first two-thirds of the 2017-18 season in the AHL, Noah Juulsen got called up to the Montreal Canadiens after the team traded Jakub Jerabek yesterday. He made his NHL debut last night versus the New York Rangers, and didn’t wait long before getting involved.

On his first shift, he got the puck at the blue line and attempted to launch it on net. While it was blocked, he quickly pounced on the rebound to get another from the high slot.

Later in the first period, while all the Rangers forwards were watching Charles Hudon carry the puck around the offensive zone, Juulsen recognized an opportunity to get into a scoring position, and had a great chance to get his first NHL goal when Hudon found him on his way to the net, though his attempt to shovel it in was stopped by netminder Alexandar Georgiev.

In the defensive zone, he was disciplined in his positioning, with his head constantly on a swivel monitoring the offensive threats. He was a bit overly careful with a bouncing puck on one of his first shifts, waiting for it settle down completely before attempting to play it around his net, which is understandable for a player getting his first action in the big leagues.

He wasn’t so cautious when called upon to face the first wave of the Rangers’ second power play in the game, racing forward to get in front of a forward in open space, and getting the block as a result.

He was calm enough to be part of the team’s breakout, helping relay the puck up the ice. Jeff Petry was asked in an intermission interview about Juulsen’s play, and was quick to praise his patience to make a play up the middle of the ice rather than simply banking it off the glass to relieve pressure. His head coach was quite impressed with his game, as well.

He played a total of 17:!4 in his debut, including nearly three minutes of time on the penalty kill, and finished with two shots on goal and four hits. His pairing with Karl Alzner fared very well on the night, both around a Corsi-for percentage of 60%, while Juulsen actually saw slightly more ice time than his veteran partner.

Facing a Rangers team holding some of its top offensive talent out of the lineup was a good way to start an NHL career, but the task will be much tougher on Saturday should he get into the lineup to face the Tampa Bay Lightning. It will be interesting to see if he can display the same composure against such a strong team as he was able to exhibit in his debut.

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