Last year, a Finnish prospect taken in the second round stole the show at Montreal Canadiens development camp. In the first scrimmage of the 2018 development camp, history repeated itself.
While Joni Ikonen is hurt this year, and not taking part in on-ice activities, Jesse Ylönen had about as good of a scrimmage you can have - at least on a team that lost 2-0. After morning drills, he was able to put his skills to the test.
“Playing is why you do this,” he said after the scrimmage. “You do all the drills, all the training in order to play well.”
“I can compare myself to other players here and see where I am now and work hard to get a spot on the team in the next few years but it’s still a long way away and I have to work very hard on and off the ice.”
Ylönen is known for his skating and his skills, and both were on display. He found Vladimir Bryukvin on a beautiful feed through traffic in the first half.
The 35th overall pick then started the second period with Jesperi Kotkaniemi, and you could see the chemistry that already exists between the two. Ylönen had the puck and skated towards Kotkaniemi. He faked a drop pass which gave him a bunch of room to fire a shot that went just wide. In the same shift, Kotkaniemi made a beautiful backwards tap pass right to Ylönen who was stopped by Michael McNiven.
Ylönen’s father is former NHL player Juha Ylönen, who played 341 games for the Phoenix Coyotes (Jesse was actually born in Arizona while his father played there), Tampa Bay Lightning and Ottawa Senators.
“Montreal is one of the biggest hockey cities in the world and everyone is crazy about hockey here,” he said. “It’s the Stanley Cups, the players who played here like [Jean] Beliveau and Rocket Richard.”
What about Saku Koivu, he was asked.
“Oh yeah, Saku is very famous in Finland.”
Cale Fleury also had a really good showing on the first day of camp. He skated well, and made a few beautiful passes for his teammates despite also playing on Team White and losing 2-0.
And while the Canadiens don’t have to make a decision on some of the prospects at camp for a few years, in Fleury’s case, they do have a choice. Due to his birthday, and the fact he played three CHL seasons, he is able to play in the AHL this year despite being under 20 years old.
“It’s up to the organization,” he said. “If it was up to me I’d want to play pro somewhere so really it’s in their hands.”
Fleury went from a struggling Kootenay team to the Regina Pats last season, who not only hosted the Memorial Cup but took the eventual WHL Champions to seven games and made the final of the CHL championship.
“Playing with players like that, they are at the same level as you and trying to get to the same level as well it just helps out a lot. It makes the game easier for me and makes for a good atmosphere in the room.”
“It’s a lot of skating,” he said about the four-on-four used at camp with a laugh. “Early in Summer, it’s good to get my feet back under me after the season and start seeing the game well again.”
Notes and observations
- Samuel Harvey, McNiven and Gabriel Mollot-Hill combined for a shutout on Team Red. Mollot-Hill didn’t even allow a goal to Team White in the post-game shootout. Cayden Primeau and Etienne Marcoux didn’t allow a goal for Team White. Stephen Dhillon allowed both goals.
- Jacob Olofsson, perhaps the more forgotten second round pick of the Canadiens’ three selections, scored the opening goal. He won the faceoff to Allan McShane who went for a wrap around before Olofsson tapped it in.
- The second goal was scored by Brandon Hagel after a great cross-ice feed from T.J. Melancon.
- Jordan Harris, one of the Canadiens’ third-round picks also showed off his skating skills. Harris had a breakaway in the first half, and made a beautiful cross-ice feed to set up another chance that was stopped by Dhillon.
- Ryan Poehling is up to 205 lbs, and it shows. He looks much bigger on the ice, without affecting his mobility.
- Otto Leskinen has a booming shot, and likes to use it.
- Jesperi Kotkaniemi almost invites puck battles when holding onto the puck. I thought he looked good, if not trying to do too much. Excited to see how he’ll look the rest of the weekend.