In the past two years the Montreal Canadiens have seen their prospect pool grow in depth and overall quality. Players like Nick Suzuki, Josh Brook and Ryan Poehling garner all the headlines, but there is further quality hidden beneath the upper crust of prospects.
For someone like Lukas Vejdemo it isn’t easy to grab the same attention, but as his rookie season in the American Hockey League has gone on, he has given fans plenty of reason to not forget about him.
Originally drafted 87th overall in 2015, Vejdemo spent three years after that playing in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), steadily improving his overall professional game, even if he his point totals fluctuated up and down. After his best year in the SHL where he collected 10 goals and 12 assists in 47 games, Vejdemo made his way to North America to join the Canadiens organization.
A quiet pre-season led to Vejdemo being assigned to the AHL’s Laval Rocket to start the 2018-2019 season. While he had a clause that allowed him to go back to Sweden if he chose to, Vejdemo opted to stay and play for new head coach Joël Bouchard in Laval. Like many young players he would have to earn his spot in the lineup, and with a number of veterans ahead of him, Vejdemo started the year in Laval’s bottom six.
It was an unremarkable start for the rookie. With just two points in his first month of play it looked like he was mainly a defensive forward for the Rocket. That was for good reason, even with his lack of production, Vejdemo became Bouchard’s defensive centre of choice with big penalty kill and defensive zone starts. Even with those assignments, the young Swede found a way to create chances with smart stick-work and positioning, it was only a matter of time before the points happened.
Then during a four-games-in six-day stretch in November that is exactly what happened for Vejdemo. He compiled six points in those games. What’s more is that nothing about his game changed, he just found his finishing touch to match his smart play on the ice.
Lukas Vejdemo steals the puck from Mason Marchment and snipes his second goal of the game pic.twitter.com/wUE3saLOB4— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) November 14, 2018
Then his offence, along with the Rocket’s as a whole went absent. It made sense given the team lost two of it’s best offensive forwards to NHL recalls, and then subsequently lost them on waivers or in trades. A young team had a major hurdle to clear, but that’s when Vejdemo began to step up once again.
In the past two months Bouchard has leaned on a Vejdemo and Jake Evans to anchor his top two lines and it has paid off up to this point. Evans has put himself in the upper echelon of rookie scoring, while Vejdemo has become a versatile two way forward with the offence flowing once again.
In Vejdemo’s last 13 games, he has seven goals to his name in addition to four assists, a near point-per-game pace. He is getting into the dirty areas to clean up rebounds, but also showing great skill with some flashy breakaway goals as well.
Lukas Vejdemo finishes the breakaway for his 9th goal of the year. pic.twitter.com/iQ7gMUhFOX— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 1, 2019
Currently the rookie Swede has 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists) in 62 games played, which is not setting the world on fire, but Vejdemo’s game has never been about big point production. It is important to qualify this with the fact he is the de-facto leader on the penalty kill, and in defensive situations. Now, he is also the forward Bouchard is sending out in key offensive situations as well, a nice bit of growth from the start of the year.
This recent offensive outburst should serve as a reminder to not write off some older prospects due to an influx of shiny new toys joining the professional ranks. Suzuki and Poehling among others are going to be massive additions soon, but players like Vejdemo are building blocks and equally important. With Montreal looking to find an answer for their woeful fourth line this year, a player like Vejdemo could easily surprise going through training camp and the preseason next year.
He isn’t the flashiest player on the ice, but Vejdemo is proving why he deserves to stay in the prospect spotlight with his rookie season.