After their worst loss of the season to the bottom-dweller Colorado Avalanche, the Montreal Canadiens sent Jacob de la Rose back down to the St. John’s IceCaps, before recalling Daniel Carr and Michael McCarron. It’s the second recall of the season for both players, with Carr already having spent the majority of the season in Montreal.
So far this season, Sven Andrighetto has been recalled six times, Chris Terry twice, and Bobby Farnham, Nikita Scherbak, and de la Rose with one apiece. Charles Hudon continues to wait for a real opportunity in his third professional season, despite being among the best scorers for the AHL farm team, and second in points to the ringers T.J. Hensick, Bud Holloway, and now Terry, for all three seasons.
Hudon had his first NHL recall in December 2015, playing in two games and registering two assists. He received a second brief recall in March, but only played one game before being sent down again despite a flurry of injuries to the team’s forwards and the season essentially lost.
His third recall was this season when he got the call in mid-November.
He performed quite well in the three games in which he played, putting up two assists and seemingly beginning to establish himself above other prospects like Andrighetto and Carr, both of whom were struggling to perform.
But luck took a turn for the worst when he broke his sternum taking a slapshot in practice. The injury ended up costing him three weeks and his spot on the Canadiens, as he was returned to the IceCaps as soon as he was cleared to play.
Then, in his third game back with the IceCaps, Hudon collided with Terry, badly twisting his ankle as a result, and went on to miss another month of playing time. A tough pill to swallow for a player who was already patiently waiting his turn to get called up to the Big Club.
Drawing a parallel from the past
There is another case in recent history of the Canadiens ignoring a top-scorer in their AHL farm team: Corey Locke.
Locke was a fourth-round pick by the Canadiens in 2003 after leading the Ontario Hockey League in goals (63), assists (88), and points (151) that season for the Ottawa 67’s. He repeated as scoring champion the following season as well (51, 67, 118), setting up his pro debut in 2004-05 with heightened expectations and promise of a talented prospect in the pipeline.
He joined the Hamilton Bulldogs for the 2004-05 season and continued his offensive prowess. He tallied a respectable 16 goals and 43 points in his rookie season, good enough for fourth in team scoring that season.
The following three seasons, he was at the top of team scoring with 59 points in 2005-06, 55 points in 2006-07, and 72 points in 2007-08. During that season, he tallied 30 goals; a personal best.
He also led the Bulldogs in points (22), during their 2007 Calder Cup conquest.
During this time, he watched players such as Andrei Kostitsyn, Maxime Lapierre, Mikhail Grabovski, Kyle Chipchura, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Ryan White leapfrog him in the eyes of the organization.
It was during the 2007-08 season that Locke earned his first call-up to the Canadiens. On December 30, two days after becoming the Bulldogs all-time leading scorer, he finally received his recall when Saku Koivu was stricken with the flu.
He flew from Toronto to New York where the Canadiens were to take on the New York Rangers. However, even though Locke arrived on time; his equipment didn’t. And so, Corey Locke had to watch his first official NHL game (he was listed on the game sheet) from the press box. He was sent down a few days later, not having tasted any game action.
On January 8, he got his shot after getting recalled that day to play against the Chicago Blackhawks. His fourth line, along with Tom Kostopoulos and Mark Streit, gave up a goal on an odd-man rush and, as a result, Locke was stapled to the bench. He had a grand total of 5:59 minutes of ice time during his debut.
He was returned to Hamilton a few days later, and never recalled again. On July 11, 2008 Locke was traded to the Minnesota Wild for hulking AHL defenceman Shawn Belle.
So, what happened?
Locke fell into the unfortunate situation of being dubbed a “small player.” Although he had the hands, hockey sense, and vision, at 5’9” he was seen as a liability on the ice. Thought to be unable to win the tough battles in the corners due to his relative lack of physical imposition.
His skating was also not the best. In a competitive five-on-five play in the NHL, Locke was easily picked off as the weak link. The Canadiens were not the only ones to have this evaluation of their high-scoring prospect. After his time with the club was over, Locke bounced around from the Wild to the Rangers, before finally landing with the Ottawa Senators.
Between all those teams, he only played nine NHL games. Despite dominating in the AHL, he was never able to establish himself on an NHL roster.
Locke currently plays in Europe for the Villacher SV of the EBEL, where he continues to overachieve. He leads the team in scoring, and is second in league scoring by one point.
He simply could not cross that threshold into the NHL.
Hudon is slightly taller than Locke, standing at 5’10”, but he is still bogged down by the “small player” stigma that the Canadiens are trying to get away from. Hudon has proven that he has decent speed, elite hands, and great play-making ability at the AHL level, but during his stints in the NHL, the team was generally hesitant to rely too much on him, limiting his ice time to around ten minutes.
That’s possibly why he’s being overlooked in favour of other players like the six-foot-six McCarron, who is better suited for bottom six physicality. The fact that the Canadiens already have small players on their roster, notably 5’7” David Desharnais and Paul Byron, is not in Hudon’s favour. Too small for bottom six, and no room on the top six.
So now he waits again, watching player after player be recalled ahead of him. All he can do is continue to score in the AHL and patiently wait his turn, hoping he doesn’t join Corey Locke as a footnote in the organization’s history.
Listen to Andrew weekly on TSN 690 Radio Sundays at 8:05am on Habs Breakfast, part of Weekend Game Plan.