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2019 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: #10 Noah Juulsen

Some big-name prospects are right on his tail. Can Juulsen hold on to his place in the organization?

Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens

Noah Juulsen’s career after being picked in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft has had a multitude of ups and downs. Various injuries have slowed down some aspects of his development in recent years, but when fully healthy he makes it very clear why he’s the most NHL-ready of the right handed defensive prospects.

Birthplace: Surrey, British Columbia, Canada
Date of Birth: April 2, 1997
Drafted: 2015 (26th overall)
Shoots: Right
Position: Defence
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 193 lbs.
Team: Montreal Canadiens (NHL)/Laval Rocket (AHL)

After a tough rookie year between the struggling Montreal Canadiens and basement-dwelling Laval Rocket, Juulsen was a prime candidate to establish himself on the Habs’ blue line behind Shea Weber and Jeff Petry. The former’s injury threw the door wide open for the young defender, giving him the chance to play higher up in the lineup and prove his worth.

He contributed moderately in his time with the Canadiens, a stint that lasted just 21 games before he was assigned to Laval, then sat out due to a lingering injury.

On November 19, Juulsen took two pucks to the face against the Washington Capitals. One was blocked by his visor, but the other deflected off his stick and cut him open, forcing him from the game with what was diagnosed as a facial fracture.

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He played four games after that, averaging around 15 minutes per night, but looked a bit off. He was sent to the Rocket for a refresh, similar to the plan for Victor Mete , who was going through a few struggles at the same time.

Juulsen played three games, leaving the last one with an unknown injury, later attributed to the facial injury. The fracture had created an issue that was affecting his vision, and for the safety of the player, Juulsen was essentially shut down for the year; a disappointing end for him after such a hopeful beginning.

His five points in 21 games is nothing to scoff at, especially when consideting he was thrust into a top-four role on defence. It should be something he can improve on even further at the NHL level this year.

Voting

Voting was pretty even across the board for the most part, with Juulsen ranking from just inside the top 10 to the mid-teens among the staff.

Top 25 Under 25 History

He steadily rose up the rankings after making his debut at 17th in 2015. Hitting a peak of seventh, he has faded slightly as he’s earned time in the NHL, with low production and persistent health concerns preventing him from keeping pace with new additions.

History of #10

Year #10
Year #10
2018 Charlie Lindgren
2017 Jacob de la Rose
2016 Michael McCarron
2015 Michael McCarron
2014 Charles Hudon
2013 Charles Hudon
2012 Sebastian Collberg
2011 Jarred Tinordi
2010 Dustin Boyd

Strengths

Above all else, he has been a reliable presence on every team he has played for in his hockey career. He can easily chew up defensive assignments, something he did while paired with Karl Alzner in his rookie season. He has the ability to take over as a puck-mover, carrying the play out of his own end and beginning the transition play. He isn’t fancy in that regard, keeping it simple to advance the puck along as opposed to Mete who bolts down the ice in a flash.

The part of Juulsen’s game that is most apparent to anyone watching is his command of the physical game, which he plays with a purpose. He reads incoming plays and gets himself into a position where he can step into a bodycheck and separate the puck form its carrier. He doesn’t leave his feet and still doles out a heavy physical toll when he connects. It’s everything coaches and fans love to see from a big blue-liner.

His offensive ability is a secondary trait compared to his defensive play. He is never going to be counted on to be an offensive producer, but he brings a steadying presence to the pairing he is deployed in. That doesn’t mean he’s not capable of creating points or goals; he has a capable slapshot that he could utilize more going forward. Some secondary production the back up what those farther up lineup are contributing is what Montreal is truly looking for from the 22-year-old.

Weaknesses

The biggest area of concern has been his ability to stay healthy for an entire season. He missed a major chunk of time in his final WHL season, playing just 49 games, and dealt with concussion issues throughout his Junior career. He played a combined 54 contests between the NHL and AHL his rookie year. Injuries held him to just 24 total games this past season between both pro leagues.

Missing so much time will be having an adverse effect on his development as a whole, and the biggest concern is that the nerve issues from his facial fracture could recur in the future. Assuming he is fully healed up and ready to go, his biggest challenge will be staying on the ice for as many games as he can.

In terms of his actual play, there are times when he can become a bit too aggressive when stepping up for a hit, which leaves his partner in no man’s land in the defensive zone. He tends to read the play well, but sometimes can stand to choose a better outlet with the puck when the short pass isn’t available. Both are part of the maturation process at the professional level, that should be corected with time and coaching.

Projection

Noah Juulsen is entrenched in one of the more hotly contested battles heading into training camp. He is behind Shea Weber and Jeff Petry on the depth chart, but will face competition from Christian Folin, Josh Brook and Cale Fleury in the weeks leading up the the new season. Juulsen has more experience than the latter two, but both have shown that they have more to offer on the offensive side of things. Folin became a steady presence in place of Juulsen and Mikey Reilly late in the Canadiens season, and may very likely have the inside track as a result.

Juulsen has all the tools to become a solid middle-pairing option at the NHL level, he just has to smooth out some of his rougher edges and perform over a full season to show the Canadiens’ brass why he was worth picking in the first round four years ago. Staying healthy and adding to his offensive production are the biggest steps he can take to increase his odds of sticking, especially with Fleury and Brook right on his tail.

Given the serious injury a season ago, it would not be shocking to see Juulsen spend a short stint with Joël Bouchard in Laval playing big minutes to get back up to game speed. That shouldn’t be a great concern for his development should it come to pass, but it could mean one of the other prospects gets the same opportunity he received at the start of the 2018-19 season.