When Joël Bouchard became the coach of the Laval Rocket, he brought with him a contingent of players from his old team, the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Since joining the Montreal Canadiens organization as one such player, Joël Teasdale has had very up-and-down seasons. The left-winger missed all of the 2019-20 season after suffering a knee injury preparing for his first professional year.
His second season in the professionals wasn’t quite what he expected. Teasdale didn’t make his AHL debut the way he had envisioned, with it being delayed for months due to the pandemic.
Yet, in his first professional game, on February 12 — almost a year-and-a-half after getting injured — he finally made his debut for the Rocket. He recorded a goal, an assist, and four hits. It took him a while to take to the ice in Laval but Teasdale left his mark when he did.
Sadly, his season didn’t end the way it started. Teasdale was injured on April 23 against Belleville, injuring the same knee.
Here's the injury to Joel Teasdale, which occurred in the third period of the game on April 23rd against Belleville.— Andrew Zadarnowski (@AZadarski) May 3, 2021
When Teasdale tried to get up, his knee gave out and he clearly could not put any weight on it as he returned to the bench. pic.twitter.com/7bxHuvEODp
The voting ranged from 16 to 24 — one of the narrowest spans at a spot in the countdown typically having the largest — with most panelists falling in the low teens to early 20s. He’s the first unanimous top-25 player we’ve seen in 2021.
Top 25 Under 25 History
|2020: #28||2019: #24|
He debuted in the Top 25 in his first year, but fell a few spots after missing a full season. The limited action he did see was enough to move him back up the order.
History of #19
Teasdale is a hard-working, determined player who plays the game the way most coaches love: a 200-foot, complete game. His competition level is high and during his time with Bouchard, he was used in every situation.
Most of what made Teasdale successful in Juniors was still in full display during his brief time with the Rocket. While in the QMJHL, he was an effective checker, often used on the penalty kill, and knows how to counter the opposition’s transitions. The same good habits could be seen in Laval.
He knows how to use his stick effectively, to cut passing lanes and force a disruption of the rush. He understands very well how to transform defence into offence, making smart plays and reading how each situation is developing well.
Even though Teasdale isn’t the biggest of players, he understands how to protect the puck against backpressure while using movement fakes to stay in possession of the puck longer. What’s more, Teasdale has a good strong foundation and can be quite the presence around the net, finding ways to get dirty goals.
His coach had this to say when Teasdale got hurt:
“It’s disappointing in every way,” said Bouchard, visibly disappointed. “I’ve been hurt a lot, I know that’s what, it hurts my heart. Especially with Joël who came so far and who did what he had to do and who performed. This is the good news. He’s still young, if he had a goal and two assists and a hard time playing after missing 21 months, I’d say phew. But he was able to play at a high level and I used him in every way. He’s a character guy, a hockey player, but it will be a journey again.“
As much as a good foundation Teasdale has for his presence around the net, unless you are built like a tank — or play like one — it is much harder to stand around the net long enough to beat the goaltender this close to his crease.
A lot of people might point out how Brendan Gallagher is a master at this. After all, his office is in the crease of the opposing goaltender. But even Gallagher can’t stand there for long and whenever he does, he takes a beating.
Injuries have plagued the last few development years of Teasdale and as such, it will be much harder for him to try and attempt to do the same.
What’s more, as in tradition with most prospects, his skating isn’t the best. It could be seen as average or below-average. Teasdale will have to rely on his shot, his hockey IQ and how he reads plays to keep producing points in the professional ranks.
As our colleague David St-Louis once said, Teasdale has excellent tools but will need to keep evolving and molding his game to fit a different type of play as he ascends the professional leagues.
What will be the most important for Teasdale, perhaps even more for him than others, is developing a more diverse offensive game and a great sense of anticipation. The forward is not a dominant skater in the AHL.
To reach the NHL, he will have to rely on his strong core and hands to protect the puck and cycle it between teammates. He will need to fake out his checkers, get lost in coverage, and arrive at the right time to get scoring chances from the slot to find the puck.
Translating his scoring abilities to those of a checker, hustling to get to the puck, and finding ways to feed others for scoring chances will be his bread and butter to reach the NHL.
The same can be said of the defensive side of his game. Great positioning will be a requirement for Teasdale if he wants to continue having the same impact away from the puck, as his mistakes will be more costly and he won’t be able to catch them before they transform into scoring chances for the opposition. As the game becomes faster and tougher as he gets to the AHL, and possibly NHL, a good awareness of his situation and reading the plays well will allow him to be a dependable forward.
His path to the NHL will probably come from being a reliable forward, as most coaches prize defence before offence at the NHL level.
At the end of the day, we could potentially see Teasdale reach a ceiling of a third or fourth-line winger, a bit à la Artturi Lehkonen. Responsible in his own end, able to play on the penalty kill and in tough situations, relying on him to score a few goals and probably topping out at 20-30 points.
All of this depends on if he can stay healthy long enough to keep developing and surprising people. I still believe Teasdale could surprise and probably find a way to becoming a decent third-line winger, but I think a more realistic spot would be on the fourth line where he can fill in higher in the lineup as injuries strike.