Caufield of Dreams: Build It and He Will Come

We know that we won’t be planning for the playoffs or a Stanley Cup parade in Montreal and no, it’s not due to the Coronavirus! Fans are at each others like flies on a pile of “you know what”. Twitter is toxic. Newspapers and some radio shows are overflowing with nastiness, some of it bordering infatuation and witch hunts towards the organisation, the owner, the GM, the coach, the players, the trainer, the equipment manager, the ushers and even Youppi! NCAA seasons are coming to an end for some. European leagues are starting to wrap up their activities for others. And for some prospects, it’s decision time…

It has been reported that Marc Bergevin will be meeting with Cole Caufield and his parents this week, to look at his options and get a feel for what he wants to do for next season. Ultimately, he has only two choices:

  1. Return to Wisconsin and play one more year in the NCAA
  2. Turn Pro – today or this summer

Admittedly, I don’t follow the NCAA from very close but if I rely on my friends on Twitter, it seems like the Badgers are losing a few good players and they might not be very competitive next season. Is this an ideal situation? Likely not. Would it be detrimental to his development? Allow me to doubt it.

The second option is to sign with the Canadiens immediately. The Habs will then have the option of trying him in Montreal or send him to Laval. If they chose the second option, they might be better off signing him to a PTO and not “burn” a year on his Entry Level Contract (ECL).

The issue with the second option? Caufield is listed on the Canadiens’ website at 5-foot, 7-inches and l62 lbs. While not slow, he’s not known for his speed and would become, at the pro level, susceptible to being a target, particularly if he does well. But wouldn’t it be great to have him under Joel Bouchard in Laval for a few weeks?

Ideally

Since it looks like Wisconsin won’t be a force next season, I would sign Caufield to a PTO and send him to Laval to finish the season if for nothing else, because of the number of injuries. When the players loaned to the Habs come back down, he will be pushed down, maybe even out of the lineup… and that’s okay. Then sign his ECL this summer.

Next season, he’s at the rookie camp. That’s when the true evaluation will start. If he shows enough, you invite him to the main camp. You give him an exhibition game and if he does well, a second, maybe even a third. But as soon as he’s cut, instead of sending him to Laval, I seriously consider sending him to Sault Ste-Marie in the OHL, who own his rights. Like Suzuki last year, you give him a list of things to improve on. From there, if the Soo isn’t competitive, you request a trade, something NHL teams do regularly for their top prospects.

Why junior? To see what he can do at that level. Let him dominate against kids his age. It’s not like he was lighting the World Juniors on fire last Christmas. Mostly though, it would be a natural progression to start getting used to a tougher schedule than what he’s used to in the US. Let him grow. Let’s him develop. Let him mature. Let him be ready. Enough with rushing players. Let’s not repeat the same mistake the Edmonton Oilers have been doing the last ten years with their top prospects. Learn from that. Do what’s best for the player… but how confident is Bergevin for his job if his plan doesn’t start coming through soon? Go Habs Go!

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