25 Canadiens in 25 days: Jacob De La Rose

n the ninth installment of our 25 Montreal Canadiens in 25 days series, we zero in on Swedish forward Jacob De La Rose.

De La Rose didn’t ascend to the NHL for the typical reasons other 18 and 19 year olds do. He wasn’t a top-five pick in his draft year and he wasn’t a prolific scorer at any level.

But while most teams must live with the defensive shortcomings of the young, offensively gifted players they promote, the Canadiens have never had to worry about De La Rose’s poise, nor have they had to shelter him from difficult matchups.

It’s De La Rose’s defensive awareness and commitment that compelled Montreal to draft him 34th overall in 2013 and to call him up as quickly as they did.

The fact De La Rose was prepared to make the NHL jump was largely the result of maturing in Sweden’s highly structured hockey system. He spent four years in Leksands while building an impressive international resume that included winning silver medals at both the World U18 Championship and World Junior Championship, serving as Sweden’s captain on more than one occasion.

He skates exceptionally well, works hard, plays with unabashed physicality and has an understanding of the game that’s far beyond his years. All this is why De La Rose is likely to stick in the NHL for the foreseeable future.

Who: Jacob De La Rose | No. 25 | Fourth line wing/centre (left) | 6-foot-3 | 207 pounds | @JacobdelaRose | Age: 20

Acquired: 2013 Entry Draft (34th overall)

Contract status: Three years, $925,000 AAV (expires 2018)

2014-15 Stats: 33 GP | 4 G | 2 A | 6 P | 13:47 TOI | 44.2 CF%

Career stats: 33 GP | 4 G | 2 A | 6 P | 13:47 TOI | 44.2 CF%

The book on 2014-15:
The Canadiens were under no illusions that De La Rose would immediately become a consistent scorer in his first North American season, but after he managed 11 points in 37 games with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, they felt there was enough evidence to suggest he would be just as reliable at both ends of the ice in the NHL.

The Canadiens wasted no time in testing that theory, as De La Rose was recalled in early February of 2015. By month’s end, he had shown enough for the team to keep him around. And while earning an NHL stay was an impressive achievement, earning regular playing time was the real coup.

“Lots of times young hockey players force plays, they turn pucks over,” said Canadiens coach Michel Therrien in March. “I had a chance to coach Jordan Staal at a really young age and there was some stuff in [Staal’s and De La Rose’s] games that look alike. I like the way [De La Rose] plays, I like the way he thinks.”

De La Rose clearly wasn’t intimidated by the opportunity to play in Montreal. He excelled as a shutdown forward immediately, averaging more than a shot on net per game and eclipsing 14 minutes of ice-time in 19 of his 33 regular season contests with the Canadiens. He also shined in his role on the penalty kill.

Any thought that the additions of forwards Devante Smith-Pelly, Torrey Mitchell and Brian Flynn might threaten De La Rose’s place in the lineup was dismantled as the Stanley Cup playoffs began.

De La Rose was locked into all 12 of the Canadiens’ post-season games and his ice time was respectably over the 13-minute mark in six of them.

Off-season updates:
Less than a week after the Canadiens were eliminated from the post-season, De La Rose celebrated his 20th birthday with wrist surgery.

He made his way back to Sweden on May 25.

Recovery from the successful wrist procedure was estimated at three months, so in addition to whatever rehabilitation and training De La Rose underwent, he had plenty of time to relax and enjoy himself.

A video posted by Jacob de la Rose (@delarosejacob) on Aug 10, 2015 at 5:57am PDT

The Canadiens aren’t concerned with De La Rose’s offensive output; they want to know if can take on more responsibility next season.

A successful 2015-16 season for De La Rose would be forcing his way to the centre position, where he was most effective prior to arriving in the NHL. To do that, he needs a stronger showing in the faceoff circle (he won just 40 per cent of his draws in 2014-15), though it’s conceivable his wrist injury prohibited him from working on that skill in the off-season.

It should also be noted that Montreal has considerable depth at centre, so if he doesn’t move to the middle, it’s not really a failure.

With less than 50 games of NHL experience, cementing a place on the fourth line straight out of training camp has to be De La Rose’s main objective. Barring a disastrous showing in pre-season, he is all but assured a spot in Montreal.

The question is: can De La Rose move his way up the lineup as the season rolls along? If he can, he’ll help the Canadiens overcome a weakness at left wing beyond their top two lines.

Source:: sportsnet.ca

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