The transition from the AHL to the NHL has not been as seamless as once thought it would be for Montreal Canadiens rookie Charles Hudon. With four goals and 16 points in 45 games this season, scoring has not come in bunches like it did in the minors, but head coach Claude Julien believes success is inevitable for the 23-year-old.
“Offensively, he’s getting chances. I’m convinced Charles Hudon will score goal in the future,” said Julien. “He’s a guy that’s able to score. Once he gets more confident, pucks will start going in for him, and you’ll see production from him.”
Julien’s conviction is not without reason. On Oct 30, 2017 versus the Ottawa Senators, Hudon scored just about as nice of a first NHL goal that you could ask for. In the first period, down 1-0 on the power play, defenceman Jeff Petry spotted Hudon along the boards and made a quick pass his way. Hudon received the pass and cut to the middle of the ice, making Senators’ defenceman Erik Karlsson fall, which opened the lane to skate forward. Hudon then fired a wrist shot passed goaltender Craig Anderson’s blocker short-side.
Just over 10 minutes later, Hudon received a perfectly placed slap-pass from Shea Weber off the boards and tucked a backhand under the crossbar over Anderson’s left shoulder for the second goal of his career. The chances to score have certainly been there for Hudon, but as Julien mentioned, the confidence needed to capitalize on those opportunities is not quite where it needs to be just yet.
Striving to Be All-Around Forward
This season, Hudon has 317 shots, and has been a part of 115 high dangerous scoring chances, but owns a shooting percentage of only 3.4%. Furthermore, his PDO at 5-on-5 is a mere 97.4, meaning bad luck has also played a small part in Hudon’s offensive struggles. Confidence will come with experience, so for now, Hudon is concerning himself on being an effective 200-foot player.
“Like I’ve been telling myself, the better you play in the defensive zone, the easier the offensive side of the game will become, said Hudon. “It’s just a matter of working hard.”
Hudon’s improvement in his own zone has allowed him to become an NHL player on a full-time basis. With a corsi for percentage (CF%) of 55.5% at even-strength, Hudon ranks first on the Canadiens in terms of puck possession, and his 2.8 goals against per 60 minutes is third highest among forwards playing over 12 minutes per game.
Hudon’s versatility also makes him an asset to the team. With the capacity to play centre as well as on the wing, Hudon has come in handy this season with the likes of Phillip Danault and Andrew Shaw injured. Hudon isn’t afraid to dish out a hit when need be, either. With 80 hits this season, the 5-10 Hudon does not shy away from contact, making him that much more valuable to the Canadiens.
“One thing he’s realizing is that as a hockey player, he’s really improved,” said Julien. When you talk about young players, the biggest thing is being able to play with the puck. It’s important to be able to play without the puck. Whether it be positionally, getting open to receive a pass, or to defend as well. He’s really improved in that sense.”
The type of offensive production produced in junior and the minors will likely never be replicated at the pro level for Hudon, but the Alma-native has undoubtedly found a way to be an important player on the Canadiens. With the ability to play at both ends of the rink, Hudon is serviceable in many different ways. His stat line may not be as flashy as in the past, but Julien is content with the rookie’s performance this season, and expects him to only get better from here.
“Definitely not disappointed in what Charles is giving us this year,” said Julien. “He’s playing well and creating situations where we have a chance to score, where he has a chance to score. But on the [defensive] side of the puck, he’s really improved as well. That’s a good sign for a good young player.”