The Habs had until 5 PM EST on Saturday to sign defencemen Scott Walford and Jarret Tyszka. They elected not to do so, meaning that they are no longer prospects of the organization.
Walford was Montreal’s third-round pick (68th overall) back in 2017 and was ranked 25th in our 2018-19 Prospect Rankings. While he didn’t have a particularly strong post-draft season, he bounced back quite nicely in 2018-19, posting 47 points in 62 games, finishing second on Victoria in scoring. He followed that up with seven assists in 10 playoff games. Walford even got a look in the Canada-Russia series, a sign that Hockey Canada viewed him as one of the better blueliners in the WHL. Despite that, the Habs opted to make him the second-highest CHL pick from the 2017 draft class to not be signed. (Zachary Lauzon, a Pittsburgh second rounder, also went unsigned following a pair of seasons where he had concussion issues.)
As for Tyszka, his season got off to a tough start as he suffered a concussion in Montreal’s prospect tournament back in September. He made quite an impact upon returning, picking up as many goals as he had the year before (eight) despite playing in 29 fewer games. On the season, he wound up with 30 points in 41 games with WHL Seattle and chipped in five assists in their first-round postseason exit. He was Montreal’s fifth-round pick (149th overall) in 2017 and slotted in 21st in our preseason rankings.
With Montreal not having the best prospect depth on their left side defence, it’s interesting that they didn’t opt to sign at least one of them. However, they’re already at 39 out of 50 contracts for next season with several restricted free agents to re-sign so that could have played a factor. The addition of Otto Leskinen in free agency also likely played a role in their departures.
As the Habs now have two fewer defence prospects in their organization, this likely will increase the odds of them looking to add to their group of blueliners early and often in the upcoming draft. Although they’ve selected quite a few over the past couple of seasons, they’re down to four remaining unsigned rearguards and two of those (Nikolas Koberstein and Arvid Henrikson) are in non-prospect territory.