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Canadiens send Sergachev back to OHL — and five rookies could be joining him in junior

The Canadiens sent Mikhail Sergachev back to the OHL, but he’s not the only junior-eligible rookie facing a demotion. The Islanders and Coyotes each have a pair of players who could be heading back to junior.

Mikhail Sergachev’s pre-season performance had the Montreal Canadiens hopeful about the 18-year-old’s ability to perform on the NHL stage, but a successful start to the season hasn’t seen the Habs in need of a fill-in on the back end and now the young rearguard finds himself heading back to the OHL.

It was announced Monday that Sergachev has been returned to the Windsor Spitfires after he appeared in just three of the Canadiens’ first nine games and averaged little more than 10 minutes per outing, which is a minuscule amount of ice time for a defenseman. During his stay in Montreal, Sergachev managed two shots on goal, but he failed to find the score sheet.

Sending Sergachev back to the OHL isn’t altogether surprising, especially given he’s only months removed from being selected by the Canadiens ninth-overall in the 2016 draft, and Sergachev can use the time in junior to grow further. He was the NHL’s youngest rookie when he remained on the Canadiens’ roster, and more seasoning in the OHL definitely won’t hurt his game.

Sergachev can also take some comfort in the fact he’s not alone. Pierre-Luc Dubois, the third-overall pick in the June draft, was sent back to the QMJHL by the Columbus Blue Jackets in early October despite belief he could crack the roster, and the New Jersey Devils sent Blake Speers back to the OHL after he got a three-game look to start the season.

There are several more players who could be joining Sergachev in junior in the near future, too, especially with the magical nine-game, burn-a-year-of-entry-level-contract mark approaching.

Anthony Beauvillier, New York Islanders

The portion of Islanders fans who considered Beauvillier among the youngsters who would make the biggest impression early in the season is likely slim, yet the 19-year-old has managed to turn some heads during his stay in the Brooklyn. After eight games, he has one goal and five points and he certainly hasn’t been a bad addition to the bottom-six.

What works against Beauvillier, though, is that he’s just not getting the minutes to make it worth keeping him in the NHL. Through eight games, he’s averaged 11:23 in ice time. Even though he’s coming off of a pair of top-six games — 16-plus minutes against the Canadiens and Blues — he wouldn’t suffer from more time in the QMJHL.

The Islanders have to decide soon. Beauvillier’s potential 10th game would be Thursday against the Flyers, and if he suits up twice this week, one year of his entry-level deal will be through.

Dylan Strome, Arizona Coyotes

It’s somewhat of a shocker to even be considering a junior demotion for Strome, 19, but the Coyotes don’t have the luxury of being able to send him down to the AHL. The fact is, though, it doesn’t look like there’s much of a place for him in the Arizona lineup for the time being.

He was a healthy scratch in the Coyotes’ opener, but got into the lineup for the second game of the campaign. He skated 14:13 in his NHL debut, which was followed by 13:23 in his second career outing and 10:41 in his third game. Since then, he has been a healthy scratch in each of the past four games, this despite the fact have lost all but one of those games.

Strome has destroyed the OHL over the past two seasons, posting 82 goals and 240 points in 124 games. Sending him back to junior might not do a whole lot for his development, but neither will having him sit in the press box and watch.

Lawson Crouse, Arizona Coyotes

Lest one think Arizona finds themselves on this list twice because of prospect mismanagement, rest assured that it’s merely because of the sheer number of young players that the Coyotes will have some tough decisions to make. One of those decisions will be about the fate of Crouse.

It really seemed like he might have a shot at earning a spot on the Coyotes after the trade that brought him to the desert from the Panthers, but 2015’s 11th-overall pick hasn’t really found favor in the lineup. Twice this season he has skated less than six minutes, and his biggest night saw him earn 11 minutes of ice time. Pair that with no points in five games and maybe Crouse just needs one more year before taking the next step.

It’s disappointing, no doubt, but if Crouse, 19, can show he’s a dominant scorer again in the OHL, then maybe he has a renewed confidence and can become an impact player for the Coyotes come next season.

Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders

Some would have considered Barzal a dark horse for the Calder Trophy, but at this point he seems a dark horse to even crack the Islanders’ lineup on a nightly basis. In nine games, he has played a whopping 19:30, hasn’t registered a point or shot on goal and — for what it’s worth — is a minus-two.

While Beauvillier isn’t necessarily a lock to stay with the Islanders, that he has a greater chance than Barzal comes as quite the surprise. Simply put, Barzal hasn’t been able to find his way into the lineup and coach Jack Capuano seemingly hasn’t seen reason to insert the 19-year-old into his squad.

A lot was, and still is, expected of Barzal down the line, but that might be best left for down the line. If he’s not going to play for the Islanders, maybe he’s best left getting a shot to produce in the WHL and work on the areas of his game that New York wants to see him improve.

Thomas Chabot, Ottawa Senators

Seven minutes. In eight possible games, Chabot has seen the ice in one contest and for seven total minutes. He was scratched for three games to start the year, made a one-off appearance against the Coyotes, finished as a minus-2 in 7:09 of action and hasn’t seen the Senators’ lineup since.

At this point, it seems a near certainty that Chabot will be sent back to junior with the only question being why Ottawa hasn’t sent the youngster back yet. 

If he’s not going to play for the Senators, it doesn’t make much sense to keep him around, especially because his development is probably better served with him logging big minutes and playing an integral part in a team’s day-to-day. Like all five aforementioned players, Chabot could take the advice of the coaching staff and management back to the QMJHL and work on honing his game. He simply has to have the chance to do so, though.

He has had three stellar seasons in the QMJHL, and there’s no shame in a young defenseman being sent back. Unless there’s a plan for him to get into action or an unknown underlying issue, it seems only a matter of time before Chabot finds himself back with the Saint John Sea Dogs.

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