For the first time in his career, Jesperi Kotkaniemi will be playing in the minors as the Canadiens announced that they’ve assigned the 19-year-old to Laval of the AHL. TVA Sports’ Renaud Lavoie notes (Twitter link) that this isn’t just a quick demotion to keep him in game shape but that he’ll be down there indefinitely. Kotkaniemi is eligible to play at 19 in the minors since he wasn’t drafted out of the CHL.
The number three pick in 2018 has struggled considerably in his sophomore NHL season. He has just eight points (6-2-8) through 36 games this year while his average ice time has dipped to just 13 minutes a night. That production is well off the pace of his rookie campaign where he picked up 34 points (11-23-34) as the youngest player in the league.
This is the second straight day that Montreal, a team that appears all but destined to be a seller, has sent a young player to the minors as defenseman Cale Fleury was demoted on Friday. Considering both players were healthy scratches on Thursday, it’s an opportunity for more ice time in the short-term but if the Canadiens move out some of their expiring contracts, both Fleury and Kotkaniemi’s AHL time may be short-lived.