MONTREAL – Jacob De La Rose joined select Canadiens company in 2014-15.
An NHL career 7,199 days in the making, De La Rose made his Canadiens debut on Feb. 3, 2015, at just 19 years and 37 weeks of age, becoming the fifth-youngest skater to suit up for the Habs since the 1987-88 season.
To put that in perspective, since the formation of the NHL in 1917, 798 players have played at least one game for the Canadiens, but only 37 skaters – less than one percent – made their Habs debuts aged 19 years old or younger.
Joining a heady list of Habs comprised of names like Beliveau, Geoffrion, and Richard, the young Swede impressed beyond his adolescent age in his rookie season, excelling in some hefty on-ice responsibilities that belied his years.
Utilized primarily as a third- and fourth-line forward by head coach Michel Therrien, De La Rose was nevertheless trusted with a variety of key defensive assignments usually reserved for more experienced players from the moment he was called up from the AHL, on Feb. 2.
Making 57.8 percent of his starts in the defensive zone, the 6-foot-3 shutdown forward saw that number climb to 62.1 percent in one-goal games with time winding down on the clock.
And for good reason.
Joining teammates Brandon Prust, Lars Eller, Dale Weise, and Devante Smith-Pelly on different line combinations during the year, trios including De La Rose allowed an average of just 0.88 goals-against per 60 minutes of even-strength play. That’s less than half of the team average of 2.10 goals-against in identical situations.
Although his reputation as exactly that type of responsible player preceded his arrival in North America last fall, the former Leksands IF product also chipped in offensively in his first 33 games with the big club.
Scoring his first two NHL goals in the same game on Feb. 26 in Columbus, De La Rose became the fifth-youngest Hab to light the lamp since the 1987-88 season – a list headed by teammate Alex Galchenyuk, who broke the ice just 20 days shy of his 19th birthday in 2013.
If the Arkiva native’s goals for the 2014-15 season were securing a full-time spot on the Habs roster while also getting acclimated to the NHL’s smaller ice surfaces following three seasons of pro hockey in Sweden, then De La Rose had a lot to be pleased with following his rookie campaign with the Canadiens.
Since booking a one-way trip to Montreal following his second call-up on Feb. 7, the speedy forward suited up for the remainder of the regular season with the Habs, as well as all 12 playoff games in his first career postseason.
Now 20, and spending the summer recovering from offseason wrist surgery, De La Rose has finally left his teen years behind and will be looking for some additional responsibilities when his sophomore season kicks off this fall.
Steven Nechay is a writer for canadiens.com
Order of selection for the 2015 NHL Draft
Road to the NHL: Jeff Petry
Learning from the best