Heavy Competition at Canadiens’ Training Camp

KotkaniemiRC

Well here we have it folks. After a busy summer following a disappointing season, Canadiens’ General Manager Marc Bergevin pulled one last rabbit out of his hat by trading disgruntled captain Max Pacioretty to Las Vegas and finds himself with a good hand entering the upcoming season. In a rare September trade in the NHL, Bergevin looks like Sam Pollock with what he received in return, particularly after seeing what the Carolina Hurricanes got for Jeff Skinner and, more recently, what the Ottawa Senators received in return for Erik Karlsson. This last trade should also make Habs’ fans feel a whole lot better about receiving Shea Weber in return for P.K. Subban as well. Now that the pieces are in place, it’s show time!

This training camp promises to be one of the most competitive we’ve seen in many years in Montreal. Bergevin and his right-hand man Trevor Timmins have done a fantastic job at replenishing the pipelines of young, quality prospects and NHL-ready players, who are ready to prove that they belong. Guys at the point in their career where they can’t take their foot of the pedal because others are just as hungry as they are to take their spot… and they’re fully capable of doing it! That’s what is called a healthy competition. This forces players to compete and coach Claude Julien will appreciate that a whole lot.

What’s nice also this year is that there will be some heavy competition at all positions. Yes, even at centre! While Bergevin failed to bring in immediate help at that position over the summer, he and his management team did bring in tons of quality depth in a position of dire need and it could start paying off as early as this year, although it’s more likely to happen in a year or two. Let’s have a look at those battles and see who could come out on top.

IN OUT
Dominique Ducharme J-J Daigneault
Luke Richardson Dan Lacroix
Joel Bouchard Sylvain Lefebvre
Max Domi Max Pacioretty
Joel Armia Alex Galchenyuk
Matthew Peca Kerby Rychel
Tomas Tatar
Nick Suzuki
Xavier Ouellet
Hunter Shinkaruk
Michal Moravcik
David Sklenicka

 

CENTRE

  • AUDETTE, Daniel
  • DANAULT, Phillip
  • DE LA ROSE, Jacob
  • DROUIN, Jonathan
  • FROESE, Byron
  • KOTKANIEMI, Jesperi
  • McCARRON, Michael
  • PECA, Matthew
  • PLEKANEC, Tomas
  • SUZUKI, Nick

From last season:

  1. Drouin
  2. Danault
  3. Plekanec
  4. Froese / De la Rose

Drouin, Danault and Plekanec are shoe-ins. Peca was acquired for the NHL and De la Rose is NHL ready. Froese is in a position to lose his spot from last year, replaced by Peca in the depth chart. In my humble opinion, I would return big Mike McCarron to the wing. Youngsters Kotkaniemi and Suzuki would need the camp of a lifetime in order to crack the line-up this upcoming season, but it would be a mistake to count them out at this point as both have offensive flair matched only by Drouin at that position.

TatarSuzukiLV
Newcomers Tomas Tatar and Nick Suzuki

WING

  • ADDISON, Jeremiah
  • AGOSTINO, Kenny
  • ALAIN, Alexandre
  • ARMIA, Joel
  • BITTEN, William
  • BYRON, Paul
  • CHAPUT, Michael
  • DESLAURIERS, Nicolas
  • DOMI, Max
  • GALLAGHER, Brendan
  • HUDON, Charles
  • LEHKONEN, Artturi
  • PEZZETTA, Michael
  • SCHERBAK, Nikita
  • SHAW, Andrew
  • SHINKARUK, Hunter
  • TATAR, Tomas
  • VEJDEMO, Lukas
  • WAKED, Antoine
  • WARD, Joel

From last season:

  1. (Pacioretty) – Gallagher
  2. (Galchenyuk) – Shaw
  3. Byron – Lehkonen
  4. Hudon – Deslauriers

Unlike your traditional media, I prefer talking about a Top-9 forward group instead of a Top-6, particularly in a star-deprived line-up like the Canadiens’. In my humble opinion, they will try to have three balanced offensive lines who can contribute by committee to compensate for their lack of sniper(s). Newcomers Max Domi and Tomas Tatar, acquired in the off-season, are guaranteed a spot on the Top-9, replacing Pacioretty and Galchenyuk. It doesn’t look like Shaw and Byron will be ready to start the season, giving two guys a chance to prove themselves early on. It could look something like this:

  • Domi – Gallagher
  • Tatar – Armia
  • Lehkonen – Scherbak
  • Hudon – Shinkaruk
  • Deslauriers – Addison – McCarron (if moved to the wing)

The organisation is hoping that Scherbak is ready to take the next step. Charles Hudon showed flashes of what he can do and will be looking for more consistency, with the help of his mentor Plekanec, who took him under his wing last season. I kind of like the fact that Armia is flying under the radar for Habs’ fans and media as he will open many people’s eyes this season. People forget that he was third string behind Blake Wheeler and Patrik Laine on right-wing in Winnipeg, and the Canadiens don’t have that quality or right-wingers after Gallagher. Chaput, Agostino, Bitten, Pezzetta and Vejdemo will be pushing hard to make an impression and any of them could very well sneak in there. My personal dark horse is Jeremiah Addison, but I really liked what I’ve seen from Vejdemo and Bitten at rookie camp.

Ouellet
Xavier Ouellet

DEFENSE

  • ALZNER, Karl
  • BENN, Jordie
  • BROOK, Josh
  • DESPRÉS, Simon
  • FLEURY, Cale
  • JUULSEN, Noah
  • LERNOUT, Brett
  • METE, Victor
  • MORAVCIK, Michal
  • OUELLET, Xavier
  • PETRY, Jeff
  • REILLY, Mike
  • SCHLEMKO, David
  • SKLENICKA, David
  • TAORMINA, Matt
  • VALIEV, Rinat
  • WEBER, Shea

Just as it did last season, the absence of Shea Weber will give someone an opportunity to showcase what they can do. At the end of last season, it was something like this:

  1. Reilly – Petry
  2. Mete – Benn
  3. Alzner – Juulsen
  4. Schlemko – Lernout

Only Petry, Alzner and Benn are pretty much guaranteed a spot to start the season. Schlemko has the most to lose as many youngsters are showing signs of being ready to contribute in the NHL, with Reilly and Mete starting a couple of strides ahead of the others. Juulsen did well with Alzner at the end of last year but don’t count out Brent Lernout folks. Rinat Valiev will be pushing hard and we’ve heard a lot of good about the two Czechs Moravcik and Sklenicka. Let’s not forget that Matt Taormina had 52 points in 63 games with the Rockets, finishing second on the team in points! Then you have Xavier Ouellet and Simon Després with NHL experience and lots of talent. That’s a lot of healthy competition and some will likely force the hand of GM Bergevin to trade in order to make room for the most deserving. Yes folks, it will be an improved defense over last year.

Lindgren
Charlie Lindgren

GOALIES

  • LINDGREN, Charlie
  • NIEMI, Antti
  • PRICE, Carey

Price says that he’s in the best shape of his life and wants to make amend. That doesn’t look good for those trying to put the puck behind him and it’s reassuring to both fans and the team. Yes, the Canadiens signed Niemi, who did well backing up Price at the end of last year, but it would be a huge mistake to count Charlie Lindgren out. He is NHL ready and it wouldn’t be a stretch to see him steal the spot of backup. Although, it’s also possible that even if he beats Niemi to the job, he could start the season in Laval to get more games. It’s the old dilemma: is it better for a goalie to be a backup in the NHL or a starter in the AHL?

Yes folks, the on-ice preparation for the 2018-2019 NHL season is starting and players, coaches, management and fans are chomping at the bit to see what will pan out comes October and who will be in the line-up on October 3rd in Toronto for the season opener. One thing is for sure: the competition will be intense. Enjoy the ride folks, your team will be competitive and will provide an effort unmatched in recent years. Go Habs Go!

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Heavy Competition at Canadiens’ Training Camp

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.