Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

The Other Players The Canadiens Have Parted Ways With

Kovalev, Komisarek and Higgins gone. Tanguay and Koivu, probably not coming back. And the supporting cast of Brisebois, Bouillon, Dandenault, Lang and Kostopoulos also unlikely to return.

This is what you knew. But it didn't end there. There are also plenty of players that never stepped on the ice for the Montreal Canadiens – ones we thought and hoped might have a chance – that have been quietly loosed behind all the fanfare.

After a quick look at this year's development camp invitees and a quick crosscheck with last year's list, I identify 5 names that the Canadiens have likely bid adieu and one other that may be on his way soon.

1. Ryan McDonagh

We all know what happened to Ryan. While some media instantly jumped to the conclusion that Ryan must have been slowing in his development, Timmins has now come and corrected that view. Trevor was actually very complimentary about the Badger player, but stated the obvious for those who missed it:
"What people don't seem to understand is that in order to get something you have to give something. Obviously [McDonagh]'s the piece of the puzzle that was needed."


2. Thomas Beauregard


I have to admit, I was hot on Beauregard as late as last autumn (proof here). While he is not gone for certain, he is an unsigned free agent of the Hamilton Bulldogs. And, I think it is notable that he is not invited to this camp.

The Canadiens were probably right to take a chance on the prolific little winger in 2007 after his 124-point campaign in the QMJHL. And they were surely pleased with his progression after last season – one that ended with a championship in Cincinnati and 9 playoff goals. But in the never-ending whirlpool that is AHL hockey, players must be evaluated quickly to stick with or make room for prospects coming through. In Thomas' case, it seems the Canadiens have seen enough to know he may not ever be NHL material. It is a shame for him, but he'd be well-advised to stick with it.


3. Philippe Paquet

Who? Well exactly. He's been on the lists for ages now (drafted in 2005). But last September, I reckoned he was the very last man on the depth chart for the Habs on D. Since that time, it's fair to say that several even younger players have leapfrogged him, while he sits steadfastly last in line.

Like Beauregard, he's not officially off the cards for Montreal. But no invite, advancing age and the fact that he's done his 4 years at University mean it's likely the end of the road. It is a shame when you imagine what the 6'3" defender from Quebec City could have meant to the Canadiens. However, one can't force a player to develop as his high school coaches (and NHL scouts) envisioned. He provides a cautionary tale about how leaving player development to various US university staffs across the continent, while it sounds sensible, is quite a gamble.


4. JP Testwuide


JP was invited to last year's rookie camp as a try-out. Originally from George Gillett's hometown of Vail (tough life), teammate of Brock Trotter (and Paul Stastny) and a brother on the team, he still has loads of reasons to be here.

But the Habs did not have to issue an awkward goodbye to the young defenceman as he signed away that privilege by joining the Houston Aeros last spring.

In my opinion, he did the right thing, since, as a repeat try-out, on a team with depth at his position and no other, probably would have to have done more than double his penalty minutes in college to crack this camp. His brother Mike, a bigger, younger and more positionally-in-demand player, will have to keep the Vail fires strong all on his own this year.


5. Alexandre Monahan


Every year the Canadiens have a combine ahead of the general NHL combine to get a sneaky look at the talent in their own backyard. It's a good idea that has borne some fruit, but none has yet ripened into an NHL player or even a tradeable asset.

Alexandre Monahan followed this very avenue to his NHL window. After a strong 38-goal 2007-08 with Victoriaville he got a well-deserved invitation to development camp 2008. Although his 2008-09 campaign wasn't poor, it seems that it didn't merit a call back from the Habs. Perhaps not surprising given this review from last season:
"Alexandre Monahan is an average skater and didn't really stand-out in the crowd which is something a try-out player has to do."

Again, it's a shame that Monahan didn't crack the nut, but in not doing so, he has in effect left a place for the next generation to have a go. In fact, if you're keeping track, there are more QMJHL try-outs this year than last. Erik Boisvert is back for a second shot and it seems Philippe Lefebvre has taken Monahan's place.


6. Nicklas Torp

The final omission from this year's development camp was pesky Swedish defenceman Niklas Torp. It is unclear what the situation is with Torp, and it may be that his explanation is innocent enough – didn't want to travel.

As a prospect, Torp probably still figures in the Canadiens wider plans. He certainly still appears on the relevant websites. To me, he is interesting since he distinguishes himself from our other defensive prospects (especially now that Valentenko is gone for good) with reviews like this:
"As a player, he stands out with his physical and aggressive play. He has good timing in his hits and loves to deliver a good check when given the opportunity. He plays somewhat dirty at times and agitates the opposing players frequently.

To me, that puts him firmly in the running for a future 5th/6th defenceman role, something that perhaps Weber, Carle or Subban would be wasted at, or that others may hopefully be too good and well paid to place there.


Apart from those 6 who made one camp but not the next, there are others. Some prospects fade into the ether (Heino-Lindberg). Others flee North America (Yannick Lehoux). And we may yet say good bye to others we know, since Hamilton's ranks have not be set for the season and free agents remain there as well – Aubin, Denis, Latendresse (O), Flinn, Kemp, Steve Gainey and Loic Lacasse.

As this camp grows and grows, there will inevitably be more players to say goodbye to year on year. While it is regrettable that we had to part, one can only say that many of them will still look back and have the memory that most of you and I don't have – that of donning the Montreal Canadiens sweater for real. Not something to sneeze at.


Those that are there

I specifically focused on the players that wouldn't be at camp this year because I was looking to fill a little niche. For one thing, I am not going to camp nor able to watch on TV so will have little to offer over those that are. Also, I've been writing about big club issues while others have treated the stories of players to be at camp thoroughly enough already.

Incidentally, if you want to read more about the development camp and the players that the Canadiens are still developing, a nice place to start is Robert L's excellent compilation of links on every player there. As for progress at the camp, scrimmage results and other minutiae (I can't believe it never occurred to me to take time off work to attend) all the normal media channels, including some of the blogs I list in the right hand column.

At a glance, the players that look quite interesting to me on the list are the two Swedes (Johansson and Engqvist), the Quebec goalie with the 22-5-0 record (Gabriel Girard) and the American tryouts Hunter Bishop and Ryan O'Byrne 2.0 (Brandon Nash).

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