Canadiens Rookie camp is just around the corner. 31 players are invited in all.
While I'm sure you'll all get your fill of PK Subban highlights and Louis Leblanc worship elsewhere, I wanted to offer a look beyond to some of the more unfamiliar names involved with this upcoming camp.
The way I see it, the camp for rookies is multi-tiered. For players of the required age who have already played for the Bulldogs and the Canadiens, this camp is a warm-up. For returning players not already ensconced in the organization's own plans, it is the chance to jump up the depth chart, and for first-timers it's both a try-out and the opportunity to learn what separates them from pros like Subban, Weber and the gang.
Canadiens and Bulldogs
Andrew Conboy, Dany Masse, Ben Maxwell, Max Pacioretty, Aaron Palushaj, Ryan White, Frederic St. Denis, PK Subban, Yannick Weber
These players have some places already sewn up. The very fact they are present at this rookie camp should mean that barring a disaster they will be at the main camp as well. Main camp is where they must shine. Underwhelm here, though, and it's a strike on the count.
Alexander Avstin, Hunter Bishop, Gabriel Dumont, Andreas Engqvist, Olivier Fortier, Louis Leblanc, Philippe Lefebvre, Dustin Walsh, Joe Stejskal, Robert Mayer
This group contains some of the more interesting names of the whole group. Leblanc and Avtsin top many lists of course, but let's not also forget that Robert Mayer is 4th on the whole organization's depth chart (2 injuries away from NHL duty).
For me the name of the group is Olivier Fortier. He's a rare QMJHL draft pick, and a Quebecois one to boot. Not only that, he's a Team Canada U18 alum. The story recently on Fortier has been injuries. An injury cause him to miss the Canadian U20 tryouts and last season an injury cost him the entire year. He's been pegged as a two-way centre, largely because he won an award to acknowledge his all-around play in the Q, but that might slight him.
In the book I was reading on scouting, Gare Joyce went out of his way to praise the young 17-year-old in his draft year, noting his on-ice intelligence was paired with off-ice academic prowess. If hockey is to be a career for Fortier, he will have to show intelligence and perseverance, just like anyone else. Where others might have trouble, Olivier already has lots of adversity to call on. I think he'll be an interesting one to watch.
The first looks - Draftees
Brendan Gallagher, Ian Schultz (StL), Morgan Ellis, Brandon Nash, Jarred Tinordi
It will be interesting to see how these junior players will stack up. But this probably isn't the year any one of them takes the Canadiens fandom by storm.
The first looks - Free agents
Kyle Klubertanz (Djurgardens)
This guy is more interesting than the draftees to me simply because he wasn't drafted. The move to earn an NHL contract from an undrafted position impresses me a lot more than being selected in the late rounds. Klubertanz had to perform well against men in the Swedish league to get a look at this camp. Last season was a breakout for Kyle, as he was 5th in defencemen scoring in the SEL. Prior to that, however, he was a drafted player and went a bit David Fischer for the Ducks. Unlike Fischer, he never had a 6 point season, however. And, as the Canadiens will know from watching Ryan McDonagh played a big role for Wisconsin in 2007-08.
The first looks - Try-outs
Jonathan Brunelle (Drummondville, dev’t camp), Sebastien Bisaillon (Kassel), Marc-Antoine Desnoyers (Drummondville, dev’t camp), Nicolas Champion (Rouyn-Noranda), Peter Delmas (Halifax)
Call it the Voltigeurs season-opening camp. Or maybe Habs goalie search 2010. This group of players is actually the most interesting of all the groups for me.
First, there's Jonathan Brunelle who played for Drummonville last season and was eligible for the draft but went overlooked. He actually ignored Don Cherry's advice, went to the draft and heard 210+ names but not his own.
The Canadiens used one of their now infamous 8th round picks to claim another Quebecer off the floor. What they have here is anyone's guess at the moment. But at the least they have a decent-sized forward who has played on a team with most of their other French-Canadian prospects. He himself went from 7 goal, 19-point man to 23 goal, 49-point man after he turned 17. If history is any guide, he might emulate Gabriel Dumont and become a scoring star in the QMJHL at 18. It can't hurt to have him in the wings.
Desnoyers is Brunelle's teammate, and teammate of Phil Lefebvre and Gabriel Dumont. Like them, he's a former companion of Dany Masse. 5 season in the Q, there aren't many he hasn't played with. His draft year he played with Mathieu Carle on the Titan and so has been on the radar for at least a few seasons. DesnoyersVoltigeurs. A Guy Boucher player and a local talent, he's another with a bit of intrigue.
Sebastien Bisaillon is the other defenceman. He's no spring chicken and not an unknown. In fact, he was an Oilers prospect for a while and even played for the NHL club. Comparisons were made by Oilers people to Marc-Andre Bergeron, so you get the idea.
Finally, the goalies. This time it's Halifax's Peter Delmas (a former Avalanche pick) and Nicolas Champion (a small undrafted goalie). Delmas is an interesting case as he was a second-rounder only two years ago for the Avs (a team not exactly stacked between the pipes). In 2008, he was a hot commodity for a while, and ended up the 5th goalie taken in his draft. He's slipped a bit, so I think the Habs are hoping for a rebound on his part. Given the organization's depth, he may not have to rebound too high to earn a contract. Champion is the better statistical guy. But he's small and we know how that hurts a goalie's career prospects. Since his draft (undrafted), he's gone the other way improving season by season. And last year, he put up some great totals by QMJHL standards. His play after his trade from Acadie-Bathurst to the contending Rouyn-Noranda Huskies was eye-opening. He usurped the number one role at once and posted 16 wins with a healthy 0.911 SV% (which is good if you've ever seen a QMJHL defence).
Mac Bennett, Michael Cichy, Danny Kristo, Steve Quailer, Patrick Johnson, Mark MacMillan, Scott Kishel, Greg Pateryn
This group contains some of the more ineteresting prospects, or as we like to call then now, trade bait.Kristo is one of the team's top prospects and will be missed at this camp.
Petteri Simila (came to dev’t camp), Joonas Nattinen (came to dev’t camp), Maxim Trunev, John Westin (came to dev’t camp)
Apart from those with legitimate roadblocks, there were a few players who either weren't invited or didn't accept to attend. All are Europeans, so have actually begun playing (camps and such). Still, if making the NHL is a goal, it must be pursued wholeheartedly. I give a pass to Westin as an 18-year-old. At the very least Nattinen and Simila visited Montreal once this off-season, even if I do feel Simila's failed Niagara experiment is the end of the road for him with the Habs. Trunev was not expected as he's under KHL contract, but as time ticks on his road to Montreal only gets harder and harder. i'm ot sure who's been advising him, but no camps and KHL contracts - that's the way to play right out of the equations.
Tanner House, Myles Harvey, Thomas Baumle, Jean-Christophe Blanchard, Riley Gill, Francois Brisebois, Joseph Quattrocchi
The last group are those that tried out at development camps but didn't get this invitation. Four (Baumle, Blanchard, Gill and Q) are goalies, giving you all some idea about the trouble Montreal is having establishing some depth at this position.