Home Feature Avtsin Dazzles at Habs Development Camp

Avtsin Dazzles at Habs Development Camp


by Rick Stephens, AllHabs.net

Photo by Kathy K | All Habs

BROSSARD, QC.– Day three at the Habs Development Camp ended with another cross-ice scrimmage matching the Red Team against White. The game took place in one zone bounded by the blue line and the end boards. Two goalies guarded the nets but the skaters were free to score on either goal.

The warm-up saw players compete one-on-one. Shifts were short, at about 30 seconds. Pairings were random which led to some interesting matchups — Brendan Gallagher, very generously listed at 5’8″ vs. all 6’6″ of Jarred Tinordi was a crowd favorite.

A scrimmage for the day’s bragging rights was up next following the same format but adding a skater to each side. In tight confines, and with players able to score at either end, it was a spirited affair. The 2-on-2 competition was physical, and featured some highlight reel goals.

Danny Kristo used his speed to push towards one goal, hotly chased by two defenders. Kristo then stopped on a dime, reversed his direction and skated to the opposite goal were he beat netminder Aaron Dell.

In one shift (yes, one shift), Alexander Avtsin scored three times — it was magical. After the game, Avtsin was congratulated as the star with a high-five from Tinordi. The pair along with Kristo led Team White to the victory. Team Red, including Gabriel Dumont, Alain Berger and Ian Schultz hit the ice for push-ups.

Photo by Kathy K | All Habs

Avtsin is clearly the most skilled player at the camp. His strength is a perfect blend of speed, size and skill. Avtsin’s skating and puck-handling abilities help him to excel at protecting the puck from defenders.

His first season at the AHL-level didn’t quite go as planned. Avtsin suffered a shoulder injury early in the year and found himself in-and-out of the lineup with a series of nagging injuries. As an offensive threat, he needs to get regular playing time to get in a scoring groove.

There was also an adjustment period as he adapted to a smaller ice surface and the transition to a new culture. The Canadiens organization does many things well, but isn’t at the top of the league in providing off-ice support to young players particularly those who are facing language issues. In those circumstances a lull in his development was to be expected.

Quick hits

  • Alain Berger (LW) — Good size and shot.  So far he is tough to read — alternates between flashes of excellent play to struggling.
  • Steve Quailer (LW) — Player with biggest jump up the performance ladder over last year. He is bigger, stronger and plays a more gritty style.
  • Joe Stejskal (D) — Plays with an edge and competes hard for pucks and space. Will be a good addition to Hamilton as a stay-at-home defenseman.
  • Morgan Ellis (D) — Good positioning, smart player, active stick combined with leadership qualities.

Do you have a player or issue that you would like All Habs to keep an eye on during development camp? Please tell us in the comment section.

To see all the photos from Canadiens Development Camp – Session 1 visit the All Habs Facebook page. Be sure to click “Like” when you get there!


  1. Great to hear Avtsin is standing out, he seemed to have struggled last season (i know , he was teenager, injured and no english), hopefully he will get more ice time with Boyd/Dawes gone and Palusaj and/or Engqvist possibly making the big club in fall.

    Ellis should be a Gorges type player in the end eh?

    How does the QMJHL d-man on amature try out look?

    How does Nattenin look? AHL ready?

    • You’re right about Avtsin, Don. He has exceptional talent and its incumbent on the organization to ensure that he gets much more ice-time to help his development.

      Gorges is a good comparable for Ellis (I’ve used that one myself in the past.) He is not blessed with as much talent as others but he more that makes up for it with heart and intelligent plays.

      Olivier Dame-Malka is known for his shot but hasn’t done anything noteworthy during the camp.

      I will address Nattinen in today’s camp wrap-up.

      • Thanks for info.

        Is there any hint that Conboy or Shultz will ever have the skating ability to make NHL?

        Love their size and grit, but if cant forecheck/backcheck effectively on the 3rd/4th line they are probably of very little value, other than career AHL depth players.

        Conboy seemed to show a bit of offense last year, but i am not sure how much ice time he saw, nor what role the 2 Randy’s had him play?
        And Shultz was a stand-out at camp, but hurt his shoulder and maybe that plus the jump in calibre of play affected his production?

        • Hi Don,
          You’re right about the size and grit being a potential asset for these two players. Conboy is a very good skater, and has speed for a guy with size. Schultz doesn’t have the skating skill but should be able to use his size to battle for pucks and to go to the front of the net. I’d simply like to see more effort on Schultz’s part.

  2. With the ill-advised trading of Ryan O’Byrne, my interest in this development camp begins (but does not end) with Jarred Tinordi. I am looking forward to his progress reports so I can get a sense of how far away his first NHL appearance might be. Then I can dream of the day that the Habs jettison such old, slow and non-physical defensemen as Gill, Hamrlik and Spacek.

    • You’re right Leo. There is now huge pressure on Tinordi to rush through his development path to fill the hole created by jettisoning Ryan O’Byrne. Two of Gauthier’s worst trades were Ryan O’Byrne and Sergei Kostitsyn, both caused by a stubborn coach’s refusal to use their talents. Tinordi is one of the dominant players at camp but he is still a long way away from stepping into a NHL lineup.

    • If Bornival turns out well, we may forgive Gauthier for OByrne trade. I forgot to ask how he looks at camp?
      And lack of scoring and not defense is what sunk the Habs this year (same as last year vs Philly with being shut-out 3 times).
      Be nice to see Bornival make the Canadian Junior team this time around and he is guaranteed to play in memorial cup next spring at least.

      Gallagher has his own coach coaching the national team, so i dont know if that is good for him, or not, as Hay make bend over backwards to not show favoritism for his own player?? But he wont get cut due to size factor only, for sure, 91 points in WHL, on a weak team is very good!

      I would of traded Sergai for a bag of pucks (which is what we ended up with) and even Trotz supposedly had to have some one-on-one motivational talks with Sergai this year (rumour/fact?)

      • Don,
        Lack of scoring was certainly a symptom that needed to be addressed, but what was the cause? With Jacques Martin’s reluctance to use Ryan O’Byrne and to a lesser extent, Yannick Weber, the Canadiens had a slow, non-physical defense who didn’t move the puck to the forwards very effectively. The problem was exacerbated by Martin’s system which meant the Habs spent more time in their own end, and further exposed the weaknesses of the defense. JM’s solution was to bring the forwards deeper back to help out (you may have heard him preach “five in the frame.”)

        Two things happened. Forwards spent much more time defending = less time and energy to create offense. Secondly, smaller, speedy, skilled forwards are more likely to score on the rush from transition. If those same forwards are playing deeper there are fewer opportunities for stretch/breakout passes. When the system does not match the talents of your players, offense is stifled.

        • Exactly. Montreal’s forwards had to often-times abandon their offensive interests in favour of racing back to help out the old men on D.

          Offensive breakouts turned into dump-and-changes because of the D’s inability to get the puck to forwards in flight.

          And, most of all, Montreal’s D, outside of Subban and Wisniewski, were almost invisible in the opponent’s end. Even when Hal Gill, for example, dared to venture into enemy territory, he was very reluctant to direct the puck at the net. In fact, Yannick Weber took more shots in 41 games than Gill did in 75.

          It’s fine to have a veteran, stay-at-home defenseman or two, but not more than half of your defensive roster.

      • Even if Trotz had only one motivational talk with Sergei, it’s more than SK got from his old coach in Montreal. Trotz succeeded where Martin disinterestedly failed, as SK was Nashville’s leading goal scorer and point-getter. On a team as offensively-challenged as Montreal was and has often been, SK’s 23 goals this year would’ve been most welcome.

        It was a similar story in Colorado, where O’Byrne was coached-up into a top 4 defenseman slot by Joe Sacco of all people. The handling of Obie was another of Martin’s failures. I have not seen nor heard anything about Bournival that would suggest that he will ever be O’Byrne’s equal, let alone his superior. I’ll be surprised if Montreal ultimately gets the better of that deal. I guess we’ll have to stay tuned.

        Despite the changes coming via the draft and free agency, Montreal’s biggest weakness will remain what it has been since 1992 when Pat Burns was let go: behind the bench.

  3. Rick – I’m really liking your coverage of the development camp. We don’t seem to find many other thorough examinations of the up and coming crop of prospects as we are finding here. Keep up the good work; I’ll be here soaking it all in 🙂

    • Thanks Nathan. I appreciate the compliment!

      The mainstream sports media seems to have abandoned the Habs development camp — the only one there daily is Marc Antoine Godin from La Presse.

    • Good question DR. Goalie prospects take more time to evaluate so you can expect something on them published at the end of the week. So far, I like what I see from Aaron Dell and Chris Rawlings.

  4. Thank you for the lick to this article, I has missed it! I hope management starts giving more support to kids they bring over so they fit in better and faster. Maybe Avtsin is the kind of player that needs to play with other top line players to be effective.
    Now I am hoping that Nattinen is almost ready. He is big and from what I have read, wins on average 64% of his faceoffs. The Hbs could use that. I read an interesting story of how the Habs aquired Jarvis and how Bowman really wanted him because he was so good on draws. The Habs finally have a few bigger centres, it is nice to see!

    On a different note, now may be the best time for the Habs to trade for LeCavalier if they ever will. Tampa needs to sign Stamkos so it would make sense for Tampa to trade LeCavalier for Gomez and maybe Trotter and a 3rd round pick. Gomez will free up about $3 million in cap space this season for Tampa and his contract only runs 3 more years and his actual salasry drops to $4 million next season. If he has a better year, they may be able to trade him at the deadline or next summer to a team that needs to get to the cap floor.

    I am not sure Montreal needs to take on his big contract, but ti would give them the local Star they desire and he is a model citizen along the lines of Beliveau!


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