by Kathy K.,  Managing Editor, All Habs Hockey Magazine

MONTREAL, QC—After a lockout-shortened year whose hectic pace offered little time on the itinerary for new faces to make their way into the lineup, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk both managed to pierce their way through, becoming the first young rookie duo to join the existing squad out of camp since Chris Higgins and Tomas Plekanec after the last lockout.  As curtain call draws near for this year’s full edition of the Montreal Canadiens’ training camp, I paused for a moment of reflection with Hockey Prospect scout Jérôme Bérubé to take in the surprises and the works-in-progress. We looked at this year’s batch of prospects and where they have matched up in terms of expectations for them at the time they were drafted, and where they could still match up in the team’s plans in the future.

What are some of your thoughts about the Habs’ 2013 draft class? Who were you most excited to get a first look at?

That’s easy: Sven Andrighetto.  Hockey Prospect has been keeping an eye on him for a couple of years now [as he went undrafted in his first year of eligibility] and think he has been vastly underrated. But he is a personal favourite of mine. Seeing how he stacks up with the Bulldogs should be interesting. Now, if Michael McCarron develops in the way that the Canadiens hope he does, he is a long-term project that could become a real asset. He’s going to have an impact in his own style, but I think the Milan Lucic comparison is quite a bit of a stretch. We’ll see in a good four years or so…

Photo: Kathy K., All Habs Hockey Magazine
Canadiens’ defensive prospect Michael McCarron. Photo: Kathy K., All Habs Hockey Magazine

Name someone at camp that has been right on par with your expectations.

Probably Jarred Tinordi. His training camp has shown a boost in confidence with the puck compared to what we saw last year. There has been another, more obvious difference: his physical play (good news for the Canadiens, with Emelin hurt)! After getting his feet wet in London, he became extremely physical and we expect him to do the same at the NHL level. He tends to be a bit underrated just by his style—he’s not flashy like a Nathan Beaulieu, he doesn’t put up a lot of offense on the board, but he’s a winner, a leader and the rest will follow in due time. The quickness in which he developed at his previous level bodes well for the Habs.

What do you make of the whole Louis Leblanc debacle?

Expectations have been his biggest problem since he got drafted. Media, fans, everyone went through the roof when they called his name that day, and his potential was always just to be a useful, versatile forward and not the next big superstar prodigy that everyone was waiting for. Injuries have also been a factor in holding him back a little. But he’s only 22, he’s not a lost cause. A change of scenery might be ideal for him.  He needs to come into his own at the AHL level.

What skills do Martin Reway, Charles Hudon, and Zachary Fucale need to utilize or improve on before reaching the professional level?

Without Drouin, MacKinnon and a lot of the veteran leadership that left after winning the Memorial Cup, Fucale will be considered the backbone of the Halifax Mooseheads. He needs to adjust to that role, first of all. The mental side of the game is what separates elite goaltenders from the rest.  His focus is unflappable and needs to stay that way. Second, on the technical side, I would say his glove hand is maybe a weakness of his that needs improvement.  Charles Hudon needs to keep getting stronger and faster, and for him, good health is a priority. As captain of the Saguenéens this year, he needs to add to the level of dominance in the “Q” that he has built over the last three seasons. Same for Reway, who also needs to work on being consistent.

Who of the remaining invitees had the best camp and deserves to stay?

Michaël Bournival, along with Tinordi, has done very well for himself in camp. He is an incredibly smart two-way hockey player who understands his role and, in a sense, has become what Leblanc was supposed to be. He can play centre or any role on the line that you give him. He is versatile, he can score goals, he is an excellent penalty-killer that utilizes his speed very well and anticipates the play. He has taken full advantage of any opportunities given to him in training camp and is making a case for himself. Other guys on NHL contracts will probably have the upper hand on him, but he is making that decision tough on the Canadiens.

Who of the remaining invitees probably wants a do-over?

I don’t think Gabriel Dumont has had a bad camp, but he has not had the same fight in him. I was mainly disappointed because I have been a fan of his since his junior days and thought he had a legitimate chance to make it this year. His agitator self was missing. I’m used to him playing more on the edge and in the face of his opponents. If he makes it—back to the lineup or back to the Bulldogs—he needs to get back to basics and play the hard-nosed way he always has. That way, he’ll have his spot.

Let’s talk defensive prospects, Bulldogs, Nailers or otherwise.

Nathan Beaulieu. Photo by Kathy K., All Habs Hockey Magazine
Nathan Beaulieu. Photo by Kathy K., All Habs Hockey Magazine

I think Nathan Beaulieu is a highly-skilled player, but decision-making has always been his biggest problem. He is a great skater who is excellent on the powerplay, and his ability to move the puck is one of his biggest attributes. Under pressure, though, those skills become minimized.  Darren Dietz is a bit of a late bloomer who had an unbelievable year with the Saskatoon Blades last season. He has a very intriguing package of skating ability mixed with size and toughness. He has great offensive potential, too. I’m looking forward to seeing how he fares with the Bulldogs this season, because I thought he had a good camp in Montreal. Magnus Nygren is a player who came with a great reputation from the Swedish Elite League [where he was the league’s best defenseman], so he comes in a little more experienced, but needs more adjustment time [in regards to] playing in a smaller rink, where he struggled a little with the Canadiens. He has good potential as a puck-moving defenseman, and has a hell of a shot from the point on the powerplay. Dalton Thrower had a great year the year he was drafted, but his play fell off a little bit with Saskatoon after that. The Bulldogs might not have room for him, but he has a late birthday, so he has the option of playing as an overager with the Vancouver Giants [where his rights were traded to over the summer] under a good coach in Don Hay, or turning pro via the ECHL ranks. Greg Pateryn unfortunately was injured in the middle of what I thought was a good showing at camp. He is a little older than the others, and it showed in camp as he kept his game simple with little to no mistakes. His injury might force him to start with the Bulldogs, but he has an underrated physical defensive style of play that could earn him a call-up.

 

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All Habs Hockey Magazine offers year-long coverage of the Montreal Canadiens as well as their coveted prospects.  Keep up with this year’s edition of the Hamilton Bulldogs as well as future Habs currently suiting up in the Canadian Hockey League right here at AllHabs.net.

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