Brossard, QC. — We’ve been waiting for this all summer — the first taste of Canadiens action. It was just the opening of rookie camp — the guys on the main roster don’t arrive until Friday — but it was still a thrill to see players wearing the CH on Brossard ice.
There were some new faces attending camp on a try-out basis, players like Jordon Southorn, Ben Winnett and Phillip Desimone. The latter two are former teammates of Max Pacioretty when the Canadiens forward played for Sioux Falls and the University of Michigan. Born in Montreal, Southorn is a physical defenseman drafted in the fourth round of the 2008 draft by the Buffalo Sabres.
Some familiar faces looked different. Dustin Walsh has filled out his 6-foot-3 frame adding about 15 pounds. Walsh has always had good hands and a keen hockey sense but seems poised to add a new physical dimension to his game.
Following a series of drills, fans descended into the arena seats and it was time for a Red-White scrimmage. Louis Leblanc, who wore a non-contact jersey in the drills sat out of the game along with Olivier Fortier. Both are recovering from shoulder injuries.
After two twenty-five minute periods, Brendon Nash’s Team White beat Aaron Palushaj’s Team Red 3-2.
Alain Berger, scored twice for the Whites including the game winner. Defenseman Darren Dietz had the other goal for the White side driving to the net to pot a rebound following an Alexander Avtsin shot. Olivier Dame-Malka and Hunter Bishop had the goals for Team Red.
While Berger had a pair of goals, he benefited from some shaky goaltending from Peter Delmas and Robert Mayer. The star of the game was Dietz who was strong defensively but also showed that he has an offensive side to his game. He chose his spots wisely jumping into the offense to create opportunites and draw defenders.
It was a treat to watch Avtsin and Brendan Gallagher, particularly the few occasions that they played on the same line. Each of them was a threat to score on every shift — holding the puck, creating scoring chances and turning defensemen inside out. Avtsin also played a strong game in his own zone.
Philip Desimone (C) — On the ice, Desimone looks like a slightly bigger version of Aaron Palushaj, including a similar stride.
Ben Winnett (C) — He seems determined to make the most of the try-out opportunity, giving full effort on every shift. Frankly, it’s surprising that all players at this level don’t play this way.
Ian Schultz (RW) — It would seem that Schultz did not improve his fitness level and conditioning over the summer. Each stride is an effort and he seems quite winded after short shifts.
Robin Gusse (G) — The Rouyn-Noranda goaltender is very generously listed by the Canadiens at 5-foot-11. He is a small goaltender who plays smaller.