Brossard, QC. — People of all ages streamed into the seats in the first two days of rookie camp to take in a short scrimmage — Habs fans are hockey-starved. The players seem to feed off the energy in the building with the inter-squad games being spirited affairs. But the reality is that patience is the key emotion when viewing propects — for most it will be years before they find their way into the Canadiens line-up, if at all.
Of the players at this rookie camp, the most NHL-ready is defenseman Brendon Nash. Last year, in his first season with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Nash vaulted up the depth chart with a strong rookie performance even earning himself a two-game call-up with the Canadiens. While Nash has size, he is not overly physical — his strengths are passing, poise and decision-making.
Nash should find himself with top defense-pairing minutes in Hamilton this season including special team’s duty. However, Nash finds himself with a full slate of defensemen at the NHL-level ahead of him, and will have to compete with Raphael Diaz and Mark Mitera for a spot if the Canadiens run into injury trouble with their rearguards.
All of the media attention has been on Aaron Palushaj, the 5-foot-11 winger, who was obtained 18 months ago from the St. Louis Blues for Matt D’Agostini. While Palushaj had a brief three-game call-up with the Canadiens last season, D’Agostini played in all 82 games for the Blues scoring 21 goals. Palushaj may not feel pressure of the comparison but he certainly is talking like a player who expects to make the Habs roster this season.
“I’d be disappointed for sure,” said Palushaj. “My goal is to make the team out of camp this year.”
So far, Palushaj’s performance at rookie camp was been quite underwhelming. He is the kind of player who typifies the phrase, “he’s everywhere but going nowhere.” Palushaj will join Andreas Engqvist, his prime competitor for the Habs roster spot, at the main camp starting this weekend.
The Day two rookie scrimmage was a much more feisty affair featuring a quicker pace and an increase in physical play. Etienne Brodeur opened the scoring for Team Red after Philip Desimone did some fine work to dig the puck and feed his winger. Scoring chances dried up during the rest of the 25 minute period with close checking taking over — Dustin Walsh had the best chance ringing a shot off the post.
The second was markedly more open but was a very one-sided period.
Gabriel Dumont partly fanned on his slapshot but it trickled through the pads of goaltender Peter Delmas to put Team Red ahead by two. The next goal was more worthy of the highlight reel with Nathan Beaulieu scoring a beautiful goal to make it 3-0 for the Reds. Walsh closed out the scoring giving the red-shirted rookies a 4-0 win with Delmas giving up all three goals in the period.
Olivier Archambault had a good game for the Reds, but player of this game was Walsh who seemed to be at the center of the action. Alexander Avtsin, Alain Berger and Brendan Gallagher created the most scoring chances for Team White.
Joonas Nattinen, Louis Leblanc and Olivier Fortier did not participate in the scrimmage.
Hunter Bishop (LW) — He was the most successful forward at the faceoff dot, winning the majority of his draws.
Morgan Ellis (D) — The Cape Breton defenseman had an unspectacular but solid game. He made solid, safe decisions and moved the puck well to clear the defensive zone.