We’re happy to fill your off-season with stimulating content. Here are some things to think about before training camp begins.
MONTREAL, QC. — With training camp nearly one month away, Montreal Canadiens fans can start getting excited for their club’s new season. This upcoming training camp will certainly be very intriguing as the Habs’ lineup seems deeper than in previous years. There will be a lot of players fighting for a few spots, and there are some question marks on regular starting players.
Here’s what’s at stake:
1. Max Pacioretty
Although a healthy Max Pacioretty automatically slots in the Habs top line, will he be ready for season start? Pacioretty has suffered an injury in early July and is projected to be back in time for pre-season. The Habs’ top scorer has been known for his quick recoveries, but anyone that has been around the hockey world knows that having a limited training camp can be disastrous for the upcoming season. Will he be able to pick up right where he left off when he comes back from his injury or will he have a difficult season? I personally think that he will have an inevitable slow start to the season, but that he will get his pace back in November.
2. Alex Semin
The former elite goal-scorer is coming to Montreal in a short term contract trying to prove to detractors that he still belongs in the NHL. Known for his deadly wrist shot, Semin’s injuries (especially one to his wrist) have slowed him down. He says that he is back in good shape and the Habs certainly hope that he is telling the truth. At his best, Semin is capable of scoring a lot of goals, something that the Canadiens dearly lacked last season. I personally think that, if used in the right way, Semin can at least get close to the 20-goals mark this season.
3. The battle of the bottom-6
The Canadiens are very deep in their potential bottom-6 player pool. Lars Eller, Zach Kassian, Jacob de la Rose, Torrey Mitchell, Devante Smith-Pelly, Brian Flynn, Dale Weise have bounced all around the Habs’ lineup last season. In this next training camp, they will have to fight for a spot with young players such as Charles Hudon, Sven Andrighetto, Daniel Carr and a rather unknown player in Bud Holloway.
4. Zack Kassian
This is a former highly prized prospect that didn’t pan out in two teams. He is coming into his third team very quietly and with the expectations very low. He was acquired in a trade for Brandon Prust and many expect him to play a similar role to Prust’s in his time with the Canadiens. The problem is that Kassian is not the same type of player as Brandon Prust, and his ceiling is much higher. At age 24, this is Kassian’s last chance to prove why he was a first round selection in the 2009 NHL entry draft. He will not drop his gloves very often, but he plays a tough type of hockey. Zack Kassian proved in his junior days that he has a touch for scoring and setting up plays. He is definitely a dark horse for the most surprising player of the season. He could potentially be an excellent partner for Lars Eller on the third line, as both are big and strong skaters. I think this is a trade that will get talked about a lot more during the course of the season.
5. Bud Holloway
Many have pegged Bud Holloway as a possible player to make the team out of training camp. Holloway, 27, is an average sized forward that has played most of his career in Europe. He has notably led the Swedish Elite League in scoring in 2012-2013. He helped his team win the championship with a 70-point season. That is an extremely high total for the SEL. His 70 points topped the league’s scorers, ten points ahead of now Avalanche forward Carl Soderberg, and no one in the league has broken the 50-point mark except theses two and Holloway’s linemate Joakim Lindstrom. Holloway is known for his excellent offensive capabilities, but he is also responsible in his own zone. He is also described as a player with a very good work ethic and leadership qualities.
6. Depth, also on defense
The defensive core seems to be stable with P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and Jeff Petry as the Big Three. The three remaining spots will seemingly be filled up by three of these following defensemen: Nathan Beaulieu, Alexei Emelin, Alexei Emelin, Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn.
7. Nathan Beaulieu
Beaulieu improved the most last season as he was able to grab a regular spot on the Habs lineup. In my opinion, his spot will be his to lose in this upcoming training camp. If he plays like he can and shows good work ethic in practices, he will definitely be a starter on opening day.
8. Alexei Emelin
There were plenty of trade rumors circulating around Emelin and it seems that he will be starting the season with the Canadiens. Emelin had a very rough season last year and seemed to have regressed from where he was a couple years ago. This will have to be a redemption year for him if he wants to stay in Montreal.
9. Jarred Tinordi
His father has openly come out to say that Jarred deserves a spot on the Canadiens defense, and this may be the determining season for Tinordi. At 23 years old, he feels like he should be in the NHL, whether it’d be with Montreal or another team. To make the Habs defense, he will have to impress in training camp to surpass players like Tom Gilbert and even Greg Pateryn. That means that this training camp could determine if he will ever be a Habs player again. I have always said that the Canadiens have to be patient with Tinordi, but he is going to have to show signs of improvement this season as the time is running out.
10. Greg Pateryn
Greg Pateryn was nothing short of solid in last year’s playoff when he was asked to step in. He was a physical and stable force in the back end and he will have, once again, a chance to prove his worth. I personally loved what I’ve seen of Pateryn and I tend to think that he is what the Habs need in their bottom pairing. He does not have a very high potential, but he is already a stable player that the Habs could develop into an excellent defensive defenseman.
There are plenty of other possibilities and openings for a surprise player in this training camp and I wouldn’t be surprised if a player like Daniel Carr steals a starting spot or if Mark Barberio impresses enough to be in the battle for the 7th defenseman spot. In this slow part of the off-season, theses are a few things to get pumped up for while waiting for the players to arrive in town.