Brossard, QC. — Training camp is an opportunity for fans to get looks at young players who don’t have the same familiarity as a Plekanec, Subban and Price. When camp buzz builds about a particular prospect, it’s predictable that the question is asked, “Do you think that he can make the Canadiens line-up this season?” For a variety of reasons, the answer is almost always “no.”
“They need to understand that they are competing for slots within our team.” — Jacques Martin
The head coach may be rather disingenuous when he says that there are openings to fill — understandably, he is trying to create the illusion of competition. The truth is that with the exception of a bench spot or two, the Canadiens opening day roster is set. That aside, there are plenty of reasons for players at all levels to excel at training camp.
For veterans, coach Martin said it is important for them to use the 18 days of training camp to get ready for the first game, to develop good practise habits, and to exhibit leadership. For prospects, grabbing every chance to showcase one’s talents is important. Some are performing to earn a contract, a roster spot in Hamilton or Wheeling, or simply to improve their standing within the organization.
Those opportunities for young players come at the summer developments camps, rookie camp, and this year at the main Canadiens training camp. (It’s why All Habs is committed to bringing you reports all year round. Be sure to check out the “Prospects” tab on the main page.)
Brendan Gallagher is one player that caught our eye at the July 2010 development camp after being picked 147th overall in the NHL Entry draft just a few weeks earlier. After his performance in the inter-squad game today, many more people know his name. Gallagher seized the moment before a packed house at the Bell Sports Complex, and was the star of the game.
Gallagher scored the tying goal and assisted on the winner by Andreas Engqvist as Team C led by Andrei Kostitsyn beat Tomas Plekanec’s Team A 5-to-4. Plekanec had a goal and two assists in a losing cause and Kostitsyn notched two assists to go along with his six shots, the most of any player. But it was the diminutive Gallagher who was dangerous on every shift and stole the show.
“Gallagher has really been showing us that he’s working with a lot of talent, and is capable of playing with a high level of intensity. We know he had a great season last year with the Vancouver Giants, and he had a really good camp this year with Team Canada’s World Junior team. He’s showing the organization that while he’s not a big player, he has a big heart; he goes to the net, he’s not afraid, and he’s got great hands.” — Jacques Martin
Gallagher is fearless taking on bigger players to drive to the goal. He makes up for his average skating ability with an elusive quality that makes him hard to stop. He is creative, has great hands and exudes a fierce determination around the net — similar qualities displayed by Canadiens captain Brian Gionta.
Coach Martin agreed.
“You’re thrilled to see one of your young prospects developing like that. In the year-and-a-half that he’s been part of this organization he’s proven that he has a lot of character and a lot of determination. He reminds me in that way of Brian Gionta.” — Jacques Martin
But let’s not get carried away. Before anyone asks, Gallagher will be heading back to play with the Giants this season and likely has a good shot at playing with at the World Junior Championships for Team Canada. For Gallagher, his goals are realistic with his immediate focus being to stay with his teammates in training camp for as long as he can.
“Of course it’s a long-shot to make the team, but the goal really is just to stay here as long as possible and impress as many people as you can and hope you earn a contract. I’m really happy with the way things have gone so far, but there obviously still a lot of work ahead and I’m looking forward to it.” — Brendan Gallagher
In addition to Gallagher, Alexander Avtsin continues to have a strong camp with a goal and an assist in this game. Alain Berger, David Desharnais and Mathieu Darche were also standouts at camp today.
“Okay, we’re impressed. You can stop annihilating your teammates now.” We can’t confirm that that was the message to Alexei Yemelin from the coaching staff. He once again played well, but there was a noticeable change playing a far more subdued game than the opener.
Goaltenders Peter Delmas and Nathan Lawson each gave up two goals in the Team C net. Carey Price has looked good in his two-game tune-up stopping 13 of the 15 shots he faced today for Team A. Robin Gusse has played small and looked overwelmed at times giving up six goals in his two half-games of work.
Kostitsyn’s squad is in action again on Monday as they scrimmage against Brian Gionta’s Team B. Following the game the first round of cuts will be made in preparation for the team’s opening game of the exhibition schedule. Montreal will play the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night at the Bell Centre.