MONTREAL, QC.– There were only three players on the Bell Sports Complex ice on Sunday who had suited up for the 2010-11 edition of the Montreal Canadiens. Andreas Engqvist, Aaron Palushaj and Brendon Nash had played eight games combined and hadn’t tallied a point. So what motivated Habs fans to head out to a chilly arena on a beautiful summer afternoon?
“Hope,” was the one-word answer of an elderly gentleman I spoke with as he watched intently. Whatever the inadequacies of the players currently on the roster or the holes that need to be filled, the 33 players invited to the first session of the Canadiens Development Camp (the second session runs in July) indeed represent hope for the most committed supporters of the bleu, blanc et rouge. Eyes in the crowd sought out the backs of the practise jerseys looking for names like Tinordi, Kristo and Gallagher.
The name Leblanc likely would have been part of that list too, but Louis is recovering from shoulder surgery.
The development camp also provides us with a first look (in Habs sweaters) of players like Michael Bournival (obtained in the Ryan O’Byrne trade) and Alain Berger (signed as a free agent in April). A full one-third of the players in camp have been invited on a try-out basis.
Oddly, three of the try-out status players come from the Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Joe Hartman, Cameron Schilling and Steve Spinell are all defensemen for the Red Hawks in the CCHA. They follow in the footsteps of former M.U. players Brian Savage and Mike Glumac.
Peter Delmas is the only one of six goaltenders signed to a contract. Of the newcomers, Chris Rawlings from the Northeastern Huskies, is the most noticeable standing 6’5″ and wearing red pads. However, on day one, it was Aaron Dell from the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux (a teammate of Danny Kristo) who showed the most promise in goal.
The two-hour practise was rather tame with the drills being standard hockey fare. Things perked up when forwards entered the offensive zone and battled for position in front of the net with defensemen. Spinell showed a competitive edge flattening Bulldog’s tough guy, Andrew Conboy (no small feat.)
Assistant coaches from the Canadiens and Bulldogs put the players through their paces. Chatter among those in the gallery intensified when Kirk Muller, Randy Cunneyworth and Randy Ladouceur gathered at center ice. Questions flew: Where will Muller be coaching next season? Will Cunneyworth take his place? Is Ladouceur ready to be head coach of the Bulldogs?
The Canadiens — Bulldogs coaching issue is only one of the intriguing storylines that will be discussed as the week goes on. Interestingly, media row at the Bell Sports Complex was darkened and the “Gone Fishing” sign was on the door.
In addition to the topics mentioned earlier in the piece, the following are some of the questions at the top of our minds as the development camp begins.
- Will the players with NHL experience — Engqvist, Nash, Palushaj — stand above the rest or will they be overshadowed by the likes of Jarred Tinordi, Danny Kristo and Brendan Gallagher?
- Alexander Avtsin is the most offensively-talented player at camp. Can the organization find a way to get the best out of him starting this week?
- Is Joonas Nattinen, a two-way player with size who has been playing in the Finnish elite league, ready to make the jump to the AHL?
- Of the next tier of players, who will make the biggest impact? Morgan Ellis? Joe Stejskal? Philippe Lefebvre?
- Can Bournival impress us enough to make us forget about the loss of Ryan O’Byrne?
- With a so-so season at Northeastern, is Steve Quailer ready to play in Hamilton or will the Canadiens insist on one more year in the NCAA?
- Are we getting near the end of the line for players like Michael Cichy, Hunter Bishop and Dany Masse who have showed little or no progress in their development?
Do you have questions or issues that you would like All Habs to keep an eye on at development camp? Please leave a comment.
Would you prefer to listen to this article? It has been recorded for your convenience by a professional voiceover artist. Simply, follow the link here. For other recorded articles click the Multimedia tab under the All Habs banner on the main page and look for Out Loud.
To see all the photos from Canadiens Development Camp – Session 1 visit the All Habs Facebook page. Be sure to click “Like” when you get there!