Eric Gelinas (Photo by Sergei Belski / USA Today Sports)

Eric Gelinas, Defense
2009 NHL Entry Draft | 2nd round (54th overall by New Jersey Devils)
May 8, 1991 | Vanier, ON, Canada
6-4, 216 lbs. | Shoots Left
2016-’17: 27 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 PTS | Colorado Avalanche (NHL)

by Mathieu Chagnon, Staff Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Last Tuesday, Eric Gelinas was invited for a professional try-out with the Canadiens. Gelinas became an unrestricted free agent on July 1st after not receiving a qualifying offer from the Colorado Avalanche. The 26-year-old remained unsigned throughout the summer.

In 2013-’14, the 6-foot-4-inch defensemen opened eyes in his first NHL season with the New Jersey Devils, collecting 29 points in 60 games. Like many young players, his second season didn’t come as easy with Gelinas collecting 19 points in 61 games.

Gelinas started the 2015-’16 season in the press box after a disappointing training camp. Once inserted into the lineup, he wasted little time recording his first goal of the season on the power play. But it would be his only goal of the season.

Sadly, Gelinas collected more trips to the press box than points. In fact, he tailed only five assists in the next 33 games. After a six games span where he saw the game from the rafters, he was asked if he wished to be traded. His answer was vague.

“The one thing I can say is I want to play. That’s for sure. That’s pretty much all I can hope for. We’ll see, I guess.” — Eric gelinas

It took less than a week after those comments for the Devils to trade him to the Colorado Avalanche in return of a third-round pick. But the air of the mountains didn’t help him either. Gelinas wasn’t able put his name on the scoresheet in six games after battling with multiple injuries. That put an end to a disastrous season I’m sure that he wanted to forget.

Last season, Gelinas found himself in tough position with the Avalanche fighting for a lineup spot during camp. That’s essentially the same situation he will be in this year with the Canadiens. Gelinas started the season for Colorado as their seventh defenseman.

Gelinas spent significant part of the 2016-’17 season being healthy scratch. His playing time was split between the Avalanche and San Antonio Rampage (AHL) playing 27 games for each team. Gelinas recorded just one assist in the NHL. Gelinas didn’t believe that coach Jared Bednar gave him a chance to play quality minutes.

The PTO offered by the Canadiens may be one of Gelinas’ last chances in the NHL to earn a roster spot. The fact that he hasn’t shown signs of progression since his NHL debut is alarming. However, should he make a good impression at training camp, he could earn a two-way contract.

 “He is still a young player, he’s only 26 years old, he has good size, tall, strong. Sometimes a player needs a change, needs a new occasion. This what we are ready to do for a good young player like him.” — Claude Julien

With the departure of Nathan Beaulieu, Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov, many are wondering who will be paired with Shea Weber. It seems that Marc Bergevin wants to have as many options as possible to fill that hole.

On the left side, Karl Alzner, Jakub Jerabek, Mark Streit, David Schlemko and Brandon Davidson will be fighting for a Canadiens roster. Other than Alzner, none seems to be a lock. Yet each player on that list seems to be ahead of Gélinas on the depth chart.

“On the back end, we will have healthy competition. What I like about our team is the depth of it. You see a lot of name who will have the chance to make the team … We might keep seven or eight depending the situation but there’s at least ten that could make the lineup,” said Claude Julien with all those defensemen entering the training camp.” — Claude julien

Julien’s words point to a healthy competition for roster spots. That said, it doesn’t mean that Gélinas has a genuine chance to grab one.

According to Julien, the Canadiens will keep seven or eight defensemen depending on the number of forwards that make the club. If they decide to go with eight defensemen, I predict the following list: Weber, Petry, Alzner, Benn, Schlemko, Jerabek, Streit and Davidson.

It’s obvious that Weber, Petry and Alzner need no explanation. Here are my comments on the rest.

  • Benn – made such a good impression that the Canadiens protected him from the NHL expansion draft.
  • Schlemko – was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights for a fifth-round pick and is surely a NHL defenseman.
  • Jerabek – has a contract that assures him a chance to play in the NHL, otherwise he goes back to the KHL.
  • Streit – is an insurance policy if the others fail.

If Gelinas wants to make the team he will have to steal the eighth seat from Davidson. In the situation that the Habs keep just seven defensemen, expect that they will be the last cuts. There is a very slim opportunity for each of them to start the season in Montreal.

Because of the depth with the Laval Rocket, it is an encouraging sign to see Joe Morrow, Matt Taormina, Zach Redmond, Brett Lernout, Noah Juulsen and Simon Bourque all pushing to earn a chance. Many of them could be a seventh defensemen with other organisation. They will each be fighting to earn a recall in the case of injuries on the blueline in Montreal.


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