27 players to participate in the Canadiens’ 2016 rookie camp

by Matt Smith, Staff Writer/Social Media Specialist, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Artturi Lehkonen (Photo by TVA Sports)

The Montreal Canadiens announced that 27 players will participate in the team’s rookie camp which will begin on Thursday, September 15th at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard, Quebec. The group includes 15 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders comprised of 17 who are Canadiens draft picks, four who were signed as free agents, and six players who have been invited as try-outs.

Following player medicals and a short practice session on September 15th, camp participants will travel to London, Ontario for a three day tournament against other rookies from the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Pittsburgh Penguins. Each team will play three games over the three days at Budweiser Gardens, home of the 2016 Memorial Cup Champions, The London Knights.

Tickets for the rookie tournament may be purchased here (A Habs Fan Pack is available!) I encourage as many fans as possible to attend this event and cheer on the future stars of the Montreal Canadiens.

All Habs Hockey Magazine has been credentialed for the tournament and will be providing daily reports and interviews.

Below is the full 2016 rookie tournament schedule:

Friday, September 16, 2016

3:35 p.m. Game #1 – Pittsburgh (black) vs. Montreal (red)

7:00 p.m. Game #2 – Ottawa (white) vs. Toronto (blue)

Saturday, September 17, 2016

3:35 p.m. Game #3 – Pittsburgh (black) vs. Ottawa (white)

7:00 p.m. Game #4 – Toronto (white) vs. Montreal (red)

Sunday, September 18, 2016

1:00 p.m. Game #5 – Montreal (red) vs. Ottawa (white)

4:35 p.m. Game #6 – Toronto (white) vs. Pittsburgh (black)

Rookie camp participants will return to Montreal in the evening hours of September 18th, with on ice sessions continuing through the conclusion of camp on September 21st.

You can find the Canadiens full Rookie Camp roster below:

Who to Watch

Each player participating in the Habs rookie camp will do their very best to get noticed by Habs management, but here are six players I believe we as fans should have our eyes on.

6. Hayden McCool

More than just a catchy last name, Hayden McCool is a teammate of Canadiens 2016 1st round selection (9th overall) Mikhail Sergachev. The undrafted forward improved his play without the puck last season, improving from a minus-32 during the 2014-2015 season to a plus-23 in 2015-2016. McCool plays a power forward style of game, skates well, and will go hard to the net to create scoring chances. He’s also an aggressive but effective forechecker, who creates space for his teammates.

McCool will benefit from playing in the 2017 Memorial Cup, which will be held in Windsor, Ontario. He participated in Habs rookie camp and did not look out of place, scoring multiple goals. He will now look to impress at rookie camp, where he’s looking for a contract on a try-out.

5. William Bitten

Selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the third round (70th overall) during the 2016 NHL Draft, Will Bitten spent last season in Flint, as a member of the Firebirds, a circus of a team until the OHL finally intervened. From firing its coach to players protesting, it wasn’t a good situation for any players so I’m not surprised their top player wants out. Now drafted by an NHL organization, Bitten should have a bit more leverage to move on from the Firebirds. Bitten has made the decision to not report to the Firebirds training camp, and will instead look to be traded, perhaps to the Ottawa 67’s where his younger brother is currently attending training camp.

Bitten, who scored 30 goals and 65 points last season for a dysfunctional team, could flourish in a new environment. I’m hoping he’ll shine at the rookie camp, and an OHL team will make an offer Flint cannot refuse. Bitten is a complete player with great work ethic in all three zones, drawing resemblances to Brendan Gallagher, but his career development will more than likely suffer if he cannot get himself out of Flint as soon as possible.

4. Charlie Lindgren

The Canadiens announced a major acquisition from the NCAA free agent pool on March 30th 2016, when they signed goaltender Charlie Lindgren. The 22-year-old was a finalist for the 2016 Mike Richter Award which honors the most outstanding goaltender in NCAA men’s hockey. Lindgren finished the season with a 30-9-1 record, with a 2.13 goals against average, 0.925 save percentage and five shutouts. He is now looking to become the starting goaltender with the IceCaps.

Signed to a two year, two-way contract, (2015-2016 and 2016-2017), Lindgren played his first NHL game April 7th, against the Carolina Hurricanes, making 26 saves and allowing two goals as the Canadiens skated to a 4-2 win. Lindgren’s presence creates more competition in the crease which will hopefully push Zach Fucale to bring his best performance to camp after an inconsistent rookie season with the IceCaps. Canadiens fans will now watch two goaltending battles take place this offseason, Fucale vs. Lindgren and Montoya vs. Condon.

3. Mike McCarron

Mike McCarron is a player to watch out for at Habs rookie camp, and not just because he’s purely unavoidable with his 6-foot-6, 237 pound frame. Through 58 games played for the St. John’s IceCaps, McCarron, the Habs first round pick (25th overall) in 2013 scored 17 goals, adding 21 assists for 38 points during his rookie season. He was also be named to the AHL All-Star Game.

Despite being a rookie, his physically intimidating presence was notable in both the AHL and NHL. He gained the respect of many after dropping the gloves with Kevin Bieska, a player who is no slouch when it comes to fighting after Lars Eller was the victim of a big hit. With 20 games of NHL experience under his belt, McCarron is the veteran at rookie camp and will look to not only shine at rookie camp, but compete for an NHL roster position.

2. Mikhail Sergachev

Mikhail Sergachev entered development camp as the Habs 2016 first round pick (9th overall) and put on a dominate display as the youngest player of the 45 participants. Some say it was his hat-trick performance, while others would say getting into a shoving match with Michael McCarron was the big story. By the end of camp, Sergachev made it clear that he’s here to stay, and will look to become the first 18 year old defenceman to earn his way onto the Habs roster since Mathieu Schneider did it in 1987.

Sergachev already has NHL size at 6-foot-3-inches and 223 pounds.  After being named the OHL’s Most Outstanding Defenseman, scoring 17 goals, and adding 40 assists during his rookie season, he seems to be the leading candidate to replace Andrei Markov in 2017-’18. On the other hand, some already see him playing on the top defensive pairing alongside Shea Weber this season, adding mobility to a defensive unit that is now without the rushes of P.K. Subban. With the Windsor Spitfires hosting the 2017 Memorial Cup, a return to the OHL is likely, but I wouldn’t count him out just yet.

Artturi Lehkonen
Artturi Lehkonen

1. Artturi Lehkonen

A goal scorer who has tremendous hands, speed and who isn’t afraid to battle for pucks in the corner, Artturi Lehkonen is a player Habs fans have been waiting to see in North America for a long time. They’ll finally get that opportunity at rookie camp. Many are already penciling in Lehkonen as the second line left wing, even before he’s played a game for the Canadiens.

His skillset was on display during the Swedish Hockey League playoffs, when the 21 year old broke the Frolunda HC record previously held by Daniel Alfredsson, scoring 19 playoff points, including 11 goals in 16 games (Alfredsson had 18 points in 14 games). Lehkonen should have a noticeable skill advantage over many players attending the tournament, and shouldn’t have any problems making the Habs main camp to compete for a roster spot. The question then will be, where will he play? A line of Lehkonen-Plekanec-Radulov would certainly add another scoring threat to compliment a first line of Pacioretty-Galchenyuk-Gallagher.