BROSSARD, QC – The 2014 Montreal Canadiens Development Camp continued into its fourth day Saturday, though fans who arrived early were left without much to keep them entertained. The team failed to properly announce that the morning on-ice sessions had been cancelled, with the players only taking to the ice at 3 PM.
Small groups worked on skating for an hour, before the day’s intersquad games got underway. Sebastian Collberg led the way in the afternoon’s first matchup, scoring on a nice backhander in-tight and again in the shootout. His line with Michael Bournival and Charles Hudon was simply too much for the other side to handle. The second game was far more event, with Steve Quailer being the main standout, notching a couple of goals and adding a helper.
Yesterday we looked at an overview of the first half (alphabetically) of players in camp and their progress, so today we look at the rest.
65 – GUINDON, Louis-Philip – G
The focus of the camp was certainly not on goaltending with limited on-ice time devoted to the netminders. Guindon didn’t stand out in the games he played, neither for good reasons nor for bad. With Mike Condon and Robert Mayer under contract, it would have taken a tremendous performance to earn a contract, and Guindon was not at that level. At age 18, the undrafted tryout will return to Drummondville in the hopes of being drafted a year from now.
36 – HALL, Zach – C
Hall is a tryout you barely noticed was in camp, other than earning a penalty shot during an intrasquad game after being hooked on a scoring chance. At 20, Hall completed what is likely the final season of his OHL career with the Barrie Colts, putting up strong numbers in the regular season and playoffs. His lack of size and absence of a dominant skill, however, means he won’t be a fit for a spot in the organization.
73 – HENLEY, Samuel – AD/RW
Speaking of invisible tryouts, Henley did little more than fill a uniform this week. A 20 year old without superior offensive ability, even his 6’4″ frame didn’t stand out in the way of a Stefan Fournier whose use of his size earned him an entry level contract. The intrasquad games got chippy at times, but Henley was not one to be delivering checks, and so the week was likely a lost opportunity for the QMJHL veteran.
44 – HOLLAND, Patrick – AD/RW
Holland is coming off a strong AHL rookie campaign that saw him get better and better as he gained confidence over the course of the season. He spent most of the year on Hamilton’s top scoring line, and in the final stretch, was making the kind of moves with the puck that one would expect of a far more mature and established player. Despite his experience, it’s hard to say he has shown a great deal in camp, as he tends to look good but not among the best in every exercise. In scrimmages, he hasn’t been able to create things to the level of some others, and to keep progressing in his career, he’ll need to add muscle to his frame over the summer. Still, he should be counted on as an important cog in the Bulldog offense in the Fall.
47 – HUDON, Charles – AG/LW
Hudon had an imprressive tryout in Hamilton after his season with Chicoutimi came to an end, fitting right in and looking fully AHL-ready. Unfortunately, despite that, the CHL/AHL age agreement means he’ll be back in the QMJHL for one final season, with the opportunity to again join the Bulldogs once the Sagueneens are eliminated. He should also finally get a chance to play for Team Canada at the World Juniors after injury took him out of contention this past year once he had already earned his spot on the team. In camp, Hudon’s skill shines through most in stickhandling drills, and while he didn’t impress to the level of linemates Sebastian Collberg and Michael Bournival in intrasquad games, he was able to keep up with the pair, leading to pressure and scoring chances on virtually every one of their shifts. Assuming he can stay healthy, he looks poised to challenge for an NHL job conceivably as early as 2014-15.
71 – LEBLANC, Louis – RW
What has happened to Louis Leblanc? From not looking out of place in the NHL as a professional rookie, to struggling for ice time in the American Hockey League as a sophomore. Leblanc certainly needs to get back to basics and fundamentals if he wants to get his career back on track. Nothing came easy for Leblanc in Hamilton last season, as a high ankle sprain limited his ability to make sharp cuts and turns, elements essential to the game he plays. He seemed to attempt to counter this by trying to make high skill plays, which isn’t his style and often led to poor decisions with the puck, or to holding on to it longer than he should. The problem with Leblanc in camp this week isn’t that he has made mistakes, but that he hasn’t dominated. As a first round pick from way back when in 2009, Leblanc should be leaps and bounds above most of the group, but instead he has merely fit in. Leblanc looks skinny off ice, and will need to hit the gym hard in the off-season to work towards getting back to the NHL. At 22, his career is hardly over, but it will be a pivotal season for him to establish himself before he is surpassed in the depth chart by the next wave of developing prospects. His ceiling would seem to be as a third line winger at this point.
82 – LEHKONEN, Artturi – AG/LW
Lehkonen is still recovering from an injury and has not participated in on-ice sessions during this camp, even when other hurt players have skated. The 55th overall selection in the 2013 draft, the skilled undersized winger had anticipated returning to KalPa in the Finnish men’s league this season – a team on which he not only earned a spot as a junior aged player, but also produced with 30 points in 45 games. The only wrinkle in that plan is his selection in the CHL Import Draft by the Kootenay Ice, who admitted to simply “taking a flyer” on him without any knowledge or expectations as to his North American aspirations. It’s hard to say which of the two avenues would be better for his development, between tougher competition or more games and getting acquainted with Canadian hockey.
63 – MacAULAY, Stephen – C
While not a standout in drills, 21-year old tryout MacAulay has been one of the better invitee forwards in game situations, along with Stefan Fournier and Jean-Sebastien Dea. Without blowing anyone away, he seems to make th little plays well, always smart with the puck. The 6’0″ winger as a 6th round selection of the St. Louis Blues in 2010 who they opted not to sign, and with his junior career now over, he may consider an AHL contract for added organizational depth should the Bulldogs decide to ink some players they can store in the ECHL.
56 – MacMILLAN, Mark – C
A veteran of these camps, 2010 4th round pick MacMillan has lost the two players he seemed most friendly with in the past in unsigned Olivier Archambault and traded North Dakota teammate Danny Kristo. While the talent is obviously there, he can be maddeningly inconsistent, flashing pro-level skating and puckhandling in some instances and leisurely coasting in others. MacMillan will return to a North Dakota team that just lost its two best players in Kristo and Corban Knight, so he will be expected to shoulder more of the offensive load next season.
32 – McCARRON, MICHAEL – AD/RW
One of the guys who had everyone’s attention all week, the fact that McCarron is a big kid is no lie, with his 6’5″, 225 lbs frame seemingly like no exaggeration at all. He clearly stood out at all times as being significantly larger than most everyone on the rink aside from Jarred Tinordi, and used his frame well in games, whether it was leveraging a long reach or going hard to the net. He showed nice hands with a goal on day three, but also caused the biggest concern, retreating to the dressing room in pain and with a bloodied face after being struck by a point shot off the stick of intrasquad teammate Mac Bennett. McCarron’s straight line skating on the day was strong, using powerful strides to hit top speed efficiently. However, his turning, starts and stops, and cuts needed some work, as he’d often lose a step in those sorts of situations. He returned to the ice on day four, sporting a full face cage, but his game seemed a little off as he didn’t have the same swiftness to his skating as the day prior. It’s possible the nose/face injury hampered his endurance, or the cage was throwing him off, so it’s hard to hold it against him, and certainly the raw potential was evident. McCarron has committed to Western Michigan University, but his rights are also held by the OHL’s London Knights, and he’s expected to make a decision as to where he’ll spend next season in the next week or so.
28 – MURPHY, Matt – D
Clearly the Habs enjoyed picking players from the Memorial Cup Champion Halifax Mooseheads, as Murphy was a fourth player in camp to have sported their colours last season. The 18-year old undrafted tryout has a solid frame at 6’2″ and just south of 200 lbs, but likely hasn’t shown enough other ability to prevent him from re-entering the draft in a year’s time. He should be an important player on a Halifax squad in supporting Montreal draft pick Zach Fucale once the team loses the likes of Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin.
42 – NÄTTINEN, Joonas – C
Nattinen’s development with the Bulldogs has been hampered by injuries, and mid-season shoulder surgery continued to keep the 22-year old Fin out of drills and games this week. When in the line-up, the 6’2″ center displays a strong two-way game, not unlike the style of former Hamilton star Andreas Engqvist. Entering the final year of his entry level contract with the Canadiens, he’ll need to not only stay healthy, but also improve the consistency of either his offensive production or his physical play if he wants to remain a part of the organization.
17 – NYGREN, Magnus – D
Nygren has signed to come over to North America after being named the top Swedish defenseman in the top Swedish league last season. Drafted as an overager in the 4th round in 2011, the 23-year old’s style matches that of a Sheldon Souray, slightly smaller at 6’1″ and 192 lbs, but always willing to deliver a big check and blessed with a wicked slapshot from the blueline. That shot helped him set career highs of 13 goals and 32 points in 51 games this past year, and while his defensive game and skating still need improving, he should at the least be a boon to the Hamilton powerplay that struggled mightily last season. Nygren and Darren Dietz will be the new additions to a young and talented Bulldog blueline who will also need to recruit a veteran leader to replace Frederic St-Denis.
57 – NYSTRÖM, Erik – AG/LW
There were few expectations on Nystrom coming into this camp, but he has managed to surpass all of them. The 19-year old’s season in Sweden was somewhat disappointing as he was unable to earn a cup of coffee with the senior MODO team as he had the year prior, but he did make his second tier men’s league debut, and he was able to produce there against older competition. In camp this week, while his 5’11″, 176 lbs frame won’t impress anybody, his high skill level will, as he demonstrated quick hands in both stickhandling drills and game situations alike, scoring points for his side on each of the last two days. Also encouraging was that despite being rubbed out hard on more than one occasion in the scrimmages, he bounced right back up, undeterred. Turning 20 in October, it is a make-or-break year for Nystrom, as he no longer has the luxury of returning to an under-20 junior squad, and needs to secure a spot at a higher level in order to battle for a contract with the Canadiens in a year’s time. One of camp’s revelations, he’ll be an interesting one to follow.
20 – PATERYN, Greg – D
Pateryn was every bit a man among boys this week, the most impressive blueliner along with partner Mac Bennett. Other than controlling the flow of the intrasquad games, he worked hard on his skating, both in drills and with coaches/trainers in between them. His strong 6’2″, 220 lbs frame has allowed him to erase opposing forwards into the boards on numerous occasions, and he is expected to start next season where he finished the last, on Hamilton’s top pairing beside Nathan Beaulieu. While he may primarily be a defensive blueliner, there is some offense to his game as he makes smart passes and has a hard shot from the line. He is certainly capable of causing a surprise in earning a job in Montreal ahead of Jarred Tinordi next season, depending on what other moves Marc Bergevin may have up his sleeve.
43 – QUAILER, Steve - AG/LW
You like the set of attributes Quailer brings to the table as a 6’4″, 210 lbs body who can skate and snap a puck with some force. But he wasn’t as physical as often as one would have hoped during his Hamilton rookie campaign, and was prone to pulling frequent disappearing acts where he’d go near full games without anyone noticing he was in the line-up. Consistency is his main obstacle if he wants to remain a legitimate NHL prospect, and he flashed his potential on day 4 as the star in his intrasquad match with two goals and an assist. His markers came from crashing the crease with the puck, certainly an essential skill for a player of his stature, and a positive sign as he enters the final season of his entry level deal.
58 – REWAY, Martin – AG/LW
Montreal’s fourth round selection this June, Reway is an undersized Slovak forward who possesses a high skill level and enough shiftiness to weave in and out of opposing defenders in creating offense in camp. He completed his rookie season in the QMJHL above the point-per-game mark and will return to Gatineau in the Fall. He should also be looked upon to play a larger role for the Slovakian World Junior Championship entry than he did a year ago, but naturally still has a long road ahead of him before we can speak about his pro level potential.
45 – SHAW, Braeden – C
20-year old tryout Shaw is committed to the University of Vermont in the Fall, but clearly wanted to impress enough this week to potentially forego his NCAA career. He has good size at 6’2″ and 200 lbs, and has played like a wrecking ball in game situations, hitting everything that moves. The forward’s puck skills weren’t turning any heads this week, but the organization could use some toughness at the AHL level, and thus it’s possible that they discuss his playing future with him.
21 – SIMONELLI, Frank – D
At the age of 20, tryout Simonelli has impressively already completed three full seasons at the University of Wisconsin. The 5’11″ blueliner was noticeable in stretches where he’d make smart plays with the puck, but didn’t stand out enough to be added to the Canadiens’ dense pipeline on the back end.
68 – SUELLENTROP, Colin – D
Could have said the same thing here as I did for fellow tryout Simonelli, as Suellentrop looked good at times, playing the body in the occasional game, but overall seemed to show why the 2011 Philadelphia 4th rounder didn’t get a contract from the Flyers.
22 – SULLIVAN, Colin – D
Sullivan remains a longshot prospect within the organization, and was injured for camp this week, which didn’t help his case. The 6’1″ defenseman is only one year into his NCAA career with Boston College, so he has plenty of development time remaining.
89 – THOMAS, Christian – AD/RW
After being acquired from the New York Rangers for Danny Kristo just prior to the start of Development Camp, Thomas certainly left an impression during his first few days with the organization. Another undersized forward, the 5’9″ 21-year old has top notch acceleration with that breakaway speed small players require to be offensive threats. He shows dogged determination on the puck in the offensive zone, and has a rocket of a shot. Easy to see why he draws some comparisons to Brendan Gallagher, and already with 1 game of NHL experience in his first professional season, he should be an impact player for the Hamilton Bulldogs this year.
25 – THROWER, Dalton – D
Thrower is coming off a difficult season with the Saskatoon Blades, who disappointed as a team with an early playoff exit in the year they hosted the Memorial Cup. He was not among camp’s more noticeable defensemen, even when compared to some of the tryouts on the roster. He did play the puck fairly well during intrasquad games, but his lack of development this season means that despite being eligible to jump to the AHL by virtue of turning 20 in December (a la Nathan Beaulieu last year), he is likely to return to the WHL for a semi-overage season. His rights were traded from Saskatoon to the Vancouver Giants following the Blades’ Memorial Cup exit, so perhaps a year of working with Brendan Gallagher‘s father Ian, Vancouver’s Strength and Conditioning Coach, will do him good as he adds strength to his 6’0″ frame. If he doesn’t make the ‘Dogs this season, Thrower would move on to the professional ranks in 2014.
24 – TINORDI, Jarred – D
There is likely not much left to learn at a camp like this for Tinordi, but those wanting to watch him dominate might have left a little unhappy. Tinordi wasn’t overly physical this week, and while he showed his strong skating ability and hockey sense in jumping into the rush during scrimmages, he was also prone to occasional defensive lapses. This mirrored his play in Hamilton over the past year, and is another factor in why Greg Pateryn may be the more NHL ready of the two and an underdog favourite to steal any opening on the Montreal defense. There is no cause for concern with Tinordi who is still growing into his frame and working on his play in his own end, but fans need to be realistic with his development as a defensive d-man and give him time to work out the kinks in the AHL should more time there be required.
81 – TODD, Daine – D
Todd, the sole CIS tryout in camp this week, didn’t look out of place with his full-time hockey compatriots for the most part. The oldest player in camp at 26, he is highly undersized at 5’10″ and 168 lbs, but doesn’t back away from larger forwards and makes intelligent first passes out of his own end. His skating is average, and so it is unlikely there is a future in Montreal for the University of New Brunswick alum, though he did earn a 2-game tryout with the Texas Stars last season which means he has potential to earn an AHL/ECHL contract somewhere for 2013-14.
74 – TRAINOR, Peter – AG/LW
Trainor was not an impactful tryout, ranking well behind the likes of Braeden Shaw, Stefan Fournier, and Ben Duffy. The 20-year old shattered career bests this season with 100 points in 68 games for Rimouski, but at 5’10″ and 187 lbs he’ll face a tough challenge to repeat similar exploits against older and larger competition. This is likely a one-and-done for Trainor with the Canadiens organization.
54 – VAIL, Brady – C
Vail had two good days in camp on Friday and Saturday, using his size well and playing a responsible game. His skating remains an area requiring improvement, but he plays a tough brand of hockey and can show soft hands with the puck. One of my favourite prospects in the organization, he seems like he’ll top out as a third line center at the professional level, in the mold of a less skilled Ryan Kesler. Vail will attend USA Hockey’s summer camp as a tryout for this year’s World Junior Championship squad, and then return to Windsor for his final season with what should be a greatly improved Spitfires club. He looked good in a brief stint in Hamilton after Windsor’s past season ended, though his minutes were limited and he was paired frequently with fourth liners Kyle Hagel and Zack Stortini.
52 – WALSH, Dustin – AG/LW
The Canadiens will lose Walsh’s rights as a prospect in August, so this invite seemed like it would be his last chance to impress. Unfortunately, injury kept him off the ice all week, so his even having been invited seems a little odd, unless it was already in the plans to offer him some form of contract (whether AHL or Entry Level). Walsh has an appealing 6’2″ frame, but has battled injuries throughout his NCAA career, and failed to improve on prior years’ production in his senior season at Dartmouth College. Thus, while his being present at camp might indicate otherwise, it would be somewhat surprising for the Canadiens to give him a deal.