BROSSARD, QC – Early July is an exciting time in Montreal. The weather finally starts to heat up. The sun is shining. It’s pool season. Water parks open. There are Canada Day celebrations. And for the hockey-crazed, the opening of the NHL free agent market.
But what excites me most about this time of year? Being huddled behind a pane of glass in a chilly arena in the off-island suburban metropolis of Brossard, Quebec. Yes, this time of year is when a mixed bag of Montreal Canadiens prospects and a select few tryouts gather for the annual development camp.
Every year, All Habs is your home for exclusive Development Camp coverage. Editor-in-Chief Rick Stephens has been covering the first two days of camp with insightful reports: Day 1 and Day 2, so today in addition to a Day 3 report, as the camp passes it’s halfway mark, here’s a check in on all those in attendance, beginning with the first half (alphabetically) today.
62 – ANDRIGHETTO, Sven – AD/RW
The undersized Andrighetto was hyped following his dominant QMJHL playoffs where he scored 30 points in just 14 games, building on a strong World Juniors where he led the surprising Swiss squad with 5 goals and 8 points in 6 games. Andrighetto has looked small at camp, and only shown glimpses of his high skill level, but the Canadiens will be forced to decide whether to sign him and give him a crack at making the Hamilton Bulldogs, or to see him report to Switzerland where he is under contract (with an out clause) with Geneva.
6 – BEAULIEU, Nathan – D
Beaulieu closed out the season as Hamilton’s top defenseman and most impactful skater, showing significant progress from the start of the year. A camp like this allows a player like Beaulieu to show off what makes him a top prospect, flashing his silky smooth skating in drills and getting off his rocket point shot. A standout. Likely to start the season in Hamilton, but should be the first call-up on the blueline. He added an empty net goal during an intrasquad game, racing the puck from his own end into the attacking zone.
60 – BELZILE, Alex – AD/RW
Belzile joined the Bulldogs on a tryout last season and impressed. It would be disappointing if he didn’t return on at least an AHL contract. An average sized scoring winger, he has a nose for the net, never backing down from a defender. He has a heavy shot, but lacks the accuracy to capitalize on a high percentage of his chances, something noticeable even in close-in drills on Friday. He’s a long way from the NHL, but his hard-nosed game means he’s worth retaining in the organization.
26 – BENNETT, Mac – D
Bennett was, for me, the best player in his morning heat – the first group to take the ice Friday. A strong skater who makes good passes and works hard every drill, he’ll return to the University of Michigan for his senior year as the team’s captain. He could still build on his frame a bit before he makes the job to the next level, but he looks every bit like another legit NHL prospect in the Montreal system on D. He continued his strong play into the intrasquad game, which made him my first star on Day 3 overall. His only fault: a wild pointshot of his went up high and struck Mike McCarron in the face. The first round pick hunched over in pain and left for the dressing room with blood dripping down his face. As his team didn’t play in the second game, there was no update on McCarron, but the blood indicates the shot may have caught him in the nose region.
79 – BOUDENS, Matthew – C-AG/LW
Boudens is an undrafted tryout in camp who fits the description of a typical late bloomer. He turns 20 in September, but completed just his first QMJHL season this past year with Drumondville, where he managed 41 points in 63 games. He most gained recognition for his post-season performance, scoring 7 goals and 10 points in just 5 games. Boudens hasn’t been particularly noticeable at camp, and while it may be unlikely with his average size of 5’11″ and 170 lbs, if management sees something they like, they could sign him and choose between returning him to the CHL or having him turn pro in the AHL or ECHL.
49 – BOURNIVAL, Michaël – AG/LW
Bournival was one of Hamilton’s better forwards for much of the season as a professional rookie. His work ethic showed through on day three of camp, as he battles hard in every drill, following instruction to the letter and never cheating or taking liberties. He didn’t particularly stand out, however, as this sort of camp doesn’t highlight the strengths of his two-way game. He’ll be a Bulldog again this season, available as one of the first forward call-ups for the Canadiens with his responsible and mature play. To progress in his game, he’ll need to work on the consistency of his offense.
48 – BOZON, Tim – AG/LW
Bozon improved his numbers for the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers this past season, finishing with 91 points in 69 games despite cooling off considerably after a hot start. The 6’1″, 192 lbs winger would add 6 points in 8 playoff games before having his season end early with an injury, but would gain additional valuable experience by playing for Team France at the spring’s World Hockey Championship. Bozon’s shot and offensive skill set have been coming through in spurts at camp, but he has looked like a pretty average skater in the group, and he still needs to fill out his frame. Bozon returns to juniors for a final season before he’ll be set to turn pro and join the Bulldogs in 2014. He certainly remains one of the organization’s prospects with top six forward potential, but is still a few years of seasoning away.
27 – BROUILLARD, Nikolas – D
18-year old Brouillard was passed over in this year’s entry draft as an undersized (5’10″, 150 lbs) offensive defenseman, despite his impressive numbers this season with Drumondville (57 points in 68 games). With such a collection of high profile prospect d-men at this camp, a player like Brouillard is in tough to stand out, and he has yet to, and so he is likely to need to improve on his past season if he wants to be drafted by a team next June. Unlikely to leave a real impression on the Canadiens’ organization.
30 – CADORETTE, Philippe – G
After earning the starting job for the Baie-Comeau Drakkar as a 17 year old, Cadorette was still not selected in last weekend’s NHL Entry Draft. My focus was on the skater groups on day three, which means drills that aren’t so much intended to make goaltenders look good (breakaways, 2-on-1s, 2-on-0s, etc.), but Cadorette did little in those sessions to make the organization think he’s a piece of the puzzle to restock the goaltending pipeline.
37 – CICHY, Michael – C
Cichy impressed in scrimmage situations at this camp a year ago, but at age 23, even with his improved NCAA production after missing a full season of development sitting out because he changed schools, his days as a prospect are numbered. Undersized at 5’11″, 185 lbs, he doesn’t have any abilities that make up for his small stature to give him NHL potential. Likely at this camp based on the “well we still hold his rights, so why not bring him along?” principle.
38 – COLLBERG, Sebastian – AD/RW
After signing with the Canadiens, Collberg confirmed he will return to the Swedish Hockey League’s Frolunda for one final season. While it won’t hinder his development to play under a new coach with whom he’s familiar and against men, and while he could certainly stand to add some weight to his frame, his skill level seems ready to take on the challenge of the American Hockey League. Collberg is blessed with elite level skating and shooting ability, which could make him a candidate for an NHL call-up as early as 2014-15 once he does come over. His other big talent is the shootout, showing off his abilities in deking Zachary Fucale out of his jockstrap in the one intersquad game he played Friday.
41 – CONDON, Michael – G
Condon played in three leagues this past season, posting strong numbers in each of the NCAA, ECHL, and AHL. That earned him a contract from the Canadiens, though it isn’t obvious where he fits in the organization’s plans with Robert Mayer allegedly planning to stay in North America and continue his development. Again, no real focus on goalies on my part Friday, so nothing Condon did made me like or dislike him, but with Mayer and Dustin Tokarski penciled into Hamilton roles (both are RFAs), it’s hard to see him as anything but an ECHL starter for the coming season.
61 – CRISP, Connor – C
Crisp is still recovering from an injury and will not participate in on-ice sessions during this camp. He took the ice to skate with other injured players Joonas Nattinen and Colin Sullivan between groups. Either way, this camp is about learning more than impressing for Crisp, who at age 19 already has pro size with a 6’2″, 220 lbs frame. He’ll return to the Erie Otters in the Fall, looking to improve the non-fighting aspects of his game to prove to the Habs’ brass that he’s worthy of a contract at year’s end in order to move up to the Bulldogs for 2014-15.
59 – DE LA ROSE, Jacob – C-AG/LW
De La Rose was one of the more noticeable forwards in Friday’s drills, as you’d first recognize his 6’2″ frame but then be impressed by his agility and puckhandling. Montreal’s first second round selection in the 2013 draft, De La Rose is under contract for another season with Leksand who just earned promotion to Sweden’s top men’s league, but was also selected by the Windsor Spitfires in the CHL Import Draft. Contract aside, he has indicated his preference would be to play for Windsor, where he still has two years of eligibility before he’d be primed to make an AHL debut. Thus, he still has plenty of time to develop, but the raw physical skills are all there to make him a bonafide top six forward prospect.
75 – DEA, Jean-Sébastien – C
Dea is another of the undrafted tryouts at camp, and despite being listed at 5’10″, plays much bigger than his height. This was most obvious during day three’s scrimmage, as he was credited with a goal on which he drove hard to the crease and ended up taking himself, a defender, the goaltender, and the puck all into the net. Dea put up big numbers as a 19 year old with Rouyn-Noranda (85 points in 68 regular season games, and 21 points in 14 playoff contests) and will return there for a final season in the Fall. He’s a player who could earn a deal with two more strong days in Brossard, but given his lack of size, he’ll need to show greater potential than some of the drafted players in camp.
70 – DEKORT, Jordan – G
Dekort didn’t have a good day, often down early and very frequently beaten up high. As mentioned with the other goalies, the drills don’t favour their performance, but the Spitfires’ netminder who only turns 18 in August will return to Windsor without a contract from the Canadiens following this tryout.
39 – DELMAS, Peter – G
A veteran of these development camps, Delmas didn’t partake in Friday’s drills, hitting the ice only for the scrimmage. He has a year remaining on his entry level contract with Montreal, and is expected to play it out in the ECHL before being let go. He shows flashes of potential at times, but isn’t consistent enough to have real potential at the professional level.
51 – DESJARDINS, Gabriel – AG/LW
Tryout Desjardins smashed his previous QMJHL career highs as a 20-year old last season, scoring 32 goals and 74 points in 66 games. On the small side of average size at 5’11″ and under 200 lbs, he needed to really impress to earn a pro deal, and even among tryouts, it’s hard to say he did anything to be head and shoulders above younger and/or bigger competition.
8 – DIDIER, Josiah – D
Didier was drafted as a long-term project, and the defensive University of Denver rearguard remains just that. Still, there were positive signs of him growing into his 6’2″, 205 lbs frame, as he was more physical than in past camps during Friday’s intrasquad game. With little offense to his game, he’ll need to shore up any defensive shortcomings, as he had two significant turnovers even in the limited viewing of a two fifteen-minute halves scrimmage. At age 20, he has two years of NCAA play remaining before the Habs have to decide whether he has shown enough to be signed.
11 – DIETZ, Darren – D
Dietz has a strong all around game, balancing offense and a big shot with physicality and responsible defensive play. His 24 regular season goals led all CHL blueliners, while his 58 points in 72 games ranked third among WHL d-men. Dietz hasn’t done anything to help or hurt his cause in this camp, and is already under contract, set to make his Hamilton Bulldog debut in the Fall. It’ll be interesting to watch how he compares to a Morgan Ellis and Greg Pateryn as the next tier of d-men behind Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu.
40 – DUFFY, Ben – C
Duffy is coming off a phenomenal QMJHL season as a 21-year old overager with 110 points in 68 games for Prince Edward Island. Despite his production, the unsigned tryout’s 5’10″ frame has him looking at a back-up plan to pro hockey, expected to play in the CIS for the University of New Brunswick this coming season. He hasn’t looked overly out of place this week, but through three days hasn’t shown anything that would indicate the Canadiens should try to change his career plan.
15 – ELLIS, Morgan – D
Ellis suffers from being a bit of a ‘tweener, basing his game off strong positional play while not being either a pure offensive blueliner or a physical defensive specimen. Coming off an average debut season with the Bulldogs, he’ll be in tough not to get surpassed by the wealth of other D prospects the organization has coming up its ranks the next few seasons. Like Dietz, he wasn’t noticeable for good reasons or bad on day three of camp.
55 – FOURNIER, Stefan – AD/RW
21-year old overager Fournier captained the Halifax Moosehead to a Memorial Cup this past season, and his 6’2″ frame was evident Friday as one of the better-looking tryouts. Even at that, it’s still doubtful this camp is enough to warrant an entry level contract, but if he can have two more strong days, he may get a return invite to rookie camp and battle for an AHL contract to replace the likes of Stefan Chaput and Daultan Leveille who signed similar contracts a year ago.
35 – FUCALE, Zachary – G
Of the netminders, Fucale is of course the one I focused closest on, and in the early going, his effort level and focus didn’t seem to be there. But what was impressive is that he got better and better as the day wore on, making the biggest save of any netminder during the scrimmage in robbing Tim Bozon on a hard shot from the high slot. Fucale can’t be rushed. He’s a long-term project with starter potential who will be facing a new challenge this coming season in returning to a Halifax team that will be losing many of its top players.
78 – GLASS, Nathan – D
Hard to say the 19-year old tryout was even at camp today. An unremarkable but solid OHL d-man, he seems like just another body under the philosophy of “leave no stone unturned.” Sunday, it’ll be time to flip the rock back over.
14 – GRASSI, Matt – D
Grassi earned a tryout with the Hamilton Bulldogs once his NCAA career came to a close, but his AHL stint was cut short at just 3 games when he returned to school for exams. At 24, he’s among the oldest players in camp, and shows poise on the ice to go along with his 6’3″, 220 lbs frame. His skill set is limited, but he may be considered for extra defensive depth at the AHL/ECHL level, a role filled by Joe Stejskal last year who was recently let go. Unlikely to get an ELC, but if he impresses more than other tryouts, should be back in rookie camp competing for an AHL deal.
76 – GRAVEL, Maxime – D
I had Gravel as one of my favourites for Montreal’s 7th round selection, but the team opted to trade that pick (essentially for George Parros after today) and Gravel slipped through the cracks undrafted. Thus I was happy to see his name on the camp invitee list and wasn’t disappointed today. The 18-year old 6’1″ d-man plays a strong all-around game, though he remains a long-term project. It is then difficult to gauge whether the Canadiens would be ready to commit to a three-year contract for the Blainville-native right now, so he is more likely to re-enter the draft as a 19-year old in a year’s time.
67 – GRÉGOIRE, Jérémy – C
Gregoire is young, only turning 18 in August, and the Canadiens saw enough upside in him to nab him in the 6th round last weekend. His skating has seemed below average in the group at camp, which doesn’t bode well for an average sized forward with unspectacular offensive totals. Given his young age, certainly he’s a long-term project (and you can’t ask for much more in the 6th round), so he’ll hope to build off a strong playoff (16 points in 18 games) moving into his third season in the QMJHL.
Following day 4, we’ll look at the other half of the players in camp.