MONTREAL, QC- One of the last five players to be cut from the 2014 training camp, Darren Dietz was an interesting player for the Montreal Canadiens coaching staff. After giving him a longer look, the 6-foot-1, 205 pound defenseman was, in the final tally, considered too raw after only one season in the AHL. He was sent back to Hamilton to start the 2014-15 season.
After being sent back down, the former fifth-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft put up a very solid season with 17 points, good for second in scoring by defensemen in Hamilton.
Darren Dietz is considered as a two-way defenseman, who is especially solid on defense. He is not afraid to get physical with his big frame and good balance. On top of dishing out big hits on the blue line, Dietz is also a player who likes to defend his teammates. As a matter of fact, Dietz has had 284 penalty minutes in three seasons in the WHL and 113 penalty minutes in 105 games in the AHL, a big number of those minutes being major penalties for fighting. This current management team loves players that have good character and Dietz is certainly another one of them.
Dietz also had very decent offensive production in his junior career in the WHL, earning 129 points in three full seasons. Although he definitely has potential to be put up points, I am doubtful that the talent will translate into points in the NHL. Nonetheless, his calm first pass fits in the transition game of the Canadiens.
Obviously, in this upcoming training camp, it is unlikely that Dietz will stick with the big team given the Habs’ defensive depth, especially with its abundance of young defensemen. To win a spot on the team, he will have to outperform the likes of Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn, and that is considering that Nathan Beaulieu already has a starter spot. The team also has a couple of high potential defensemen that are younger than Dietz in their system in Brett Lernout and Noah Juulsen.
Canadiens will also probably prefer a more experienced defenseman with less upside to be the seventh defenseman, and someone like Mark Barberio would fit better in that role.
Therefore, a starting spot may not be available for the 22-year old defenseman.
To make a long story short, the competition will be very fierce in coming seasons on the blue-line. As for this season, Dietz will have to have a stellar training camp to be on a possible recall list during the season if there is any case of injuries or bad performance. Dietz already seems to be highly evaluated by the current coaching staff, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets a taste of the NHL this season.
In my personal opinion, I think that for one thing, if Dietz has a good camp and proves himself worthy of a NHL-spot, it may put even more pressure on a guy like Jarred Tinordi who’s been having a very tough time making the NHL for a couple of years. I see Dietz as a comparable player to Greg Pateryn, but with the latter being mainly focused on defense and Dietz having a more rounded game. The fact that the Habs have this much depth in young defenseman will benefit the team going forward, whether it be for trade purposes or for direct contribution to the Canadiens’ defense corps.