Training camps are under way around the NHL and many players are trying to prove to their teams that they deserve the chance to play in the big league. A great deal goes into the evaluation of players, well beyond what can be scrutinized in an exhibition game or two. Rather than a comprehensive analysis, let me provide some initial impressions after the first week of training camps.
With respect to the Canadiens, there are few spots up for grabs. But I have been left wondering whether the youngsters are not ready to seize the opportunities or whether there is something else going on. Some hopefuls may find themselves headed for Laval rather than lacing their skates in Montreal.
“There are players who are making our decisions easier than we thought they would be.” – Claude Julien
Fighting for a roster spot with the Canadiens
Hudon has been one of the most talked about players in camp. The Canadiens have given him lots of opportunities and, so far, he hasn’t missed the chance to show management that he deserves to stay in Montreal. It has been a tremendous advantage for Hudon to be placed on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Artturi Lehkonen. The trio has been threatening consistently.
Michael McCarron and Jacob De La Rose
It’s possible that both players are fighting for the same chair in the lineup. In the two exhibitions games that they played, both McCarron and De La Rose were very flat, not producing much offensively.
To be fair, neither player has received the special treatment afforded to Hudon. Against Ottawa, De La Rose will be at centre between David Broll and Jeremy Gregoire, two players who were frequently healthy scratches in St. John’s last season.
In their second games against New Jersey, both showed a little bit more intensity by being involved physically. They will need to step up if they want to stay with the big club, or they will be continuing their development in Laval.
Martinsen was acquired last season for Sven Andrighetto, who went on to have a productive finish with the Avalanche. Martinsen is a big man who skates fast and hits hard. That type of hockey may be pleasant to the eyes but he does very little to create chances for his teammates. We haven’t seen any offensive upside here.
In the NHL Martinsen recorded a ratio of 2.9 dangerous shots while on the ice per 60 minutes of play (SATSE F/60), which is way under the league average of 5.0.
Despite a weak camp, it’s possible that Martinsen could be the 13th forward in Montreal, if the organization prefers to send younger players to the AHL for greater ice time.
Scherbak has the potential to be an effective offensive forward. He is not ready for the big show right now, but after some injury struggles in 2015-16, progressed nicely last year.
Another season with the farm team will help his development. It is encouraging to see that he is still on track as he showed more fluidity and speed with his skating.
Waked has been sent to the Laval Rocket training camp. During his time in Montreal, he played very well. Waked has the speed to play at the pro level and will be fun to watch with the Rocket.
Jerabek was almost invisible in the Red vs White intrasquad game and in the first period against Boston. But with few power-play opportunities, he started to show more confidence. Jerabek has a very good vision and defensively, he makes very few mistakes.
Morrow is quick and makes a good first pass but he has been erratic in his own zone, creating many turnovers. Morrow will not be staying in Montreal unless his performance improves significantly.
Gelinas has impressed me so far. He has made his share of mistakes and hasn’t been extraordinary but Gelinas has been steady in the defensive zone. He helped his chances by scoring a power-play goal with a heavy shot. In my opinion, he showed that he deserves to receive a contract from the Canadiens and maybe start the season with the Rocket.
This young player has been very impressive, even when playing alongside Shea Weber. Mete has kept up with the pace and has been solid defensively. Mete has shown very good vision and has ability to create lots of offense.
That said, Mete has only played one exhibition game. The deeper we go in the training camp, the more difficult the competition will be against him. It will not be a surprise to see Mete go back to London and complete his final junior season. It will be interesting to keep an eye on him, as he has a bright future as an offensive-minded rearguard.
Lernout is a defenseman who could bring something to the Canadiens defense this season. For many not familiar with his development, Lernout wasn’t on the radar to start, but has been a pleasant surprise this pre-season. Lernout plays a very solid, positional game in his own zone. He has been quite physical and has proven to be very hard to play against. Could he earn a spot as a seventh defenseman?
So far, it’s kind to say that Streit hasn’t played very well. But he is a veteran and could profit from this experience to stay with the Canadiens.
Around the NHL
Nail Yakupov (Colorado Avalanche)
It might be Yakupov’s last chance to play in the NHL. He did well in his first pre-season game, collecting three assists.
Alex DeBrincat (Chicago Blackhawks)
DeBrincat was selected with one of the two Montreal picks that went to Chicago to acquire Andrew Shaw. DeBrincat has impressed coach Joel Quenneville and could start the season on a line with Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz.
Clayton Keller (Arizona Coyotes)
The 19-year-old should be one of the Coyotes top six and will be in the mix for the Calder Trophy. Keller tallied two goals in his first exhibition game.
Nico Hischier (New Jersey Devils)
At 18-years-old, Hischier will be an important part of the Devils offense this season. He collected his second goal of the pre-season against the Canadiens.
Patrick Laine (Winnipeg Jets)
Laine says that he feels more comfortable entering this season He scored 36 goals last season as a rookie.
Mikhail Sergachev (Tampa Bay Lightning)
In his first preseason game, Sergachev played a team-high 22:16 and scored his first goal. The Lightning management will give him all the chances to make his debut in the NHL.
Logan Brown (Ottawa Senators)
Brown may make his NHL debut sooner than expected due to the injuries to Derick Brassard and Colin White.