BROSSARD, QC. — In the pre-season, it is the process that is important. Results don’t necessarily matter. Team records and the statistics in the preseason do translate to regular season sucess most often but not always.
One thing that can be analyzed is a player’s individual attitude. With that, it can be established if the player is really ready for the start of the season.
Having attended a couple of practices at the Bell Sports Complex and after watching pre-season games, I have made some notes about some of the players who attended this current training camp. While some players have already been sent to the St. John’s IceCaps, the future looks bright for the Canadiens and their prospects.
If you have followed my articles, you know that I have always been a big supporter of Mike Condon, so I might be slightly biased when it comes to analyzing him. I honestly think that he has outplayed Dustin Tokarski since the beginning of this camp. Following a solid year in the AHL where he was a top-10 goaltender in almost every goalie category, Condon is showing that he is more positionally sound than Tokarski. I believed that he would start in the AHL as the starter, and I still do, but if he keeps playing like he did in the half-game he got Thursday night and the full game in Toronto, he will at least make the decision very hard to make for management.
I wasn’t very high on Fucale before this training camp, but he seems like he has improved. He is obviously very talented, very quick and is able to make nearly impossible saves. The knock on him has always been the fact that he is prone to let in weak goals, but it seems like he has cut down on those. I remember seeing Fucale at his first rookie camp, and he looked very shaky. This is a much more confident and calm goaltender that I am seeing at this camp.
Fleischmann was one of the first player to step on the ice at the first practice of this current training camp and from that moment, you could see that he was determined to make the team. His NHL-level skating was evident and he seemed to have a nose for the net. With the dominant game he played Thursday night, I think that Fleischmann may be on his way to a contract with the Habs. He has developed good chemistry with David Desharnais, thus opening an option for Michel Therrien to ice three solid offensive lines.
When I say that you can see from a player’s attitude if he is ready for the season, you can definitely see that Galchenyuk is ready. He has that extra drive in this training camp, as most of you probably saw in his first pre-season game. He seems to be enjoying his time at centre and he is faster and stronger than what I remember. I don’t think it is unreasonable to expect Galchenyuk to beat his personal career highs this season in terms of offensive production.
Daniel Carr is just as advertised. It was the first time I got to see him for a long period of time and he is exactly how people described him: fast, gritty and with a blazing wrist shot. He scored a few nifty goals with that shot with no traffic in front of the net and he seems to be one of those players that has a motor that doesn’t stop.
It seems like McCarron is even bigger than he was a couple years ago, and he is definitely noticeable out on the ice. His style is very cerebral despite what people may think with a player of his frame. He knows how to pick his spots and he is always near the puck. He seems to have a great attitude and I can definitely see him making the jump to the NHL sooner rather than later. The downside on him is still his skating, but at this point, I don’t think that it will improve a lot from now on. Because of his on ice-vison and his skillset, I think that he has been able to adapt his playing style to not rely on his footspeed.
A rather disappointing training camp for Nikita Scherbak from what I have seen of him. He has ridiculously soft hands and can do all sorts of things with the puck, but he tries to use that skill a lot during drills and practices, causing him to lose the puck more often than not. That said, he seems like he wants to learn and doesn’t look lazy. It is simply a learning process but I do not think that it is a set-back, but more that he still has to improve in order to be an NHL regular. Unfortnately an ankle injury has also hampered him.
I have seen Charles Hudon play a lot throughout the last few seasons and training camps and I think that he is inching closer to a spot in the NHL. He is probably the most offensively-sound top prospect we have in our system. Hudon, despite his size is able to track the puck better than a lot of his teammates. He is very good at reading passes and intercepting them before counter-attacking with speed. His style is very adapted to the current Habs system and I think that he will be a call-up at some point this season.
One of the players that has impressed me the most is Brett Lernout. He is a huge defenseman that can skate very fluidly. He showed in the pre-season game that he played alongside Nathan Beaulieu that he can be very aggressive on the back end without over committing. The 6-foot-4 defenseman just turned 20 years old Thursday and is already showing that he is not far from being NHL-ready.
I don’t think there is much more that I can say on P.K. Subban that people don’t know, but I just noted how energetic he was in every single practice and intra-squad games. From Day 1, he has been very sharp with the puck and has been very vocal in practices, trying to push his teammates to press harder as well. You can definitely see that he is more mature but he still has that passion from when I saw him in his Hamilton Training camps, a number of years ago.
Tinordi has been a very hot topic in the media because it is the first season that he will have to go through waivers if the Habs want to send him to the AHL. Like many have noticed, he seems like he has totally lost his confidence and he doesn’t look sharp when he has the puck on his blade. There will be a very difficult decision coming up with him because he still has potential because of his size and his skating. At this point, it is very hard to see that he will have a spot on the team as a player like Greg Pateryn is miles ahead of him in his development and time is running out.
Like other regular starters, Beaulieu didn’t show much in the first practices. But, on his first pre-season game Thursday night against the Capitals, Beaulieu showed a side that we haven’t seen since his junior days. He took a few more chances to create offense, and I think that with experience, he will develop into a very good two-way defenseman. He is very probably our fastest skating defenseman and he could slot in a top-4 spot permanently if he plays well this season.
I will be writing updates on more players all throughout this pre-season, so stay tuned!