Wednesday, August 31, 2011

2011/12 NHL Preview - Central Division

After previewing the Pacific yesterday, today we turn our heads to the Central, a division where all five teams could be seen as having realistic post-season aspirations.


Projected depth chart / lines:
Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Andrew Brunette - Dave Bolland - Marian Hossa
Michael Frolik - Rostislav Olesz - Bryan Bickell
Daniel Carcillo - Ben Smith - Viktor Stalberg

Brent Seabrook - Duncan Keith
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Steve Montador
Sami Lepisto - Nick Leddy

Corey Crawford
Alexander Salak

The Blackhawks got deeper over the summer with a number of veteran roleplayer signings like Andrew Brunette, Daniel Carcillo, Steve Montador, and Sami Lepisto, enabled by the trading of Brian Campbell. Up front, the team has plenty of offensive firepower but lacks depth at the center position. In the projected line-up above, both newly acquired Rostislav Olesz (who will feel some pressure to put up a good year as his career appears to be sputtering) and surprising youngster Ben Smith are natural wingers, but might be pressed into duty down the middle depending on the club's final moves. Either that or the team may opt for a more balanced roster by moving Patrick Sharp off of a top line and back into a center role where he is equally at ease.

On defense, the duo of Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith is one of the best in the league, equally as good in their own end as they are in supporting the rush. Look for former first round selection Nick Leddy to break out as a solid NHL d-man as a 20 year old this year after getting in 46 games with the Hawks last season, straight out of college.

While I'm not personally 100% sold on Corey Crawford as a top notch starting goaltender, he will certainly be given the chance to prove me wrong, as though Alexander Salak has shown quite a bit of potential, he is much less proven than Crawford. Of course, both may find themselves out of the starting spotlight if training camp invitee Ray Emery shows he is healthy enough to earn a contract.

YourCanadiens Verdict: Conference contender.


Projected depth chart / lines:
Vaclav Prospal - Jeff Carter - Rick Nash
R.J. Umberger - Antoine Vermette - Derick Brassard
Matt Calvert - Ryan Johansen - Kristian Huselius
Derek Dorsett - Samuel Pahlsson - Jared Boll

Marc Methot - James Wisniewski
Fedor Tyutin - Radek Martinek
Kris Russell - Grant Clitsome

Steve Mason
Mark Dekanich

The Jackets are a very deep offensive team bolstered by big ticket off-season moves on which many felt they overpaid. If Chicago has a lack of centers, they should look no further for a trade partner than Columbus, as 5 of the team's top 6 forwards (everyone but Rick Nash) are natural C's. Winger Kristian Huselius will be sidelined to start the season, but the money freed up allowed the club to sign Vaclav Prospal to a reasonable contract, and he should be a perfect set-up man for Nash and Jeff Carter. No disrespect to Carter, but I think it will be fun to monitor who has more points at year's end between him and Jakub Voracek - the player sent to the Philadelphia Flyers along with a first round selection for Carter. Big things are expected from rookie Ryan Johansen, who will be well insulated thanks to the club's depth, and may play alongside 21-year old Matt Calvert who is looking like a complete steal as a 5th round pick in 2008.

Columbus took a huge gamble in handing a very large contract to former Canadien James Wisniewski this summer, one that many consider the off-season's worst deal. The Wizz provided valuable service to Montreal, though, and Marc Methot seems like an ideal partner for him being a reliable no-nonsense defense-first type.

In goal, it looks like the team will give Mark Dekanich a shot at an NHL job after his dominance in the American League, but ultimately a big part of Columbus's fate will rest on starter Steve Mason's ability to bounce back after two subpar years.

YourCanadiens Verdict: Bubble playoff team.


Projected depth chart / lines:
Valtteri Filppula - Pavel Datsyuk - Todd Bertuzzi
Johan Franzen - Hernik Zetterberg - Tomas Holmstrom
Patrick Eaves - Jiri Hudler - Daniel Cleary
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Justin Abdelkader

Nicklas Lidstrom - Brad Stuart
Ian White - Niklas Kronwall
Mike Commodore - Jonathan Ericsson

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin

The Red Wings are perennial contenders, though for a change, they were quite quiet this summer, leaving the team with more cap space than they've had at any point in recent memory. Offensively, the team looks just like that which was bounced from the playoffs, but one could make a strong case that they were as good as any other club remaining had the injury bug not stricken many of their stars. Pavel Datsyuk is arguably the best all-around player in the league, and the team makes good use of big body wingers like Tomas Holmstrom, Johan Franzen, and Todd Bertuzzi - the type of players Habs fans have been craving for years. The club was supposedly in on Jaromir Jagr until the final hours, which means they may still look to bring in some additional scoring punch, particularly with an aging group of wingers.

While the offense looks the same, Detroit had some holes to fill on defense after the surprising retirement of Brian Rafalski. With Rafalski contributing at both ends of the rink, Ken Holland looked to two players to fill the roles - Ian White for the powerplay, and Mike Commodore for his defensive game. As per usual with the Wings, both were signed for good value, perhaps a reason why the team wasn't more active on other players with many receiving far more than they are worth in a shallow market. A big question for the team will be how much longer Nicklas Lidstrom decides to play, as there is no heir apparent for his very large skates to fill.

In goal, Jimmy Howard showed to be a reasonable starter last year, though Detroit's puck control game tends to limit shots on net better than most, offering support for whoever is between the pipes. The retired Chris Osgood was replaced by Ty Conklin, a suitable back-up but not one who will take the team far if pressed into service.

YourCanadiens Verdict: Solid playoff team.


Projected depth chart / lines:
Martin Erat - Mike Fisher - Sergei Kostitsyn
Blake Geoffrion - Colin Wilson - Patric Hornqvist
Cal O'Reilly - David Legwand - Jordin Tootoo
Niclas Bergfors - Nick Spaling - Jerred Smithson

Shea Weber - Ryan Suter
Francis Bouillon - Jonathan Blum
Kevin Klein - Jack Hillen

Pekka Rinne
Anders Lindback

Every season I predict a drop-off for the Predators, and yet every year they manage to prove me wrong. Do I just severely underrate them? Is it all Barry Trotz's coaching? I will again suggest that a few key losses and no real additions will mean that the Preds miss the playoffs in 2011-12, but that's not to say they can't make it interesting. Mike Fisher was a big ticket addition prior to last season's trade deadline, and a big part of his role will be mentoring Colin Wilson into the top 6 center that he projects to be. 6'1" winger Blake Geoffrion (grandson of Habs legend Bernard "Boom Boom" Geoffrion)had a great rookie season at the pro level, putting up 37 points in 45 AHL games and adding 8 points (including 6 goals) in 20 with the Preds, something he hopes to build on in the coming year. Certainly a good candidate if your pool obliges you to take a rookie (he's still Calder eligible). This could be former first round pick Niclas Bergfors's last chance to prove he belongs in the NHL, as he joines his third club in the past year and will have to battle for ice time.

If Geoffrion has legitimate Calder aspirations up front, Jonathan Blum might be one of the league's best rookie rearguards, rounding out a top 4 anchored by the newly re-signed Shea Weber and the pending UFA Ryan Suter. With a lack of star presence at forward, Weber's offense from the blueline is key to Nashville's success.

Pekka Rinne proved last season that he is amongst the most solid netminders in the game, while Anders Lindback showed he is more than capable of stepping in when called upon - perhaps a future asset for the team to move to add some scoring. But will a Weber-led defense in front of Rinne be sufficient for the team to make the West's top 8? It looks like it will be a tall order.

YourCanadiens Verdict: Bubble playoff team.


Projected depth chart / lines:
David Backes - Patrick Berglund - Chris Stewart
David Perron - Andy McDonald - T.J. Oshie
Matt D'Agostini - Jason Arnott - Alexander Steen
B.J. Crombeen - Vladimir Sobotka - Jamie Langenbrunner

Barret Jackman - Alex Pietrangelo
Roman Polak - Kevin Shattenkirk
Carol Colaiacovo - Ian Cole

Jaroslav Halak
Brian Elliott

The Blue look like an up and coming exciting young team ready to do some damage. Offensively, bringing in veterans Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner on one year deals makes the forward group exceptionally deep and nicely surrounds the younger players. Chris Stewart was on a torrid pace after being acquired from the Colorado Avalanche, scoring 15 goals and 23 points in 26 games, while Andy McDonald quietly produced another 50 point season despite injuries limiting him to only 58 games. McDonald isn't the only one hoping for better health, as 23 year old David Perron scored 7 points in the only 10 games he was able to play last season. With a bit of luck, it is far from unreasonable for this team to have 7 or 8 50-point scorers, a testament to how dangerous the offense is.

The trade of Erik Johnson will be felt on defense, though his offensive production is easily replaced (and even surpassed) by the acquisition of Kevin Shattenkirk in that same deal. As a rookie last season, Shattenkirk scored an impressive 43 points - 5 more than Montreal's P.K. Subban - to lead all freshman blueliners. Ian Cole is another young d-man who will be entering his first full season at the NHL level, making for a great young core along with Shattenkirk and of course top pairing stalwart Alex Pietrangelo.

In nets, Jaroslav Halak will have to shake off a season of injuries and inconsistencies to prove that he is capable of shouldering the load as a full-time #1. He shows flashes of looking like a dominant goaltender, but has yet to show the endurance to carry it over a full year. Still, he adds to a group that the Blues hope to keep together for a while and may not be far off from contender status.

YourCanadiens Verdict: Low seed playoff team.

Thanks for reading. Tomorrow we preview our first Canadian teams as we hit the Northwest Division!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

2011/12 NHL Preview - Pacific Division

Today in part 1 of our previews of the upcoming NHL season, we look at the Pacific Division. Each day we'll look at projected team depth charts and a number of other factors that could make or break teams this year, before culminating in our predictions on September 7th.


Projected depth chart / lines:
Corey Perry - Ryan Getzlaf - Bobby Ryan
Jason Blake - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Brandon McMillan - Andrew Cogliano - Dan Sexton
Matt Beleskey - Maxime Macenauer - George Parros

Lubomir Visnovsky - Toni Lydman
Cam Fowler - Francois Beauchemin
Luca Sbisa - Kurtis Foster

Jonas Hiller
Dan Ellis

The Ducks failed to make any major acquisitions this off-season but did bring in Andrew Cogliano from Edmonton to shore up their depth at center. Once a highly touted prospect, Cogliano's offensive game and consistency have been questioned at the NHL level, but perhaps a change of scenery is just what he needed. He and Brandon McMillan will need to perform to support an aging 2nd line of Jason Blake, Saku Koivu, and Teemu Selanne (assuming Selanne does decide to return, that is, which is still not a given).

The Ducks' top line is perhaps the best in the game, but they'll need to lean an awful lot on it to have a successful season since they are lacking in scoring support. Things aren't that grim though as a number of promising rookies have a chance to see action at some point whether this season or next including Kyle Palmieri, Emerson Etem, and Peter Holland. Another interesting storyline up front will be Mark Bell, once a budding young power forward with the Chicago Blackhawks, but whose off-ice activity and life issues derailed his development. After spending two seasons in the Swiss league, Bell hopes to return to the NHL this year, but is likely to start with the Ducks' affiliate in the American League.

It hasn't taken Anaheim long to successfully replace the win pillars on the blueline of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. With no offense intended towards Ryan Whitney, the club outright stole Lubomir Visnovsky from the Oilers, while Toni Lydman may be amongst the more underrated defensemen in the game. The fun one to watch this season will be Cam Fowler - an unexpected draft day slider who made his NHL debut as an 18 year old and put up an impressive 40 points in 76 games. While he still needs to polish his defensive game, he certainly has Drew Doughty'esque potential, and makes a good gamble for any fantasy hockey pools out there.

The real success factor for the club this season resides in goal. Jonas Hiller put up incredible numbers during the first half of last year, but was sidelined with concussion syndromes after being hit in the head during the all-star game. If he can return to form, Anaheim looks good to lock up a playoff spot. If he can't, however, it is unlikely that back-up Dan Ellis will be sufficient to extend the team's season beyond April in the tough and competitive Western Conference.

YourCanadiens Verdict: Low seed playoff team.


Projected depth chart / lines:
Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Loui Eriksson
Steve Ott - Jamie Benn - Michael Ryder
Adam Burish - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak
Toby Peterson - Tom Wandell - Jake Dowell

Alex Goligoski - Stephane Robidas
Trevor Daley - Nicklas Grossman
Sheldon Souray - Adam Pardy

Kari Lehtonen
Andrew Raycroft

The Stars were active on the UFA market this summer, but as was the nature of the market, most signings were depth players unlikely to make a difference in the overall success of the team's season. Michael Ryder is coming off a resurgent UFA year, scoring 41 points in the regular season but more importantly having been an integral piece to the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup championship, where his great two-way play helped the team past the Montreal Canadiens, and he added 8 goals and 17 points in the 25 playoff contests. In Dallas, he will perhaps be reunited with former Hab linemate Mike Ribeiro, who for all the negative press he gets, remains a competent and productive top pivot. With three straight seasons over 60 points, the last two of which were over 70, Loui Eriksson has proven he is amongst the league's most talented wingers, and at the age of 26, he is still in the prime years of his career. Due to his age and the nature of his game, Stars captain Brenden Morrow, on the other hand, would appear to be in decline, but will still see top line minutes on a team lacking in offensive depth.

On the back end, the most interesting player to follow will be Sheldon Souray, getting a new chance at an NHL job after half a season sat out and a full year in the AHL due to a situation-gone-wrong in Edmonton. Habs fans will fondly remember Souray's booming pointshot and will be curious to see if he still has it in him, even if the Stars may keep Alex Goligoski and Stephane Robidas as their number 1 powerplay pair. Those in very deep hockey pools may consider gambling on Souray in a late round, but the overall outlook for Dallas this year doesn't seem to be particularly positive, so combining that with Souray's known defensive deficiencies, expect a poor +/- rating.

Between the pipes, Andrew Raycroft has gotten his career back on track and appears to be a reliable back-up keeper, but clearly the team needs Kari Lehtonen to stay healthy to have any chance of reaching the playoffs. His 69 games last year was a career high and he'll look to build off that even if he'll never live up to his billing as a former 2nd overall selection (albeit in a weak first round in 2002).

YourCanadiens Verdict: Out of the playoffs.


Projected depth chart / lines:
Justin Williams - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Simon Gagne - Mike Richards - Dustin Penner
Kyle Clifford - Jarret Stoll - Brad Richardson
Scott Parse - Trevor Lewis - Ethan Moreau

Jack Johnson - Drew Doughty
Willie Mitchell - Rob Scuderi
Matt Greene - Alec Martinez

Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Bernier

While the Kings do still have to get star defenseman Drew Doughty under contract, it is our expectation that is done in the next couple of weeks prior to the start of training camp. Los Angeles was aggressive in improving their roster over the summer and now possess what may be the best group of top 6 forwards league-wide. There have been some questions about Dustin Penner's off-season training and conditioning, but the additions of him (trade deadline), Simon Gagne (UFA), and Mike Richards (off-season trade) give the Kings a scary arsenal of offensive weapons. Skilled winger Justin Williams was finally healthy last season, with his 73 games being the first time he topped the 50 game mark since 2006-07. If he can build on the success he had with 57 points and 4 more in 6 playoff games, he rounds out a top 2 lines that Habs fans could only dream of - all players at 6'0" or greater with a nose for the net.

The Kings had to sacrifice their top prospects in Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds to make their moves, but the cupboard isn't bare, with many expecting talented Russian forward Andrei Loktionov to establish himself full-time at some point during the season. He put up 7 points in 19 NHL games and 31 more in 34 AHL games last year, so if your pool needs a good rookie and the obvious ones are gone, he might be a good risk. Similarly on the blueline, after the big names in Doughty and Jack Johnson, this may be a breakout year for the highly underrated Alec Martinez. After scoring 16 points in 20 games with the Manchester Monarchs last season, he made the jump to the big club and his solid two-way play earned him a role in the top 6 right through the playoffs.

Many eyes may be on the developing situation in goal, as Jonathan Quick is a high calibre starting goaltender but will be a UFA in 2 seasons. Jonathan Bernier has dominated at the AHL level but has yet to truly prove he can be a consistent NHL starter, leading to a question of whether he will get that chance in L.A. or be moved for other assets.

YourCanadiens Verdict: Conference contender.


Projected depth chart / lines:
Ray Whitney - Kyle Turris - Shane Doan
Raffi Torres - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Taylor Pyatt - Daymond Langkow - Mikkel Boedker
Paul Bissonnette - Boyd Gordon - Petteri Nokelainen

Keith Yandle - Rostislav Klesla
Derek Morris - Oliver Ekman-Larsson
Michal Rozsival - Adrian Aucoin

Mike Smith
Jason Labarbera

Stunts in the development of a few of Phoenix's top prospects slowed the rise of what was not long ago seen as a true up-and-coming team. Kyle Turris will be given every chance to prove himself as a 1st or 2nd line center this season or he'll be dealt for someone equally enigmatic. Mikkel Boedker should see regular ice time in a secondary scoring role, while Viktor Tikhonov looks to continue to battle his way back into the NHL after his surprising rookie season as an 18 year old in 2008-09. The recent acquisition of Daymond Langkow has sound potential upside bringing veteran presence to a third line after the 35 year old returned to the NHL from injury towards the end of last season. There isn't too too much to work with though, so the Coyotes need to hope for a huge pre-UFA year from captain Shane Doan to lead the team up front - a simple Raffi Torres won't do it.

If there aren't many bright spots up front, the Coyotes have two pillars on defense for the foreseeable future in Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Unfortunately, the rest of the group is getting up there in age and isn't particularly quick of foot, which will be a problem given that the club can no longer rely on a main reason for their past success, goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. His trade to the Flyers means the team is now counting on a pair of netminders who are at best 1B goaltenders and seem better suited for back-up roles, but between Mike Smith, Jason Labarbera, and even third stringer Curtis McElhinney, perhaps the club will receive sufficient performances to remain in contention.

YourCanadiens Verdict: Out of the playoffs.


Projected depth chart / lines:
Martin Havlat - Joe Thornton - Patrick Marleau
Logan Couture - Joe Pavelski - Ryan Clowe
James Sheppard - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Jamie McGinn - Andrew Murray - Ben Ferriero

Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Brent Burns - Douglas Murray
Jason Demers - Collin White

Antti Niemi
Antero Nitttymaki

For a team that has seen such tremendous regular season success for many seasons in a row, the Sharks certainly were busy this summer. It is debatable if the team is better up front, with Martin Havlat, Michal Handzus, and James Sheppard replacing notably Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, but the team did land a big fish on defense in Brent Burns (a huge upgrade over trade deadline acquisition Ian White). The offense will depend on many of the same key contributors of a year ago, with a top 6 rivaling that of the Kings provided that Ryan Clowe and Joe Pavelski continue along in their quick progression as offensive threats. It would appear as though Havlat has put his prior injury problems behind him with three straight seasons of more than 70 games, but the team's offense doesn't extend deep into the bottom 6, so they will need to remain as healthy as possible if they are to challenge for the conference title.

On the blueline, the Sharks are a young, mobile, two-way group anchored by veteran Dan Boyle. The club made a couple of important depth moves in signing both Collin White and Jim Vandermeer to cheap value deals, and they will be crucial veterans should any of the younger players slump.

Antti Niemi may have led a team to a Stanley Cup as a rookie, and did post solid numbers last season in San Jose, but I'm far from sold on him as a top notch starting 'tender. Fortunately, Antero Niittymaki is arguably a goalie of similar calibre, so between the two of them, the Sharks goaltending tandem should be up to par with what it was with Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala back in the day.

YourCanadiens Verdict: Conference contender.

Thanks for reading. Tomorrow we hit the Central Division!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Andddd we're back! With season previews!

I'd like to apologize to all of the valued and appreciated readers of this site for our near two week outage with regards to content updates. This blog isn't a profession, but more of a hobby and passion, so unfortunately life had to take priority the last 10+ days.

But now we're back! With a vengeance! Today I'd like to announce our schedule for upcoming in-depth previews of the 2011-12 NHL season. Here we are:

Tuesday, August 30 - PACIFIC DIVISION
Wednesday, August 31 - CENTRAL DIVISION
Thursday, September 1 - NORTHWEST DIVISION
Friday, September 2 - SOUTHEAST DIVISION
Monday, September 5 - ATLANTIC DIVISION
Tuesday, September 6 - NORTHEAST DIVISION

Everyday, we'll go over project rosters, possible breakout players, risk factors, and more!

We look forward to getting back into the meaty stuff tomorrow morning!

Thank you for staying with us during tougher times.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Around the League: NHL R&D Rule Development Camp

Today and tomorrow the National Hockey League will be holding its second annual R&D Rule Development camp, where a group of young undrafted prospects will be playing with various modified rules to see how they might fit the NHL. Amongst those in attendance is goaltender Malcolm Subban, younger brother of Montreal Canadiens' defenseman P.K. Subban, and a player hoping for his stock to rise prior to next summer's entry draft.

Let's take a closer look at some of the rules they are toying with, any of which would likely be tested for a full season in the American Hockey League before being adopted into the NHL.

No-Touch Icing

This is a rule in effect in international hockey, whereby once a puck is shot down the ice and crosses the opposing goal line behind the net, the play is immediately whistled down for an icing call. The main idea here is it prevents sometimes dangerous plays when players are skating their hardest to battle to negate an icing call, which could result in highly damaging high-impact tangled crashes into the boards. An alternative to this is the hybrid icing, where it is left at a referee's discretion to blow the play as a no-touch icing, or to let the players skate it out.

Off-Side Line Changes

Two potential new rules involving face-offs after a line change are being looked at. The first would treat it like an icing, in that the offending team would not be able to change its players on the ice. The second implements for all off-sides the rule for "intentional off-side" today, meaning the face-off would come back to the end of the offending team. I'm not sure that cutting off changes will be an effective strategy, as having two common infractions that won't let a team change will make for some odd long shifts. In fact, however, the NHL is also testing an even more radical change which would only allow changes on-the-fly (never during whistles), so clearly applying the rule just to off-sides isn't too drastic in their minds. The face-off in a team's own end will be very frustrating, especially for teams on the powerplay, and might over time change the way the game is played to an extent, with teams being even more cautious to stay onside.

Overtime / Shootout Variation

Different ways of ending tied regular season games will also be assessed, with one option being moving to 3-on-3 overtime if the 4-on-4 period doesn't solve anything. Alternatively, if the shootout remains, a 5-man line-up will be considered as opposed to the current 3-man, something already in effect in the AHL. These proposals could be considered mostly for the fans, to determine the most entertaining and least frustrating way to end games.

Penalty Changes

A couple of alternatives on the timing of penalties will be tested, including forcing the offending team to exit the zone for a delayed penalty to be whistled, rather than just having to touch the puck, and having all penalties served in their entirety regardless of goals scored. Both rules increase the severity of taking a penalty, and would seem to want to increase offensive output in the game.

A number of other rules will also be played with, including making nets shallower, allowing hand passes in all zones, removing the goaltender trapezoid behind the net, and the controversial allowing of bear-hug interference as seen in the game prior to the lockout.

Certainly camps like these can only be good for the game as the league is committed to ensuring they have the best possible product on the ice. Two days of camp will not be enough to guarantee any results of these changes, but ones that seem interesting may be tested in games in the AHL or a junior league.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

6 Early Previews of Habs' 2011-12 Season

As training camp slowly inches closer, the number of NHL season previews around the net begins to multiply. This site's own previews will kick off the week after next as we prepare to flip the calendar into September, but for today, we bring you 6 looks at the upcoming Canadiens' season from other bloggers, reporters, and pundits (in no real particular order).

Key Highlight: Team's biggest question marks are whether Scott Gomez can rebound, and whether Carey Price can continue his strong play.

2) YouTube Video Previews - A few good ones to get you pumped up:

"Montreal Canadiens 2011-12 Season Preview | Undead"

"Montreal Canadiens 2011-12 Season Preview HD"

"2011-2012 // Montreal Canadiens // Season Preview, The Drive for 25 Continues"

Projections for Montreal's forwards for 2011-12.
He's got Gomez with 52 points; here's hoping!

4) Iain Carnegie,, featuring CTV's Brian Wilde.

Key Highlight: Habs projected to finish 5th in East.

Previewing the Canadiens' "Cole-powered" offense.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Canadiens Sign Jeff Woywitka to 2-Way Deal

We've mentioned a couple of times on this site that Pierre Gauthier needed to add at least one more defenseman for the Hamilton Bulldogs, and today he decided to not make us out to be liars. The Habs signed veteran Jeff Woywitka to a one-year, two-way contract.

Woywitka is a very solid depth addition, having played 63 games for the Dallas Stars a year ago, and with over 250 NHL games under his belt. He brings good size and physicality at 6'3", 215 lbs, but is also an adept puck-mover.

Woywitka was formerly a first round selection in 2001 by the Philadelphia Flyers, and has made NHL stops in St. Louis and Dallas.

It seems evident that Gauthier doesn't want to have to deal for depth like he did last year by bringing in Brent Sopel and Paul Mara. With signings like Woywitka and Rafael Diaz, the Canadiens have a solid number of potential fill-ins should the injury bug bite the team's back end. The 'Dogs defense also looks a lot better, now with Alex Henry, Mark Mitera, Frederic St-Denis, Brendon Nash, Joe Stejskal, Diaz, and Woywitka all under contract.

Though far from a heaveyweight (think Tom Kostopoulos... feisty but somewhat of a punching bag), Woywitka is also capable of dropping the gloves when called upon to defend a teammate. Below are a couple of his fight clips.

Memory Monday: The Most Interesting Man in Goal

Popular commercials for the beer brand Dos Equis introduce us to a hypothetical Most Interesting Man in the World. Ken Dryden may not get questioned by police just because they find him interesting, and his blood may not smell like cologne, but as far as hockey players go, he just may be the most interesting man to ever lace up a pair of skates.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario, he played his junior hockey in the NCAA for the Big Red at Cornell University, where he also earned a Bachelor of Arts in History. Over three years there, he put up an absolutely incredible 76-4-1 record, with a GAA well under 2.00 each season. In 2010, he would have his college number, 1, retired at Cornell, making him one of only two players to have ever received such an honour.

You may all be aware that the Montreal Canadiens are the only NHL team Dryden played for, but did you know they aren't the team that drafted him? He was actually a draft choice of the dreaded Boston Bruins, taken 14th overall in 1964 (before his college days) and the only goaltender selected that year. A draft day trade sent him and Alex Campbell to the Habs for Paul Reid and Guy Allen - a deal the Bs would surely want a mulligan on. Of course, 1964 was well before the days of Twitter or Bob McKenzie and Darren Dreger breaking deals live on air, so that day, Dryden received only a single call from his agent, informing him he was to be a Canadien. As crazy as it may sound, he only learnt that he had been involved in a transaction nearly 10 years after the fact!

After debuting with the Canadiens in 1970-71, Dryden's numbers speak for themselves. Over 8 seasons, he averaged a 2.24 GAA with a 258-57-74 record, earning him a Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, followed by 5 Vezina Trophy wins as the league's top goalie. In the post-season, he retired with a steallar 80-32 record, making the playoffs every season as a Hab and winning 6 Stanley Cups. Not a bad average.

Certainly, the only thing keeping Dryden out of the conversations about the greatest hockey players of all time is his short career-span, as he retired at just 31 years of age. You see, if he had simply played into his late 30s and retired to become a hockey coach or general manager, he would have been simply following the script. Not something The Most Interesting Man in Goal would do at all!

To understand him as a person, we need to jump back to the middle of his playing career, being the 1973-74 season. Unhappy with a contract offer from Habs GM Sam Pollock, Dryden held out. But it would not be fitting for a man of such mystique to simply find another league to play in or to ask for a trade. No, instead he became a full-time student at McGill University, earning enough credits to round out the requirements for a degree in Law, while articling at the law offices of Osler, Hoskin, and Harcourt in Toronto. It looked like his NHL career might be over.

But not so fast. When he returned to the NHL in 74-75, his game was understandably off a bit, resulting in the worst season of his career. But the Most Interesting Man in Goal doesn't take failure lightly, and so he rebounded with his career best year in 75-76, finishing with a 2.03 GAA and a sparkling 1.92 playoff goals against average en route to another Stanley Cup... the first of four consecutive Cups to cap his career!

With two degrees in his back pocket, Dryden's career extended well beyond the rink. His first post-hockey career was in writing, author or co-author of five books. His most famous is the autobiographical The Game, but his talents went beyond retelling his own life story, as he had a fictional novel entitled The Moved and the Shaken published in 1993.

Dryden also dipped into television commentating, working three Winter Olmypic Games, and most well known for his coverage of Team USA's 1980 Miracle on Ice victory over the Soviet Union. This role would allow for his acting debut, as he played himself in the 2004 movie about the American conquest, Miracle.

Getting back into hockey more directly, Dryden served as President of the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1997 to 2003. Seen as an intelligent but controversial leader, when the club changed direction and made his role less important, he left to take on yet another new challenge.

That challenge, as most know, was politics. After winning his riding as a member of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2004, Dryden was named the country's Minister of Social Development, being seen as a positive influence and even potential party leadership candidate. Dryden was re-elected in 2006, but the Liberal Party lost power. Following the resignation of former head Paul Martin, Dryden was considered one of the favourites to take over the Party by the general population, but could not garner enough support to remain competitive with the other candidates. Dryden would eventually lose his seat in 2011 during the election which saw the Conservatives earn a majority government.

The NHL Star / 6'4" Giant Goalie Pose Inventor / Author / Actor / Commentator / President / Lawyer / Historian / Politician was undoubtedly very deserving of being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1983, having his number retired by the Habs in 2007, and - of course - being named our Most Interesting Man in Goal... well... today. Now that he is out of the political spotlight for the time being, the world anxiously awaits the next move of a man who has never forgotten to stay thirsty.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Announcing... Your Canadiens Contests!

Welcome readers! To show appreciation for your visits to this site and your help in having it take off as much as it has, beginning today we will launch a series of weekly contests.

To enter:

1) Follow @DailyCanadiens on Twitter.

2) Tweet a response to our question posted Friday morning with the hash tag #HabsContest @DailyCanadiens.

3) If you do not have a Twitter account, leave a response to this post and include your e-mail address so that we can contact you if you've won.

And it's that simple! Answer our contest FOR FREE and you could WIN! We'll have one prize for every week until the start of the season!

This week's question: Tell us your best/most wanted realistic trade proposal for the Canadiens this season.
No rules, any deal that you feel is relatively equal in value and plausible. But it has to fit in a single Tweet. We will pick 10 top entries and feature them on this site, and then pick a winner from amongst the 10 at random to receive our prize this week.

Enter as many times as you'd like to increase your chances of winning!

This week's prize: A pair of passes to the Montreal Canadiens Hall of Fame at the Bell Centre.
These can be yours - all you have to do is send us a Tweet! They will be sent to you completely free if you are chosen the winner!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Habs Quick Hits - August 11

Minor news and updates concerning your Montreal Canadiens:

- Jarred Tinordi continues his progress towards locking down a spot on Team USA for this winter's World Junior Championships. He was held off the scoresheet in all regards in a 4-1 loss to Sweden yesterday, but will again be paired with Adam Clendening (what appears to be penciled in as the Americans' third pairing for the upcoming tournament) for a game against Finland today.

- Andrei Kostitsyn has apparently sounded off to a Belarussian hockey site about Habs head coach Jacques Martin. Kostitsyn feels he does not have a good relationship with the coach and did not understand why he kept being put on third and/or fourth lines last year - something he felt was the cause of dip in his play. Story: Sounds like he'll look forward to hitting the open market as a UFA next summer if he is even around that long.

- For those familiar with the Boucher Scouting System website, check out a one-game review of Brendan Gallagher's play at Team Canada's recent WJC Camp: If you're not familiar with the site, check it out - quite interesting stuff!

Coach Spotlight: Ron Wilson

[Player Spotlight Archive]

Instead of focusing on a player today, given this week's announcement by the Canadiens, we'll look at a member of the organization's coaching staff.

Ron Wilson, who is in the unfortunate and confusing position of sharing a name (but no relation) with the head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs, was named by Pierre Gauthier this week as an assistant coach to Clement Jodoin with the Hamilton Bulldogs for the upcoming season. There was a vacancy to be filled since both Randys - Cunneyworth and Ladouceur - were promoted to jobs with the NHL team.

So, who is THIS Ron Wilson? Well if the news sounds familiar to you, that's because it isn't Mr. Wilson's first spin in the organization, having held an assistant coaching role with these same Bulldogs from 2003-04 through 2008-09 (when he also briefly stepped in as head coach). He then spent 2 seasons with the Chicago Wolves, before now returning to Hamilton. In all, he has coached an impressive 1,194 games at the American Hockey League level and won 2 Calder Cups - with Saint John in 2000-01 and with the Bulldogs in 2006-07.

Born in Toronto, Wilson played junior hockey in what was then the OHA, and was drafted by the Canadiens in 1976. After spending time with the team's AHL affiliate (then the Nova Scotia Voyageurs), Wilson was dealt to the Winnipeg Jets where he made his NHL debut at the age of 23. Despite strong first seasons of 57 and 51 points respectively, inconsistencies in his game were evident, and he soon found himself battling for ice time. After 11 seasons of bouncing around between the Jets in the National League and various farm clubs, he found full-time employment with the St. Louis Blues midway through the 1989-90 campaign and spent the following three seasons there. Wilson would finally get to play for the Habs in the final year of his NHL career, 1993-94 (sadly missing a Cup ring by one season), during which he scored 12 points in 48 games. In all, he played 832 regular season games in the National Hockey League, finishing with 110 goals and 216 assists for 326 points.

Following his time in the NHL, Wilson would play 2 years in the IHL and one in the ECHL before immediately retiring to take a job as an AHL assistant coach with the Springfield Falcons. He has remained in the league since, building an impressive resume, to the point where one would imagine it's only a matter of time before someone gives him a look for an NHL post. Wouldn't it be funny to see Ron Wilson as an assistant coach to... Ron Wilson... some day?!

In the meanwhile, his wealth of experience will be a welcome addition to the Bulldogs' staff in helping prepare the next generation of future Montreal Canadiens to make the leap. In Jodoin and Wilson, the Habs have put in place two guys very familiar with the organization and with sterling records for developing young talent.

Side Note: A story hit the internet last night that the Canadiens might have signed Swedish defenseman Robin Olsson. This was confirmed to be false later in the evening. The Habs still need to add a blueliner for the Hamilton Bulldogs, but it sounds like Olsson is not their man.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Habs Quick Hits - August 10

Some minor news updates for today that we felt were worthy of a post.

- Mike Cammalleri is attending a special camp run by trainer Jari Byrski this week.
Amongst others in attendance are Steven Stamkos, Jason Spezza, Jeff Skinner, Wojtek Wolski, and Adam Hall.

- Yesterday, Ron Wilson was named assistant coach of the Hamilton Bulldogs. We haven't discussed the move yet because we will have a spotlight feature on him tomorrow.

- Per Dave Stubbs on Twitter, the annual Montreal Canadiens golf tournament goes 5 weeks from today, meaning Wednesday, September 14th. This is well in line with our projected date for the opening of training camp, Friday September 16th, with the first pre-season game being on Tuesday, September 20th. Rookie camp will likely begin a week prior, so around Friday, September 9th. It's getting close folks!

- More updates on Jarred Tinordi from Team USA Camp: he WILL be in the line-up as the American team faces off against a Swedish U20 group tonight. He was paired with Adam Clendening during this morning's practice. This again bears well for his chances of making the WJC roster. See below a report from a user of about Tinordi's previous game:
Originally Posted by seadawg View Post
There was a lot of nastiness in the game. Jarred Tinordi took 4 penalties and is definitely a mean-spirited player. He is 6 foot, 7 inches, can skate fairly well for a big guy, and when he body checks someone into the boards, they really rattle. I was standing right up against the glass the entire game, and more than once Tinordi destroyed someone right in front of me and I thought they were going to come right through the boards. If he continues to develop, Montreal will be extremely happy with Tinordi. I do not see him as an offensive guy at all, but he will be a terror to play against.

Sounds good!

- An interesting piece from Eric Engels about the possible line-up scenarios for the Canadiens this season:
With 7 should-be "top 6" forwards on the team, training camp should make for some interesting experiments. Given that all of Brian Gionta, Erik Cole, and Andrei Kostitsyn are natural right wingers, my first instinct would be to have Kostitsyn on the third line with Lars Eller (and possibly shift David Desharnais to that trio as well on the wing), but either A.K. or Cole may be asked to switch sides to try other combinations.

- If you aren't aware of this site, check it out. Some great 100% legit photos of NHL players as kids, including many of Carey Price:

- Montreal police have concluded their investigation into Zdeno Chara's hit on Max Pacioretty, and whether or not actual criminal charges are laid against Chara is now up to prosecutors.

- Lastly (and perhaps most importantly), we will begin a series of weekly contests for Habs fans starting this Friday. Submissions will be open for a week and it is free to enter, but to do so, you must be following our Twitter account, @DailyCanadiens.

We will offer a prize for every week up till the start of the season, some of which include passes to the Canadiens Hall of Fame at the Bell Centre, a Pavel Datsyuk autographed Detroit Red Wings puck, vintage hockey cards, and more! Stay tuned for details this Friday!

Around the League: Top 5 Trades of the Summer

Previously, we looked at players we felt were the best value signings of the summer. Today we look at the other transactions that have occurred, namely trades, to try to identify the deals that will most help one or both of the involved teams this season and beyond.

With a thin UFA crop, hockey fans were spoiled with a significant number of high profile deals which began right before draft weekend. Here are 5 of the biggest.

5) The San Jose Sharks trade forward Dany Heatley to the Minnesota Wild for winger Martin Havlat.

This marks the third trade in Dany Heatley's 9 season NHL career, and each has been a significant blockbuster. To some, these players have been heading in opposite directions of late; in Heatley's case, coming off his worst season since 2003-04, while Havlat seems to have put the biggest knock on him - injury concerns - to rest for now, with 78, 73, and 81 games played over the past 3 seasons respectively. With two seasons of over 100 points, Heatley brings more star power to the table, but he has always benefited from highly skilled linemates, showing he may be more of a complimentary than core player. Havlat, on the other hand, has shown the ability to create offense on his own, and while he has seldom reached the 1 point-per-game mark, plays a more intense, hardnosed game than Heatley. The deal has potential to be good for both sides, with a change of scenery sometimes bringing out the best in a player. For now, though, since Havlat's cap hit is $2.5M less than Heatley's, which allowed the Sharks to sign Brent Burns (see lower down the list) to a lengthy extension, we'll score San Jose as the winner. The club was also facing Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, and Heatley all hitting the UFA market at the same time in 3 years, so they've hedged their bets by swapping for Havlat who has 4 years remaining on his deal.

4) The Philadelphia Flyers trade center Jeff Carter to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jakub Voracek and the Blue Jackets' 1st and 3rd round picks in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

We'll come right out and say it: love this trade for the Flyers. Absolutely no disrespect intended to Jeff Carter, who is a tremendous hockey player and provides more offensive depth to try to get Columbus over that post-season hump. But in all honesty, it wouldn't be a huge surprise of Jakub Voracek's year-end point total is close to that of Carter's (though with fewer goals of course). Add in that Philadelphia added a top prospect to their stable in Sean Couturier, and had the money to fix their biggest weakness - goaltending - in signing Ilya Bryzgalov, and this trade appears to be a homerun. It will be interesting to monitor Carter's performance with the Jackets, who are clearly trying to shift to a "win now" mentality, having only made the playoffs once and never having won a playoff series. He doesn't seem like a natural fit to play with star Rick Nash, as both have sniping shoot-first mentalities, so the intent was perhaps to bring some scoring balance to a traditionally one-line team. It's a risky move for the club, however, with Carter's contract not ending until the year 2022 (no, that's not a typo).

3) The Washington Capitals trade goaltender Semyon Varlamov to the Colorado Avalanche for a 1st round pick in 2012 and a 2nd rounder in either 2012 or 2013.

The Colorado Avalanche faced public scrutiny this season for making some questionable deals, so certainly their general manager would be careful to manage perception this summer, right? Wrong. Yes, the Avs desperately needed to fix their goaltending situation for both the short and long terms. But why they chose to pin their hopes on a still mostly unproven 23 year old who is coming off an injury-plagued season is beyond me. Varlamov is a solid netminder, always putting up strong numbers when healthy. However, he has yet to play more than 27 games in a season, so it is premature to consider him a surefire top tier starter. With many reasonable and affordable names on the goalie UFA market this summer, the logical approach for Colorado would have been to get 2 of them under contract and see what happens, while drafting and developing a young talent of their own. But conventional the Avs are not, giving up what COULD be as high as a top 5 pick in next year's entry draft, plus an additional second rounder, to acquire Varlamov, before signing J.S. Giguere as a back-up / mentor to ease the young Russian into a starting role. If Varlamov stays healthy, fans of the Avalanche won't have to feel too bad about this trade as he could play in the league for many years, but Capitals fans had to feel down right dirty after hearing this news. With a log-jam in goal already due to the strong play of fellow young netminders Brayden Holtby and Michael Neuvirth, Varlamov appeared headed for the KHL, meaning Washington basically acquired two free draft picks for what was to be a rapidly depreciating asset. And as if that wasn't enough, the Caps were then able to sign an aging Tomas Vokoun to guard their goal for a year, and he remains one of the best in the league.

2) The Minnesota Wild trade rover (but really defenseman) Brent Burns and a 2nd round draft choice to the San Jose Sharks in return for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, and a 1st round selection.

Our last two deals rank at the top because we expect them to work out for both sides. Brent Burns is a highly underrated player who doesn't get enough press due to the league's "Eastern Conference bias." The Sharks' back-end was severely lacking after Dan Boyle, who just may hang up the skates at the end of the three years remaining on his contract, so for their team, Burns is a very important addition. Plus, from an asset management perspective, Burns' great shot and ability to take shifts as a winger (much like Dustin Byfuglien) means San Jose is likely not to notice the departure of Devin Setoguchi much. Clearly the team has been frustrated by their post-season failures, so a shuffling of the deck like this just may leave them with the right pieces in place to take a longer run at the Cup. For Minnesota, with Burns having been a pending UFA next summer, the club likely felt they wouldn't be able to re-sign him, and obtained quality younger assets in his place. They used the first rounder to select center Zack Phillips, and add Charlie Coyle, a first round pick in 2010, to their organization, essentially meaning that they picked up three 1sts for a player they might have lost for nothing in a year's time. The Wild need to hope that Setoguchi gets back to a production level like the 2008-09 season, where he topped the 30 goal mark and had 65 points, rather than the two seasons that followed of 36 and 41 points respectively.

1) The Philadelphia Flyers trade former captain Mike Richards to the Los Angeles Kings for prospect Brayden Schenn, forward Wayne Simmonds, and a 2nd round pick in 2012.

We love the moves the Kings made this summer, and while they paid a hefty price, they've acquired the kind of player you can build a hockey team around in Mike Richards. Along with Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Simon Gagne, and Dustin Penner, Richards gives the Kings what might be the best all-around top 6 forward group in the league. Brayden Schenn will be a great player in the NHL, but how his offense will translate to the big league is still unknown. The Flyers are gambling a little in the short term, but created a bunch of cap space to complete theyother moves they wanted to make and added a surefire bluechipper to the system. Wayne Simmonds is no slouch either, a guy that many feel could eventually be a top 6 power forward, but with limited offensive production thus far, remains more of a tweener two-way third line type. In any case, all three players swapped in this move are expected to play significant roles on their teams for the upcoming season, and both clubs can be considered favourites to make noise come playoff time, which is why we consider this to be the move with the biggest impact this off-season.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Jarred Tinordi at Team USA WJC Summer Camp

Replacing our usual content again today, we look at another World Junior Championship summer camp currently in progress in Lake Placid, being that of Team USA. The only Hab prospect in attendance there is 2010 first round choice defenseman Jarred Tinordi.

In all, 26 forwards, 14 defensemen, and 4 goaltenders received invites to the camp, and a first round of cuts that will trim the roster to 24 or 25 names is expected today. A year ago, Tinordi was sent home at this point of the camp.

Tinordi was on Team Blue, paired most often with Justin Faulk (Carolina 2nd round pick, 2010), and picked up an assist in his side's win in one of two inter-squad scrimmages before also adding an assist in Team Blue's win over Team Sweden's WJC camp squad on Monday. Considering the leading defenseman scorer amongst all Americans at the camp had 3 points, this is solid production from a primarily defensive player.

The slimmer American roster will have games against Finland on August 11 and Sweden on August 10th and 13th before the camp wraps up.

As a former captain of the American U-18 team, Tinordi has a reasonable chance at making the squad, but the Americans have a deep group of blueliners making for fierce competition. The team will likely begin with the three returning defensemen, Justin Faulk, Derek Forbort, and John Merrill, but beyond them it is a bit of a toss-up. In addition to Tinordi, some strong candidates include Adam Clendening, Scott Mayfield, and Connor Murphy.

While the hype around Tinordi with the Americans hasn't been close to that Brendan Gallagher received at Team Canada's camp, he has managed to make a name for himself through his physicality. Tinordi, 6'7" and 212 lbs., far and away led all USA d-men with 10 penalty minutes in the 3 games he has played (though some in attendance have said some of his penalties were of the "stupid" variety, leaving room for improvement). With this year's tournament being played on a North American ice surface in Alberta, Tinordi's size and toughness may be a needed asset for the American team.

A good blog about the Team U.S.A. camp can be found here:
though there isn't really anything about Tinordi's play unfortunately.

UPDATE: About the same time this post went up, the Team USA cuts were announced, and Tinordi is one of 29 players who remain at camp for the final 3 exhibition contests. Of the 29, there are 9 defensemen remaining, and given that the final roster is likely to include 8, Tinordi's chances look good at this point. If all of Gallagher, Michael Bournival, and Nathan Beaulieu make the Canadian team, an already always exciting WJC tournament will be extra fun for Canadiens fans this holiday season.

The "Final Roster" for the time being can be found here:

Of particular note is that 16 year old defenseman Seth Jones remains on the roster right now, and from a Montreal perspective, a guy that some wanted the Habs to draft in the first round, Tyler Biggs (who ended up being taken by the Leafs) was cut. Another 2011 draftee some Canadiens fans were high on, J.T. Miller, had a solid camp and remains in the mix. Kenny Agostino, a 5th round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010 (and looking like a steal), has been amongst the most impressive players in camp, notching 2 goals and 5 assists in 3 games to remain on the roster.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Updates from Team Canada WJC Camp - Take 2

In place of our usual Memory Monday feature, we bring you a second recap of activity from Hockey Canada's summer camp in preparation for the World Junior Hockey Championship which takes place in December/January every year. If you missed it, click here to see part 1.

While Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was appropriately a show stealer throughout camp with the event taking place in Alberta (with honourable mention to Jonathan Huberdeau), Habs fans can be encouraged by multiple glowing reviews of the play of Montreal prospect Brendan Gallagher. Given that Don Hay, who will coach Team Canada at this year's Worlds, has been Gallagher's coach with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL for the past 3 seasons, the 19 year old came into camp as a favourite to earn a roster spot. But he has far from sat on his laurels. Here's a couple of pieces on him:

Gallagher made it all the way up to the December camp a year ago, but did not earn a spot on the final roster.

Another player who was at the December camp and was amongst the final cuts of the team is Canadiens prospect Michael Bournival. He has had a quiet camp for the most part, but played hard, spending some time on Gallagher's line, and picking up a goal in Sunday's game. He may find himself on the bubble again this year depending on his start to the season in the QMJHL.

The final Canadiens prospect at the camp, Nathan Beaulieu, has earned some praise but faces stiff competition to earn a spot on the blueline. Initially credited with an assist during Saturday's intersquad game (but it was changed on the official scoresheet), Beaulieu's Team Red blew a 4-1 lead in the third period, falling 5-4 to the Whites, but then rebounded with an 8-2 win on Sunday. All of Bournival, Beaulieu, and Gallagher were on the same side for the games, which may have facilitated the task of Canadiens assistant coach Perry Pearn who was in attendance to watch the three high profile youngsters according to the Edmonton Journal.

With only Erik Gudbranson returning from last year's team on defense, there are jobs to be won. However, there are 3 other 2010 draftees who have the advantage of being one year more mature and experienced, and, including Beaulieu, there are 7 2011 1st round choices in attendance. Given that Beaulieu's biggest strength is his offensive touch from the back end, the best impression he could have made would have been all over the scoresheet during the two "official" games, but there he was outshone by the behemoth Jamieson Oleksiak who had 1 goal and 1 assist on Saturday (and, as he was mostly paired with Gudbranson in camp, Oleksiak would appear to have an inside track at a spot). In Sunday's game, it was Brandon Gormley who produced offensively with a goal and 2 assists, and he should be considered a lock for a spot on the team.

While lots can still happen between now and December, if I had to pick Team Canada today, my prediction would look something like this:

Ryan Johansen - Jonathan Huberdeau - Mark Stone
Jaden Schwartz - Sean Couturier - Brett Connolly
Quinton Howden - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Brendan Gallagher
Ryan Strome - Michael Bournival - Ty Rattie
Brett Ritchie

Brandon Gormley - Erik Gudbranson
Jamie Oleksiak - Mark Pysyk
Duncan Siemens - Dougie Hamilton
Nathan Beaulieu

Mark Visentin
Scott Wedgewood

The final roster will likely be different than this, depending on who sticks in the NHL and is thus not made available to Hockey Canada by their respective clubs, and the starts to the season had by many players as well.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Habs Invite Robin Gusse to Training Camp

The Montreal Canadiens have invited French-born goaltender Robin Gusse of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies to their training camp. Gusse, 18, went undrafted this June.

He should first attend the team's rookie camp in early September along with signed goaltender Peter Delmas, before likely getting a look during practices at the main camp if he sufficiently impresses.

With Aaron Dell and Chris Rawlings, promising NCAA goaltending prospects who attended Habs development camps over the summer, both heading back to school in the Fall, they would both be unable to attend the camp, so it doesn't hurt for the club to give someone else an audition.

Gusse has played two seasons in the Q, last year splitting time between the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and the Huskies. He played 17 games for Rouyn-Noranda, posting a 4-9-3 record with a 3.72 GAA and a .888 save percentage.

Gusse attended a Canadian U18 training camp last summer, where he received a sufficiently positive scouting report from appropriately titled website The Scouting Report. Though he did not end up on a final roster, he played in camp alongside many top prospects, including Jonathan Huberdeau, Matt Puempel, Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Murphy, Duncan Siemens, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Boone Jenner, and more.

Updates from Team Canada WJC Camp

This week, more than 40 of Canada's top young prospects have been participating in Hockey Canada's summer development camp for the 2011-12 World Junior Hockey Championships. The WJC is seen as some of the best hockey played each year as the top players under 20 years of age worldwide compete over Christmas and into the New Year for global supremacy. The Russians shocked the Canadians in the finals last year with an epic third period comeback to steal the gold medal away from Canada, leaving them with a second straight disappointing silver after 5 consecutive golds between 2005 and 2009.

The summer camp is just a preliminary event, with a second camp taking place prior to the tournament in Decemeber where the final team will be selected. Three Montreal Canadiens prospects are in attendance at the camp, being defenseman Nathan Beaulieu and forwards Brendan Gallagher and Michael Bournival. All three are part of the "Red Team" for intersquad games, the side which dominated the first contests yesterday, with Gallagher and Beaulieu each picking up a goal. It seems like Beaulieu's was a beauty, as described by Florida Panthers prospect Jonathan Huberdeau (a good friend and teammate of Beaulieu's):

Jonathan Huberdeau

Without wanting to dip too much into relationship gossip, it seems Beaulieu might be having just a little too much fun at the camp, as his girlfriend has put out some unhappy Tweets over the last couple of days, which included:

Kyla Wright
Kyla Wright
by kyywright
by kyywright
The Girl Dictionary
by kyywright
by kyywright
by kyywright
Kyla Wright
Kyla Wright
Kyla Wright

We'll skip the speculation, but by being with a prospect of a professional sports team with such a huge following, Ms. Wright has entered the public eye, so these and any other Tweets are subject to being picked up and analyzed. Let's just wish both her and Nathan the best, whether together or broken up. They're just kids after all, let them have fun.

Anddddd back to hockey. Some updates from last night's intersquad game came via either Hockey Canada or Mike Morreale on Twitter. Give Mike a follow at @mike_morreale. Thanks to him, we know that Beaulieu has been paired with Mark Prysyk, a first round selection of the Buffalo Sabres in 2010, throughout camp, while Gallagher and Bournival have been linemates, playing along with Freddie Hamilton (brother of 2011 first rounder defenseman Dougie Hamilton, also at camp).

Following yesterday's games, Team Canada coach Don Hay shared a few thoughts with reporters, and seemed impressed with Gallagher's play, singling him out specifically.

The camp's final intersquad games on Saturday and Sunday nights can be watched live online for a fee of $7 at the following link:

UPDATE: In other WJC news, Canadiens prospect John Westin - taken in the 7th round in 2010 - was left off the roster for Team Sweden's summer camp. Westin is an average-sized two-way forward in the mold of Fredrik Sjostrom. He battled injury last season and hopes to rebound with a better year in Sweden in 2011-12.