Relatively unauthoritative opinions on some Canadiens prospects who attended the Development Camp in Brossard June 13-16.
Mac Bennett actually did not attend this camp but plans to attend the later edition after the draft, and some are worried it indicates he will pull a Justin Schultz, or will stagnate by not turning pro. I don't share this concern. He is still only two years into his college career, he can easily use another year of seasoning at Michigan, they have a good program with good coaches, and he can mature physically while getting top-pairing minutes. We shouldn't be worried that he wants to go back for his junior year at Ann Arbor, we should probably encourage it. Let's think about how the Bulldogs will have to absorb four rookie defencemen this September. That's stretching things to the point of breakage, adding another rookie is not feasible. Let's leave Red Berenson in charge of this prospect for this year.
Alain Berger had a disappointing year by all accounts last season, but let's hope that he's the kind of guy whose game translates well to the NHL, a big guy with some mobility who's not afraid of being near the opponent's net, and who has the hands to cash in some loose pucks. Let's give him a mulligan on his first pro season, hope that it comes together this season. We need a couple of bigger bodies on our team at forward.
Daniel Prybil is still the longshot he was when picked last year, it would be nice to have him here so we can keep an eye on him, but then again there may be some benefit to him doing some growing up in a familiar culture and environment. Fingers crossed, an additional season in Europe does him some good and he can work on his skill development and add some size and strength. Getting crosschecked in the mouth and slashed on the arm while he stickhandles by talentless plugs in the AHL can come in 2013, when he's a bit more mature.
As far as Alexander Avtsin, he's the guy who I want the coaching staff to focus on this season in Hamilton. There's the old saying in management that you spend 90% of your time on 10% of your employees, it's not ideal and you'd rather focus less on your problem employees and coach your stars more, but that's probably inevitable. Guys like Brendan Gallagher, Jared Tinordi, Michaël Bournival, Greg Pateryn and Morgan Ellis are mature and driven enough that they'll probably only need to be pointed in the right direction and given a pat on the back to develop, but not Mr. Avtsin. He's such a talent, the rewards if he pans out are so great, that we have to find a way to make him click. The kid has had two years in Hamilton that were difficult and unproductive, and we can excuse that with his youth and the adaptation problems he has to a new culture and language, but now he'll be a relative veteran compared to the rookie class. He'll have an opportunity to show leadership, and we have to capitalize on this and his growing maturity to gain confidence and to deliver in a manner appropriate with his skill level.
I put this on Sylvain Lefebvre and his staff, that's their big job this winter. If it means hiring the right coach who can reach a talented but not quite mentally-prepared player, so be it. We may not have spent enough resources on player development in the past, but there's obviously an openness to the idea with the Nouveau Régime, let's not miss out on a player who offers what every team is looking for, an agile, mobile forward with size and skill who can score.