Friday, 7 August 2015

Noah Juulsen impresses at the Summer Showcase, while Jérémy Roy does not.

After the last NHL draft, I thought one of the themes when we look back on it as Canadiens fans might be the comparison between the career arcs of our first-round pick, Noah Juulsen, and another rightie defenceman from a local team, Jérémy Roy, who was passed up by the Canadiens and taken by the Sharks five slots later.
I think Trevor Timmins will have a great read on Jérémy Roy, since he plays on the same team in Sherbrooke as Daniel Audette, who's already on board as a draftee. Donald Audette, his father, is a scout for the Canadiens too, so lots of intel, lots of viewings, if there’s a player they can get right it’s him.
Noah Juulsen is in a situation that’s somewhat alike, in that he played on the Silvertips with Nikita Scherbak. 

This has happened often when the Canadiens pick a player and pass up a comparable player.  Think of Mark Napier over Mike Bossy.  Think of Terry Ryan over Jarome Iginla, although this comparison didn't begin immediately, very few of us knew Jarome or what he'd become at the time, it only developed later on.

This one is a natural, ready-made incipient controversy in the bud.  All that will need to happen is for Noah to struggle and Jérémy to have more success for us to have grist for the mill.  I posted that there will be markers along the way where we can measure each prospect/player.

The Summer Showcase is one such marker, and it's very early in the race, but Noah Juulsen is clearly in the lead.  While Jérémy Roy was practically invisible during the two games he played, Noah shined.  We shouldn't put too much stock in an off-season development camp and exhibition games, but the opportunity for comparison is apt, since both players dealt with identical situations and conditions.

Mr. Roy didn't catch the eye much, in one game I only realized he was playing in the second period.  Although that could be an unintentional bias introduced by the play-by-play team, he really didn't do anything to make us notice him, while Thomas Chabot, by comparison, was all over the ice.  In the second game against Russia, Jérémy coughed up the puck and made a bad giveaway, fell down while trying to cross over skating backwards, and that was pretty much his night.

Meanwhile, I thought Noah played quite well.  He skated strongly, all over the ice.  He could defend an onrushing forward, starting from a standstill and skating backwards, generating plenty of speed, instead of the common practice of turning around, skating forward for a while to generate speed, and then turning around to face the opponent.

He was lauded by Craig Button for 'closing the gap' in the neutral zone, and it was noticeable.  He dished out hits.  He was aggressive while defending, pinching up to break up a pass, to fight for a loose puck along the boards.  He played actively, like he wanted the puck, instead of wanting to prevent the opponent from doing something with it, more Andrei Markov than Hal Gill.

Offensively, there were a lot of positives.  He carried the puck with confidence and found his teammates with his passes.  When controlling it at the blue line, he'd feint and deke with authority.  Some players have one or two moves, they'll fake one way and go the other.  Noah has a couple more tricks in his bag, he'll feint and dodge and head-bob and stutter-step until the defender commits, takes the bait, and only then does he go the other way.

He walks the line with assurance, and found ways to get the puck through the shotblockers reliably.  None of his shots found the back of the net, but they forced the goalie to make a save, created the potential for a rebound or deflection.

All in all, a very encouraging turn for Noah Juulsen, and I'm anxious to see how he develops this winter in Everett.  To the point that I'm going to think about a road trip to see a couple of games there.  Certainly I'll see him when he plays in Vancouver against the Giants.

In 1984, there were two LHJMQ defencemen who were highly-touted at the draft, Jean-Jacques Daigneault and Sylvain Côté.  J.J. was the more skilled player offensively, but Sylvain was thought to be a better all-round defenceman, bigger and more physical too.  There was also Craig Redmond who got lots of hype, and the shadowy specter of a little known Czechoslovakian player called Petr Svoboda.

The leadup to the draft had lots of excitement, there was a report that Craig Redmond's father made him wear lifts in his skates to appear taller to scouts, which was vehemently denied by them, so we all assumed it had to be true.  Add in that the Canadiens had two picks at #5 and #8, and I was rubbing my hands with glee.  Could we trade up to get the first overall pick and snag Mario Lemieux?

My cousin and I decided we had to go, back then it was held at the Forum, and we took it the extra step.  We wore our best, shiniest smartest (and only) suit, and tried to look like two prospects waiting to hear their names called.  The Canadiens had a coup-de-théatre in store, they had Petr Svoboda hidden in the wings, and called his name at #5, bringing him out literally from behind the curtains, where they'd hidden him in a back room.

He looked so skinny.  Steve Shutt, at the subsequent training camp, quipped that Petr had been tortured before escaping the Communist régime, that they'd "removed his shoulders".

But it didn't matter, I stood up and applauded, like the rest of the crowd.  My cousin rolled his eyes, thinking this was going overboard.  Our positions were cemented from there on.  I was a fan, he was always a bit of a skeptic.

Anyway, I followed the careers of these four guys the rest of the way.  Craig Redmond never amounted to much.  Jean-Jacques had a decent career, but never was the Phil Housley-Ryan Leetch-Kris Letang type he was projected to be.  Sylvain Côté became a solid NHL defenceman, playing in over 1000 games and in some All-Star games.  Petr Svoboda never quite became a star, but he played a vital role on the Canadiens in the 80's.  Whenever I attended a game at the Forum, I'd focus on him and watch him skate, it was a joy to behold.

I think the 2015 draft will be the same for me, I'll keep tabs on Thomas Chabot, who went to the Senators (gag!), Noah Juulsen and Jérémy Roy, but also the three other LHJMQ prospects who were often described by observers as just as good, just as promising as the Roy/Chabot tandem: Nicolas Meloche who went to the Avalanche at #40, Jérémy Lauzon who went to the Bruins (shudder...) at #52, and Guillaume Brisebois who went to Vancouver at #66.

And so far, in the Juulsen-Roy head-to-head matchup, the first round was decidedly in our favour.

No comments:

Post a Comment