Saturday, 24 September 2016

Canadiens 2016 training camp roster preview.

It's great that there's actual hockey to discuss now on social media, with training camp opening.  The Canadiens have 61 players reporting to camp, that's a lot of forwards and defencemen and goalies vying for jobs.  We can talk about that instead of poisoning each other with memes and propaganda.

--I watched the livestream of the scrimmage yesterday, it's great that RDS does that.  Why not, they have staff over there, equipment, the technology is there.  It's one of our few chances to see guys who'll most likely end up in the AHL this season.

--I'm surprised that this article by Stu Cowan of the Gazette again talks about the fact that some players have a one-way contract vs. others who don't, as if that'll be a crucial point in the decision-making.  Again, the one-way contract has nothing to do with whether a player will play for the Canadiens or IceCaps.  At most, it might be a tiebreaker.

The most important consideration will be how a player does at camp, how ready he is to play in the NHL.  Then, whether a player is eligible or immune to waivers when being sent down will be the most important factor.  The management will not want to risk a player they consider an asset on waivers, to lose him to another team for nothing.  That's the aspect we should consider, not whether a player has a one-way deal.

And I think this concern over waivers might be more pronounced this season, after the 'housecleaning' from this summer.  A lot of guys who the Canadiens risked on waivers last fall have now moved on, the Canadiens didn't even attempt to qualify guys like Morgan Ellis, Darren Dietz, Gabriel Dumont, and Bud Holloway.  Lucas Lessio was another fringe guy who could have been qualified and sent down but we walked away from.

The players they've kept now have a clearer path to the NHL, or at least to significant roles in the AHL, without so many veterans ahead of them on the org chart.  And whereas last season there were a half-dozen players exposed to waivers after camp, none of the guys drafted or signed and then developed in-house, the frontline guys, will be risked on waivers this fall, or very few, in my opinion.

--All summer we've posited our putative rosters, the players we think will start or would like to start the season in Montréal.  I've refrained from that game myself, thinking the decisions are pretty much already made, except for the odd exceptional performance at camp which could win a dark horse a job, like Michaël Bournival in 2013.  The decisions will probably revolve around waiver status, for a prudent GM like Marc Bergevin, along with decisions about development and icetime in a frontline role in St. John's versus hotdog consumery in Montréal.

And I support that strategy.  As a dogmatic inflexible armchair GM who's also a risk-averse scaredy-cat, the last thing I'd want our team to do is to lose assets on waivers.  Our prospect pool is better than during the Pierre Gauthier régime, but it's not that deep that we can squander prospects and farmhands.

Watching the Canucks, they were skillful/got lucky in 2014 when they sneaked Jacob Markstrom through waivers, but got bit last season when they lost Frank Corrado on waivers to the Leafs.  He probably won't be a great NHL player, but they definitely could have used him last year when injuries struck.  They could have kept him and sent Ben Hutton down for twenty games to Utica, and kept both players.

Let's not do that.  Let's not waste players on waivers.

--With that in mind, here's my 99%-certain-to-transpire roster:




NOTES: 1) Sven Andrighetto is assured of a roster spot over the likes of Charles Hudon because of his waiver status.  The guess is he’d be snapped up if they tried to send him down. His one-way contract isn’t the deciding factor, but I think it does reflect the reality of his situation, the team gave him a one-way knowing this, like they did with Greg Pateryn last summer.

2) Daniel Carr is the only player on my roster who can be sent down without waivers.  He can be sent to the AHL without a risk of losing him, so that makes him ‘vulnerable’ if Arturri Lehkonen or Charles Hudon have a great camp. He’s the player who’ll need to fight off all comers. His play last season before he got injured, along with the fact that his style of play endears him to Michel Therrien and Marc Bergevin, gives him a big head start though.

And here I'll hedge my bets a little, and admit that the fact the Canadiens gave him a one-way contract this summer is a pretty good indication that they see him playing in the bigs.  The Canadiens won't mind, as a 'rich' team, paying him his NHL wage in the AHL if it came to that, the NHL salary cap is what they're concerned about, not necessarily organizational dollars and cents, but then again, they don't want to just throw money out the window.

3) Arturri Lehkonen would need to prove that he’ll be ready to contribute for a full season as a Top 9 player at least to remain in Montréal. I think the Canadiens would prefer that he play big minutes in the SHL instead of doing pressbox laps in Montréal, with his contract preventing the option of the AHL this year. He’s a little slender still, they might think another year of development will do him good. Again, the fact that he can go back to Sweden at no risk will play heavily in the balance.

4) With no one in his way in St. John’s, Charles Hudon will at least start the season there, and be counted on as a leader on the ice, with no Bud Holloway or Gabriel Dumont to steal his assignments. Him and Mike McCarron, this will be their team, they’ll be the guys who’ll play big minutes in all situations. No waivers for either means they can marinate for another half a season at least in the AHL.

5) Stefan Matteau would require waivers, so he’ll hang on to a roster spot. I hope that he’ll actually replace one of the wingers on the fourth line, that he wins and keeps one of those jobs, we desperately need his size and toughness in our lineup, more than Brian Flynn’s speed and versatility. I want Stefan on the ice rather than in the pressbox.

6) The lines I offer are a good bet to be the ones who start the season. Andrew Shaw and Alex Radulov might swap sides at least some of the time, but Michel Therrien and Mike Babcock and most NHL coaches prefer players to play on their strong side if possible.

7) Torrey Mitchell and Phillip Danault will trade off the centre position from game to game, and regularly in-game too probably. A rightie and a leftie, they’ll be a great line to have out there to take defensive draws. If Bryan Flynn is on that line, they can be very aggressive on the dot, not be afraid of being thrown out by a grandstanding linesman. If Stefan Matteau plays, they can crash and bang a little more, depending on the opponent.

The fourth line might be able to take some of the defensive and penalty kill duty away from Tomas Plekanec, who could save his energy for offence, feeding his wingers, and the playoffs.

I’m parking Paul Byron on the fourth line for now, but he’s also a coach’s favourite, and he’s likely to move up the lineup depending on injuries and other factors.

8) I’m being optimistic that Nathan Beaulieu starts the season with Shea Weber on the first defence pairing. I’m fearful of the rumblings that Andrei Markov might keep that spot, but understand that Michel Therrien is a conservative coach who loves his responsible veterans. Nate is a smart kid, I hope he gets that, and shows in camp that he will play with consistency and intensity, that he won’t be overwhelmed with the task. As we’ve discussed ad nauseam all summer, Shea would benefit from having a fleet-footed partner. He and Andrei are smart defencemen, but they may not be a great match as a pairing.

9) I do think that Mikhail Sergachev could win a job for a 9-game tryout, or even win a job outright, he’s physically able to play in the NHL, but starting camp injured is one strike against him. And it would help him if there was a fortuitous injury, a pulled hamstring or tender shoulder that would require another defenceman to sit out a couple of weeks at the start of the season. Again, he won’t be shoehorned on the roster if it means exposing another player on waivers.

The fact that Mikhail is a leftie, but one who feels very comfortable on the right side definitely plays in his favour though. If Greg Pateryn or Jeff Petry got banged up early and had to sit out a few games, definitely Mikhail could see NHL regular season action.

10) Mark Barberio is a great asset to have, an NHL vet who can move the puck, had a good season last year, is signed to a cheap contract, he can play either side relatively well, he’s an ideal #7. His local boy status is a great story, it helps him (and Torrey Mitchell also) a smidge, I think.

11) Spare me your Bobby Farnhams and Chris Terrys, they’re AHL fodder. I’m still bitter about Mr. Farnham being on our team, he’s our version of Vincent Dunn, about who I clutched my pearls earlier this week. Guys like that shouldn’t be in the league, they should be reffed out of the sport.

12) Zach Redmond is intriguing, but I think he’s in the same situation as Mark Barberio was last season, the veteran who’s the #8 or #9 d-man in the organization, and will start the season in the AHL, to provide experience down there and be ready.

I’ve hammered the point home about waivers enough that it might seem contradictory to want to risk him, but I don’t think there’s a big chance he’d be lost. He came to us as a UFA, like Mark did last season, and other teams will be battling to protect their own players from waivers too. Zach is an interesting player with a nice skillset, but he’s a fringe NHL’er at this point.

13) Philip Samuelsson is another blueliner who’ll start in the AHL, provide experience and try to work his way up. I assume he’s below Zach Redmond in the depth chart, but he’s got good size, he’s got blood lines, he might get a callup if needed.

14) About the PTO’s, David Broll is the one who caught my eye. Not his eight points in Syracuse last season, but his 6’2″, 235 lbs listed measurables, and his 112 penalty minutes. He’s probably a good foot soldier to have on the IceCaps, to support Connor Crisp and Brett Lernout and Mike McCarron if the going gets rough. I’d think he has a high chance of getting an AHL deal.

15) Yuri Alexandrov is another veteran defenceman who can help out in St. John’s. With Morgan Ellis and Darren Dietz gone, there’s a need for veteranship down there, for the team to compete and the kids to not get flustered and pushed around and blown out. A 28 year old KHL veteran, he can contribute for sure, but I’m not convinced an AHL contract would cut it for him, he might choose to return to the KHL. He might require one of our precious 50 contract slots to get him in the fold. We’re at 47 right now, don’t have much space to spare below the limit.

16) I almost forgot about Jacob de la Rose. Amazing how little buzz he’s getting this season compared to last year. I wasn’t that excited about him last fall as everyone else, but I’m not as down on him as some seem to be this camp. He’s easy to deal with, he doesn’t need waivers so he goes down to the AHL, and again, will benefit from a frontline role. He needs to get lots of ice, get his game in gear.

There’s no need to panic, no decision needs to be made, this isn’t a ‘last chance’ as some try to make it out to be. He’s simply a prospect we control, who’s not a headache or anything, not someone who we need to choose over someone else. He gets to play lots this season and get closer to the show.

17) It seems pretty clear that Al Montoya will be the backup for Carey Price. I don’t think the team will keep three goalies, and frankly, there’s no need to. Mike Condon will probably clear waivers and land in St. John’s, I don’t see another team that needs a goalie so desperately they’d claim him and keep him on their NHL roster all year, unless there’s a few goalie injuries during NHL exhibition season.

Who stays in the AHL and who gets pushed down to the ECHL out of Mike Condon, Zach Fucale and Charlie Lindgren is something we’ll discuss later. I’m keeping my fingers crossed we can trade a goalie for an asset we can better use and retain.

18) It’s unfortunate that Martin Reway is not able to attend camp, he would have had a great opportunity to work his way up from St. John’s, to at least showcase his game. He may not be exactly the prospect we need, but could have been trade bait for one we could use more urgently. In any case, I hope this is only a temporary setback, and he can make a full recovery.

19) And this bring us to Tim Bozon, who was listed on 'Team C' yesterday at camp, along with injured Mikhail Sergachev and the PTO’s. Ouch. Not sure if he was injured too, why he got to sit out the scrimmage, but it’s not a good sign.

He had an up-and-down season last year, in that he got sent down to the ECHL and was a healthy scratch a couple of times. He scored a couple of goals at the end of the season, seemed to be getting in gear, but had another setback this summer when he was left off France’s national squad that played in the Olympic qualifying tournament. Seeing as this isn’t a powerhouse internationally, you’d expect that a drafted NHL prospect would find a spot on that team.

We don’t have a lot of scorers, a lot of snipers in our system, we can only hope that Tim Bozon can overcome his struggles and regain the promise that saw him be a high third-round pick in 2012.

20) And to a lesser degree, the same goes for Dalton Thrower. He was hampered in a way by the glut of right-shot defencemen in the organization, but the departure of Morgan Ellis and Darren Dietz gives him a chance for more minutes. He’s got one more year on his contract, and I get the sense, based on his meager results so far, that he’ll need to take a couple of giant steps forward if he wants to earn another one in the Canadiens organization.

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