Thursday, 24 November 2016

Canada-Russia Series Game 6: Canada 4, Russia 1

The Canada-Russia Series was already won by Canada before this sixth game, so the results were academic.  The WHL squad won one game, and lost one in overtime to grab four points out of a possible six, in the 3 points for a win, 2 points for an OT win, 1 point for an OT loss system employed.  The Canada team composed by OHL players split their two-games, so all the LHJMQ needed to do to clinch the series was win one of the two remaining games in regulation.

They did that in the fifth game in Chicoutimi, where after a slow start the LHJMQ team gathered steam and impressed with a 4-0 win.  Noteworthy were Pierre-Luc Dubois and Julien Gauthier, two impressive specimens who were taken in the first round in the June draft, and who were teamed up on a line that produced a bunch of points in the second and third period.  Defenceman Samuel Girard, the Predators' second-rounder who is tearing up the Québec league with Shawinigan early this season, also caught the eye, as well as Nicolas Roy, a fourth-round pick by Carolina in 2015.

The sixth game in Baie-Comeau, a 4-1 win for the boys, was just the cherry on the sundae.  Maxime Comtois, a player prognosticated to go high in the first round next June, helped his stock with two goals.

It was particularly enjoyable in the Chicoutimi game to see Messrs. Dubois, Gauthier and Roy on a line on a powerplay, and completely befuddling the Russian defence with its size and passing wizardry.  Julien Gauthier scored two and added an assist, and had what Sportsnet announcers R.J. Broadhead and Sam Cosentino deemed the 'goal of the tournament', on a great individual effort.

It sets up a Canadiens fan, one who grew up with the great dynasty of the Seventies, to rue that none of these great young prospects will play for the Canadiens, will be the Canadiens' next Lafleur or Lapointe, or at least the next Richer.

For Pierre-Luc Dubois and Julien Gauthier, you kind of shrug and move on, you know that those two weren't 'in range' when it was our turn to choose, one was too high a pick, the other too low.  Mikhail Sergachev was the Goldilocks pick.

But for Nicolas Roy and Samuel Girard, those two could have easily ended up in the Canadiens system.  Nicolas Roy, a highly-touted prospect in the lead-up to the 2015 draft, underwhelmed observers that season and ended up falling in the rankings, from a projected high first-rounder, until he was seen as a late second-rounder at best just prior to the June draft.

He ended up going early in the fourth round to the Carolina Hurricanes, ultimately great value for a 6'4" centre who shoots right, one who made up for his poor 2014-15 season with a 48 goal, 90 point season last year, and this season has 14 goals and 16 assists in 17 games.

Who did the Canadiens prefer to Monsieur Roy?  No other than "late-bloomer" Lukas Vejdemo, an overager who racked up 5 goals and 12 assists in 52 games while playing for Djurgardens in the Swedish Hockey League.  Now, we have to bear in mind that this was against strong competition, he's playing against men, not teenagers, but his 2 assists so far this season do nothing to allay our fears, and neither does his tepid showing at the Development Camp this summer, when he blended in a little too much, for a 20-year-old playing against teenagers and undrafted players on a tryout.

Samuel Girard was also in range for the Canadiens.  With two high second-round picks, Monsieur Girard would have been a likely get, with his small stature detracting from his general skillset and deflating his ranking.  Sure enough, the Predators, those guys again, snapped him up 47th overall.  The second-round picks we dealt to the Blackhawks for Andrew Shaw were the 38th and 45th overall.

The NHL Draft is a crap shoot.  You do your homework, you put in the hours, you make the best decision you can when it's your turn to speak, but ultimately, you're choosing 17 and 18 year old players, three or four years before they're ready to play in the NHL.  Nothing is written in stone.

I understand the philosophy that it's wisest to take the best-available player when it's your turn to choose, you don't get distracted by organizational need or other matters, but in the case of Nicolas Roy, late in the third round, when all the remaining prospects' grades are bunched up together and essentially equal, you have to give the benefit of the doubt to a big tall offensively-skilled right-handed centreman who's a local boy, no?  This ticks off so many checkboxes.  I'd understand if he was a goalie and we just didn't have the organizational room to take a flier on him, but geez, don't we need size at forward?  Don't we need centres?  Aren't we trying to boost the local content on our team?

And when we start asking these questions, we don't exactly become paranoid, but we start to wonder if Peter Karmanos, besieged on all sides, might not have started preparing his exit plan by instructing Ron Francis to nordiquize his roster and draft Nicolas Roy, and Julien Gauthier last June, to make his Hurricanes even more attractive to Québecor.

I fear the day when these two drive down the Autoroute 20 with their compatriotes and have their way against Arturri Lehkonen, Sven Andrighetto and Martin Reway, easily push them to the side on their way to another win.

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