Michael McNiven, a goalie who was initially invited to the Canadiens development camp as a free agent in 2015 after going undrafted that June, impressed the team enough to earn a contract, and has been progressing by leaps and bounds since then. He shined in the Canada-Russia series last month, and earned an invitation to the selection camp for the Canadian World Junior team later this month in Boisbriand.
At the start of the broadcast, R.J. Broadhead and Sam Cosentino made much of Michael McNiven being second in the league in wins, and first in Goals Against Average and Save Percentage, which is kind of the trifecta for goalies.
Petrus Palmu is a familiar face in that he attended the Canadiens development camp this July as a free agent. He didn't earn himself a contract, and he doesn't exactly get the fan's pulse racing, in that he's another skilled but very small forward. Sure, he's a fireplug, he's stocky and all, but really, with so many small forwards in our organization, and despite the putative move in the NHL towards speed and skill, it's hard to see how he brings anything that we need currently or for the foreseeable future. Daniel Audette, Sven Andrighetto and Martin Reway among others have got his act down pat already.
Victor Mete is, according to the game notes by the Sportsnet crew, on the first pairing on the Knights, ahead of Oli Juolevi, who plays on the second pairing. So score one for the Canadiens, our 100th overall pick is a better player than the Canucks' 5th overall pick. We win, they lose, there is no debate or need for further evaluation.
An interesting facet too is that Victor plays the right side with his partner Brandon Crawley, also a leftie, playing on the left. So good for Victor, he's learning to play both sides, a skill which can come in handy in his pro career.
Of course, it's not all unicorns and rainbows. Victor was indirectly responsible for the Owen Sound goal which opened the scoring. While backpedalling in his zone a puck skittered nearby, and he batted at it to try to clear his zone, but it went directly to an Owen Sound player who got off a good shot on net, and a teammate cashed in the rebound.
The first period finished 1-0, and during the intermission there was (another) two-minute love-in on Michael McNiven.
"We have to talk about Michael McNiven, great first period, and he's such a good puck-handler too, that's just another intangible for him...""When it comes to McNiven, he's done a really good job, stopping the dump-ins, holding it up off the boards, allowing the defencemen to go back there and play with their heads up. But when it got hairy, and London put the pressure on, he's done a really good job controlling the play. The rebound control, excellent. McNiven has had such a rise to prominence, the Montréal Canadiens free agent signing is a story that continues to grow and I think he's going to make a lot of noise at that World Junior camp."
At the start of the second Rob Faulds did an on-ice interview with Petrus Palmu. Not to beat this one into the ground, but with skates on, the Owen Sound forward was eye-to-eye with Rob Faulds, who isn't a giant himself. The kid does have 18 goals already this season though.
As the period started, Sam Cosentino discussed that Hockey Canada likes the fact that Victor Mete can play the right side, over and above all his other attributes. It was also interesting to see him pull a spinerama to evade a forechecker, and then speed away.
He had a very good second period, showing good positioning in the defensive zone, and good stick-checking ability. On one sequence he defended an odd-man rush, joined a two-on-one and turned it into a three-on-one, and then hustled back on defence and neutralized a counter-attack. Late in the period, he helped the Knights get set up in the offensive zone during a powerplay, and rushed up the boards and behind the net for an attempt at a wraparound. He eventually picked up an assist on the goal that tied the game 1-1.
Petrus Palmu scored a spectacular goal to make it 2-1 midway through the third. Oli Juolevi had the puck under control in his zone with Petrus bearing down on him, so he tried to make a pass, which hit his teammate on the skate blade and bounced high in the air. Somehow Petrus got to it first, off to the side of the Knights net, and while falling to the ice to dive and reach for the puck, slid it past the sprawling goalie, over the line, at an acute angle.
He's still too small, despite his 19 goals scored. If we were to be in the market for another mighty mouse, Alex Debrincat would be the one we should have gone for at the last draft, with his 26 goals leading the OHL currently. But we used our second rounders at last June's draft to trade for Andrew Shaw. Those could have come in real handy...
Oli Juolevi is having a really tough game. After losing a puck battle along the boards, when he'd started with a clean possession but got caught trying to skate it out from behind his net, he then got a tripping penalty. I know Mikhail Sergachev is himself having a difficult return to the OHL, but I declare that he and Victor Mete will have much better, more productive careers than Oli Juolevi, and so will Casey Staum. Indubitably.
And it keeps getting worse for the young Finn. Stepping out of the box, with a foot still in, he played the puck as it happened by, and that's a penalty, one which I always forget about. Mr. Juolevi certainly seemed dumbfounded, he was ignorant of that capricious rule too.
Somehow though, after killing off two penalties, the Knights found a way to tie the game, and came close to winning it outright. They stormed the Owen Sound net, as if they'd found another gear.
But the game goes to overtime. Early on, Victor Mete was on trying to rush the puck to the net, and was held by an opponent, drawing a penalty. While the Knights swarmed the Attack zone, Mike McNiven stood tall, making a lot of saves. He was the star of the overtime. And Victor Mete did really well on the open ice also.
Two Attack players scored on the shootout, the two Knights were stopped by Michael McNiven, game over.
Michael McNiven, la première étoile.