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Prospecting..

  • I’m too lazy to track down where or when I read it, but at the end of the season I remember reading a post-mortem on the Canadiens season which lamented that the Habs had suffered through a devastating season, made worse by the lack of prospects in the system. Clearly the author was referring to the equally trying season that the Hamilton Bulldogs experienced en route to a 2nd last finish in the Western Conference of the AHL.

    Sure, superficially one could take a bad NHL and AHL season to mean that the Habs are in trouble. Glance at the stats sheet for the Bulldogs and you realize that the team was led offensively by journeyman Brian Willsie, and the dynamo that is Andreas Enqvist. Still, this ignores the fact that “prospects” such as Louis Leblanc, Aaron Palushaj, Blake Geffrion and Michael Blunden were each forced to play much of the year with the NHL club due to injury.  Ultimately, anyone who is paying attention will realize that the Canadiens have a HUGE amount of talent about to graduate from the Junior ranks set to start their professional careers. With the Memorial Cup set to begin tonight as the Edmonton Oil Kings face the host Shawinigan Cataractes, Habs fans should take note that there are 4 prospects vying for this season’s prize.

    At the end of last season there were a lot of people (who were probably justified) questioning whether or not the Canadiens had made a good choice in taking the gargantuan Jarred Tinordi with their first overall selection in the 2010 draft. Tinordi struggled at times in his first year in London, struggling from the beginning of the year to adjust to the level of competition in the OHL. He did however finish the year strongly, gaining praise for his defensive work. This season Tinordi has silenced most critics becoming a dominant defensive presence for London. He also added 16 points in 48 games while leading the club with a monstrous +39. In the playoffs thus far, Tinordi has elevated his game once more notching 8 points in 19 games while once again leading the team as a +15. While he doesn’t project to have a huge offensive game, there is little doubt that Tinordi figures to make a huge impact for the Canadiens sooner rather than later. Some are even suggesting that with some quality time in the gym this offseason, Tinordi may make a push for the NHL club given that his skill set will be required next year in Montreal.

    Not to be outdone by his potential future defensive partner, Nathan Beaulieu had himself a fantastic season with the defending Champion Saint John Sea Dogs. Beaulieu scored 58 points in 59 games while ending the season as an impeccable +41. Beaulieu has continued to display down-right Markovian skills from a defender logging major minutes each night in the QMHL playoffs – scoring 15 points for a +27 in 17 games. Habs fans should be licking their chops for the opportunity to see Beaulieu on the ice at some point in the near future with Subban and Markov.

    The Shawinigan Cataractes may be underdogs in this tournament, but don’t tell that to Habs prospects Michael Bournival and Morgan Ellis. Both players have been resting for the better part of a month due to their team being eliminated from the playoffs, but as hosts for this season’s tournament they’ll gain critical experience as they move towards beginning their professional careers.  Bournival had a solid year scoring 56 points in 41 games, adding 7 more in 11 playoff games.  While many Habs fans questioned giving up on the oft-maligned Ryan O’Byrne when he was traded to Colorado, I get the sense that they will be pleasantly surprised by the Tomas Plekanec-type game that Bournival seems to posses with regard to both offensive and defensive capacity. He showed glimmers of this at the World Junior Championships. He will be a key addition tot he Bulldogs next season – and may show up on the radar for the big club by 2014. Morgan Ellis was traded at the end of the regular season but surprised many with his offensive game scoring 52 points in 60 games this season. Ellis had long been thought of primarily as a defensive-first guy, but after adding 11 points in 11 games this playoff season, you get the sense that Ellis is another Habs defender with the size and transferable skillset to have a big impact on both the AHL Bulldogs and the NHL CH.

    Brendan Gallagher led the Vancouver Giants in scoring this season potting 77 points in 54 games showing an elite ability to score big goals using terrific speed and incredible hands. Gallagher is one of the few small players that exist who can use their size deficit to their advantage. Who knows how that will translate to the NHL, but after a solid pre-season showing this year I do not know too many people who doubt that Gallagher will make the NHL. Gallagher will likely see some time in the AHL this season to refine his defensive skills before he sees time in the NHL, but you can bet that if the Habs require scoring help with an injury on one of the top lines, Gallagher will be in the running for an early call up.

    Patrick Holland was brought to the Canadiens in the trade that saw Michael Cammalleri sent to the Calgary Flames. Like Bournival, he hasn’t made headlines with Habs fans mainly due to the fact that the club did not draft him in 2010. But Habs fans will know him soon. Holland had an incredible season for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. Though the team fell short in the playoffs, Holland had a great year amassing 104 points in 72 regular season games and 19 points in 14 playoff games. Though Holland doesn’t possess the elite offensive skills that make him a no-doubt NHL candidate, he does have an incredibly well rounded game, which many scouts say will be more important to his ability to crack an NHL lineup. More importantly for the Bulldogs, Holland will be another capable winger with upside adding organizational depth where there was none last season.

    While the Habs prospects in the CHL have all had great seasons upon which to start their professional careers, Montreal also has a few prospects of note in the NCAA. Mac Bennet had a decent year at Michigan racking up 20 points and playing solid minutes for a strong Wolverines squad. It remains to be seen whether Bennett will continue his collegiate career next season or turn pro. Danny Kristo has decided that he will stay at the University of North Dakota to play his senior year before (most-likely) joining the Bulldogs in 2013-14. Kristo had a strong bounce-back year scoring 19 goals and 45 points in 42 games. While both of these NCAA players figure to make more of a future impact contribution with the Bulldogs, Montreal is rapidly developing a solid stable of young players which had been depleted once Deharnais, Subban, Pacioretty et al were finally called up for full time duty this past season.

  1. #1 Senet1 says:
    May 18, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    One guy you forgot to is Greg Pateryn 6-3 214 lbs also playing at Michigan. At 6’3 and 214 pounds, Pateryn has assumed a role as one of the University of Michgan’s toughest and most physical defenders. He utilizes his body very well, both in delivering checks as well as matching up against some of the CCHA’s bigger forwards. He has an outside possibility of making the habs this fall depending on what we sign and trade over the summer. If not he should be a solid D for the bulldogs.

  2. #2 Avatar37 says:
    May 25, 2012 at 6:36 am

    I’m still not quite sure what anyone sees in Aaron Palushaj. He’s been given lots of chances at the NHL level but hasn’t been able to turn that into production. While he tries hard, I’m not sure that he’s of NHL caliber. I wonder how many more chances he’ll be given to produce when his roster spot could go to someone else.

  3. #3 Mats Naslund says:
    May 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    For now Palushaj is a body. He lights up the AHL but is far to frail for the NHL game. Every time he’s been called up he’s wilted in the face of NHL defense. He could progress though. I think its important to remember how many guys who’ve been chased out of Montreal after most people give up on them – only to go on to have very productive years. D’Agostini, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Chris Higgins come to mind. If Montreal has injury problems again (and really.. shouldn’t we be expecting it with our luck) we’ll need a few guys at Palushaj’s caliber who can play in the AHL and provide our young prospects with decent teammates – while being ready for short term stints in the NHL as needed.

    Senet – you’re right, I omitted Pateryn when I probably shouldn’t have. I don’t really see him as a high ceiling guy – mainly because he’s turning 22 this June. Not that he couldn’t contribute at some point. Emelin is a great example of a prospect who can develop away from the Canadiens system and then contribute. I would expect he’ll be a Bulldog for a long while before we see him in the NHL (because its a huge step between collegiate hockey and the NHL). Still, he has the frame to make an impact.

  4. #4 Avatar37 says:
    May 26, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    Mats – For Palushaj, you’re right, he could suddenly turn into a good NHL player. There have been a few players, like Streit, who were unimpressive for years then suddenly found their NHL game. I just haven’t seen anything so far from Palushaj that indicates to me that he keeps deserving all this ice time he gets over some of the other prospects we have.

    I really wish we’d taken the last few months of last year and called up some of our prospects and given them ice time at the NHL level (although maybe this affects their contractual status and that’s why it wasn’t a viable option). There is a big difference between AHL and NHL (even between the KHL and NHL, just look at the adjustment Emelin is having to make), and I think having a month or two of NHL experience would have done a world of good for players like Nash, Tinordi, and Schultz. Schultz could really help this team if he can translate his game to the NHL level, but that may be years away if at all. But a solid month in the NHL would have helped his development.

  5. #5 Senet1 says:
    May 26, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Matts you could be right but he wanted to stay at Michigan and graduate, and he seemed to take on a lot of responsiblity and according to the information I read, some expect him to make the habs this fall. I guess we will see but it certainly sounds like he is ready for the AHL. He is big and strong and likes the heavy hitting and he rates as Wolverines shut down guy. So only time will tell whether he is ready for NHL probably will have to adjust to the speed of the game. Some really have trouble with this adjustment. My guess is he is one of our top D-men in Hamilton next year.

  6. #6 Senet1 says:
    May 27, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Avatar, I think you are correct about Pelushij. However, most of our other top prospects were either in college or junior and would not be allowed to play in the NHL while their season was still on in those other leagues. The college guys cannot play without losing their eligibility and most of our Junior prospects were in the playoffs. It bodes well that we had four top prospects in the Memorial cup and three int he finals.

    One another topic, what do you guys think about trading our draft pick for Huberdeau. Florida drafted him #3 last year.

  7. #7 Senet1 says:
    May 27, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Comment about Tinordi, can you imagine a boys body growing at a rate of a couple of inches a year an how clumsy he would be just adjusting to his body size along with adjusting to the OHL. I am not surprised that he struggled early in the season. Hope he grows another inch or two. If he develops like is expected we have our own Chara to become the shut down guy on our Defence. I am looking forward to his development and playing for the habs, but I think we will have to be patient with him. In looking at our defensive prospects and current young D we already have I can’t help to be excited about our defence in the nect 3-5 years. Now lets start building our office. If the old saying is build from the goal out, I think we have done that pretty well. We have always drafted later in first round and so all the top offensive players have always been chosen so we grab the best player available which has been Dmen. Hopefully we can start drafting offensive players now.

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