The Current Canadiens Goaltending Prospects - 2008

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Robert L note: It has been almost a year since I posted any pieces in the Canadiens goaltending series. My apologies to those who were following the chronology that began in Georges Vezina's time, and stopped just shy of Ken Dryden. What occured to interupt the run, was that the Canadiens had gotten good and began making a run for first place. That, and my computer at the time had a little crash. Unfortunately, for those reasons, the series was pushed aside for the time being. I plan on slowly reviving the listing of all goalies belonging to the organization in all capacities - from those who donned the sweater, to those who did not quite make it to the big club - and will be posting them semi - regularly, and unchronologically for now. As they are posted, they were will also be added to the left sidebar for those who wish to check up on the series from time to time. This first new posting deals with the current group of Habs netminders, minus those of Price and Halak, who will in time get their own writeups.


 

As of the end of the 2008 calendar year, the Montreal Canadiens had seven goaltenders in their organizational depth chart. Aside from Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak on the NHL roster, there are Marc Denis, Cedric Desjardins, and Loic Lacasse in Hamilton, and Robert Mayer and Jason Missiaen in junior with the St.John's Sea Dogs, and Peterborough Petes, respectively.

Marc Denis

Denis, a 31 year old former first round pick of the Colorado Avalanche in 1995 was a veteran of 9 NHL seasons, and had recently been waived and bought out by the Tampa Bay Lightning. A matter of days later, on July 3, the Canadiens signed Denis to a minor league deal with an NHL clause.

With Colorado, an opportunity never came for Denis, held back behind a cluster of more prominant names, most notably Hall Of Famer Patrick Roy, Craig Billington and later David Aebisher. In 2000. Denis was traded to the expansion Columbus Blue Jackets for a second round pick, and a number one job finally opened up for Denis.

In five seasons with Columbus, Denis was a steadying ship in stormy expansion waters. After initially sharing goaltending duties with veteran Ron Tugnutt, Denis became a workhorse, appearing in 77 and 66 games for the Blue Jackets from 2002 to 2004. Over the course of his four seasons there, his goals against average steadily decreased, culminating with a fine 2.56 in 2003-04.

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Denis told NHL.com at the time,"If my road back to the NHL means going through Hamilton, I'm ready to do that. Just because I've played eight and a half years in the NHL doesn't mean I'm too good to go to the AHL. It is a step back, but it's a step back to go forward."  

Coming out of the 2005 lockout, Denis offered up an average campaign, and was then dealt to Tampa Bay for sniper Frederik Modin and goalie Frederik Norrena. As the Jackets had up and comers Pascal Leclair and Steve Mason in the wings, the opportunity to gain goal scoring allowed them to part with Denis.

Denis' two year tenure with the Lightening was disastrous. With high expectations placed on him by a tumbling team, coach John Tortorella openely criticized all three of the organizations goaltenders, and it hardly helped their cause.

In signing with Montreal in 2008, Denis clearly understood that he would be returning to the minors to help rejuvenate a stalled career. In training camp, Habs goalie coach Rollie Melanson termed Denis "an ace in the hole", relating that his NHL experience provided the team with great depth in case of injury.

After seeing action in three exhibition games with the Canadiens, Denis fared deceptively, being upstaged greatly by prospect Cedric Desjardins. Denis had a goals against of 4.00 and a save percentage of .852 when he was sent down to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.

Denis told NHL.com at the time,"If my road back to the NHL means going through Hamilton, I'm ready to do that. Just because I've played eight and a half years in the NHL doesn't mean I'm too good to go to the AHL. It is a step back, but it's a step back to go forward."

Late in December of 2008, Denis was recalled for a four game spell with Montreal, backing up Jaroslav Halak while Carey Price nursed a leg injury. He was returned to Hamilton without having been given any game action.

Cedric Desjardins

Cedric Desjardins was an unsigned junior prospect who came to the Canadiens attention via two trips to the Memorial Cup with Rimouski and the champion Quebec Remparts in 2006. With good words from Remparts owner and coach Patrick Roy, Desjardins was signed by the Canadiens farm team in Hamilton, where he has shuffled between the Bulldogs and the ECHL's Cincinnati Cyclones for three seasons.

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Playing behind prospects Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak during this time, Desjardins worked hard for his infrequent starts. Late in the 2007-08 season, he found his niche with the Cyclones, leading the team all the way to the Kelly Cup championship. A stellar 11-4 won / loss record, with a 1.83 goals against in the playoffs virtually assured his resigning, and this time Desjardins was offered a two way NHL contract with the Canadiens in July of 2008.

Desjardins made the most of his pre - season action, winning the two games he appeared in. While there was apparent nervousness in his first game, he second appearance gained rave reviews. taking over after one period, desjardins stoned the Cup champions in an ultimate test of his composure. He came out on the winning end of a four round shootout, stopping some of the Red Wings more notorious snipers.

Desjardins was assigned to the Bulldogs just days later, where he has shared games with veteran Marc Denis.

Check out this AHL.com video of Desjardins explaining the various designs on his masks throughtout the years.

Loic Lacasse

Granby, Quebec native Loic Lacasse was drafted by the Canadiens in the sixth round, 181st overall in the 2004 draft. Most likely chosen in an organizational depth move, Lacasse made little progression through the organization in his affliated time with the club.

After three seasons with the Baie Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL, Lacasse was traded to the Drummonville Voligeurs for a playoff run that quickly ended. The following season, he found work as an overage junior with the Oshawa Generals, were his number totals perked slightly in the sounder defensive league.

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With little room on the Hamilton and Cincinnati rosters for much playing time, Lacasse was assigned to the IHL's Bloomington Prairie Thunder in 2007-08. Appearing in a career high 47 games, Lacasse bested high points for win, goals against average and save percentage. He was named to the league's All Rookie squad at season's end.

After gaining a roster spot with Cincinnati to start the 2008-09 season, Lacasse was injured after four starts. He was subsequently assigned to Hamilton to rehab his injury.

Jason Missiaen

Peterborough Petes goaltender Jason Missiaen was the first puckstopper chosen by the Canadiens since 2004. Taken in the 4th round, 116th overall in the 2008 draft, Missiaen (pronounced "mission") is known for being unusually tall for his position.

Boasting a 6' 8" frame, he has been termed deceptively quick for a goaltender his size by Canadiens goalie coach Rollie Melanson. At a skinny 215 pounds, Missiaen's goals are to work on filling out his body and concentrating on his leg speed, which has previously been called better tha average.

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After playing one season with the Petes as a backup to Trevor Cann, Missiaen took on a larger share of games in 2008-09, and had already equalled the previous year's number of starts by Christmas time. He appeared at the Canadiens development and rookie camps in the summer and fall of 2008, and received positive reviews from team staff. Canadiens director of scouting, trevor Timmins suggests that Missiaen's size is a bonus for a goaltender, especially one with the ability to still move like a smaller man. The goal of the Canadiens is to get him to concentrate on turning his feet quicker to allow him to be in better position for his size to work.

Read the Gazette's Dave Stubb's article on Missiaen here.

Robert Mayer

Robert Mayer was a 2008 development camp walk on after receiving a tryout invitation with the club. Undrafted after two seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL, the Zurich born netminder impressed enough to get a call back for the team's rookie camp and later earned a three year contract with the team.

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Prior to being invited to camp by Montreal, Mayer received a share of similar offers from other clubs. For the 2007-08 CHL's Top Prospect Game, NHL teams petitioned Central Scouting to have him included in the game after an injury to a named starter open a roster spot in the event.

Mayer has previously played in the U-18 and World Junior Tournaments for Switzerland. Read Mayer's pre - signing interview with Hockey's Future here

Beyond their NHL stoppers and stable of signed prospects, three other goaltenders have appeared with the Canadiens over the last two seasons.

Andrew Loverock

At the 2007-08 rookie and development camps, Missisauga Ice Dogs goaltender Andrew Loverock was offered a tryout. Undrafted despite a strong year - he posted a 31-13-3 record - the Canadiens were increasingly curious about what Loverock could do against a stronger calibre, and he was then given a tryout at the Habs main camp for a further assessement before being offered a contract with the club.

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Despite a less than stellar goals against average and save percentage, Loverock was well liked by Canadiens director of scouting Trevor Timmins, who termed the goalie "a winner".

After being ranked the thirteenth best goaltending prospect for the 2007 draft, the Canadiens wanted a closer look at the goalie before deciding whether to sign him to a contract. In the end, despite the Canadiens interest, the two sides did not reach an agreement and Loverock was returned to junior.

 

Loverock was subsequently traded to a weak Sudbury Wolves squad mid way through the 2007-08 campaign. As his numbers dipped, he did not recieving a second tryout invitation to the Canadiens camps in 2008. Read the Gazette's Pat Hickey's article on Loverock here.

Joseph Quattrocchi

Sixteen year old Joseph Quattrocchi of the CJHL's Smiths Falls Bears was also given a training camp invite in 2007, but never appeared. His name was briefly listed on a press release issued by the Canadiens for their summer development camp, and his absense has never been explained.

Quattrocchi was named the CJHL's goaltender of the month for December of 2008.

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Nicola Riopel

Moncton Wildcats undrafted Nicola Riopel was invited to the Canadiens development camp in 2008 after a solid QMJHL season. With many goaltenders to consider, the Canadiens did not have long time to asses the 19 year old's talents, and he did not move on to the Canadiens rookie camp for reasons unexplained. 

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Riopel could likely earn a second look from the Canadiens, as he is presently tearing up the QMJHL and enjoying a dominant season. As of December 2008, his stats included a 23-2-3 won / loss record, a miniscule goals against average of 1.79, and a save percentage of .939.

Standing six feet tall, one drawback for the soon to be 20 year old, is his weight, as he tops the scales at a light 167 pounds.

Riopel was named the CHL's goaltender of the week on October 29, and despite his stellar numbers, was not invited to tryout for the World Junior Championships.

Kim St. Pierre

A first in Montreal Canadiens history occused on October 30, 2008 when the club invited former national women's team goalie Kim St. Pierre to a team practice at the Denis Savard Arena in Verdun.

St. Pierre, a two time Olympic Gold medalist, currently plying her trade with the

Montreal Stars of the Canadian Women's Hockey League, was an emergency practice replacement for Carey Price, felled by a flu virus.

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Being an acquaintance of both Habs goaltending coach Rollie Melanson and conditioning trainer Scott Livingstone, St. Pierre was a most sensible last minute replacement, able to fill the Canadiens practice needs without having to displace any organizational stoppers in the process.

Of course the thrill was all St.Pierre's, who, beyond winning a third gold, couldn't imagine a greater excitement.

At first, the Canadiens players were perhaps hesitant to unleash their fiercest shots at her, but after she did not flinch when Alex Kovalev tried to pick her head off, the Habs players returned to their normal practice habits and began testing St. Pierre as they would any other.

In all, St. Pierre fared extremely well in facing shots from NHL'ers, and the Canadiens proclaimed that they would not hesitate to call upon her again, in a similar situation. After all was said and done, she ironically described her experience as "priceless". Read the Montreal Gazette feature story on her experience here.

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