Before we unveil the 2012 edition of our Top 25 Under 25, let us take a few moments to remember those that came before and have since moved on. Every year we lose a few players from this ranking due to trades, contracts expiring, and advancing age. We’ll look at those that stuck with the Habs after their 25th birthday later, but first we’ll look at the guys that didn’t make it to that age with this club.
Brock Trotter, LW: It’s always been tough to get a good read on Brock Trotter. He’s scored a lot in the AHL, took off for a year to the KHL, and then returned only to have a bad training camp and find himself an early cut when a lot of us projected him to make the team as a spare part forward. Within 5 AHL games, he was dealt to Phoenix for Petteri Nokelainen. And we all know now that Nokelainen sucks. Even though the Habs got the ‘NHL player’ in the deal, I’m not sure they won it. Trotter played for three AHL teams last year, getting 49 points in 54 games and is currently an unrestricted free agent. There were some rumours that he’d be returning to the KHL but he’s still without a contract at the end of July and I’m not entirely sure why. He’s a skilled small forward who could help an AHL club and be a serviceable call-up, or he could try his luck in Europe... his NHL window seems to be pretty much done with now, but I guess stranger things have happened. Maybe he’ll get invited to the Islanders training camp and end up sticking with Tavares or something. 2011 Ranking: 16th; 2010 Ranking: 27th.
Mark Mitera, D: Mitera came to the Canadiens in a minor-league trade for Mathieu Carle, who always did well in the AHL but couldn’t stay healthy enough to get a real shot at the NHL. Mitera, a former first round pick in 2006 (just before David Fischer), came on board with hopes that his combination of skating and size would come together in Hamilton and push for a NHL spot. Boy, was that a miscalculation. Mitera ended up a team worst -21 and it wasn’t because he played a lot of tough minutes for a bad team. He was constantly low on the depth chart in Hamilton and it became quite obvious early on that this guy was a true first round bust and not a real part of any team’s future. The Habs partly dealt him for Carle to gain an extra year of service from the player, but he was so awful they simply walked away and didn’t extend Mitera a qualifying offer. I’m sure we’ll see Mitera seeking a two-way deal of a different sort for his next job: shuttling between the AHL and ECHL. 2011 Ranking: 20th.
Olivier Fortier, C: Fortier has really been derailed by injuries in his career. In his last junior season, he only played 29 regular season games and 13 playoff games (plus 4 Memorial Cup games). He then missed almost all of his first AHL year. In fact, over his 3 year entry level contract, he only suited up for 117 AHL regular season and playoff games. When he played, he was a decent checking forward in one of the world’s better leagues. His potential as a defensive forward (he won the Guy Carbonneau Trophy in the QMJHL for his defensive prowess) always kept him on some of our panelists lists. But he couldn’t ever progress due to his health and there was no way the Habs could trust to extend his contract. I don’t know what will happen with Fortier, but I hope if he keeps trying at playing hockey he gets one fully healthy year in to prove what he can do. The smarter route might be to examine options outside of playing the sport, unfortunately. 2011 Ranking: 31st; 2010 Ranking: 28th.
Andrew Conboy, LW: Well, if you can’t make it as a goon... there really isn’t a lot of options for you. Conboy looked to be progressing into a potential NHL muscle callup with a reasonably strong 2010-11 season (13 goals, 116 PIMs), but injuries derailed his 2011-12 season. It’s not a big loss for the Habs in reality, Conboy’s career path seemed illogical from the start. He went to Michigan State and was suspended a long time for a nasty hit as a freshman. So he dropped out instead of waiting around and the Habs rewarded his 5 points in 21 NCAA games at 19 with a professional contract. I don’t have anything against guys taking unconventional paths to the bigs but man that just ain’t right in my books. In a lot of ways, I’m glad it didn’t pay off, and that’s a really rare thing for me to say about a Habs prospect. 2011 Ranking: 37th; 2010 Ranking: 32nd.
Hunter Bishop, LW: Bishop got hurt in the 2011-12 NHL preseason and never played a game all year. Heading into the year he was a player who had shuttled between the ECHL and AHL so it wasn’t a big loss from an organizational perspective, but Bishop having his NHL dreams dashed like that seems really cruel. Best of luck in the future, Hunter. 2011 Ranking: N/R; 2010 Ranking: 31st.
Dany Masse, LW: Masse signed with the Habs as a hyped free agent who was part of a dominant Drummondville line under Guy Boucher in 2008-09, but none of those players have done anything as a pro that is noteworthy. Masse’s 19 points in the AHL last year actually led all his former linemantes (Chris DiDomenico and Yannick Riendeau) as these guys shuttle between the AHL and ECHL. BTW, Boucher is a fantastic coach. 2011 and 2010 Rankings: N/R.
Patrick Johnson, C: Johnson was an expired NCAA pick who was technically part of our 2011 list, much like Scott Kishel is still part of our 2012 list. The Habs forfeited his NHL rights on August 15, 2011, and he tried out with the Adirondack Phantoms of the AHL before ending up in Wheeling of the ECHL. He got 17 points in 24 games there but has apparently retired. He’s the son of 1980 USA Olympian Mark Johnson and grandson of the late "Badger" Bob Johnson, so I guess we’ll see if he ends up coaching to keep up the family tradition. 2011 and 2010 Rankings: N/R.
John Westin, RW: You only get two years to evaluate players drafted out of Sweden before having to commit a contract to them, and Westin just wasn’t quite there at the end of 2011-12 for the Habs to give him an offer. He made MODO in the Elitserien but barely played, so he’s a depth player there now. In two years, he might be a decent professional but at that point anyone could sign him. We’ll see if the Habs regret passing on this former 7th round pick, but he doesn’t seem like a big threat to be that kind of player. 2011 and 2010 Rankings: N/R.