The Canadiens open training camp today, and while Brian Gionta and George Parros will practice, neither will take part in the scrimmage. Does this mean that they won't be ready to begin the season? That's very possible. Add in that Alexei Emelin is unavailable until at least late November, and there are possibilities for the young Habs at training camp.
So what positions are available? And who are the players to watch for each position?
Top Nine Right Wing
Brian Gionta is a big hole to fill, and it's not possible for any prospect to really replace him at this point. With that said, there are a few guys who could push themselves into the lineup while he's out. Here are the players to watch:
- Louis Leblanc - Leblanc is coming off of a rough season, but as the senior prospect and with successful NHL experience, along with being a natural right winger, he may have the edge on this spot.
- Christian Thomas - Thomas got his first taste of NHL action last year against the Canadiens, and being a new acquisition coming off of a solid AHL rookie campaign, the Habs may like his profile to replace Gionta's offense.
- Sebastian Collberg - It may come as a bit of a shock, but if the Habs are going to be without Gionta for around 9 games, Collberg stands a very good chance of making the roster for a 9 game rookie tryout. Apparently if he makes the team Frolunda will not stop him from playing.
- Sven Andrighetto - It's unlikely that Andrighetto hops over the previous three players mentioned, but he has the skills necessary to do so. An impressive showing in preseason could get him a real tryout.
- Michael McCarron - The dark horse candidate. Don't count on it, it's extremely unlikely, but if Bergevin and Therrien want to see what size can do in the top-9, McCarron would be the guy to get a short tryout.
Fourth Line Forward
George Parros likely won't be a consistent presence in the Canadiens' lineup this season, but his injury could open up a spot for another grinder, here's who to watch for that spot:
- Gabriel Dumont - Unless he really messes up, this spot is Dumont's to lose.
- Michael Blunden - The consistent bounce-around guy that won't get claimed on waivers. Blunden can serve well as a 13th forward.
Right Side Defenseman
It's unlikely that Emelin can be replaced completely, but the Canadiens have a litany of young defensemen vying for spots this year. It's possible that the Canadiens don't promote any rookies and run with what they have, but the talent in the pipeline is greated than the current guys in the five and six spots. Bergevin said he would make space if someone earned it, and Davis Drewiske is easy to waive if necessary. Here are the likely candidates:
- Magnus Nygren - His skills are crazy, and he's older and more mature than his competition is. He's also the only one who's right-handed, which gives him a serious edge.
- Jarred Tinordi - He doesn't naturally play the right side, but he did last year in his call up. He brings the physicality and size that the Habs miss with Emelin out, and he was the guy Therrien decided to use in the playoffs. He was also extremely impressive at camp.
- Nathan Beaulieu - The most talented of the three, but perhaps behind the eight ball due to the off-ice issues with his father that he was charged for over the summer. Beaulieu could make it as easily as the other two guys, but the comments on him from the Habs seem to hint that they want him to mature a bit more.