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Habs sign free agent Alain Berger to entry-level contract

According to the Montreal Canadiens official twitter, the Habs have signed Swiss 20-year-old Alain Berger of the Oshawa Generals to an entry-level contract.

Canadiens press release:

MONTREAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Pierre Gauthier announced today the signing of free agent left winger Alain Berger to a three-year contract (2011-12 to 2013-14). As per club policy, financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Berger registered 52 points (29 goals and 23 assists) in 65 games this season with the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Oshawa Generals. Fourteen of his goals were scored on the power play and one while shorthanded. He added 86 penalty minutes and displayed a +19 plus/minus differential. The 20-year old forward has registered five points (4 goals, 1 assist) thus far in six playoff contests.

In two complete seasons with the Generals, the 6’4’’, 209 lbs forward, hailing from Burgdorf in Switzerland, totaled 85 points (48 goals, 37 assists) with 142 penalty minutes in 109 games.

Berger also played with Bern of the Swiss National League A and with the Neuchatel Young-Sprinters of the Swiss National League B, in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Berger seems to be a rugged forward with some scoring touch. With under a point per game pace as a 20 year old in the OHL he will not be counted on to be a big producer in the future, but perhaps a complementary player that adds to the prospect depth of the Canadiens.

Berger has been in 5 fights in the last 2 OHL seasons, you can view them here.

An amateur scouting report on an OHL Prospects blog says this about Berger:

#11 - Alain Berger (Overage free agent)
Berger has had a good season for the Generals. Perhaps not to the level that I expected, but with the balanced scoring attack Oshawa has been employing, being third in goals on the team and on pace for 30 on the season is still solid. Berger remains most effective on the powerplay (third in the league in powerplay goals), where he scored last night (one of two on the night). He's not the most gifted skater, but he plays the game hard, he goes hard to the net and he has good hands in close. Both of his goals on the night were of that ilk. As a big body in front of the net on the powerplay, I think there's a chance he gets a look from an NHL team for a contract this offseason.

And this in another post:

The Swiss import has been excellent for a balanced scoring Oshawa team. On first glance, his offensive numbers might not be incredibly impressive to you, but know that the Generals had six 20 goal scorers this season, and two equally important lines. I'm fairly confident that Berger would have been drafted last year had he not broken his ankle at the WJC's last year. He was on a tear before that and came into this season on a mission. What you need to know about Berger is summed up in part by his 14 powerplay goals this season (nearly half of his goals on the season). He's 6'4, 200lbs and does a lot of his damage in front of the net (call him the Swiss Tomas Holmstrom). But he's also got an excellent wrist shot and has potential as a goal scorer at the next level. He works hard at both ends of the ice, throws his weight around and is a leader for his teammates (wearing an A for Oshawa this year). He's already got 4 goals in 2 playoff games this year. Someone needs to give this guy a contract.

Berger seems to be a long shot power forward prospect, the kind of prospect Montreal lacks on the wing position. From watching a few videos of his playing style I would say (very prematurely) that he has the potential to be a young Mathieu Darche for the Canadiens if all goes well in the next few years. A very astute signing by the Canadiens.