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2013-14 Montreal Canadiens Season Preview - Habs in Waiting

Examining prospects that could dress at some point this season for the Canadiens

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As we count down towards the start of the season, I thought it might be useful to examine potential call-ups for the Canadiens this season, as there will no doubt be injuries and the team will need to call on the services of some of their farm strength off of the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Now who gets the call will have exactly to do with who is injured, traded or just generally performing poorly, so we will examine the likely call-ups by the type of service they would offer the Canadiens.

Scoring Forward Replacements:

In the case of the team losing a scorer and looking to Hamilton to have their shoes filled, we find ourselves examining the three names with the most potential, which I've ranked by probability/utility of their use upon call-up.

1. RW Louis Leblanc

- Leblanc's Top 25 Under 25 Profile

While he is perhaps not the most popular prospect among the Canadiens fans right now and earned a number of critics after a poor 2012-2013 season, Leblanc remains the prospect with the most credentials to take up a scoring role on the Canadiens. While his talent level is not Top-6, he does possess sufficient offensive talents to fill in given proper opportunity. He displayed aptitude for playing at the NHL level in the 2011-12 season, which is more than any of his competitors on Hamilton can argue. Leblanc still has to produce at a notable level with Hamilton to get consideration, but I consider him the most likely to do so of the potential candidates.

2. RW Christian Thomas

- Thomas's Top 25 Under 25 Profile

After what could generously be described as a lukewarm training camp, Thomas has some work to do in Hamilton before he arguably gets any consideration to be called up to fill a hole in the scoring lineup. Thomas does carry a good goal scoring pedigree from his junior hockey career, but he does not yet seem to have developed his scoring tools enough to make a notable impact at the pro level. If he can get off to a strong start in Hamilton this may change, but right now he probably slides in behind Leblanc.

3. RW Patrick Holland

- Holland's Top 25 Under 25 Profile

While being one of the top scorers for Hamilton did not exactly add up to much in the 2012-13 AHL season (Holland was fourth with 28 points), Holland had about as good a rookie season as anyone did on a last-place Hamilton squad. Holland falls behind Leblanc and Thomas due to experience and scoring ability; while Holland was a good playmaker in junior hockey, his goal scoring numbers have never been notable. With his ability to finish around the net being less certain than his competitors, Holland slots in as something of the dark horse to begin the year with his goal scoring prowess to be lesser than that of the others.

Checking Forward Replacements:

Should the team find themselves deprived of the services of a skater such as Brandon Prust or Ryan White, who would get the call? With Michael Bournival already having made the team, two names come to mind.

1. C Gabriel Dumont

- Dumont's Top 25 Under 25 Profile

One of the final cuts of the Canadiens training camp, Dumont has had a spot of NHL time in each of the last two seasons but after an unremarkable training camp and preseason, he was sent down once more to Hamilton to work on his skills. Dumont is generally regarded as a typical high-energy checking forward with a bit of skill, he won the Best Defensive Forward award (The Guy Carbonneau Trophy) in his final year in the QMJHL and has worked his way up the Bulldogs depth chart over the past three years. If Dumont can get off to a solid start with the Bulldogs, he could be first in consideration to return to Montreal to replace an injured checker.

2. RW Mike Blunden

- Blunden does not have a Top 25 Under 25 Profile, because he's 26, and even if he was 24, he's Mike Blunden.

While not exactly a name I would cheer for to be called up from Hamilton, I accept it as a reality. The Canadiens have called upon his services before and since he fits the "tall and throws hits" category of player that does resemble a checking-type of player, his name is likely in the mix. I suspect as the team management continues to have a certain interest in forwards who favour the physical nature of the game but lack in absolutely every other category.

Offensive Defencemen Replacements:

With an injury to Markov, Diaz or (all manner of deities forbid) Subban, the Canadiens may find themselves calling upon one of their puck-moving talents in Hamilton, at present I would look at two names to consider.

1. Nathan Beaulieu

Beaulieu's Top 25 Under 25 Profile

With NHL experience from the previous season and tying for the points lead in Hamilton during the 2012-13 season, it is not hard to understand why Beaulieu can be considered the first choice for the Canadiens. Beaulieu's off-ice issues aside, he is probably the most talented prospect in Hamilton and the prospect that most favourably projects into becoming a Top-4 offensive defencemen in the Canadiens system. If Beaulieu can open well with Hamilton, he will most likely be the first name to be called upon to fill out an offensive gap on the back end.

2. Magnus Nygren

- Nygren's Top 25 Under 25 Profile

Not far behind Beaulieu is Magnus Nygen, the Swedish offensive specialist who has come to Hamilton to work his way towards the NHL after spending his last four season in the Swedish professional leagues in both the secondary Allsvenskan league and the Swedish Hockey League (formerly the Elitserien). Nygren was awarded the Borge Salming Trophy for being the Best Defencemen in the SHL last season, he also led the league in goals by a defencemen. While preseason suggests that Nygren could use some time to adjust to the North American ice, if Nygren excels he may find himself called up to become a new offensive weapon from the back end.

Defensive Defencemen Replacements:

With Jarred Tinordi starting the season with the Montreal Canadiens, the team probably finds itself with only one viable defensive defencemen candidate that they could reasonably call upon for the 2013-14 season if they feel the need to add a more defensively-focused player on the back end.

3. Greg Pateryn

- Pateryn's Top 25 Under 25 Profile

Greg Pateryn was well reviewed for the time he played in Hamilton last season and while he did have some struggles in the 2013-14 preseason with the Montreal Canadiens, he still displayed solid play along the way and with some time in Hamilton he could further improve to the point where he is a solid option for the Canadiens if they need to call upon some talent in Hamilton to fill out the gap of a missing defensive defencemen.

Goaltending Replacements:

If the Canadiens were to lose Peter Budaj to an injury, then there is arguably a reasonable option in Hamilton to fill in for him. If they are to lose Carey Price to a significant injury, then I would recommend researching the likely Top-10 players for the 2014 NHL Draft.

Dustin Tokarski

- Tokarski was not ranked within the Top 25 Under 25

The idea of Tokarski manning the Canadiens nets obviously does not fill one with a great deal of confidence but it is the reality of the situation, outside of the Canadiens themselves he is the top goaltending prospect in the organization and so in the event of a goalie injury, he is packing up his pads to come in to give some relief. It should be noted Tokarski did debut well with Hamilton last season, posting a .927 save percentage while playing under a losing record with the Bulldogs over 15 games. If he is able to take a step further in Hamilton this season, he could probably give a performance at least on the level of your average NHL backup goaltender if the situation calls for it.

How many of these players we see this season will depend largely upon the Habs luck with the injury bug, which has really hammered them quite badly in the last half-decade so over an 82-game schedule, it would not be surprising if at least four of these players had at least a cup of coffee with the Canadiens.

Check out the rest of the season preview.