With the wizardry and smart drafting of Trevor Timmins, the Canadiens' AHL club in St. John's will once against boast an impressive amount of depth. Two new first-round picks will look to make an immediate impact for Sylvain Lefebvre, while the stars of last year will look to continue their success, and push their way into the NHL.
Despite losing leading goal-scorer T.J. Hensick, and the versatile Eric Tangradi, the IceCaps will have plenty of fire power this year. Veterans Gabriel Dumont, Sven Andrighetto, and Christian Thomas will be joined by last year's rookie stars Daniel Carr and Charles Hudon to form a solid core. With the signing of Paul Byron, the forwards also receive a great defensive boost in the form of Jacob de la Rose, who will look to build on an impressive rookie year with the Canadiens organization.
They'll also be joined by the gargantuan Michael McCarron, and the highly skilled Nikita Scherbak, giving them the ability to have scoring all the way through the lineup. Throw in the depth of a top WHL sniper in Tim Bozon, and great two-way play of Jeremy Gregoire, there is a great chance that the "truculence" days in the AHL have come to a close. There are a few wild cards this year as well in Connor Crisp, who will look to build on a poor rookie effort, and the veteran George "Bud" Holloway, who comes over from Europe.
Despite both Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn remaining in the NHL for now, the IceCaps will not lack a solid experienced blueliner to lead the way. Mark Barberio cleared waivers after the preseason, and will no doubt be the anchor of Lefebvre's defensive unit. This makes sense, as Barberio has been an extremely under-utilized player during his NHL run, and will look to impress the Habs' management.
Darren Dietz and Morgan Ellis return once again, as well sophomore Mac Bennett. All three are up for new contracts next season, and will need to impress to keep up with a crowded blueline in Montreal.
Much like the forwards, there are a few wildcards in the defensive corps as well. Ryan Johnston was outstanding for the Habs all preseason, and could very well find himself taking on big minutes for the IceCaps. Brett Lernout will play his first full professional season, after a solid junior career and camp with the Habs. Free agent signing Joel Hanley, and former 2013 draft pick Dalton Thrower will also battle for spots on a crowded blueline, the latter hopefully looking to rebound after a poor rookie season.
It wouldn't be Montreal without a little bit of drama regarding goalies in the preseason, and it happened once again this year. Mike Condon impressed in his stint with the Habs, and wrestled the backup job away from the more experienced Dustin Tokarski. With Condon now serving as squire to Carey Price, it's up to Tokarski to lead the IceCaps in the AHL. Sylvain Lefebvre has hinted that backing him up will be Zachary Fucale, while Eddie Pasquale serves as an emergency option in case of call-ups or injuries.
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Needless to say, the IceCaps have a stacked cupboard once again, and with a proven AHL goalie, they'll be a threat every game. Assuming they have fixed their poor powerplay of last year, it wouldn't surprise me to see them among the top scoring teams in the AHL, especially with NHL ready players such as Andrighetto and Hudon in the lineup.
The season kicks off this Saturday on the road against the Hartford Wolfpack. The IceCaps will hold their home opener on October 16 against the Rochester Amerks.