The Montreal Canadiens held their first two on-ice sessions of their 2017 training camp on Friday, with the 61 invitees divided into three groups to help manage the load on the coaches.
Group C was composed of eight players, including five who had amateur tryouts during the rookie training camp. Three additional ECHL-contracted players were added to the group for evaluation purposes, one of whom being top-pairing Brampton Beast defender and Beast Rookie of the Year, Willie Corrin.
AHL-contracted players like David Broll and Thomas Ebbing were mixed in with those on NHL deals, and splitu into Groups A and B. Once the players hit the ice, line rushes made apparent some of management’s thinking in terms of what the forward lines may look like, both for the Canadiens and for the Laval Rocket.
The first-year AHL club was dealt an early blow when it was announced that rookie forward Jeremiah Addison required shoulder surgery and will be out for an indeterminate amount of time. Addison played top-line minutes at the Rookie Tournament with Daniel Audette and Martin Réway, not looking entirely out of place, so it was a safe assumption he would have had an important role with the Rocket as well.
Here are the lines involving potential Laval Rocket players that were used yesterday. Let us draw finite conclusions, and overreact accordingly:
Andreas Martinsen / Thomas Ebbing — Peter Holland — Nikita Scherbak
One man’s loss is another’s gain, as it looks like Ebbing slid into Addison’s spot during line rushes. Ebbing scored three goals over two games for the Canadiens at the Rookie Tournament, and was sneakily and unexpectedly one of the better players.
Holland would unquestionably be the top centre for the Rocket. The former first-round draft pick has 243 NHL games under his belt, and if he can sneak through waivers he would be an incredible asset for a team hoping to win early and often in order to establish a winning foundation for their fanbase.
Scherbak should be continuing along his sharp development curve, which took him from a raw 19-year-old in his rookie season to having his first NHL call-up last year, to a player expected to replace Charles Hudon as the AHL team’s most prolific scorers.
As for Martinsen, on talent alone he would find it hard to stay in the NHL as there are several better players who will be battling for a fourth-line spot. He may however be left in the NHL as a spare player whose development doesn’t suffer while being a healthy scratch for long stretches.
Daniel Carr — Chris Terry — Markus Eisenschmid / Antoine Waked
Despite being very deep at centre, it appears that Terry will remain in the middle for the Rocket despite it not being his natural position. Last season, Terry was slotted at centre when Michael McCarron was called up to the Canadiens, and he fared very well. Terry led the AHL in power-play goals last season, so more of the same should be expected in Laval.
Carr was another top-line player for the IceCaps ... when healthy. He had flirted with claiming a full-time NHL spot, but two consecutive seasons ending with placement on the Injured Reserve list surely impacted his development. He will look to regain lost ground playing his Gallgher-esque game on a top line.
Seeing Eisenschmid and Waked rotating on the right wing is not surprising, as the former has been completely lost in the shuffle at the centre position, while the latter is making his first hesitant steps in professional hockey. Neither one should expect a permanent role on a line with Carr and Terry, however.
Jacob de la Rose — Michael McCarron — Martin Réway
McCarron being back at centre is good news, as the Canadiens had shunted him to wing during his irregular appearances in the NHL. Having him at centre here shows that they still see him growing into that role in the organization.
Seeing de la Rose moved to wing, however, after playing centre his entire career should also be seen as a positive for him, as he hasn’t made many inroads as a depth centreman for the Habs. It’s a big year for de La Rose who has to prove that he can translate his reliable AHL game into an NHL depth role.
It will be interesting to watch Réway’s play this season. During the Rookie Tournament, his skill was apparent but his cardio and timing was lacking. Getting back into game shape will require some patience, so expect to see him move up and down the lineup.
Jeremy Grégoire — Daniel Audette — Byron Froese
Despite anchoring the top line for the Habs at the Rookie Tournament, Audette finds himself a victim of depth at centre and will likely start the season in a third- or fourth-line role.
Another victim of the depth an centre is Froese, who centred an offensive line for the Calder Cup-finalist Syracuse Crunch last season.
Underachieving utility man Grégoire is entering his third, and arguably most important, season. Typically relegated to fourth-line truculence duties in the past, he may benefit from playing with offensively capable forwards as he tries to recapture his Junior form.
David Broll — Niki Petti — Yannick Veilleux
The fifth line is exactly that: a fifth line. Odds are that Petti and Veilleux will start the season with the Brampton Beast if we assume that the Rocket don’t want to carry too many healthy scratches.
Broll is an interesting case, as he was the first player whose AHL contract was extended for the upcoming season, making him the first official member of the Rocket. But he is now finding himself on the outside looking in. Where he might benefit is from the mentorship role he provided to the younger players last season, possibly making him the best candidate for 13th forward on the team.
This was obviously a very early look at what the Rocket forward lines might look like, but already there were a few indicators of how the organization may be thinking regarding player positioning.