After the dust of the past few days settled, it was back to familiar territory for the Montreal Canadiens - the ice. A lot of the prospects at the Canadiens development camp had their lives change over the past week, and had their first chance to soak in an NHL experience.
Here are some notes on the games. I am fully aware that this is based on a very small sample (there were two 25 minute running time games per team, one four on four and one three on three).
All footage is from Habs TV and you can watch all of the goals and highlights there.
Team A vs Team B (click for full highlights from HabsTV)
The first person who jumped out in this game wasn’t Nikita Scherbak or Will Bitten or Martin Reway. It was camp invitee Reid Duke. Duke was a sixth round pick of Minnesota in 2014 but did not sign and is now a free agent. He had several chances throughout the game and made an impression including this goal on Charlie Lindgren.
Nikita Scherbak and Will Bitten were a great dynamic duo. It was similar to watching Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. Scherbak and Bitten combined for the first goal, and they would team up again for another one, but it was more individual effort from Bitten.
You could see why both players are highly touted and while they may not be in the NHL in the immediate future, I would bet a lot of money we see them both there eventually. Scherbak played center even though he’s a winger, but with only two forwards on the ice at a time and six on a team, I don’t think it’s an indication of his future.
Martin Reway is finally coming over to play professionally in North America, and he looked very good as well in the scrimmage. He drew penalties, and had several penalty shots (when a penalty was called, the team was given a penalty shot). He played mostly with Lukas Vejdemo who, while not looking bad, was clearly not on the same level.
You can see how Reway will be successful once he plays with top players and gains chemistry with them.
Other notes on players in that game:
Nikolas Koberstein was an unknown when the Canadiens took him in the 2014 Draft but he impressed. He played a solid defence and jumped up in the play. It’s tough to judge defencemen in a 4 on 4 and 3 on 3 situation, but he looked good.
Mikhail Sergachev showed why he deserved to be a first round pick. He was clearly the top defenceman on his team in the scrimmages and made a few beautiful passes to set up teammates. Where he impressed me was cutting off the angles on opposing rushes. He forced opponents into the boards as opposed to into open ice and cut them off.
Connor Crisp gets a lot of criticism for what he doesn’t do, but he impressed me with his puck skills. Of course, he has two professional seasons which is more than most of the people he was playing against.
Jeremy Gregoire scored three goals over the two games and set up Jake Evans on a nice cross-ice feed for another. He didn’t stick out except for the plays where he scored. He also got into a tussle with Reway. He took a hit from Reway into the boards and then got up, and charged him from behind. Considering the two will likely be teammates in the AHL this year, it’s an awkward start.
Camp invite Scott Eansor impressed me like Duke. He had several scoring opportunities and single handedly set up Michael Pezzetta’s goal with a great individual effort (check out the video for that one). Eansor also played for Team USA at the 2015 World Juniors.
Goaltending wise, Charlie Lindgren was great. You could tell he was far and away the best of the four goaltenders in camp and will seriously challenge Mike Condon and Al Montoya for that second goalie spot. Zach Fucale was the other goaltender and didn’t have his best day.
Noah Juulsen was wearing a full cage due to a broken jaw, and he looked good. He skated the puck out of the zone on more than one occasion and played well.
Invite Hayden McCool scored twice. Michael Zipp carried the puck well on the back end. Victor Mete was solid if not a bit tentative.
Team C vs Team D (click for full highlights from HabsTV)
The first person who jumped out in this one was Markus Eisenschmid. The German had an AHL contract last season and got injured, but he was the one of the best players in this game, and even scored a goal on a penalty shot. He should be asked back.
Tom Parisi was a relative unknown out of the NCAA when he signed a deal with the Canadiens, and played five games with the IceCaps. He impressed me yesterday as he was jumping into the play and scored the opening goal.
The Habs had a lot of people questioning why they let go AHL defencemen like Morgan Ellis, Darren Dietz and others but I’m confident Parisi will emerge as a leader on the blueline this year.
Daniel Audette is small, but he is very, very skilled. He created offence single handedly and Parisi’s goal was set up by Audette as he kept the puck to himself 1 on 4 while waiting for teammates to join him in the offensive zone. He will be fun to watch in his first full AHL season.
For the first half of the scrimmage, Charles Hudon had me write down that he "did not look like an NHL player." Literally after I wrote that, he took over the game. He had several breakaways and created other scoring chances. I don’t know if it took him a while to find his legs, but he definitely impressed.
It’s tough to judge Michael McCarron. He was bigger than everyone else and his pro experience made him stand out. He wasn’t as impressive as you would expect a guy who played 20 NHL games to be, but we know who McCarron is and what he will do when the games start for real.
Arvid Henrikson is big. He looked as big as McCarron, no more than a couple of inches shorter. He skated well, had a nice shot and made nice passes. He was also good in the defensive zone. Like I’ve said, it’s tough to judge the defencemen based on the style of play in the scrimmages, but I liked what I saw. He was definitely worth a 7th round pick and is worth watching.
Massimo Carozza is a camp invite and he was someone who stuck out, either with making steals or nice rushes. Same thing with fellow camp invite Giovanni Fiore. He actually scored with 3.3 seconds left in the 3 on 3 portion of the game with the goalie pulled.
Jeremiah Addison was also very good. Him and Hudon had a really nice chemistry develop in the second half of the game. They had several scoring opportunities and you can see the skill that he possesses. He scored a goal and very nearly set up another.
Casey Staum and Simon Bourque are also two defencemen I liked. Staum didn’t look like someone who missed the entire NCAA season before getting drafted.
The goaltenders in this one were Michael McNiven and Hayden Hawkey. Both showed why they have potential and I was really impressed with both of them, especially Hawkey who only played in five NCAA games last year as a backup.
Petrus Palmu had flashes of brilliance. The camp invite had 49 points in 52 games for Owen Sound in the OHL and six points in six playoff games. I don’t know if he will get a contract, but the 5’7 Finn looked good and I couldn’t help but have flashbacks to another slightly taller Finn who was knocked after the draft for being small and had a great career in Montreal.
One thing is clear. Between Bitten, Palmu, Audette, Reway and Gallagher, Carr and Andrighetto in the NHL, the Canadiens aren’t afraid to shy away from smaller players, and the skill that they displayed showed why. You can’t ignore these guys anymore and Trevor Timmins and the Canadiens are doing a good job of bringing these guys in.
A lot of camp invites impressed me. There is not enough room for all of them to get contracts, but it just goes to show that the Canadiens scouting staff is doing a really good job finding good players who are able to perform.
Last year, Ryan Johnston, Travis Brown, Eisenschmid, McNiven and Angelo Miceli got professional contracts after being brought in for tryouts. Parisi was a development camp invite but didn't sign his contract until after the NCAA season.
Development camp continues throughout the week with three more scrimmages. They also have on ice sessions every day until July 7. Ryan Johnston and Brett Lernout were invited to camp but did not play in Sunday’s scrimmage. Lernout is still suffering from a knee injury that ended his season.