The Montreal Canadiens development camp kicked off this week-end, and the list of invites is filled with freshly drafted players like first-round draft pick Ryan Poehling, players entering the entry-level system like Simon Bourque, and hopeful tryouts like Maxime Fortier.
But then there is the inclusion of two players who will at their fourth development camp with the Montreal Canadiens: forwards Daniel Audette and Nikita Scherbak, arguably among the few top six prospects playing in the American Hockey League.
The NHL collective bargaining agreement states that no player needs to accept more than three invitations to a team’s summer “conditioning camp”. Players like Artturi Lehkonen and Brett Lernout, for instance, took part in three development camps already, and are not present this year.
There is a noted exception to the rule in the case of the players who specifically request to take part, which is normal for prospects going through the NCAA system for instance where the conditioning camp is the only on-ice contact they get with an NHL team. Hayden Hawkey and Nikolas Koberstein are at their fourth camps for instance. Mark MacMillan attended five camps for the Canadiens in the past, before leaving the organization.
The Canadiens do seem however to make it a habit to invite certain raw players who require more seasoning. Michael McCarron for instance took part in four camps, from 2013 to 2016, same for Jeremy Gregoire and Zachary Fucale. Charles Hudon, everyone’s hope that the Canadiens development system has something to show for itself, participated in five such camps, 2012 to 2016.
On the other hand, steadier farm hands who have reached their max potential, Daniel Carr and Jacob De la Rose, only took part in two such camps.
One has to wonder whether the Canadiens requested that Audette and Scherbak attend camp, or whether they took the initiative and requested it themselves. Either way participating in another development camp will certainly benefit both forwards who demonstrated tremendous offensive bursts last season, but fell short of defensive responsibilities. That’s certainly where their focus will be during these four days, for all of their offensive talent, notably Scherbak, there is still lots of work to be done if they hope to attain the National Hockey League in a top six role.
It was noted that Scherbak is spending the summer in Montreal to train with Canadiens conditioning coach Pierre Allard, so it will be interesting to follow his progression at camp. Being anything but the most dominant player during scrimmages should be considered a disappointment for Scherbak given his experience and talent.
As for Audette, unfortunately a concussion will limit his participation in this week’s camp.
Reway’s absence a concern
A notable name omitted from this year’s camp is that of Martin Reway, whose health was of a great concern over the past year. After signing his entry-level contract during the summer 2016 he fell ill just prior to the start of training camp. He was hospitalized and kept under observation for weeks and lost an entire season of hockey. Thankfully he recovered and began training again in the late-spring, but a return to professional hockey is still far from assured.
If this past year’s health scare wasn’t concerning enough, this year’s development camp is the third in five years that Reway is missing with the Canadiens. He only attended the 2013 and 2016 camps thus far.
A full recovery and a return to playing professional hockey is obviously the wish for Reway, but given his past bouncing around European leagues, coupled with the loss of an entire season, and one has to wonder if there wasn’t permanent damage done to a player who once showed so much exciting promise.