Six players entered the Montreal Canadiens’ rookie camp with hopes of earning themselves a contract with the organization. Tryouts at camp are a natural way for organizations to supplement more traditional avenues of acquiring talent, and the Canadiens are wise to continually address organizational depth, especially considering how often — and how deep — they’ve had to dig over the last several seasons.
It’s no accident that the majority of the players selected for tryouts were French-Canadian. With the farm team moving to Laval, the Canadiens are in a brilliant position to once again become the destination of choice for local area talent; something that the organization has been accused of neglecting these last several years.
Inversely, there would be those who would decry the favouritism towards a particular culture, but it is impossible to argue that galvanizing a local talent base or enamouring the local fanbase are bad things. A strong pipeline of talent and a strong following are both very important to the organization’s health, and who knows, the Canadiens might even find another David Desharnais or Francis Bouillon hiding in plain sight who can ascend to NHL glory with the Canadiens.
After seeing them play against the prospects in the systems of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators, we got a good impression of which are most likely to take their first professional steps in the organization.
Antoine Samuel, G
Samuel’s invitation was out of the blue given that he was not at this past summer’s development camp like everyone else on this list. Perhaps an odd choice at first, he does tick a few boxes: previous professional camps, this season’s recipient of the Samuel-Robert Trophy for best student athlete in the QMJHL, and relative success last season on a bad team.
However Samuel looked bad during his one start against the Ottawa Senators, giving up five goals on 28 shots. Shaky at times, desperate at others, Samuel did himself no favours, giving up goals early and often.
With no urgency in the goaltender pipeline for the Canadiens, don’t expect Samuel to get an AHL deal, and to return to Baie-Comeau for his final junior season. The Drakkar certainly won’t mind as he played 52 of the team’s 68 games last season.
Alexandre Goulet, C/LW
Goulet participated at the development camp this past summer, but also all the way back in 2014 with the Canadiens. They’ve been keeping their eye on him.
He didn’t really stand out too much during the development camp intra-squad scrimmages, and he certainly didn’t stand out during the Rookie Tournament as he was the seldom-used 13th forward for the Canadiens.
Despite scoring 39 goals for the Victoriaville Tigres last season as an over-ager, he didn’t look like a threat on the ice for the Canadiens, physically or offensively.
Goulet appears to be headed to the University of New Brunswick to continue playing at the collegiate level while getting a degree. He was named #1 over-age forward available from the QMJHL by the Canadian University Sports Network.
James McEwan, C/LW
Hey, he’s not French-Canadian. Who let him in here? Kidding aside, McEwan was an interesting tryout as one the top scorers on just an awful Guelph Storm team. Last year he was invited to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ rookie camp and played in the Rookie Tournament, notably against the Montreal Canadiens.
He’s not large in size, but he did play with a lot of heart on the ice both nights during this year’s Rookie Tournament. He fought hard for the puck, went into the boards, and did what he could. Unfortunately it seemed like he was always a step behind the play. He’s probably headed back to Guelph for his final junior season.
Maxime Fortier, RW
The undrafted 5’10” forward is coming off two consecutive 30-goal seasons in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads, and is a product of the mighty Lac Saint-Louis Lions midget program in Montreal, so it was a no-brainer that the local player deserved a shot to show what he can bring at the professional level. It is his second go-around with the Canadiens organization, participating in their development camp in 2016 as well.
In two games at the Rookie Tournament, he managed to show some offensive flair with controlled offensive-zone entrances playing on a line with Thomas Ebbing, who scored three goals at the tournament. Fortier is a crowd favourite in Halifax, and many hope he succeeds, however I’m not sure he showed enough to truly stand out from the pack to earn a deal. More than likely he will head back to Halifax for his over-age season and try again next year.
Jordan Boucher, LW
Boucher is a product of Clarkson University of the NCAA. Upon completing his schooling he signed an ATO with the Binghamton Senators last season and played nine games there, earning no points.
With no option of returning to the NCAA, Boucher was playing for his lunch during the Rookie Tournament and showed really well. The first night he started off the action with a hard drive to the Toronto net that took out the goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo. At other times he’s be hitting or closely monitoring his man.
He’s not overly big, but he plays a bigger game, which could be what earns him a pro contract. At 23 years old, Boucher appears to be a fine fit as a depth player in the AHL or ECHL.
Alexandre Alain, C
The best of the tryouts centred the fourth line with McEwan and Antoine Waked, and did not look out of place against the highly-regarded Maple Leafs or more experienced Senators.
Alain was a physical presence, and even scored a goal against the Leafs with a strong wrist shot that beat Kaskisuo low glove side. Alain can return to the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada for his over-age season or he could very well find a role with the Laval Rocket or Brampton Beast.
Looking at the depth of the Canadiens organization, you get the impression that there really isn’t that much room to add any these players, however if the organization is intent on injecting some local talent for Laval’s first season, the shallowest position is currently at forward. It’s no accident that there were no tryouts on defence; the AHL team will be quite deep on the blue line.
Even so, organizational depth is always important, especially if you consider all the injuries and call-ups that happen regularly during an NHL season. The ECHL Brampton Beast currently have plenty of openings as they only have 11 players signed for next season, with the anticipation of about six or seven AHL-contracted players spending time there.
The rookie camp runs until Wednesday, September 13 with on-ice sessions, at which point many junior-aged players will return to their teams prior to the main Canadiens camp, which officially starts on Thursday. It remains to be seen if any of the above carry on to the main Canadiens camp with a new deal in their pocket.
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