The 2017-18 NHL season kicks off for Montreal Canadiens fans with the annual Rookie Tournament. This year the event runs from September 8-10 at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, pitting the Canadiens’ prospects against the Maple Leafs’ and Ottawa Senators’ best young players.
The Canadiens, under general manager Bob Gainey, pulled out of the Rookie Tournament in 2007, two years after Guillaume Latendresse and Carey Price made names for themselves at the showcase event. Montreal preferred to shift to a more traditional training camp for their recruits for the next eight seasons, believing that thrusting players straight into a competitive environment out of the gate was actually detrimental to their development and would lead to injury.
In 2015 the Canadiens made the decision to return to the tournament, and once again got to see how their prospect pool stacked up against those of a few other Eastern Conference clubs.
Before we move on to this year’s tournament, let’s quickly recap the previous two editions, which also featured the Pittsburgh Penguins in a four-team format.
The Canadiens had 26 players in their return, including three first-round draft picks in Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron, and Noah Juulsen. Juulsen, unfortunately, missed the tournament games themselves due to a concussion.
The stand-out player for the Canadiens at that game was tryout Angelo Miceli, who put up primary assists on all three of the Habs’ goals, scored by Jeremiah Addison, Daniel Carr, and Tim Bozon. The Penguins’ rookie goaltender Matt Murray got the win however, stopping 31 shots.
Scherbak and Ryan Johnston contributed two helpers each to go with Hudon’s two tallies. Dalton Thrower took the first star, however, for his game-winning goal as well as an assist on a goal from Tim Bozon. Jamal Watson and Connor Crisp were the other goal-scorers for the Canadiens.
Not to be outdone by McNiven, Fucale had a 43-save performance in the final game of the tournament against the Ottawa Senators, but it was not enough as his side dropped the game 2-1. [lineup | recap]
The lone Habs goal was scored by tryout Dryden Hunt on an assist from Miceli. The story of the game was a goaltending duel as Fucale faced Senators starter Matt O’Connor, who stopped 47 pucks aimed his way. Francis Perron scored twice for the Sens and it was enough to give them the win.
The Canadiens finished the 2015 tournament with a 1-1-1 record.
Daniel Carr wore the C for the Canadiens as the oldest NHL prospect on the team. He was part of the top line on left wing, with Hudon at centre and Jeremy Grégoire on right wing.
McNiven and Miceli impressed enough to earn trips to the main training camp. McNiven would sign an NHL entry-level contract, while Miceli earned himself an AHL contract.
The Canadiens must have seen enough of tryout Markus Eisenschmid during the summer’s development camp. Despite missing the entire rookie tournament and subsequent training camp due to an injury, he was asked to play a few AHL preseason games with the St. John’s IceCaps, after which he signed his AHL deal.
Dryden Hunt was another player on a tryout, but he left the tournament with no contract. He later signed an entry-level pact with the Florida Panthers.
Notable players on the other teams included Mitchell Marner, William Nylander, and Zach Hyman for the Leafs, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, and Daniel Sprong for the Penguins, and Ryan Dzingel and Matt Puempel for the Senators.
Top Scorers for the Canadiens
- Angelo Miceli: 3 Games Played, 0 Goals, 4 Primary assists, 0 Secondary assists, 4 points
- Charles Hudon: 3 GP, 2 G, 0 A1, 0 A2, 2 PTS, 1 GWG
- Tim Bozon: 3 GP, 2 G, 0 A1, 0 A2, 2 PTS
- Ryan Johnston: 3 GP, 0 G, 1 A1, 1 A2, 2 PTS
- Nikita Scherbak: 3 GP, 0 G, 1 A1, 1 A2, 2 PTS
- Jeremy Grégoire: 3 GP, 0 G, 1 A1, 1 A2, 2 PTS
Once again the Canadiens team was composed of 26 players, most notably the highly-touted new prospect Mikhail Sergachev, who had just been selected by the Canadiens in the entry draft.
Montreal came out of the gates blasting against the Pittsburgh Penguins with the top line of Artturi Lehkonen, Michael McCarron, and Nikita Scherbak putting up three points each in an 8-3 win. [recap]
Noah Juulsen, playing his first official game in a Canadiens jersey, and also put up three points for the Canadiens while Ryan Johnston shone with two goals. The other goals were scored by Tom Parisi and Jeremiah Addison.
The following night the Canadiens lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in a disappointing loss. McCarron managed to tie the game late in the third, only for the Leafs to respond right away to take the game. [lineup | recap]
The game was highlighted by the first goal from Lehkonen in a Canadiens jersey. One assist went to exciting defensive prospect Victor Mete, who ended up having another helper on McCarron’s tying goal. Zachary Fucale made 34 saves in the loss.
The Canadiens lost their final game 6-3 to the Senators in a chippy affair that became Sergachev’s coming out party. He was involved physically and on the scoresheet with two primary assists. [recap]
Sergachev was ultimately knocked out of the game on a dangerous boarding play. Physical play was the dominant theme, with Juulsen, Addison, and newcomer Michael Pezzetta all using their size to make an impact.
Montreal finished the 2016 tournament with a 1-2-0 record.
McCarron got the C for the Canadiens during this tournament, and he more than earned it by pivoting the dangerous top line and leading the team in goals. Besides the top-line players, many others impressed, including Will Bitten, Addison, and Daniel Audette.
Another player who looked really good was Charlie Lindgren, author of the only Canadiens victory in the tournament, as McNiven and Fucale both lost their starts.
The tryouts were largely invisible, with only one of the six receiving an invitation to the main Canadiens training camp, that being Giovanni Fiore, despite Petrus Palmu and Guillaume Asselin looking good enough during the tournament.
Fiore was released without receiving an AHL offer. He eventually signed with the Anaheim Ducks organization this past year. Palmu was a late-round draft pick this June by the Vancouver Canucks in his final year of draft eligibility.
- Nikita Scherbak: 3 GP, 1 G, 2 A1, 2 A2, 5 PTS
- Michael McCarron: 2 GP, 3 G, 1 A2, 4 PTS
- Artturi Lehkonen: 3 GP, 1 G, 2 A1, 1 A2, 4 PTS
- Daniel Audette: 3 GP, 3 G, 3 PTS
- Jeremiah Addison: 3 GP, 1 G, 2 A1, 3 PTS