The Canadiens kick off their annual development camp in Brossard this week, under the watchful eye of Rob Ramage, the Director of Player Development. A roster of 40 players was invited to attend the camp, and are mostly junior-aged players, either drafted into the organization, signed as free agents, or in the case of 11 of them, simply invited to attend.
In the case of many, a professional career starts with an invitation to such a camp after getting passed over during the draft. There are several examples of players with NHL contracts now, who initially got their start at a Montreal development camp: Reid Duke with Vegas, Matt Highmore with Chicago, Scott Eansor with Florida, Petrus Palmu with Vancouver, Giovanni Fiore with Anaheim, Maxime Fortier with Columbus, and Alexandre Alain with Montreal, to name a few.
So what can we suss out from this year’s crop? First of all, a list.
One of the more interesting tryouts is 19-year old Joel Teasdale (LW) from the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. The new head coach of the Laval Rocket Joel Bouchard obviously knows him well, and thought well enough of him to invite him to camp. Our sister site All About The Jersey did a good job profiling him for the 2017 draft, so I won’t repeat what they wrote.
He had an excellent season this year as an 18-year old, producing at a point per game place in both the regular season and playoffs, all the while reducing his penalty minutes. Teasdale remains draft eligible, so don’t expect a professional contract for him at the conclusion of development camp, but if he looks good he will hopefully be back next season. (He could technically sign an AHL deal since he is undrafted, hence the NHL-CHL working agreement does not apply in his case, I think)
Another junior eligible player is Ryan Hughes (C) of the Portland Winterhawks, who might be a bit of a hidden wildcard, and also the youngest tryout at 18 years-old. Expected to be one of the main offensive contributors this season, Hughes went down with an injury early on in the season and missed numerous games. Therefore his stats are not great and he was passed over in the draft. Headed into his 19-year old season he will be draft eligible one last time, and a successful development camp followed by a strong season is a step towards another opportunity at getting drafted. At 5’8” he is the shortest player at camp though, but with the puck skills he has, it makes for an interesting risk.
The remaining nine tryouts have have all passed their draft eligibility and are looking for work on a professional hockey team. Last season Jordan Boucher was the lucky recipient of a professional contract, this season there are really several options.
Two other forwards from the CHL were invited:
- Alex Katerinakis (RW) well familiar to Bouchard as he’s another Armada player and a local Montrealer. Katerinakis was sixth in scoring on an absolutely loaded Armada team, with 13 goals and 27 assists.
- Brandon Hagel (LW) from the Red Deer Rebels, a former sixth-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres whose rights expired on June 1st without a contract. Dubbed “a bulldog” by Sabresprospects.com, and fans of the team were quite happy with a 71 point production in his Draft+1 season. However this past season he was not able to reach the same heights, scoring half the goals he did the previous season. Nonetheless he remained a point-per-game player, putting up 59 points in 56 games, the second highest scorer on one of the worst offensive teams in the league last year.
Two goaltenders round out the CHL contingent: Stephen Dhillon and Samuel Harvey.
Harvey is the recipient of several awards this past season in the QMJHL, including Best Goals Against Average (the Jacques Plante Trophy), best save percentage, and he also made the QMJHL first all-star team. The Canadiens could sign him just to have him in the system, let him return for an overage season in the Q, and then compete for an AHL job for the 2019-20 season.
Dhillon had a strong playoff with the Niagara Ice Dogs, and that’s probably where he was noticed, because his regular season was nothing of note besides his tall frame of 6’4”.
Three NCAA players were invited:
- Cameron Lee (LD) is the nephew of former NHLer Jean-Sébastien Giguère, and plays at Western Michigan University, the same team as Russ Courtnall’s son Lawton. Lee led defencemen on his team with six goals. It’s possible that he was on the Canadiens radar a few years ago when he was third in the USHL for assists for defencemen.
- Anthony Rinaldi (RW) is an interesting case. A late starter in college, at 23-years old Rinaldi just completed his sophomore season, a full four years older than any of his teammates. He’s a local kid from Pierrefonds, and he’s obviously hoping to make enough of an impression to stay with the organization. He had a breakthrough year, going from three goals in his freshman year to 17 goals this past season, and a rise in points from four to 28. Just a massive growth curve in his game, returning his offensive game to where it was when he played second tier junior in Canada prior to going to the NCAA.
- Gabriel Mollot-Hill (G) was the backup goaltender for the traded Hayden Hawkey at Providence College this season, where he showed a lot of promise. He only made five starts, but had a goals against average of 1.21 and a save percentage of .931 in his freshman season. Mollot-Hill, like Rinaldi, started college at a late age, and will be going into his sophomore season as a 21-year old.
Rounding out the group are two Europeans: Otto Leskinen (LD) and Vladimir Bryukvin (RW). Both played professional hockey at the highest level in their respective countries, Finland (Liiga) and Russia (KHL).
Leskinen played with KalPa this past season, alongside Canadiens prospect Joni Ikonen. Leskinen has played for the Finnish national team at every development level: U17, U18, U19, and U20. Leskinen recently completed his military training with the Finnish army, along with some other teammates.
Kun toiset treenaavat jäällä, on toisten tehtävä se maastossa!— KalPa (@KalPa_Hockey) May 14, 2018
Puolustusvoimien Urheilukoulussa, Kaartin jääkärirykmentissä varusmiespalvelustaan tällä hetkellä suorittavat KalPan Otto Leskinen, Mikael Seppälä, Frank Gymer ja Topi Piipponen.
Aamuja jätkät! #Liiga #KalPa pic.twitter.com/lLoTR1tcZU
Bryuvkin is the oldest of the tryouts at 23 years old, and comes from the KHL where he played for Dynamo Moscow, where he was tied for most goals on the team with 14 in 47 games. A speedy forward with a bit of a flair for a dangle. Dynamo recently welcomed Vadim Shipachyov and Maxim Afinogenov (Max Pacioretty’s brother-in-law), so there may be some sort of connection there that got Bryukvin a North American tryout, but according to EliteProspects he still has a contract for next season in the KHL.