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Who should we expect to represent the Canadiens at the Rookie Showcase?

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For the first time, the annual tournament is hosted by the Canadiens

Jake Evans skating at Development Camp
Shanna Martin / Eyes on the Prize

We are just over a week away from the start of the Rookie Camp and the unofficial start to the NHL season. The Montreal Canadiens will once again take part in a series of exhibition games against the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs at an event dubbed the Rookie Showcase.

The NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement specifies that only players who have banked less than 50 games for pension plan purposes are eligible to participate in pre-training camp activities.

Usually this event is reserved for the youngest prospects on the Canadiens reserve list as well as tryouts who are looking to make an impression and win a contract.

Here is a quick overview of who to expect, and who not to expect, when it comes to the event.

NCAA Players

Due to college rules, players planning to continue their studies and remain eligible to play in the NCAA cannot take part in training camp. Therefore there will be two big names absent: first round pick Ryan Poehling and emerging late round revelation goaltender Cayden Primeau. Other prospects who will also not be there are Jack Gorniak, Jordan Harris, Nikolas Koberstein, and Brett Stapley.

Graduating NCAA prospect Jake Evans will be there, and it will be the first time that he will take part in game action with the Canadiens since being drafted four years ago. He is currently the only player that the Habs have crossing over from the NCAA this season. Look to him being one of the marquee players at the event.

  • OUT: Ryan Poehling, Cayden Primeau, Jack Gorniak, Jordan Harris, Nikolas Koberstein, Brett Stapley
  • IN: Jake Evans

European Players

The team announced that first-round pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi will take part in the tournament.

Recent draft picks Jesse Ylönen, Alexander Romanov, and Jacob Olofsson have all started their seasons with their respective European clubs, and without an NHL contract they are unlikely to take part. We know that Joni Ikonen will not be there as he recovers from off-season knee surgery.

Questions surround the future of Arvid Henrikson as he remains unsigned for the upcoming season in Sweden, and training camps are already underway. He was the only European player to cross the Atlantic without a contract since the Canadiens re-joined the Rookie tournaments in 2015, but right now his playing future might be in doubt.

It will be interesting to see if free agent signings Michal Moravčik or David Sklenička take part. Both are seasoned professionals in the Czech Republic, but could benefit from some ice time in North America prior to the full training camp. For comparisons sake, last year Jakub Jerabek did not participate in rookie camp in a similar situation.

Lukas Vejdemo is expected to take part in his first non-development camp action in a Canadiens jersey after signing an entry-level contract this summer.

  • OUT: Jesse Ylonen, Alexander Romanov, Jacob Olofsson, Joni Ikonen, Arvid Henrikson
  • IN: Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Michal Moravčik, David Sklenička, Lukas Vejdemo

AHL-Contracted Players

Prospects on minor league deals certainly have been given a chance to showcase their skills prior to being sent down for AHL training camp. In past years Travis Brown, Josiah Didier, Markus Eisenschmid, and Tomas Ebbing were invited. These were all players who were entering their professional rookie seasons, and we should not expect anything less this season.

Obviously veteran minor-league players such as Alexandre Grenier, Maxim Lamarche, Alex Belzile, Ryan Culkin, and Nikita Jevpalovs won’t take part in the rookie training camp.

However we should expect rookies such as Adam Plant, Phélix Martineau, and Morgan Adams-Moisan to be there, as well as second-year pro T.J. Melancon. I will explore goaltender Etienne Marcoux in a bit.

  • OUT: Alexandre Grenier, Maxim Lamarche, Alex Belzile, Ryan Culkin, Nikita Jevpalovs
  • IN: Adam Plant, Phelix Martineau, Morgan Adams-Moisan, T.J. Melancon

Tryouts

Usually tryouts are extended to most prospects who had previously been invited to the Canadiens Development Camp in July. The Canadiens had 11 such tryouts at the event, but several of them are still NCAA eligible, and as discussed above, are not eligible to take part if they want to remain in school. Goaltender Gabriel Mollot-Hill returns to Providence, Cameron Lee to Western Michigan, and Anthony Rinaldi to Union College.

Two European tryouts, who were plucked from of the European combine event that the Canadiens held, Otto Leskinen and Vladimir Bryukvin, are about to begin their respective seasons, with KalPa in Liiga and with Moscow Dynamo in the KHL. Both are unlikely to attend.

Four players who are possibilities to be invited are Brandon Hagel, Alex Katerinakis, Ryan Hughes, and Joel Teasdale. Although Hughes and Teasdale are still draft eligible for one more year, Hagel and Katerinakis represent two players headed into their overage seasons, and are eligible for contract offers from the Canadiens.

The Canadiens have had six players on tryout at the last two rookie events, and with four already selected for this year, another interesting candidate is Samuel Harvey who I will discuss in the goaltending category.

  • OUT: Dhillon, Mollot-Hill, Lee, Rinaldi, Leskinen, Bryukvin
  • POSSIBILITIES: Hagel, Katerinakis, Hughes, Teasdale

Goaltending

Certainly the most interesting piece of the puzzle for the rookie team is goaltending.

Charlie Lindgren will not be taking part, and there is case to be made that Michael McNiven might not need to return to the event for a fourth time.

24-year-old AHL-contracted Marcoux certainly could be one of the goaltenders called to the tournament despite being older than most players. He had a successful return to the pro ranks last season after a passage in USports following an injury-shortened season in 2014-15.

Samuel Harvey remains unsigned to a pro contract despite some stellar numbers last season, so he is a good candidate to be one of the goaltenders at the event, coming on a tryout contract after taking part in the summer’s development camp.

  • OUT: Lindgren
  • POSSIBILITIES: McNiven, Marcoux, Harvey

Unsigned Junior-aged Draft Picks

This is where the bulk of the roster for the Rookie Showcase will come from: Junior aged players from the last two drafts, who were recently drafted by the Canadiens, but who will be returning to their junior teams afterwards.

2017 Draft: Josh Brook, Jarrett Tyszka, Scott Walford, Cale Fleury

2018 Draft: Cole Fonstad, Cameron Hillis, Allan McShane, Samuel Houde

A lingering injury could hamper Brook from attending. He missed the on-ice sessions at Canadiens development camp and the U20 Summer Showcase last month, but he’s taking part in Moose Jaw’s training camp right now. Brook has said that he skipped those events to make sure he didn’t miss key regular season time.

All of these players, if healthy, should be at rookie camp.

Entry-Level Players

These are the elders of group, at least in terms of contractual tenure. These players are starting, or in the midst, of their entry-level contracts. Some players joining Kotkaniemi and Vejdemo to start their rookie campaigns will include Will Bitten, Michael Pezzetta, Alexandre Alain, and Hayden Verbeek.

For others like Antoine Waked, Victor Mete, their professional experience last year will probably mean they won’t be asked to come to rookie camp but would technically be eligible. Waked is more of a possibility than Mete.

Jeremiah Addison might be the only experienced pro player who will be participating in the rookie camp after an injury-shortened year last season.

OUT: Mete, Noah Juulsen, Daniel Audette, Artturi Lehkonen, Brett Lernout, Nikita Scherbak

IN: Will Bitten, Michael Pezzetta, Alexandre Alain, Hayden Verbeek, Addison, Waked

Estimated List of Players

To the best of my knowledge, the team composition at the Rookie Showcase could look like the list below, with 29 players on the roster. Typically the Canadiens have 23-26 players at the rookie camp, so a few of these players may yet still be trimmed down.

Goaltenders (2)

  • Samuel Harvey, undrafted tryout, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
  • Etienne Marcoux, AHL free agent signing, Indy Fuel (ECHL)

Defencemen (8)

  • Josh Brook, 2017 second-round draft pick, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
  • Cale Fleury, 2017 third-round draft pick, Regina Pats (WHL)
  • T.J. Melancon, 2018 undrafted AHL free agent signing, Norfolk Admirals (ECHL)
  • Adam Plant, 2018 undrafted AHL free agent signing, University of Denver (NCAA)
  • Jarret Tyszka, 2017 fifth-round draft pick, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
  • Scott Walford, 2017 third-round draft pick, Victoria Royals (WHL)
  • Michal Moravčik, 2018 undrafted free agent signing, HC Plzen (Czech)
  • David Sklenička, 2018 undrafted free agent signing, HC Plzen (Czech)

Forwards (19)

  • Morgan Adams-Moisan, 2018 undrafted AHL free agent signing, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL)
  • Jeremiah Addison, 2015 seventh-round draft pick, Laval Rocket (AHL)
  • Alexandre Alain, 2018 undrafted free agent signing, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
  • Will Bitten, 2016 third-round draft pick, Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
  • Jake Evans, 2014 seventh-round draft pick, University of Notre Dame (NCAA)
  • Cole Fonstad, 2018 fifth-round draft pick, Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
  • Brandon Hagel, Undrafted tryout, Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
  • Cameron Hillis, 2018 third-round draft pick, Guelph Storm (OHL)
  • Samuel Houde, 2018 fifth-round draft pick, Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
  • Ryan Hughes, undrafted tryout, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
  • Alex Katerinakis, undrafted tryout, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
  • Jesperi Kotkaniemi, 2018 first-round draft pick, Āssāt (Liiga)
  • Phélix Martineau, 2018 undrafted AHL free agent signing, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles (QMJHL)
  • Allan McShane, 2018 fourth-round draft pick, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
  • Michael Pezzetta, 2016 sixth-round draft pick, Sarnia Sting (OHL)
  • Joel Teasdale, undrafted tryout, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)
  • Lukas Vejdemo, 2015 third-round draft pick, Djurgårdens IF (SHL)
  • Hayden Verbeek, 2018 undrafted AHL free agent signing, SSM Greyhounds (OHL)
  • Antoine Waked, 2017 undrafted AHL free agent signing, Laval Rocket (AHL)

The NHL Rookie Showdown takes place on September 7-9 at Place Bell in Laval.