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Rookie Showcase: Reviewing the performances of Montreal Canadiens prospects from 2015 to 2017

With the prospects from the Eastern Conference’s Canadian teams set to go head-to-head, we look back at the previous three year’s of the pre-season tournament.

Andrew Zadarnowski / Habs Eyes on the Prize

The 2018-19 NHL season is about to get under way. The first event for the Montreal Canadiens is the annual Rookie Showcase, an annual gathering of the organization’s prospects, along with a few tryouts.

This year the event runs from September 7-9 at Place Bell in Laval, pitting the Canadiens’ prospects against the Maple Leafs’ and Ottawa Senators’ best young players. This will be the fourth consecutive year that the Canadiens take part in a competitive rookie training camp.

Under general manager Bob Gainey, Montreal pulled out of the Rookie Tournament in 2007, two years after Guillaume Latendresse and Carey Price made names for themselves at the event in 2005 with standout performances. 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, Marc Bergevin and 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 this year’s tournament begins, let’s quickly recap the previous three editions, which also featured the Pittsburgh Penguins in a four-team format.

2015

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The Canadiens had 26 players on the roster in their return to the tournament, 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.

Montreal lost its first game 4-3 against the Penguins when Daniel Sprong scored an overtime goal on Zachary Fucale. [lineup | recap]

The standout player for the Canadiens in 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, stopping 31 shots.

The Canadiens bounced back against the Maple Leafs in the second game, winning 6-3 on the strength of two goals by Charles Hudon and a 48-save performance from Michael McNiven. [lineup | recap]

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 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 the 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 liked what they saw with tryout Markus Eisenschmid during the summer’s development camp. Despite missing the entire rookie tournament and subsequent main team training camp due to an injury, he was asked to play a few AHL pre-season games with the St. John’s IceCaps, after which he signed his AHL deal.

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

2016

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Once again the Canadiens team was composed of 26 players, most notable being the highly touted new prospect Mikhail Sergachev, who had just been selected in the first round 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 game in a Canadiens jersey, put up three points for the Canadiens while Ryan Johnston shone with two goals. The other goals were scored by Tom Parisi and Addison.

The following night the Canadiens lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 in a disappointing result. 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 match 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. 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]

Unfortunately, Sergachev was ultimately knocked out of the game on a dangerous boarding play. Physicality 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, 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. It came despite Petrus Palmu and Guillaume Asselin looking good enough during the tournament. Fiore was released without receiving an offer, eventually signing with the Anaheim Ducks organization. Palmu was a late-round draft pick this June by the Vancouver Canucks in his final year of draft eligibility.

Recap of the 2016 Rookie Tournament

Top scorers

  • 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

2017

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The tournament moved from Budweiser Gardens in London where it had been for the two previous years to Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, home of the Toronto Marlies. The Pittsburgh Penguins did not take part, reducing the field to three teams playing two games each.

For the first time since rejoining the event, the Canadiens were unable to unveil their first-round pick, as Ryan Poehling remained in the NCAA to continue his studies. But there was plenty of excitement around a new batch of draft picks, as well as the competitive debut of Martin Réway who was returning to hockey after a year-long battle with a heart condition that almost cost him his life. Also, in a change of format, teams were allowed to carry two spare players on the bench for each game so that coaches could get a good look at everyone.

The Canadiens started the event off on the right foot by beating the Maple Leafs 5-2. Although the top line of Addison, Audette, and Réway struggled, other lines of lesser-known players rose to the challenge. The line of Jordan Boucher, Thomas Ebbing, and Maxime Fortier produced two goals, but it was the constant buzzing and physical presence of Will Bitten, Michael Pezzetta, and Niki Petti that stood out. [lineup | recap]

The following night was not as successful for the Canadiens, as a much more experienced Senators team took them to task, crushing them 8-2. The consolation for the blowout loss was the awakening of the top line, which produced a lot of the offensive chances for the Canadiens. But it was the rough outing by a visibly nervous tryout goaltender Antoine Samuel that set the pace for the opposition. Ebbing added another goal, while Bitten continued to draw attention with his speed. [recap]

Juulsen wore the C for the Canadiens during the two games, and formed a very promising pairing with Victor Mete. Bitten impressed for a second year in a row, as did Ebbing with his offensive output. As for the tryouts, probably the best two were Alexandre Alain and Jordan Boucher. Boucher would eventually receive an AHL contract, while Alain was sent back to junior for another season before signing a full NHL entry-level contract this summer.

Top scorers

  • Tomas Ebbing: 2GP, 3G
  • Maxim Fortier: 2GP, 2A
  • Will Bitten, Alexandre Alain, Daniel Audette, Victor Mete: 2GP, 1G