Thoughts and impressions from Day 2 of Montreal Canadiens development camp

Who impressed and stood out at the second scrimmage

The second scrimmage at the Montreal Canadiens development camp took place on Monday afternoon, and there were several notable performances.

The two teams played two 25-minute mini games at four-on-four. The clock only stopped for penalty shots (there were no power plays) and for whistles in the final minute. For other stoppages, the clock continued to run.

Here were the rosters:

Jeremiah Addison (shoulder), Daniel Audette (concussion), and Jarret Tyszka (shoulder) did not play. Tyszka did skate and participate in drills in the morning. I did not see the forward drills but I assume Addison did the same. Only Audette has been confirmed out of development camp.

For the first game the two goaltenders were Hayden Hawkey (Red/B) and Michael McNiven (White/A). The game ended 0-0, but Team White scored three goals in the shootout to take it 3-0. Game two had Cayden Primeau (Red/B) against tryout Brodan Salmond (White/A). This game ended 1-1 with goals from Simon Bourque and Jordan Boucher. The shootout once again ended 3-0 but this time Team Red took it. Full shootout results will be below.

The first thing that stood out to me is that Nikita Scherbak was the most talented player on the ice. He just looked better than everyone else. However, there were times when he tried to do too much and that ended with him turning the puck over. But Jake Evans and Scherbak were a dynamic duo almost every time they were on the ice.

They both had several scoring chances and created two-on-one rushes throughout the game. Scherbak also helped Evans draw a penalty with a pass that led him on a rush, but Evans was hauled down. The fact that Evans, a 2014 seventh-round pick, didn’t look out of place confirms my thought that he’s among the top forward prospects in the organization.

Also on team White, Will Bitten impressed me for the second straight year. I would be absolutely shocked if he doesn’t become a regular in the NHL. He reminds me of Brendan Gallagher with the way he launches himself into the play but he has skill to create his own chances as well. He played with Canadiens 2017 first-round pick Ryan Poehling.

Poehling was interesting. My first impression was that he had a lot more skill than I had imagined. The offensive instincts are definitely there, and his play away from the puck was among the best, especially among forwards. He caused several turnovers by intercepting passes and was solid on the forecheck. The scouting reports had said he was a solid two-way player and I had concerns about the offensive side of that, but I don’t have as much worry anymore. He’s definitely a few years away, but I really liked what I saw.

Joni Ikonen got the start for team Red up front, and on the first shift he created a zone entry by skating around two opposing players. The flash in his game and the skill really is off the charts. Considering both he and Poehling were among the younger players, they performed quite well. Ikonen also scored a shootout goal in game two.

Lukas Vejdemo looked much improved after a year in Sweden. He was very solid on both ends of the ice, and was among the best forwards on team Red.

The tryout who stood out the most for me was defenceman Jimmy Schuldt from St. Cloud State. He was able to start the rush, and create plays. There was one shift where he held the line several times and took a point shot that created a scoring chance on the rebound. He was also very good in the morning drills. It was Schuldt’s pass that set up Simon Bourque’s goal on the doorstep in game two. Bourque just had to tap it in.

Arvid Henrikson’s skating was much better than I remember it being. In the morning skating drills, he didn’t stand out which, and considering he was noticeably taller than anyone else (listed at 6’5”) that is a good thing. The 2016 seventh-round pick missed a check that led to a three-on-one but recovered nicely on both ends of the ice.

The trio of 2017-drafted defencemen, Josh Brook, Scott Walford and Cale Fleury were all very similar players. They can all skate, they can all play well in their own end and they can all make passes. It is hard to evaluate defencemen in four-on-four action, but I would be shocked if at least two of them did not make the NHL. Fleury in particular looked like someone much better than his draft position would show.

Walford had one rush where he went coast-to-coast before dropping the puck to a teammate and Fleury had a sequence where he had a zone entry, shot on goal and then stood up at his own blue line to stop a rush. Brook reminded me a lot of Noah Juulsen. They were both very good but didn’t do anything spectacular.

I have seen Michael McNiven play a bunch in person between development camps and World Junior camp, and he is so solid every single time. He didn’t allow a single goal through the game and the shootout. I have seen Victor Mete a lot as well, and again he was really good. His defensive game is just as good as his offensive game.

Simon Bourque not only scored the first non-shootout goal of the day in the second scrimmage, but he also was one of the more dynamic players in the game. There were times, including when he scored his goal, when he was closer to the opposing goal crease than the blue line.

I am really looking forward to seeing what he could do in Laval because he really is a dynamic talent. He is probably the best offensive defenceman among Habs prospects. How his defensive game translates to the pro level will determine how far he goes.

Jordan Boucher, a tryout from Clarkson University, scored the tying goal and it just came out of nowhere. He skated in and fired a pretty snap shot past Salmond.

Cayden Primeau was also one of the players who impressed me the most. I think he was a steal in the seventh round. He made saves look easy, and was always in the right position. For an organization like the Canadiens to trade for a pick and take a goaltender when they already are quite stacked at a position tells you all you need to know about how good Primeau can be.

The talent is definitely there.

I was surprised with Thomas Ebbing’s offensive skill. He didn’t score much at Michigan State, but he could be a very interesting player in Laval or Brampton this season. Niki Petti and Antoine Waked also had chances.

I didn’t go over every player here. If some didn’t appear it just means they weren’t remarkable. No one stood out negatively.

Shootout Results

Game One (goalies Michael McNiven (W)/Hayden Hawkey (R))

Will Bitten (W) scored
Niki Petti (R) missed the net
Jake Evans (W) hit the post
Antoine Waked (R) stopped
Michael Pezzetta (W) scored
Maxime Fortier (R) stopped
Nikita Scherbak (W) scored

Game Two (goalies Brodan Salmond (W)/Cayden Primeau (R))

Joni Ikonen (R) scored
Ryan Poehling (W) tried to chip it over Primeau and missed
James McEwan (R) scored five-hole
Will Bitten (W) stopped
Jarid Lukosevicius (R) scored
Nikita Scherbak (W) tried the Forsberg and was stopped

There are two scrimmages remaining: Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. and Wednesday morning at 9:30 a.m.

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