Throwback Thursday: 2009 Montreal Canadiens Rookie Camp

Twenty-nine players were invited a decade ago, but few would actually make an impact in the organization.

The start of the hockey season is always marked by the Rookie Training Camp, and it was no different 10 years ago. In 2009, 29 players were called to join the Montreal Canadiens to begin their evaluation period.

There was no rookie tournament in 2009 like there is now, because General Manager Bob Gainey did not like the tournament format to start camp, claiming that the risk of injury was too great, and prospect evaluation could not be properly accomplished in such a competitive environment. So, from 2007 to 2015, the rookies basically took part in what was deemed a pre-training camp for younger players to acclimatise to the coaches and environments.

New Canadiens head coach Jacques Martin also wasn’t a fan of tournaments, and was happy with the camp structure. “When you don’t have a lot of players coming from the Junior ranks you have to sign all sorts of free agents to put a team together for a tournament. A camp like this one is much more beneficial. It gives the youngsters a week of intensive preparation. It gives us a chance to watch them work in a less competitive environment. We can therefore better evaluate their development, skills, and game comprehension individually. When the full camp starts with over 50 players, we will already know what the youngsters are capable of.”

When looking over the roster, you notice that there wasn’t a single player from the 2008 draft class, which was widely considered a tragic year for the Canadiens in hindsight. With the first-, fourth-, and sixth-round picks traded, the Canadiens served a huge blow to their prospect pool by drafting a meagre four picks. Danny Kristo and Patrick Johnson never signed with the Canadiens, Steve Quailer lingered two seasons in the AHL, and Maxim Trunev never crossed the Atlantic (he did come close one year, but an injury delayed the deal, and after never fully recovering from the injury the Canadiens moved on).

Besides Kristo, the most recent first-round pick, Louis Leblanc, and 2006 first-round pick David Fischer were also in the NCAA and therefore ineligible to participate in the rookie camp. That left Max Pacioretty, coming off of abdominal surgery in April which forced him to miss development camp, to be the big standout hopeful after an intriguing rookie season the year before.

Players weren’t the only rookies at rookie camp. Guy Boucher, newly appointed head coach of the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, was taking his first strides in pro hockey. After a successful tenure as head coach of the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL, Boucher was eager to impose his vision and systems on a pro team. “Jacques Martin and I agree on several points, but I’m happy to know that I will have the freedom to impose my system in the AHL. We will each keep our identities all the while sharing the same values.”

Boucher had a few familiar faces at the camp to help ease the transition and represent a link from his Junior coaching days. No less than three players from the Voltigeurs made the trip to Brossard as well. Unfortunately, injuries took away from the reunion.

Gabriel Dumont, the only player in the entire Canadiens organization who was destined to return to the QMJHL for the 2009-10 season, was forced to miss the camp due to a foot injury he sustained while training. This was a hard pill to swallow for Dumont who suffered through various injuries the previous season and continued to play, including a shoulder that was held in place by just a few tendons, a broken toe, an ankle sprain, and two badly sprained fingers.

The other injured Voltigeur at Rookie Camp was Dany Masse who underwent knee surgery following the Memorial Cup. Another Voltigeurs player, Philippe Lefebvre, was the only player to receive a tryout for the rookie camp. “It certainly softened the blow of not being drafted back in June,” said Lefebvre who received a call from Timmins a mere 20 minutes after the end of the draft to receive an invite to the development camp.

The Bulldogs went on to put up 115 points in Boucher’s rookie season, a record performance for a Habs AHL farm team that stands to this day.

A big unknown was the free-agent forward Mikael Johansson, who joined the Canadiens after winning the Swedish Elite League (as it was known back then) championship with Färjestad. Johansson put up 34 points in 49 games. A ninth-round draft pick in 2003 by the Detroit Red Wings, he was never pursued any further by them. Once his rights expired, Johansson found inspiration from his former linemate Fabian Brunnstrom. “If he can play in the NHL, why wouldn’t I be able to either?” Johansson said that he received several offers from the NHL. “I come from the same town as Jonas Hoglund and Kjell Dahlin who played here. When I talked to them (about the Canadiens), my choice was easy.”

Only one AHL-contracted player was invited to rookie camp, and that was 25-year old Eric Neilson, best known as Sidney Crosby’s bodyguard during his time with the Rimouski Oceanic. Lingering around various lower pro leagues for four years, Neilson signed an AHL deal with the Montreal Canadiens with aspirations for more than a year with the Hamilton Bulldogs. “I’ve never felt so close to the NHL,” he said in an interview with La Presse.

He certainly did his best to impress the Canadiens brass by fighting three times during a single pre-season game against the Ottawa Senators, notably once against Chris Neil, but his lack of hockey talent was simply too much of a crutch for him. He did return for a second stint in the organization when the St. John’s IceCaps signed him to two PTO contracts during the 2015-16 season.

2009 Draft: Much Ado About Nothing


Goaltenders (4)

Cedrick Desjardins

  • Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2007
  • Final year of two-year two-way deal
  • On his second contract, although his first one was an AHL deal/

Robert Mayer

  • Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008
  • Entering the second year of a three-year entry-level contract (ELC)/

Jason Missiaen

  • 4th round pick 2008 (116th overall)
  • Unsigned/

Petteri Simila

  • 7th round pick 2009 (211th overall)
  • Unsigned/

Defencemen (9)

Chad Anderson

  • Free agent signing in 2008
  • One-year two-way contract
  • Second contract/

Mac Bennett

  • 3rd round pick 2009 (79th)
  • Unsigned/

Andre Benoit

  • Free agent signing in 2009
  • One-year two-way contract
  • Returns to the organization after spending two seasons in Europe/

Michael Busto

  • Acquired by trade from New York Rangers along with Scott Gomez
  • Unsigned/

Mathieu Carle

  • 2nd round pick 2006 (53rd)
  • Entering third year of three-year ELC/

Frederic St-Denis

  • Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008
  • One-year two-way contract
  • On his second contract/

Joe Stejskal

  • 5th round pick 2007 (133rd)
  • Unsigned/

P.K. Subban

  • 2nd round pick 2007 (43rd)
  • Entering the first year of a three-year ELC/

Yannick Weber

  • 3rd round pick 2007 (73rd)
  • Entering second year of three-year ELC/

Forwards (16)

Andrew Conboy

  • 5th round pick in 2007 (142nd)
  • Signed AHL contract with the Hamilton Bulldogs in February of 2009 after being suspended by Michigan State in the NCAA.
  • Entering first year of a three-year ELC/

David Desharnais,

  • Signed as an undrafted free agent with the ECHL Cincinnati Cyclones then AHL Hamilton Bulldogs in 2007.
  • Entering second year of a two-year two-way NHL contract/

Gabriel Dumont (inj)

  • 5th round pick in 2009 (139th)
  • Unsigned/

Olivier Fortier

  • 3rd round pick in 2007 (65th)
  • Entering first year of a three-year ELC/

Mikael Johansson

  • Signed as a European free agent in 2009
  • First year of a one-year two-way contract/

Philippe Lefebvre

  • Undrafted free agent
  • Joined rookie camp on a tryout/

Dany Masse (inj)

  • Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009
  • Entering first year of a three-year ELC/

Ben Maxwell

  • 2nd round pick in 2007 (49th)
  • Entering second year of a three-year ELC/

Eric Neilson

  • Signed as a professional free agent
  • First year of a one-year AHL contract/

Max Pacioretty

  • 1st round pick in 2007 (22nd)
  • Entering second year of a three-year ELC/

Tom Pyatt

  • Acquired by trade from New York Rangers along with Scott Gomez
  • Entering third year of three-year ELC/

Ryan Russell

  • Acquired in trade from Columbus for 7th round pick in 2007
  • Third year of three-year ELC/

Brock Trotter

  • Signed as an undrafted free agent
  • Entering third year of three-year ELC/

Dustin Walsh

  • 6th round pick in 2009 (169th)
  • unsigned/

Ryan White

  • 3rd round pick in 2006 (66th),
  • Entering second year of three-year ELC/

J.T. Wyman

  • 4th round pick in 2004 (100th),
  • Entering second year of two-year ELC/

At the conclusion of the Rookie Camp all but three moved on to the main roster training camp. The three players cut were Simila, Walsh, and Dumont.

Pacioretty is the last man standing from the Canadiens’ 2008 rookie camp

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