The Montreal Canadiens have recalled Josef Balej from the Hamilton Bulldogs today. The 6’0, 191 pound winger had 46 points in 44 games with the Dogs, a mark that places amongst the ranks of the AHL’s premier scoring stars.
His lightning speed and dynamic offensive instincts will be welcomed in Montreal, no matter what role he is placed in. WIth Steve Begin set to return in a few weeks, there will be some personnel changes, that’s for sure. The question, heading into tomorrow night’s matchup against the New Jersey Devils, is whether or not the Habs will dress the 21-year-old winger.
Assuming that he told to suit up by Coach Claude, than where does the speedy Slovak line up? There would most likely be some temptation on the half of the coaches to place the winger on Saku Koivu’s line, shifting MIchael Ryder to the left side and Jan Bulis to a checking role, but that option is not very likely.
For my money, expect to see Balej get similiar treatment to Tomas Plekanec, playing aproximately 8-10 minutes a night on the fourth line, trying to progress to the point where he is deserving of a promotion, or another skater is deserving of a demotion. One things for sure, in the case of his now former teammate Plekanec, the NHL experience, whether its existance be 20 days or 30 games, will be a valuable one. Thrusting a talented youngster such as Balej into a winning environment and successful NHL club can do wonders for a players confidence, even when who has enjoyed as much success as Balej.
Success, though, hasn’t always been the name of the game for Josef. Just one season ago, his rookie campaign with the Dogs, Balej posted a paltry five goals en route to a rather dissapointing rookie season; especially after he had showed such promise in the prior training camp. While it was a bit of an injury plagued season for the right winger, a renewed confidence, and one year of professional experience did wonders for him, and has now sent him from what some considered a ‘flop’, to nearly the top of the Habs brass’ minds in terms of offensive potential.
What a season it has been thus far for M. Balej. Goals, goals, and more goals. However, right now I believe there’s just one ‘goal’ that he’s carrying with him, that being to stay in Montreal.