With the latest two first round picks both taking part in their first Development camp for the Montreal Canadiens, fans were eager to see what to expect from them if either player can make the NHL in the not too distant future. With Andrei Kostitsyn and Kyle Chipchura both showing off their skills under the eye of assistant GM Andre Savard and Hamilton’s head coach Doug Jarvis, who would likely be handling their development at the next level in the AHL, they didn’t disappoint. Kostitsyn and Chipchura both had a solid camp, although it appears that Kostitsyn has obtained an injury at the end of camp although it’s still unclear if so. Also in attendance was the former CHL player of the year and two time OHL leading scorer, Corey Locke wowed fans with some impressive stickwork, along with the second pick for the Habs in the 2003, Cory Urquhart who showed off some impressive offensive skills as well. There were only two forwards at camp from the 2004 draft, and three forwards were brought in on a try-out basis.
With fourteen forwards at camp, I listed them in order of how well they performed at camp, taking into consideration how many development camps each has attended so far, and from what league they played in this season. It was mostly a camp of 2003-04 CHL players, as only three forwards were from the 2002 draft or prior, with two of the three coming from the AHL.
Andrei Kostitsyn- RW (2003, 1st round 10th) Kostitsyn made his debut to the organization with his first camp appearance, and it was an impressive display he put on. Fans were wowed with some flashy stickhandling, highlight reel goals and impressive skating abilities. Also of note was the increase weight of Kostitsyn, who came to camp about twenty pounds heavier, which may have slightly affected his foot speed, but should help him in the North American game. While not showing great effort or desire in some of the drills, fans still got a glimpse of the high skill level the 19 year old native of Belarus is in possession of. Hopefully he is signed at some point this summer, as it’s still very unclear as to where he will play next season if signed, as he can play in the WHL, AHL or NHL depending on what management has in store for him. If not signed he will be returned to CSKA Moscow, and it would be up to them to decide where he will play in the Russian leagues.
Kyle Chipchura- C (2004, 1st round 18th) Chipchura you could say was the opposite of Kostitsyn, as he showed great effort in all the drills, but lacked the flashy moves and highlight reel goals. What he did show was a great attitude and work ethic, as he was often found helping Kostitsyn understand what to do in the drills, as his Russian translator was only in camp for the first few days. Chipchura also showed impressive size and strength for an 18 year old at his first professional camp, and he seems fully healed from last years groin injury, as his skating was strong, although his foot speed will need to be improved. Chipchura is headed to the Team Canada U-20 summer evaluation camp next month, and should end up back with Prince Albert of the WHL for next season.
Corey Locke- C (2003, 4th round 113th) Locke came to camp without the high expectations of Kostitsyn and Chipchura, as a mid-round pick and small in stature, it’s easy to overlook Locke. As the two time OHL leading scorer, Locke has put up an impressive 270+ points in the last two seasons, something not seen in the ten years in the OHL. The reason why there’s not a great amount of hype around the highly skilled center, is his lack of size and skating have been the knock on him over the years. At 20 years old, it’s likely he won’t get much taller then the 5’9 he’s listed at, but he has improved his skating and foot speed, which is an area he will consistently need to work on at the next level. It’s unclear where he will be playing next year, as he can be returned to the OHL, but with the hard work and effort he displayed at camp, he could find himself in Hamilton of the AHL. Locke showed some flashy plays for the fans, with some impressive passing skills, and a knack for scoring goals, which was a treat for all but the four goalies at camp.
Cory Urquhart- C (2003, 2nd round 40th) Urquhart will have are chair gm’s questioning whether or not he should have been picked so high in such a deep draft for years to come, but he did come to camp with improved skating and foot speed. While not considered a physical player, Urquhart showed an impressive set of hands by setting up and scoring goals all week long. What management must decide is where to put him, as he can return to PEI of the QMJHL, or turn pro and head to the AHL or even ECHL if need be.
Maxim Lapierre- C (2003, 2nd round 61st) Lapierre was obtained in the pick obtained by a trade with Philadelphia for Eric Chouinard that saw us move the former 1998 first round pick. With Lapierre the Canadiens get a totally different player, as Lapierre is one of the hardest working players in the QMJHL, and he plays and intense physical game, neither of which was Chouinard ever known for. Lapierre was also able to fill out his tall frame by adding around twenty pounds, pushing him to a solid 200+ pounds, which should help him in his physical game. Next season should be a big year for him in PEI, as one of the go-to players, and a strong start to the year could get him a look for Team Canada’s U-20 WJC appearance.
Jonathan Ferland- RW (2002, 7th round 212th) Ferland is one of two forwards at camp that comes from the AHL, but he did see limited ice time in Hamilton as a rookie this past season, and does need improvement in skating and foot speed. Ferland was always working hard and showed improvements in his skating and foot speed, which should help him play an increased role in Hamilton next season.
Michael Lambert- LW (2002, 4th round 99th) Lambert comes into camp after being recently signed by the Canadiens, as he will be fighting for a spot in Hamilton next season as a rookie if he can make the team. Lambert was often seen after camp working with Cory Urquhart shooting on net and putting on a show for the fans as they seem to have great chemistry between them. What fans got to see from Lambert was a very nice shot and ability to score goals from all over the offensive zone. Not considered a very hard worker, Lambert does posses impressive offensive skills and physical abilities such as size, skating and speed. If he’s to be successful in the AHL, he is going to have to work hard and improve his defensive game, but working with coach Jarvis should help him greatly.
Greg Stewart- RW (2004, 8th round 246th) Stewart showed an impressive work ethic, and solid physical abilities, considered this is his first camp and was taken late in the draft. Known as a crash and bang player in the OHL, Stewart showed off an impressive slap shot as well as good skating and foot speed. Next season he will be back in Peterborough, where he can continue to improve his offensive game.
Olivier Labelle-RW (tryout) Labelle much like Stewart showed impressive work ethic, and displayed good skating and speed as well as some offensive abilities. As a tryout player, Labelle wasn’t intimidated but the bigger players at camp, and showed he will take the body when possible even though he was one of the smaller players at camp. It’s unclear if management will consider giving a contract to Labelle, but they had to be impressed with his hard work and consistent effort on the ice, as well as a nice shot that got him some applause from time to time.
Danny Stewart- LW (2003, 4th round 123rd) Danny Stewart could be considered the opposite of Greg Stewart, as he was not working as hard as others and seemed to struggle in many of the physical strength drills. He was able to show off his good skating and foot speed, as well as a solid arsenal of shots, which should help him rack up the points in Rimouski next season.
Christain Larrivee- LW (2000, 4th round 114th) Larrivee was the oldest draft pick at camp, and has spent the year between the ECHL and AHL, which gives him a lot more experience then most of the other players in camp. While not wowing anyone with flashy moves or shots, Larrivee does posses a solid frame and some offensive abilities that could get him a full time roster spot with Hamilton next season. He still needs to get more involved physically, but hopefully a full season with coach Jarvis will help him improve as he enters the last year of his entry level contract.
Jimmy Bonneau- LW (2003, 8th round 241st) Bonneau is well known for his abilities to drop the gloves, but he has also shown improvements in all areas of the game over the last season. While playing with PEI of the QMJHL, Bonneau played an increased role with the team and also increased his offensive production, which helped his team towards one of their better seasons. At camp he showed some improved skating and foot speed, as well as a nice wrist shot, which he got to use several times effectively, which should help improve his confidence as he heads back to PEI next season. Bonneau may never play in the NHL, but he’s shown improvement over the last two years, is a hard working player on the ice and seems to get a long well with all the players as well, which should help him move to the next level in a few years.
Kevin Petit- RW (tryout) Petit is another try-out from Gatineau of the QMJHL, where he played in a limited role with the team due to the depth of the roster. At camp Petit did struggle with some of the drills, but he worked very hard on the ice and while one of the smaller players at camp he was not afraid to take the body. It’s unclear if he will get a contract from the Canadiens, as he may not have the skill level of most of the players there, he did give a solid effort on the ice which fans were happy to see.
Christian-Pierre Godin- C (tryout) Godin was also one of the smaller players at camp, but he was able to show off some flashy stickhandling moves and scored some nice goals. He did tend to struggle with some of the strength drills, and wasn’t very physical, but he seemed to get along well with the players.