Although we are just a week into training camp, we’ve learned a fair bit
about the players who are competing for the final forward and defence spots on
the Habs’ opening night roster. Today, a look at which hopefuls have helped
their case, hurt it, or have done nothing either way to really impact their chances of
making the team.
For simplicity’s sake, I’m only focusing on five players in each section, the
ones who most often have been mentioned in the roster discussion.
Jeff Woywitka: Up He was a bit
shaky at the start of his game but got a lot more confident as the game went on.
I think Woywitka is the one player who is almost fighting for a couple of roles.
One is obviously the #7 spot but the other is that of Alexandre Picard last
year, the veteran #8 defenceman who stays on the roster and draws in when
injuries arise. Given his lone performance in the preseason so far and the
extra cap space the team has, he certainly has helped his chances.
Nathan Beaulieu: Up Beaulieu would
have to be heads and shoulders above the rest vying for the spare defenceman
role to make the team but he was just that in his lone game. He has earned
another game or two and if he plays like he did against Buffalo, perhaps
management will want to consider giving him a nine-game tryout and go from
Alexei Yemelin: Neutral His preseason game was underwhelming
given the expectations he set for himself in the scrimmages. That said, he
was steady for most of the night. Considering Jacques Martin’s style, safe
and steady is rarely a bad thing which will help his cause. Given all
we’ve heard and seen about his physical game though, I’m sure we’ll see that
element creep in at some point before the real games get underway.
Raphael Diaz: Neutral With the puck, he was very efficient
against Dallas. Without it was another story as he had a couple of costly
misreads and at times appeared uncomfortable when pressured. Diaz did play
well enough to earn himself at least a couple more games so there still is time
to make an impression.
Brendon Nash: Down He was a long
shot at best going in to make the team but suffering a shoulder injury and
requiring surgery pretty much killed his chances. On the plus side (for
his sake), because he spent a few days with the Habs last year, he stands to
make a little more than his AHL salary while he sits on injured reserve.
Brendan Gallagher: Up If you had
said to me last week that he had any sort of shot at making the Habs, I’d have
said there was no chance of it happening. Now? I think the odds are
still close to zero but there is a slim chance that they give him his nine games
early on and see how he handles it. That’s a big leap ahead of being one
of the first cuts at this time last year.
Andreas Engqvist: Up He has been
decent in both games thus far and seems to have the inside job for the spot as
evidenced by his presence once again in Friday’s lineup. But, there are a
pair of deficiencies that could very well hurt him before camp is over. He
continues to struggle at the faceoff dot (despite this being a strength in
Hamilton) and his lack of foot speed has been a problem already. Still,
his size and positioning are intriguing elements.
Brock Trotter: Neutral His speed and offensive skills were
there in his lone game against the Stars. Unfortunately, his lack of a
consistent defensive game was evident as well. Considering the 4th line is
looking like it will be a defensive one, this will surely work against him.
Brian Willsie: Neutral He showed against Dallas that he can’t
play centre. We pretty much knew that already though. The Habs know
what he can bring to the table which means he may not get too many more looks.
I hope he gets another shot after playing the first game out of position but he
many only get one more game to prove his worth.
Aaron Palushaj: Down Although he
played a little better against Buffalo, that doesn’t say a whole lot as he
looked out of his league against Dallas. The book on him is that he’ll
compete and show flashes of a feisty game but those elements haven’t been there
yet. Based on last year’s play, he’ll get a few more chances so all is not