On Wednesday, the Hamilton Bulldogs announced their training camp roster.
While most AHL clubs are inviting somewhere between 30 and 34 players, the
Bulldogs have brought considerably more to camp, 43 players in total.
Including among this group are 14 tryouts, several of which could be intriguing
pieces for Hamilton this season. Here is a quick look at each of the
It should be noted that due to the lockout, none of these players are
eligible to sign NHL two-way contracts (NHL/AHL). Any of these players who
sign a deal will either ink a one-way AHL pact or a two-way (AHL/ECHL) one which
is what forwards Stefan Chaput, Olivier Fortier, and Daultan Leveille did last
Spencer Bennett: A 5th round selection of Calgary back in 2009,
Bennett has the size of a power forward but plays a finesse game. He was
invited to training camp in Phoenix last season and earned a minor league deal
where he played relatively well in very limited action. I doubt he’d
challenge for a roster spot in Hamilton but he might be a useful player to have
as an option to recall if injuries arise during the season.
Bobby Farnham: An all-out hustler, Farnham plays larger than his small
5’10 frame. Skill wise though, he’s a bit more limited. His shot and
playmaking abilities were mediocre at the collegiate level which doesn’t bode
well for his chances to succeed in the pros. He had a couple of brief
tryouts last year but I think he’ll be lucky to get one from Hamilton.
Stephen MacAulay: Like Farnham, MacAulay is a tireless worker on the
ice. He can play all three forward positions and plays well in the
defensive zone. A big knock on his game is his skating while he has failed
to take strides forward over his years with Saint John in the QMJHL. A
good camp for him could earn the former St. Louis prospect an invite to rookie
camp next season but a contract isn’t likely.
Michel Ouellet: Of the many invites, Ouellet surprised me the most.
The 30 year old has played 190 NHL games but hasn’t seen any significant time
there since 2007-08. After a stint in Europe, he returned to the AHL last
year where he played for the Calder Cup winners in Norfolk but had a secondary
role with that team. I’ve long been harping about the need to bring a
veteran forward onto the roster and Ouellet would be a good fit. He
wouldn’t be a go-to guy at this stage but could provide some scoring from the
second or third line plus bring some leadership to the locker room.
Brendan Ranford: Between the season and playoffs last year, the former
Flyers prospect led Kamloops (WHL) in goals with 45. (If anyone’s
wondering who was second, it was 3rd rounder Tim Bozon.) His size (5’10)
works against him as does his mediocre skating ability but there’s no denying
that Ranford has offensive skills that will translate to the AHL level.
The lockout probably is working against him here. I think he’d have been a
candidate to sign with Montreal and then be returned to junior. I don’t
see him playing his way onto the Hamilton roster out of camp and with the
alternatives being Wheeling or Kamloops, the latter is likely best for his
Kyle Rank: This is likely the strangest invite of the bunch. The
29 year old has basically been out of hockey since 2009-10, save for a two game
stint with Rochester in 2010. He’s from near the Hamilton area, I have to
guess this invite is a favour to someone more than anything. I doubt he’s
Zack Torquato: I was a big fan of Torquato’s game back in his junior
days. The former Detroit selection (6th round in 2007) wasn’t able to
bring his offensive game to the pro level and has spent the past two years
primarily in the ECHL. He is under contract to Wheeling, Hamilton’s ECHL
affiliate and could parlay a strong effort at camp into a recall if needed
during the season but shouldn’t get an AHL deal.
Etienne Boutet: A late addition to the training camp roster, Boutet
has shown slow but steady improvement in his four full seasons in the QMJHL.
He isn’t a particularly physical player but he doesn’t shy away from contact
either. His skating, once a concern, has come around in recent years.
He played for Clement Jodoin (last years’ Hamilton coach, now an assistant with
Montreal) in Rimouski, I imagine Jodoin had a say in his invite.
Antoine Corbin: A Quebec-born player who suits up in the WHL, Corbin
has overhauled his style of play since joining the league. Prior to
playing junior hockey, he was primarily a skill defenceman who didn’t have much
of a physical game but today, he is a hard hitter whose primary focus is his own
end. Like MacAulay, his goal should be to play well enough to earn
consideration for a rookie camp invite next offseason.
Kevin Gagne: A prolific high school scorer, the diminutive Gagne has
had glimpses of success at the QMJHL level but has yet to become the dominant
offensive force he needs to be to stand out amongst the rest. He’s a solid
skater but taller/stronger forwards can outmuscle him in junior and they will in
the pros too. He’s likely going to be back in junior.
Sebastian Owuya: The brother of Toronto goalie prospect Mark, this
defenceman is the tallest among those invited to camp. He has only played
in North America for the past two years, one so-so year in the WHL and one so-so
year in the East Coast League. Hamilton needs a blueliner or two for extra
depth but I have to think they could do better than Owuya.
Cody Wild: Since turning pro in 2008, he has bounced around a bit,
playing for three AHL and three ECHL teams. He was affiliated with
Wheeling last season but spent most of his year with Wilkes-Barre Scranton, the
other AHL affiliate of the Nailers. He played relatively well in a limited
role with the Baby Penguins and I think would be a quality depth guy to have in
the system, one he already has been a part of. If there is a defence spot
up for grabs in camp, I think it’s his to lose.
Scott Darling: He signed with Wheeling a few weeks ago after spending
most of last year in the Southern Professional Hockey League. He also is
the lone invite to camp who dressed for Hamilton last year having dressed as the
backup goalie for a game late in the season. He’s not going to challenge
for the backup role, I’m not even sure he’ll be in Wheeling instead of a lower
Cody Reichard: This is someone the Habs have had their eye on for a
bit as he has attended rookie camp with them previously. He already is
under contract to Stockton of the ECHL this season. He isn’t going to beat
out anyone ahead of him on the depth chart so this is probably just an extra
look to assess if Montreal management wants to bring him around for the next
rookie camp in the offseason.
With three goalies, seven defencemen, and nineteen forwards already under
contract, there aren’t a lot of spots available to be had but don’t be surprised
to see one or two of these players play themselves into the plans this year
while several others could make a case to be brought back to one of the Habs’
rookie camps in 2013.