Development camp has now come to an end for the Habs. Over 50 players
attended and management got a good look at many of their draft picks and
signings as well as some invites that aren’t property of an NHL team yet.
While it’s hard to make too many conclusions based on a few days in the summer,
here are some notes from this past week.
Sekac Stands Out: Everyone was looking forward to seeing how the
highly-touted UFA signing would play. By all accounts, he was one of if
not the best player in camp. Considering that he was one of the oldest
players there with pro experience, that was to be expected too. He picked up a couple of goals in the
scrimmages and had several other chances. His back checking was also
praised and given that the open spot on the big club is likely a third line one,
two-way play is a must. Sekac was deployed as a right winger in some of
the scrimmages. While his natural position is left wing, he can play the
right side and right wing is where the vacancy with Montreal is. It’s always
hard to glean too much from these camps but if a prospect is going to get that
open spot, Sekac may very well be the favourite at this time.
Changing Positions: Late last year, the Bulldogs experimented with
using Sven Andrighetto at centre instead of on the wings. The gamble
seemed to work well as he was strong at the faceoff dot while his line was the
only one that did anything most nights. At this camp, Andrighetto also saw
some time at centre, suggesting that he may very well see some time there next
season as well. Charles Hudon also saw some time at centre late in the
camp and played quite well. His hockey sense is one of his greatest assets
and using Hudon at centre may allow him to best utilize that ability.
There are a couple of possible openings in Hamilton at centre depending on
whether or not there are other veterans added (and there had better be if this
team wants to be competitive) so it will be interesting to see if that
experiment continues with the Bulldogs.
Slow and Steady: Players choose to go the college route for a variety
of reasons but one of them is to better develop physically. With fewer
games, there’s more time to work in the weight room. Several of the Habs’
college prospects have made positive strides in filling out. Three years
ago, D Josiah Didier was 199 lbs; he weighed in at camp at 220. Mac
Bennett was drafted at 170 lbs five years ago – quite undersized for a blueliner
– he now stands a much more respectable 198. Mark MacMillan has gained 33
lbs since being selected in the 2010 draft. The longer-term development
plan for prospects can be frustrating for some fans but in terms of the physical
side of things, it’s working quite well for Montreal’s prospects.
Seeking Player Types: We’ve seen in the last couple of years that the
Habs are trying to fill certain roles with some of their later picks/free agent
signings. In particular, physical third pairing defencemen and fourth line
gritty players have been the focus. That continued to be the case with
several of the invites. No invited defenceman was smaller than 6’0 and
only one tipped the scales at less than 200 lbs. Up front, there were some
fourth line types of players at camp instead of bringing in primarily skilled
players (although there were some of those amongst the invitees as well).
Montreal seems to be making a genuine attempt to get more of these players into
the system. I suspect a big part of this is to avoid having to go out and
pay those types of players more money in free agency as they’ve done in the
Top Pick Progression: While most are down on 2013 1st rounder Michael
McCarron, he earned some positive reviews on his play at camp. His
conditioning is much better than it was a year ago while his skating was
noticeably improved as well. He’s still a project player but at least he’s
working towards getting better. Nikita Scherbak, the Habs’ top pick in
June’s draft, showed flashes of some high-end skill but also that he’s not
likely to be ready to play right away with the Canadiens in September which most
of us expected anyways.
There were a handful of prospects that weren’t invited to camp. Jarred
Tinordi has already been through four of these so he got exempted while Tim
Bozon continues his rehab at home. Martin Reway and Magnus Nygren are both
overseas for the time being though the latter is expected to be at rookie camp
at September. Jake Evans is already attending classes at Notre Dame and
thus was unable to attend. 2009 7th rounder Michael Cichy also wasn’t
invited. Montreal has until August 15th to sign him and considering he
wasn’t brought to camp, it’s safe to conclude that they will be letting him go