Most of Montreal’s likely roster to start the 2014-15 season is already set
in stone but there are a few potential spots up for grabs. Who will secure
the #2 goalie spot behind Carey Price? Which young blueliners are going to
step up and earn themselves a spot or will a veteran force them back to the
minors? The second half of our look at the training camp battles focuses
on the goalies and defence corps.
Let’s get the easy one out of the way first. We know Carey Price is the
starter but who will be the backup?
1) Peter Budaj – He has been the backup for the last three seasons and
has provided the team with average goaltending during that time. He also
has a great working relationship with Price and by all accounts is well liked
and respected in the room. This gives Budaj the early nod in camp; it’s
his job to lose.
2) Dustin Tokarski – His postseason performance with the Habs got him
on the map so to speak. That said, Tokarski’s NHL track record is small
(just 15 games of experience) and he’s undersized for the position. He has
to clear waivers but that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be claimed as other NHL
netminders such as Dan Ellis and Jeff Zatkoff, plus similar younger goalies like Kevin Poulin and Jacob Markstrom are all likely to be waived at some point
during training camp as well; Tokarski won’t be the only option available to teams.
3) Joey MacDonald – He’s a longshot for sure but history shows that MacDonald
often has a way
of playing himself into the mix at some point during the season. It’s
unlikely that he makes his mark now but given his track record, he can’t
unequivocally be ruled out either.
It’s worth noting that the team could also carry three goalies. Doing
that would protect one of Budaj or Tokarski from going on waivers but it would
also mean that they’d be able to only carry one extra forward and defenceman.
There are five spots already filled by P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin, Tom Gilbert, and Mike Weaver. That leaves two likely spots open
for the taking.
1) Nathan Beaulieu – Even with Gilbert being added, there is still a
need for more mobility and offence from the blueline and those are two of
Beaulieu’s strengths. He already knows the system and had the confidence
of the coaches in the postseason so he has to be the favourite at the outset.
If he demonstrates some improvement in his own end, he could be a lock for a
2) Jarred Tinordi – Beyond Emelin, there aren’t any other true heavy
hitters on Montreal’s back end. Like Beaulieu, Tinordi has spent some time
in the NHL already and knows the system which works in his favour. If the
Habs decide to not have a youngster as the #7 though, he could be in some
trouble unless they decide that they need more grit (Tinordi) than skill
3) Francis Bouillon – He doesn’t have the benefit of a guaranteed
contract (yet) but Bouillon is going to be in the picture. If they decide
that they want a veteran #7 to get the youngsters more time in the minors (or if
they show they’re not ready for full-time duty), Bouillon would appear to be a
likely favourite. We all know how much Michel Therrien values him and that
certainly would play a factor in the decision.
4) Greg Pateryn – He may not have got the attention that the top two
did but Pateryn was Hamilton’s best defenceman last year by a considerable
margin. He’s the most well-rounded blueliner of the prospects and at this
point, he has the least to work on in the minors. Even though he’s
still young and waiver exempt, Montreal could opt to keep him around as the
5) Magnus Nygren – I don’t think his decision to bolt on Hamilton so
quickly last year helped his cause to earn a spot here. There’s no denying
that Nygren can bring some firepower to the table but the question will continue
to be whether or not he can play adequately in his own end at the NHL level.
At best, I think he’s fighting for that #7 spot.
6) Davis Drewiske – Last year was a total write-off for Drewiske who
missed most of the year due to injury. Before he got hurt, the plan seemed
to be that he would be the #7 coming out of camp, a role that he played with LA
in the past. He’ll push Bouillon for the veteran depth guy role but
considering he cleared waivers last year, I think they’ll try to send him back
to the minors to play a mentor role with the Bulldogs unless Bouillon really
struggles in the preseason.