Montreal’s recent development camp has their prospects on the minds of many fans. With that in mind, the prospects are the focus of our mailbag, including Zach Fucale, Jarred Tinordi, Nikita Scherbak, and more.
Should Montreal be worried about Zach Fucale’s struggles in the QMJHL last season?
I wouldn’t say worried is the perfect word but his play last season most definitely is cause for concern. I wasn’t expecting him to duplicate his 2013-14 numbers but allowing nearly a full goal a game more while losing more than 20 points on his save percentage is worse than anyone could have expected.
Fortunately, the Habs can afford to be very patient with Fucale. Carey Price is still around for three more years at least and between Dustin Tokarski and Mike Condon, the backup spot should be taken care of for a few seasons as well. If in a year or two he looks lost at the pro level, then it’s time to be worried. That time isn’t now though; there’s still plenty of time for him to develop.
Is Jarred Tinordi in ‘bust’ territory?
Not yet, but he’s a lot closer than I think most would care to admit. Five years ago, Tinordi was regarded as a stay-at-home physical project. Has anything really changed in that time?
In the last couple of years, Tinordi has failed to impress in his NHL stints while his overall play didn’t improve much in the minors. If it wasn’t for the fact he has to clear waivers now, he’d probably already be pencilled in to play in St. John’s next season as his play last year showed he likely isn’t NHL ready yet.
Because of the waiver situation, he’s likely to make the NHL roster out of training camp but this will be his final chance. If he shows he can even just play responsible third pairing minutes, that will be enough to extend his ‘project’ status and allow for some hope that he can turn it around. If he struggles in the first couple of months though, the term ‘bust’ is going to get thrown around a lot.
Quite a few tryouts did well at development camp. Do you think they’ll sign any of them?
Not to an NHL deal and I’d be a bit surprised if they committed to any AHL contracts at this stage either. A summer camp shouldn’t be enough to sway management to the point of committing an entry level deal to anyone unless they were already leaning towards doing so before the camp actually began.
There were some tryouts who have earned another look at the rookie tournament. If someone thrives then, they’ll likely get invited to St. John’s training camp and if they continue to do well, then a minor league deal becomes a real option. Signing anyone now would be a bit premature though.
Connor Crisp had a really tough first season in Hamilton. Should we expect better next season or more of the same?
Based on how they used Crisp last year (fourth line minutes no matter what the injury situation was), it seems like they’re trying to force him into the tough guy role. The problem is he can be better than that. Crisp has some talent but last year, it’s as if he was told all that mattered was his fighting. Not surprisingly, that didn’t go over too well.
If it were up to me, Crisp would start next year in a top six role in Brampton. If the hope for him is to be a fourth liner with the Habs down the road, he needs to be somewhere where he can work on his non-pugilistic skills. Michel Therrien won’t play a five minute a game fighter so trying to develop Crisp into a player like that makes little sense. Even though the ECHL is a lower level, it would be better for Crisp to develop those skills there compared to playing six to eight minutes a night against AHL enforcers where the emphasis is almost solely on toughness.
If Crisp gets to start in Brampton next season, I think he’ll be better than he was in his rookie campaign. But if he stays with the IceCaps as their designated enforcer, it’ll be more of the same as last year.
Would you try Nikita Scherbak in a top six role if the roster doesn’t change?
Unless he has the training camp of a lifetime, no. And even if he did, I still might say no. Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of having players jump from the CHL to the NHL without starting in the AHL from a development perspective.
Lost in the fact that Scherbak can play in the AHL this year is that he’s still 19 and won’t turn 20 until late December. In essence, he’s still a junior-aged player for the first three months of the season and will be one of the youngest players in the pro ranks, whether it’s at the NHL or AHL level.
There’s lots to be excited about, especially since he has taken his offseason training to heart and has bulked up nicely. That said, he’s going to need that extra bulk to help absorb playing against men for the first time instead of teenagers. The offensive potential is there, but there’s a big jump from playing in junior to the pros.
Let Scherbak start in the minors in a top six role and see how he adapts. He’s going to face tight checking and get hit a lot more and a lot harder than he’s used to down there. If he thrives, bring him up midseason or when injuries arise. If he starts off slow, that’s fine too. But keep the pressure low, at least at the start of the year. The pressure can’t be low if he starts in the NHL though so I wouldn’t want to see him on Montreal’s opening night roster.