Montreal’s development camp is now underway and there is no shortage of players at the camp. The Habs have 19 undrafted invitees attending, some of which are worth a closer look here.
Last month, head scout Trevor Timmins noted that they were going to bring in a lot of tryouts who are eligible to play in either the AHL or ECHL next season and they’ve done just that. There are only a handful of players currently on minor league deals (D Josiah Didier, W Brandon McNally, and G Eddie Pasquale) so there are certainly a few spots up for grabs. Here are some of the notable invites that are pro-eligible.
(There are a few college invites but these players never sign at camp. They’re likely there to be evaluated for potential AHL tryouts at the end of their college seasons.)
Travis Brown, D, Victoria (WHL)
Brown’s offensive game took a huge step forward in his overage season, posting career highs across the board while finishing sixth in scoring by WHL defencemen. He is a strong skater with a good shot and is willing to get involved physically although his in-zone play isn’t as strong. The former Chicago 5th round pick is the most intriguing of the blueline invites to this camp and he is someone I could see the Canadiens signing to a minor league deal.
Dryden Hunt, LW, Medicine Hat (WHL)
The 19 year old was teammates with Montreal 5th rounder Matt Bradley for the second half of last year after being traded from Regina midseason. His offensive game took significant strides forward while he has a very strong shot and is comfortable around the net. Concussion history is a bit of a concern, however, as he missed nearly the entire 2012-13 season as a result of one. It was a bit of a surprise that Hunt went undrafted last month but I don’t think he would take a minor league deal at this point as he could still go back to junior next season.
Brandon Magee, C, Victoria (WHL)
Injuries were a bit of an issue in his final junior campaign but Magee finished up his junior career with a very strong postseason for the Royals. He has good offensive instincts and a strong motor but at 5’8, size is clearly a big concern moving forward.
Tim McGauley, C, Brandon (WHL)
He finished third in WHL scoring last season, putting up 105 points for the Wheat Kings as their #1 centre and will turn 20 later this month. He is a particularly adept playmaker and an accurate shooter but he isn’t the best of skaters and his defensive focus is lacking at times. Nonetheless, his offensive abilities could make him an intriguing development project although he’d be best suited to start at the ECHL level where he could play in a scoring role if he were to sign a minor league contract. He still could return to junior for one more year though.
Angelo Miceli, C, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
Another small (5’9) but skilled centre, Miceli finished fifth in QMJHL scoring this past season. His two-way play needs some work but a strong camp here would likely earn him an invite to the rookie tournament. Like McGauley, he’d be best served starting at the ECHL level if he were to earn a minor league deal.
Jamal Watson, LW/RW, Lethbridge (WHL)
Watson is a dynamic skater who sometimes gets going a bit too fast for his own good. He was one of the few players who stood out in a good way on a simply awful Hurricanes team this past season. There have been concerns about his off-ice commitment but he has the skills to be an interesting option. He was dealt to Seattle (WHL) a couple of months ago and would probably be better suited playing his overage year there than taking a minor league contract though.
Although many of the invites already 20 or older (or soon to turn 20), there are some junior-aged players at the camp as well. Here are a few to watch for.
Mario Huber, C/RW, Innsbruck (Austria)
Huber spent most of last season in the Austrian pro league, a pretty good accomplishment for a player who doesn’t turn 19 for another month although he played in a bottom six role. He made his debut in that top division as a 14 year old while scoring in that league at age 15 and averaged over two points per game in their U20 league that same season.
His junior rights now belong to Victoriaville through the recent CHL Import Draft and assuming he makes it there, he’ll finally have a chance to play at a higher level of competition with and against players his age. Considering he already has a pro frame (6’2 and around 220 lbs) and the fact he tore up the U20 league back home for several years, he could really make a mark next season.
Unfortunately, having spent all of last season overseas, he’s ineligible to sign an entry-level contract (similar to the rejected contracts of Vladimir Tkachev and Tomas Hyka in the past). But nonetheless, it’s a chance to get a good look at a prospect who they otherwise wouldn’t have much information on for next year’s draft.
Matt Mancina, G, Peterborough (OHL)
Montreal’s goalie situation plays more into Mancina’s hands over the other two in camp (Alex Dubeau and Mike McNiven). There doesn’t appear to be a need this season (which hurts Dubeau) but with Mike Condon expected to be the backup in Montreal in 2016-17, there could be a pro opening next year and McNiven is two years away from being pro-eligible.
Mancina was an early season acquisition by the Petes last year after their young starter (Dylan Wells) faltered early on. He took over as the starter quickly and carried the load through the postseason. He’ll likely project to be the starter but it’s not crazy to think he’ll be dealt to give Wells, who will be with the Petes longer-term, the #1 job once again.
Personally, I think McNiven is the most interesting of the three invites but the one that has the most to gain at this camp is probably Mancina.
Bailey Webster, D, Saint John (QMJHL)
If you’re looking for someone with puck skills, this isn’t the invite for you. Webster is a big and tough stay-at-home blueliner who is a strong skater for his size. Last season was his first full junior year and Webster spent most of it on the third pairing. He’s a late bloomer and very raw which probably doesn’t help his chances of getting an entry-level deal but he can certainly get himself on the radar at the very least with a strong performance.