Training camp is now well underway and while it’s too early to make any grand proclamations, we’ve seen enough so far to make some notes and comments about how things are going as we approach the preseason.
Lars Eller on the wing
I was among the many that was expecting Eller to stay as the third line centre with David Desharnais moving to the wing but early indications are that the opposite will happen. It’s encouraging that Eller seems to be more open-minded about the position than past instances where he was moved there and the team may have something with the combo of him along with Alex Galchenyuk and Alex Semin.
The big question now is can Desharnais succeed in a third line role? While the team could move Tomas Plekanec there, putting your top centre in a bottom six role is seldom a good idea. If Galchenyuk goes there, he’ll have less offensive opportunities than last year. If Desharnais can still produce at a reasonable level with less offensively-gifted wingers, that could be a real boost to the offence. However, will his wingers be able to help compensate for Desharnais’ deficiencies? If not, Eller may very well find himself back in his familiar third line centre spot before long.
Smith-Pelly on the bubble?
As I said earlier, it’s too early to make any conclusions but Smith-Pelly hasn’t exactly had a whole lot of ice time in the scrimmages. He’s the lone full-time NHL’er who has been lined up with prospects (primarily Charles Hudon and Sven Andrighetto) thus far. He has come into camp in better shape and his crash and bang style is something that the team lacks. I know Hudon and Andrighetto are no slouches but I’d like for Smith-Pelly to get a chance to skate with players who are actually going to make the team out of training camp. He’ll have a better shot at proving his worth with those players.
It has been a bit of a mixed bag for the one tryout in camp who is seeking a spot on the NHL roster. On the plus side, he’s 2/2 in penalty shots in the scrimmages but on the other hand, he has made some mistakes as well. As the schedule turns to actual exhibition games, he’ll need to improve upon his overall play thus far as penalty shots in games come few and far between. I’m rooting for him to make it though.
Michael Bournival was expected to contend for the final spot up front but his concussion symptoms have crept up again. Not only is that terrible news for him that he has to contend with these again but it’s hard not to think that his NHL fate is already sealed…he probably won’t have one. As soon as he’s cleared, he appears to be destined for the waiver wire and with him already having multiple concussions plus this current issue, I can’t see there being teams wanting to pick up a player with that much of a concussion history already.
To put it nicely, Jarred Tinordi has not helped his cause through the scrimmages. He routinely is being beaten to the outside and so far, Tinordi hasn’t effectively used his size to mitigate the opponents’ speed. With his size, he is going to get beat a lot but he can position himself better to make lessen the effect of them getting by him.
On the other side is Greg Pateryn. By all accounts, he has stood out in a positive way, especially in the physicality department. If the team plans to only carry seven defencemen, right now Pateryn has the lead over the former first rounder.
On Monday, the team was broken into two groups. A few prospects skated with the NHL’ers while the rest skated with the other minor leaguers. If you want to interpret that as a depth chart of who management thinks could make the team, Hudon, Andrighetto, Daniel Carr, and Michael McCarron make the grade. Notably, Christian Thomas and Nikita Scherbak are on the outside looking in. Scherbak left practice early with a lower body injury as well.
The Habs will get a big chunk of their preseason out of the way this week as they will begin a four game in five day stretch on Tuesday against Toronto.