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- January hasn't been a kind month for Lars Eller. He has just 12 points in 44 games, his lowest PPG average of any month.
Although we are just a week into training camp, we've learned a fair bit about the players who are competing for the final forward and defence spots on the Habs' opening night roster. Today, a look at which hopefuls have helped their case, hurt it, or have done nothing either way to really impact their chances of making the team.
For simplicity's sake, I'm only focusing on five players in each section, the ones who most often have been mentioned in the roster discussion.
Jeff Woywitka: Up He was a bit shaky at the start of his game but got a lot more confident as the game went on. I think Woywitka is the one player who is almost fighting for a couple of roles. One is obviously the #7 spot but the other is that of Alexandre Picard last year, the veteran #8 defenceman who stays on the roster and draws in when injuries arise. Given his lone performance in the preseason so far and the extra cap space the team has, he certainly has helped his chances.
Nathan Beaulieu: Up Beaulieu would have to be heads and shoulders above the rest vying for the spare defenceman role to make the team but he was just that in his lone game. He has earned another game or two and if he plays like he did against Buffalo, perhaps management will want to consider giving him a nine-game tryout and go from there.
Alexei Yemelin: Neutral His preseason game was underwhelming given the expectations he set for himself in the scrimmages. That said, he was steady for most of the night. Considering Jacques Martin's style, safe and steady is rarely a bad thing which will help his cause. Given all we've heard and seen about his physical game though, I'm sure we'll see that element creep in at some point before the real games get underway.
Raphael Diaz: Neutral With the puck, he was very efficient against Dallas. Without it was another story as he had a couple of costly misreads and at times appeared uncomfortable when pressured. Diaz did play well enough to earn himself at least a couple more games so there still is time to make an impression.
Brendon Nash: Down He was a long shot at best going in to make the team but suffering a shoulder injury and requiring surgery pretty much killed his chances. On the plus side (for his sake), because he spent a few days with the Habs last year, he stands to make a little more than his AHL salary while he sits on injured reserve.
Brendan Gallagher: Up If you had said to me last week that he had any sort of shot at making the Habs, I'd have said there was no chance of it happening. Now? I think the odds are still close to zero but there is a slim chance that they give him his nine games early on and see how he handles it. That's a big leap ahead of being one of the first cuts at this time last year.
Andreas Engqvist: Up He has been decent in both games thus far and seems to have the inside job for the spot as evidenced by his presence once again in Friday's lineup. But, there are a pair of deficiencies that could very well hurt him before camp is over. He continues to struggle at the faceoff dot (despite this being a strength in Hamilton) and his lack of foot speed has been a problem already. Still, his size and positioning are intriguing elements.
Brock Trotter: Neutral His speed and offensive skills were there in his lone game against the Stars. Unfortunately, his lack of a consistent defensive game was evident as well. Considering the 4th line is looking like it will be a defensive one, this will surely work against him.
Brian Willsie: Neutral He showed against Dallas that he can't play centre. We pretty much knew that already though. The Habs know what he can bring to the table which means he may not get too many more looks. I hope he gets another shot after playing the first game out of position but he many only get one more game to prove his worth.
Aaron Palushaj: Down Although he played a little better against Buffalo, that doesn't say a whole lot as he looked out of his league against Dallas. The book on him is that he'll compete and show flashes of a feisty game but those elements haven't been there yet. Based on last year's play, he'll get a few more chances so all is not lost yet.