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Position: D
Shoots: Left
Height: 6’4″
Weight: 228
Birth Date: 7/13/1976
Birth Country: Canada (Elk Point)
Year Drafted: 1994
Round Drafted: 3
Overall Choice: 71
Salary 2003/04: $1,600,000.00

HW 2004 Mid-Season Scouting Report

It’s all in the little things. Yes, he’s leading the league in scoring for defenders and has produced far above what anyone expected in their wildest dreams. Yes, he’s a physical defenseman who can clear the crease, win the board battles, and cause the havoc needed in the defensive zone. Yes, he can move the puck with extreme precision and has the hockey sense to know when, and when not, to do it.

Now, will he score another 13 in the second half of the year? Probably not if the games against Atlanta and Washington are examples. They’re keying on him – the ultimate compliment. And also good for the Habs considering his passing ability, as it means, particularly on the power play, that someone is going to have about an acre of space to himself.

What he’s started doing more recently, though, is take his game to a completely new level. A few have noticed it: Jaques Demers being one. Now he’s added a subtle poke-check to his game. He’s added a more proactive ability as he cuts out plays before they start. And most importantly, the game is slowing down for him: he’s showing patience in his plays, seeing things that most would never see, and doing little things on and off the puck that make me think he’s not just a solid three or four guy, but potentially an elite defender. Now, he’s still got work to do in this transition, and as a result makes mistakes from time to time, but I think when he emerges at the other end of this transformation, we’re going to see an absolutely stunning defender.

One of the most gratifying things in his game is the team aspect. He’s stated on numerous occasions that he’s extremely satisfied that the Habs stuck with him during his misery and he has every intention of paying them back fully. He sticks up for his teammates at the drop of a glove. He’s taken the new system to heart and is the first to speak in the dressing room when things go wrong. He works his butt off every night. Can you ask more of a person?

His outlook? Top two on the Habs blueline at this point – particularly with Markov’s struggles. He’s an all-around stud who’s making headlines for himself. If there’s a group of players who are the core of the future of the Habs, Souray is right in the middle.

There was a time when Sheldon Souray had to consider the possibility that he might not ever play professional hockey again. After undergoing surgery upon surgery on his left wrist which would just not heal, one could understand his mind was wandering from hockey a little towards the simple fact he might not be able to lift his own child. Fortunately for both his new little girl and for the Habs, the final surgery turned out to be a success and, after a complete year layoff, Souray is now patrolling the blueline and lifting his pride and joy comfortably.

Drafted 71st overall in 1994 by the New Jersey Devils, the 6’4, 227 pound behemoth surely had a bright future. When you’re noticed by David Conte and Lou Lamoriello, you must have some really good qualities as those two are known to be some of the best talent evaluators in hockey. Sheldon didn’t disappoint. While not a dominant player in New Jersey, he was a solid defenseman the team used regularly.

On March 1st 2000, after spending two and a half seasons with the Devils, he was packaged with Josh DeWolf and a second round pick for Vladamir Malakhov, ostensibly the most talented player in the deal. In finishing the year with the Habs, fans were treated to a large defender who actually hit people regularly, rather than the departed Malakhov who, with all the talent in the world, was run out of town after skiing after a knee injury and playing with little passion.

The following year Souray missed the first part of the season due to injury, but came back to play solidly on the back end. While he was not a standout defender, he was generally reliable and a solid presence that the Habs sorely needed.

In 2001-2002, he first injured the wrist, and although he played in fits and spurts that year, he didn’t really show his potential until, despite the pain, he played a tremendous twelve games in the playoffs. It was the revelation that management and fans had been looking for and seemed to auger well for the future of the Hab blueline.

During the summer, he had surgery on the wrist, but the bone failed to heal properly. The following season was lost as he ended up having four surgeries on the wrist before blood flow was properly restored to the injured bone, thus allowing it to heal. Fingers were crossed that he’d come back and play like he had in the playoffs of 2002. Souray himself was gratified that the Habs had stuck with him and intended to repay the organization as best he could.

While his start was understandably slower than everyone might have wished, (a year of rust can do that to the best of players), once he found his game, Souray became the dominant force on the Montreal defensive corps. Slowly but surely he rediscovered his touch and play off the puck and took his place as the number one on a decidedly weak blueline.

This year, Souray has eclipsed his entire goal production from all his past years with 14 goals to date. His point total is almost three times higher than his best ever. Best of all, his defensive game is garnering some recognition around the league and has solidified his trade as one of the best in ages for the Canadiens.

All goals and points aside, the most pleasing aspect of Souray’s game has been his continual improvement. If there were thoughts of a ceiling to his talent, his recent play has probably given cause for a lot of raised brows. The game has started slowing down for him and he’s starting to do little things that only the best defensemen manage. Instead of a panic clear, he takes a step, pauses with the puck, and makes a strong outlet pass. Instead or rushing a pass to a covered teammate, he makes room for himself and finds a better choice. His defensive work in highly improved as well, led by intelligent use of his body and stick.

While he was once considered a strong defender with a ceiling of a team’s third best, he’s now looked at as someone who has the potential to be a real number one on any team in hockey. If his progression continues, there’s no reason the words ‘Norris’ and ‘Montreal’ might not be heard in the same sentence.

More than trophies or personal accolades, though, Souray is probably pleased just to get the chance to play the game he loves – and hoist his little girl after the game.

Source: Colin Prichett (January 12, 2003)