While we can piece together most of the likely opening night roster for
the Habs already, there are a few potential battles for spots at each position
as training camp gets underway later this week. Who are the contenders to
fill those roles? Who are the longshots? Here are some pre-camp
predictions on who get the final spots on the team, beginning with the forwards.
Assuming that the team doesn’t carry three goalies to start the year, there
should be one vacant forward spot up for grabs, almost assuredly a bottom six
one. The depth chart as it stands would look roughly as follows:
Pacioretty – Desharnais – Parenteau
Galchenyuk – Plekanec – Gallagher
Bourque – Eller – vacant spot
Prust – Malhotra – Weise
(Moen and Bournival as extras)
1) Jiri Sekac – By all accounts, he stood out in a big way at rookie
camp. Given that there was a large number of suitors for Sekac’s services,
there’s a decent chance that there may have been some sort of agreement to give
him every possible chance to make the roster. Sekac is a two-way player
and that should fit well on what may be a third line slot while his size
certainly doesn’t hurt his cause either.
2) Charles Hudon – This one is going to surprise some people but I can
see Hudon doing what Michael Bournival did last year, make an early impression
on the coaches by being a smart player and doing all of the little things right,
making it really hard to cut him. If the long-term plan is to try him at
centre, then he’d slide down a few pegs as the NHL isn’t the place for that type
of experience but if he stays on the wing, I wouldn’t be shocked to see him with
the big club come October.
3) Drayson Bowman – Presumably, he’s being brought in to audition for
an NHL role (despite limited success so far in his career). Bowman has the
tools to be an effective player and adding him would allow the Habs to send
their waiver-exempt players to Hamilton to get more playing time there. If
the vacancy winds up being either the 13th or 14th forward, he becomes a
favourite for the spot for that reason; they’d be more comfortable sitting a
veteran over a youngster.
4) Sven Andrighetto – Given how awful the Bulldogs were last year,
it’s hard to say there were bright spots but Andrighetto was one of them.
He was one of the few players who actually played well most nights while
providing some decent production for a rookie. The Habs are thin on right
wingers and that’s Andrighetto’s natural position which helps his case.
However, I’m not sure his defensive game is good enough to play regularly yet in
5) Jacob de la Rose – With a couple of years of experience in men’s
leagues in Sweden, there shouldn’t be a huge adjustment period for de la Rose in
terms of physical play. His offensive game needs some work as it’s still
somewhat raw which doesn’t help his chances, nor does the fact that he’ll burn a
year off his entry-level deal if he plays in ten games. There’s a decent
chance he gets a few games in at some point but that likely will come later in
6) Christian Thomas – Last year was a big disappointment but players
with the type of goal scoring abilities that Thomas has when he’s on his game
get lots of chances which keeps him in the discussion. His small stature
and so-so defensive play limit him to a top six role which decreases his chances
of making the team out of camp significantly though. Thomas will need to
produce big time in the preseason if he wants to force them into keeping him.
Tough guys Connor Crisp and Jack Nevins could also get a short-term spot as
there are a few likely physical, tough games in the early going this season.
They could be used in those contests while sitting the others, giving the
coaches a chance to give the extras some ice time early on. Once those
first few games are up, they’d then be sent down in favour of a more skilled
option. How they fare in any preseason fights or other physical matchups
will determine whether or not they’re ready to jump in that quickly and if this
is a realistic option to start the year.
Later this week, we’ll look at the battles between the pipes and on defence.