With the rookie tournament beginning on Thursday, the Habs revealed their invite list on Sunday. Most of the names are already part of the organization but let’s take a look at the players that are there on tryouts.
This list will be limited to those on tryout agreements or players on AHL contracts that aren’t on Montreal’s reserve list. Anyone whose NHL rights belong to the Canadiens won’t be covered here.
Antoine Coulombe: The 20-year-old has been a four-year starter (or at least the strong side of a platoon) with Shawinigan of the QMJHL. He’s coming off his best season by a considerable margin where he posted a 2.73 GAA and a .907 SV% in 40 regular season games and was even better in the playoffs with a 2.44 GAA and a .921 SV% in 13 contests. Coulombe is eligible to play in the pros now and could be a candidate to sign an AHL deal if a move or two gets made with some of the other signed goalies.
Riley Mercer: Passed up in his first year of draft eligibility, the 18-year-old is coming off his first full QMJHL season where he was part of a triumvirate of netminders for the first half of the season before one was traded midseason. He played a bit more than the other two although his numbers (3.62 GAA, .886 SV% in 29 games) were the worst of the group. Mercer should have an opportunity to be a starter moving forward so even if he’s not signed here (it seems like a long shot), he’ll be one that they want to keep an eye on.
Montreal needed two invites for this camp with Joe Vrbetic being their only drafted prospect that’s attending. Vrbetic is junior-eligible for one more year but has already signed an AHL deal and is likely t play with Trois-Rivieres.
Santino Centorame: The oldest player at camp by nearly four years, the 26-year-old recently signed an AHL deal with Laval after a four-year college career at St. Francis Xavier. He’s an option to grab a depth role in Laval but will likely see a lot of time in Trois-Rivieres. Centorame’s presence here is probably to reduce the number of times that top prospects Kaiden Guhle, Justin Barron, and Jordan Harris will play as with those three having NHL opportunities, they’re unlikely to get a lot of action in this event.
Pierrick Dube: The 21-year-old has now exhausted his major junior eligibility and he got a taste of action with Trois-Rivieres last season. At 5’8, he’s one of the smallest players in camp but has averaged more than a point per game in the QMJHL over the last two seasons. He’s a strong candidate to get a contract of some sort with the question being if it’s an AHL one or an ECHL deal.
Ryan Francis: The 20-year-old was a fifth-round pick of Calgary back in 2020 and got a brief taste of AHL action last season but the Flames ultimately passed on signing him. A little over a month later, the Habs scooped Francis up on an AHL deal. He has averaged more than a point per game in three straight QMJHL campaigns but is likely to start next season with Trois-Rivieres at this point.
John Parker-Jones: It’s safe to say that Parker-Jones is the most intriguing of the invites. He stands 6’7 and played defence back in junior but has moved up front since then. He spent last season at the University of Windsor where he wasn’t all that productive with just seven points in 15 games. At 22, he’s eligible to play in the minors and this appears to be one of those long-shot invites with an eye on seeing if he could be an option to play on the fourth line in Laval.
Brett Stapley: Stapley was actually drafted by the Canadiens but didn’t sign his entry-level deal by last month’s deadline. After testing free agency, he ultimately circled back to the Habs, inking a one-year AHL agreement. How he performs here isn’t going to suddenly change his chances of signing with the Habs but with Laval’s coaching staff running this camp, a good start here could help him land a good spot in the lineup for the Rocket to start the season.
If you’re looking at this list thinking that this is more of an underwhelming group than usual, you’re not wrong. But that’s not entirely surprising either. Actually, it was probably done by design. As Montreal’s prospect pool gets expanded with the extra draft picks and acquired prospects, they don’t need as many tryouts to fill out their roster.
Additionally, they’re not at a spot where they necessarily want to be signing undrafted players (like they did with Arber Xhekaj last year). With eight prospects requiring NHL contracts to retain their rights between now and next August, they don’t want to be adding extra players which would make it harder to sign their own guys; as it is, probably no more than three or four get signed.
Montreal’s full camp roster can be found here. As usual, players in college (or will be going that route) aren’t attending nor are most international-based prospects except for Emil Heineman. Vincenz Rohrer is injured and not attending while Logan Mailloux is injured but will be in attendance.
The tournament gets underway on Thursday with the Canadiens taking on the host Sabres. Montreal will then play New Jersey on Friday and Ottawa on Sunday afternoon.