Habs Make First Round of Cuts; Who's Still Here?
It's been an eventful training camp for the Montreal Canadiens thanks to, among other reasons, yesterday's Chris Campoli signing. Some players have impressed, some have surprised us, while others have left Jacques Martin and his coaching staff unexcited, and that of course means cuts.
With the recent spell of four games in four nights in the books, the Canadiens finally announced the first few waves of cuts:
- Nathan Beaulieu: The 2011 first round pick impressed many at training camp, but it's obviously in his best interest to continue his QMJHL career at 18-years-old. The 6'2" 175lbs defenseman still has a frame to fill out, as well as plenty of work to do defensively, and he'll get to do that with a shiny new Memorial Cup ring on his finger.
- Jarred Tinordi: The other high profile defensive prospect for the Canadiens was also sent back to his junior team, the London Knights of the OHL. Tinordi had a quiet camp, but that might be a good thing for the 6'7" defensive defenseman. No doubt that he learned a lot from the likes of Hal Gill, but after a slightly disappointing year in London last year, it's up to him to impress in his final year of Junior.
- Morgan Ellis (Cape Breton, 4th round 2010) was also sent back to his junior team, while Joe Stejskal and Mark Mitera head to Hamilton, who open their camp in Brossard tomorrow.
- Brock Trotter may be the most surprising early cut. Trotter returned to Montreal this season after a year in Russia. He impressed early in camp, but simmered down as the schedule got more grueling. Don't be surprised to see him called up at some point with a good start, but it's disappointing to see him go in essentially the first round of cuts.
- Gabriel Dumont played in four pre-season games, but it wasn't enough to warrant a fifth look by the team, as the undersized forward heads to Hamilton to improve on his 5 goal, 18 point rookie stint with the Bulldogs last year.
- Philip Desimone, the only tryout player remaining, played well enough to earn a two-way deal and a trip to Hamilton after assisting on a Mike Cammalleri goal on Monday night.
- Alexander Avstin, Andrew Conboy, Dany Massé, Alain Berger, and Philippe Lefebvre will join them in Hamilton, while Olivier Archambault will head back to Drummondville of the QMJHL.
Goaltenders Robert Mayer and Peter Delmas were also sent down to the organization's farm team.
The most surprising players remaining on the camp roster are forwards Brendan Gallagher and Michael Bournival. Gallagher has impressed the Habs brass at camp so much that the 19-year-old is actually being discussed for a role on the team, an odd thing for a junior-eligible Habs prospect. Bournival was acquired in the Ryan O'Byrne deal with Colorado last year and has equally impressed. Both players will likely be returned to Vancouver and Shawinigan, respectively, when the dust settles, but you never know.
The other forwards competing for the last few spots on the team are Michael Blunden, Andreas Engqvist, Aaron Palushaj, and Brian Willsie. Hunter Bishop, Olivier Fortier, Louis Leblanc, Joonas Nattinen, and Ian Shultz also remain on the camp roster, but are injured.
Among the remaining "fringe" players on defense Raphael Diaz, Alex Henry, Frédéric St-Denis, Jeff Woywitka and, since their camps haven't exactly been outstanding, Alexei Yemelin and Yannick Weber (Brendon Nash is injured). Nathan Lawson remains as the only spare goalie. With Andrei Markov on the shelf, two overage defensemen and a couple of uncertain cases in Gorges and Campoli as well, don't be surprised to see the Canadiens keep eight defensemen on the roster come October 6th.
The Canadiens are actually going through a mini spell of injuries, so it's tough to say who will keep their spots heading into the season. By the looks of today's practice lines, Gorges might play with Campoli -- who I'm actually sort of easing up to following yesterday's signing -- on defense, Gill with Subban, with the third pairing consisting of two of Yemelin, Woytwitka, Spacek and Diaz -- and a third and potentially fourth (unless you count Weber) likely staying as extra defensemen.
Yannick Weber practiced at forward with Eller and Bournival, which is not a good sign for the swiss defenseman. He will likely still start the year with Montreal, but depending on who else is ready to go and who is injured, Blunden, Willsie, Palushaj, and even potentially Gallagher or Bournival could have legitimate shots of staying with the team.
Camp has definitely been interesting this year. The top six has been set from day one, but by the looks of it, the Canadiens were preparing to ice a third scoring line. That opens up a plethora of possibilities, as the line was still missing a true right winger (assuming Kostitsyn and Desharnais take up the other two spots). If the Habs decide against putting Moen or one of the fourth liners in a role they clearly can't handle, it might be interesting to take a risk with someone like Gallagher, at least to start the season.
That said, things should be a little clearer following the last couple of games on Thursday and Saturday, after which the Canadiens are expected to make most of the rest of the cuts, and when we should start to see who will start the season on the IR or in the line-up.
Who do you think should stay with the team? Are there any spots for rookies? Should the Habs take the risk with Gallagher or Bournival? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.