UPDATED: Habs Cut *23* Players
After last night's game, the Canadiens cut another five players, sending them on a plane, this morning, to Newfoundland to compete in the Hamilton Bulldogs training camp. Goaltender Peter Delmas (no surprise), defenseman Mathieu Carle (will have to go through waivers), and forwards Gabriel Dumont, David Desharnais and Andreas Enqvist have all been cut from camp.
Dumont will have a good time on one of the top lines in Hamilton, as will Enqvist and Desharnais will have to work hard to prove himself and earn one of the first call-ups this season.
As for Mathieu Carle, it is likely that he will be picked up on waivers today by a few teams looking to add depth on defense. Carle has had bad luck at Canadiens' training camps with injuries, and, this year, just a matter of too much depth at the 6th to 10th defense position. The move leaves three defensemen to battle it out for one spot (maybe two if Hamrlik isn't progressing as fast), and those defensemen are Alexandre Picard, Yannick Weber and Alex Henry. Weber is in a similar position as Carle, possibly on his last shot with the team, Picard is probably the next Marc-André Bergeron, but the real surprise is Alex Henry, who has had a really strong camp. Either one could end up with the spot next week.
In terms of forwards, Lars Eller, Ryan White, Ben Maxwell and Tom Pyatt will likely fight for the last couple of spots on the team. I personally believe that Eller should start in hamilton, but his 3-assist performance last night made a strong argument in his favor. White had also found himself on the scoresheet often, and provides grit and energy that the Habs have desperately needed. Pyatt may have already won himself a spot, and Maxwell was the team's choice for pressbox groupie last season.
To say the choices for Jacques Martin and his staff will be difficult may be an understatement.
The Canadiens are off today, but they will be back practicing at Complexe Bell tomorrow in anticipation for their game against the Sabres on Thursday.
Mere hours before the Canadiens play their fifth pre-season game in six nights, the ax has dropped on 18 rookies that were looking to impress their future coaches. J
arred Tinordi and Louis Leblanc have been returned to their junior teams, and Aaron Palushaj and Alexander Avtsin are among those who will report to the Hamilton Bulldogs for the beginning of their training camp in Newfoundland tomorrow.
While it's no surprise that Tinordi and Leblanc - the last remaining Junior-eligible players at camp - were returned to their respective teams, the cuts of both Palushaj and Avtsin may raise some eyebrows in Montreal on this Monday afternoon. While, in the end, it's really not that surprising that either would find themselves on the "cutting-room floor", so to speak, each came into camp with very different expectations, despite ending up with the same fate.
Alexander Avtsin was drafted in the 4th round by the Canadiens in 2009. Hockey's Future described him as a "classic low-risk, high-reward selection for the Canadiens". The anti-Russian bias was well in effect at the NHL draft, and the Canadiens were well-aware of the potential negative effects of drafting a Russian, having seen Pavel Valentenko move back to Russia to play in the KHL that very same year (he was traded to the Rangers mere days after the 2009 draft), and remaining in the dark when it came to the status of Alexei Yemelin to this very day. But that didn't stop them from drafting Avtsin with the 109th overall pick.
The 6'2" 200lbs, right-shooting winger committed to coming to North America this past summer, in an attempt to make the Canadiens' at this year's training camp. However, for reasons that haven't been made public, Avtsin didn't play a single pre-season game in the last five nights. At first it was rumored that Avtsin was nursing a wrist injury, however CJAD's Rick Moffat confirmed with coach Jacques Martin on Friday that Avtsin was indeed healthy.
Irregardless, Avtsin will get a shot to prove his worth to Hamilton coach Randy Cunneyworth as well as the Canadiens this upcoming season, and could very well see himself skating with the Canadiens within the first few injuries. He has the skill, the size, the talent to make the team, and it could just be a matter of learning the North American style of hockey and familiarizing himself with the professional level of play on this side of the Atlantic (or, I guess, the Pacific?)
As for Aaron Palushaj, the only thing Habs fans really knew of the 21-year-old Michigan-ian (Michigonian? Michigian? Michigan-er?) was that he had a complicated name to pronounce. Palushaj came to Montreal in a trade which sent under-performing winger Matt D'Agostini to St. Louis, and he came with a great resume, for an undrafted American forward. Palushaj competed for the Michigan Blue of the CCHA in 2007-08, where he was the team's leading scorer and the nation's 3rd leading scorer amongst rookies, and won the CCHA title in 2008. In 2009, he played for the University of Michigan and the US under 20 team. Last season, he played well with the Bulldogs and was one of the team's better players in their 19-game playoff run.
Palushaj is of average size, and plays a good all-around game. He impressed many in team scrimmages early in the Habs main camp, but made more than his share of rookie mistakes when during official pre-season games. He did, however, get a chance with the Canadiens' top line in the opener, and showed both fans and the coaching staff that he will eventually belong. For now, he will get a chance to shine, just like Avtsin, amongst Hamilton's top forwards.
I won't waste much more of your time with Jarred Tinordi and Louis Leblanc. We all knew their fates before camp even began. They would get a taste of NHL hockey in the pre-season before being returned to their junior clubs for at least a year (in Tinordi's case, possibly two). Both played well, but played like two rookies under twenty years old. They'll get there, but they aren't there yet. You can read my detailed thoughts on each by clicking their names.
The rest of the cuts are as follows (courtesy of RDS):
Defensemen: Neil Petruic
James T. Wyman
The only "surprise" amongst the rest of the skaters cut is Brendan Nash, who had an excellent game last night, but anymore time spent in Montreal would just have been stringing him along, as he had no chance of making the team with Alexandre Picard, Ryan O'Byrne, Yannick Weber and Matthieu Carle all competing for the final defense spots. More cuts are expected to be announced after tonight's game (and before Thursday's game against the Sabres), and we'll have all the info for you shortly after the cuts have been made.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST NIGHT
I was lucky enough to score second-row tickets to the game against the Wild last night (no, I'm not good enough for the pressbox, not yet anyway), and had an interesting vantage point of the away net for two of the three periods. As you can tell by the box score, most of the game was played in the Minnesota-side of the rink, even though most of the Canadiens goals were scored in the 2nd period, on the other side of the ice. It's hard to really trim down the list of players who were impressive, as many contributed to the victory - despite the fact that the Habs barely hung on to their lead to take the game 4-3, but we'll focus on the positive and not Alex Auld's Price-like numbers - but we'll try to cut the list down to a few:
- Brendon Nash, an out-of-nowhere defenseman who signed with the Canadiens this summer, finished the game with a goal and an assist and over 21 minutes of ice time. He was solid on both sides of the ice and played with a purpose. He won't make the team, as he was just cut this afternoon and the Habs are way too deep on one-way contracts on D, but look out for this kid next year!
- The line of Dustin Boyd, Max Pacioretty and Ryan White was all over the place, hitting everything on the ice and playing with both grit and finesse. Boyd and White each scored a goal, and Pacioretty added 2 assists, playing only 12 to 15 minutes of the game with little powerplay time. I, for one, wouldn't mine seeing this line remain intact for the start of the season as the Canadiens' 4th line. They could do some very interesting things on a team that desperately needs both grit and secondary scoring.
- I'm fairly certain Alex Picard might be playing a MAB-like trick on us, convincing us he's good with 25 minutes of ice time early only to screw the pooch when it really matters, but last night, Picard proved that he could be valuable asset to the team if Roman Hamrlik can't start the season. He did, however, have a lot of good support from Nash, Ryan O'Byrne, PK Subban and even Alex Henry and Matt Carle, who, despite a bit of a breakdown in the 3rd, actually had a pretty good game collectively as a D-corps, with only one player who fits into the Canadiens top 6 depth chart, once everyone is healthy.
Ian Shultz (7 minutes of ice time and a fight) and Andreas Enqgvist (11 minutes of ice time and a goal) also had good nights, and Matt Darche and David Desharnais had decent outings.Shultz was among today's cuts, and while Desharnais and Eller remain with the team, I don't think they'll make the final squad (many believe Eller needs to make the team because of the Halak trade, but Brian Wilde of CTV agrees with me that a few others, including the 3 mentioned above that all had good games last night, deserve the spot instead).
Overall, despite the late collapse, the Canadiens' "B-Unit" looked good as a unit, much better than what we've seen from the "A-Team".
PRICE STARTS AT BELL CENTRE
In what could be the last NHL game of the season for a few players, the Canadiens will welcome the Florida Panthers to the Bell Centre tonight. They might actually have some trouble with one of last year's worst teams, as the Panthers will be dressing their top line of Stephen Weiss, David Booth and Michael Frolik (according to TSN). Tomas Vokoun will play 40 minutes, and top prospect will play the 3rd. Radek Dvorak, Bryan McCabe, Bryan Allen, Dennis Wideman, and Erik Gudbransson will be amongst the rest of the Panthers' skaters.
The Canadiens will likely be playing Carey Price for the entire game, and considering the boos he received last night at the Bell Centre during the intro video (he wasn't even playing), it could get pretty hairy. The Habs lines and duos will look as follows (thanks to HabsWorld.net):
Cammalleri - Plekanec - Eller
Pouliot - Desharnais - Lapierre
Pyatt - Maxwell - White
Moen - Engqvist - Dumont
Spacek - Weber
Gill - Gorges
Picard - Subban
Eller, Desharnais, White, Engqvist, Picard, Subban, and possibly Alex Henry (if Gill can't go) will all be playing their second game in a row. As mentioned, Eller, Desharnais, and White could all be fighting post-game cuts tonight.
Enjoy tonight's game, and for the love of God, if you're going to the game, lay off the Price hate!