By JD Lagrange – Gone are the days when fans were looking forward to the Montreal Canadiens’ training camp, wondering if the team could repeat as Stanley Cup champions. In fact, it’s been a long drought of failure for the NHL’s most storied franchise, without any substantial sustained success since the team last won it’s last Stanley Cup in 1993. The once glorious organization has seen countless management changes, coaching changes, and a parade of players coming and going since then.
But that hasn’t taken much away from the interest and hope from the team’s most dedicated fans, as Fall is approaching. The team has made its annual off-season’s ‘adjustments’ and the anticipation that I recall feeling from the 70’s has been replaced with… curiosity.
This upcoming training camp will not be any different as several new faces will be wearing the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge for the first time, will just be turning pro, and/or will have something to prove.
☞ Alex Newhook (C)
On June 27th, the Canadiens completed the first of two big trades when they announced acquiring 22 year old center Alex Newhook from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for a first (FLA) and second round pick 2023 NHL Draft and defenseman prospect Gianni Fairbrother. Newhook, the 16th overall selection by the Avalanche at the 2019 Draft, brings in tons of speed and offensive flair to the line-up. He agreed to a 4-year, $11.6 million ($2.9M cap hit) contract extension with the team, and will be RFA at the end of that deal.
“I think he’ll get a better opportunity here, since he was playing 12-13 minutes per game, and I think he will play more here and get more responsibilities,” Canadiens coach Martin St. Louis said. “We can’t overlook the experience he gained in Colorado. He played in about 150 games and he won a Stanley Cup. He’s not the tallest player (5-foot-10, 190 pounds), but he plays a heavy game. We think that he can show more in a different environment.”
☞ Casey DeSmith (G)
Veteran goaltender Casey DeSmith was acquired in the Canadiens’ second big trade of the off-season, a three-way trade which saw Erik Karlsson move to Pittsburgh. Jeff Petry came along with DeSmith, as well as prospect Nathan Légaré and the Penguins’ second round pick in 2025. Mike Hoffman and Rem Pitlick left in that trade. Later on, Petry was traded to Detroit for defenseman Gustav Lindström and a fourth round pick in 2025.
The crease, as it stands today, is crowded in Montreal as we’ve recently explored. According to Anthony Martineau of TVA Sports, the Canadiens are exploring the trade market with their goaltenders and it doesn’t appear like any of them are ‘safe’.
☞ Gustav Lindström (RD)
As mentioned earlier, the Canadiens received Gustav Lindström in the trade which saw Hoffman head to San Jose and Pitlick to Pittsburgh. The right-handed defenseman, who will be turning 25 in October, was selected 38th overall at the 2017 NHL Draft. He only managed eight (8) points in 36 games last season with the Red Wings. According to Kent Hughes, the organization feels like he’s reached only about 70% of his potential so far and hopes that they can help him find the additional 30% to make him more of an impact NHL player.
☞ Lias Anderson (C/LW)
The Canadiens have added a talented 24 year old winger in Lias Andersson, who signed a one-year, $775,000 contract with the team. He was drafted 7th overall by the New York Rangers by none other than Jeff Gorton back in 2017. He had 31 goals and 28 assists in 61 games in the AHL last season.
☞ Sean Monahan (C)
There was no denying of the impact Sean Monahan had on the Canadiens – and on Nick Suzuki – when he was in the lineup last season. So when the Canadiens fell short on their attempt of acquiring Pierre-Luc Dubois, they traded for Newhook and re-signed Monahan to a one-year, a $1.985 million deal. If the 28 year-old center can stay healthy, he will go a long way in helping lead the younger Canadiens both on and off the ice. He had 17 points in 25 games last season, playing most of them on one leg.
☞ Juraj Slafkovsky (LW)
It’s a leaner Juraj Slafkovsky that we will see at training camp this year. Listed at 238 lbs last season, it has been reported that he has purposely brought his weight down to somewhere between 220-225 lbs. This should help him gain some speed and keep up better with the team’s faster skaters. Slafkovsky has also followed a unique off-season training regiment this summer, which is said to be geared towards making better and quicker decisions on the ice.
☞ Emil Heineman (LW)
Okay, I’ll admit, Emil Heineman is MY dark horse at camp this year. He had a great training camp last year and I’m expecting him to take the next step when comes September and October. Playing against men in the SHL the past three season, he has a level of maturity to his game that you rarely see in a 21 year-old. When he joined the Laval Rocket last Spring, he exploded with nine points (7 goals) in 11 games, with a +5 rating. For those keeping track, the former second round pick by the Panthers in 2020 was acquired in the trade which sent Tyler Toffoli packing for Calgary. The Flames had previously acquired him in the Sam Bennett trade.
☞ Logan Mailloux (RD)
The Canadiens’ higher brass is pretty high on Marc Bergevin’s first round pick (31st overall) at the 2021 NHL Draft. Both the Director of Hockey Development Rob Ramage and the Coach, Player Development Francis Bouillon qualify Logan Mailloux as the closest prospect to be NHL-ready. In Tony Marinaro’s podcast, former Canadiens’ scout Grant McCagg claims that London Knights’ GM Mark Hunter said that Mailloux is the best prospect London has had since John Carlson, now with the Washington Capitals.
Mailloux will for sure make his pro debuts this upcoming season and we are waiting to hear if NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has met (or will be meeting) with the Canadiens’ prospect and management to provide the necessary clearance to play in the league. In case you were living under a rock, we have covered the reasons before.
☞ Jayden Struble (LD)
A rugged defenseman, Jayden Struble signed his ELC with the Canadiens at the end of last season and went to play a few games in Laval. He’s bring to camp a very mature game, although with limited offense. It is my humble opinion that he will need more developing at the AHL level before we can gauge if he will be a NHL prospect or not, or when that could happen.
☞ Joshua Roy (RW)
Joshua Roy sure has taken leaps in his development since being drafted by the Canadiens in the 5th of the 2021 NHL Draft. The St-Georges-de-Beauce native, who just turned 20 in August, is currently penciled in to start the season in Laval to continue developing but many feel like his game is very much suited for the NHL, much like another Canadiens’ prospect, Owen Beck.
☞ Owen Beck (C)
Owen Beck was fortunate enough to have played one NHL regular season last season after being an emergency recall by the Canadiens from his junior team in Peterborough. A very responsible player, it has often been said that his style translates well to NHL play. At only 19 years of age, it will be either the NHL or back to junior for Beck. Due to the sheer number of forwards on NHL contracts, I’m fully expecting the Canadiens to return him to junior, as they did with Nick Suzuki at the same age, to work on his offensive output. He should be a shoe-in to represent Canada at the U-20 World Junior Championships.
☞ David Reinbacher (RD)
It will be fun to see David Reinbacher at camp this Fall. Much like in the summer of 2022 with Slafkovsky, the dust has settled and fans are warming up to the Canadiens’ first pick at the last NHL Draft. They have since grown to the idea of seeing the Canadiens drafting him as they have learned more about him. After signing his ELC with the team, it is not clear where Reinbacher will be playing next season if he doesn’t make the big club. One thing we know, is that his former Swiss team, EHC Kloten, would welcome him back with open arms.
As you can see, there’s a lot of unknown with this upcoming edition of the Canadiens, with a lot of new faces who will be trying to impress and start making a name for themselves. And we haven’t even touched on Kirby Dach, Cole Caufield, Rafaēl Harvey-Pinard, Kaiden Guhle, Arber Xhekaj, Jordan Harris, Cayden Primeau and company…
This upcoming camp should draw a lot of interest from a fan’s perspective and although the team is not ready for a Cup run, the excitement is very much palpable on social media.