By JD Lagrange – Rookie Camp is set to start on Wednesday, September 13, with medical and fitness testing at the CN Sports Complex in Brossard. Then, the Habs hopefuls will travel to Buffalo on September 14 to take part in the 2023 Prospects Challenge from September 15-18. The rookie tournament also includes rookies from the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, and Pittsburgh Penguins.
Every year, you have players who have good training camps and make the organization think twice before cutting them. And with the numerous quality prospects in the system, we can expect much of the same. It is even possible that there could be a few who will open the eyes of the Canadiens’ decision-makers this year.
I have dressed a list of half a dozen young men who could do this, or at least get further up the radar than they currently are and that, for different reasons.
6. JARED DAVIDSON
Davidson had a good camp a year ago but the Canadiens decided to send him back to junior with the Seattle Thunderbirds of the WHL where he had a great season. Assuming more a role of a leader, the Canadiens’ fifth round pick in 2020 accumulated 38 goals and 82 points in 60 games. He plays much bigger than his 6-foot, 183 lbs frame suggests and he’s not afraid to go in traffic. The Edmonton-native just turned 21 in July and will most likely start the season in Laval, but rest assured that he’s planning on leaving a good impression with Martin St-Louis and the Habs’ brass.
5. DAVID REINBACHER
Much as been said about Reinbacher since the Canadiens, for a second year in a row, went against what the majority of fans wanted and selected him with the 5th overall selection at the NHL Draft. To be fair, few knew much about him and we ensured to help fans discover him in an earlier article. The 6-foot 2-inches 18 year old defenseman has received much praize from people around the NHL since the Draft and fans are warming up to him, particularly seeing Matvei Michkov being a healthy scratch in three of his team’s four games in the KHL, and seeing the ice for only six minutes in the game in which he was dressed. It is doubtful to see Reinbacher make the big club but I’m fully expecting to see him do well.
4. OWEN BECK
Beck open the eyes of many at camp last year but was sent back to his OHL junior team. After being traded to Peterborough, his offence plummeted. His style of play is mature and that’s why many feel like he could make the jump to the NHL sooner than later. But much like the Canadiens did with Nick Suzuki after the 2018 camp, I’m expecting that they will return Beck to junior with a list of things to work on, including his offense. After all, it didn’t hurt Suzuki one bit, did it?
3. JOSHUA ROY
When he was drafted, there were a lot of question marks about Roy and that’s why he slipped to the fifth round. But let’s give credit where credit is due, the young man took his career in his own hands and put in the necessary work to succeed. He got into a better shape, and worked on different aspects of his game, to the point that he’s been one of the CHL’s top players the past couple of years. He outshined most players at the last World Junior Championship, being a key contributor for Team Canada. The St-Georges-de-Beauce native, who just turned 20 in August, is set to give it all to stay in Montreal straight from camp and seeing what he’s done the past couple of years, I wouldn’t be too quick to count him out.
2. LOGAN MAILLOUX
Let’s admit it, Marc Bergevin knew what he was doing when he took advantage of Mailloux falling in the 2021 Draft to select him at #31 overall. The then Canadiens’ GM knew that it would cause controversy (for the reasons that we know) and did it anyway because he knew the type of player, and even character, the young man had. Now, seeing the work that Mailloux has put in off-ice to improve (and prove) himself, most have rallied behind the player, or at least agree to give him a second chance. And the 6-foot 3-inches, 212 lbs defenseman intends on showing why Bergevin took that chance. Both key player development personnel Rob Ramage and Francis Bouillon have, not long ago, qualified Mailloux as the Canadiens’ prospect the closest to being NHL-ready.
1. EMIL HEINEMAN
Admittedly, this guy is my long-shot. He had a great camp a year ago and went back to Europe to work on his game. At the end of his SHL season, Heineman joined the Laval Rocket where he was a dominant player for Jean-François Houle, who said that the young Swede was NHL-ready. Good skater with strong hockey IQ, there’s a maturity to his game that you don’t often see from a 21 year-old. He has been playing against men in the SHL for a couple of years now, and that should be a definite advantage for him. I’m actually expecting Heineman to make the big club from camp.
There you have it folks. There are plenty of other young men who could cause a surprise, but those are the six I feel can really open some eyes, with some of them having a legitimate shot at forcing the hand of Kent Hughes to make room for them. It all starts this upcoming week. Hockey is back!