Rookie Tournament – The Recap

By JD Lagrange – Well there you have it. The Rookie Camp/Tournament is over and fans got to see some of the Canadiens’ top younger prospects in action. After what seems like forever since being able to watch our favourite team, watching the rookies wearing the red, white and blue provided a sense of hope for a fan base who hasn’t had much to cheer for in a long time.

It is important to point out to some Habs’ fans that a rookie tournament like this one is not to judge the team record (wins/losses), the special teams or overall team chemistry. These young men play all over the world in different leagues and never got to seriously practice together, nor does the coaching staff work on systems. Such tournaments are solely to see the teams’ top players against their peers, and gauge the progress these young men have accomplished since the last time they were on the ice.

With that being said, there were some players who have drawn interest. For some, it was to be expected but for some other cases, there were some very pleasant surprises. I have watched most of the three games and here are some of my observations for some of the team’s key prospects. I’ve divided them in three categories.

This past Draft

Juraj Slafkovsky

He came as advertised, as far as I’m concerned. He wasn’t dominant but showed flashes of why the Canadiens made him the first overall pick. A powerful skater, he protects the puck extremely well using his big frame to do so. Perhaps to most surprising to me is his playmaking ability. He sees the ice well and dishes the puck accurately and at the right time, for the most part. You could definitely see the chemistry he has with countryman and good friend Filip Mesar.

Filip Mesar

He performed beyond my own expectations, I have to admit. At 5-foot 10-inches and 167 lbs, he’s a bit undersized but you can definitely see why the Canadiens selected him late in the first round. He was a constant threat in the offensive zone and managed a couple of goals. New came out during the tournament that he will be playing in the OHL next season instead of heading back overseas and that’s a good news for the Canadiens who will get to watch him closely.

Owen Beck

He was perhaps the most surprising prospect for me out there. We had heard about his 200-foot game and he displayed it well. But it’s through his offense that he surprised as he was arguably the Baby-Canadiens’ best center – or most noticeable – out there. Big body, good skater, he was effective at both ends of the ice and on faceoffs. He was rewarded by centring the top line in the last game.

Miguel Tourigny

The 5-foot 8-inches, 168 lbs defenseman surprised when called upon. Excellent skater, he wasn’t afraid of carrying the puck and join the offense… sometimes a bit too much for my liking but that’s something that can be worked on. He wasn’t out-muscled as much as I was expecting him to. He was paired with Arber Xhekaj at times, and with William Trudeau other times. A positive camp for the diminutive defenseman.

Trade acquisitions

Emil Heineman

A very pleasant surprise, we saw why Kent Hughes was speaking so highly of him after the Tyler Toffoli trade. He scored a couple of nice goals and was around the puck regularly. Good at both ends of the ice, he was at his best when on a line with Jan Mysak.

Justin Barron

Perhaps the prospect I was most disappointed about based on the expectations I have on him. He didn’t have a bad camp but many pencil him as starting the season on the big club as the third right-handed defenseman with David Savard and Chris Wideman. He was better in the last game when he was paired with Kaiden Guhle, with whom he had played with for Team Canada junior.

Bergevin/Timmins era

Kaiden Guhle

Coming back from shoulder injury, he only played one game but he hasn’t missed a beat. He was a force to reckon with at both ends of the ice. Physical, mobile, good first pass, well positioned, you can tell that he has gained confidence on the offensive aspect of the game. At one point, he deked his way through a maze of players all the way to the net. He will battle for a spot on the big club for sure.

Arber Xhekaj

Of course, people will remember his fight against Sens’ prospect Zachary Massicotte, but it’s by his steady play that he stood out for me. He displayed more skilled plays than I was expecting from him. I used to think that he reminded me of Alexei Emelin in his style, but I’m starting to see more Ben Chiarot in him, due to that unexpected offensive creativity. He moves extremely well for a big guy.

William Trudeau

One of the last players cut at camp last season, Trudeau flew under the radar… until this rookie tournament that is. Many Habs’ fans re-discovered him. He reminds me of Patrice Brisebois at the same age and yes, that’s a good thing! Decent size, mobile, he is usually in good position but has the odd brain cramp and gets caught. That can be thought and worked on though.

Mattias Norlinder

Smooth skater, his game resembles Jordan Harris, although not as sound defensively. I absolutely love the way he quaterbacks a power play and the way he skates the puck out of trouble. At 6-feet and 185 lbs, he could use another 10 lbs or so of muscles. In my opinion, he has improved over what we had seen of him the last time.

Jordan Harris

Jordan Harris

It seems like nothing phases Harris and he plays with the composure of a veteran player. I did not like him on the right side however, where he got exposed a few times with players getting around him and with some awkwardness receiving passes and getting the puck out on his back-hand because of it. He does the little things well and the way he positions himself defensively (and defensively only), he reminds me of Andrei Markov with his active stick.

Jan Mysak

The more I watch this guy play, the more I see Tomas Plekanec. Good skater, he does the little things right on the ice and he was dominant in the faceoffs’ circles. Centring the third line for the most part, he didn’t produce as much offense as we know he’s capable of but his defensive play was stellar.

Xavier Simoneau

I wasn’t expecting much from Simoneau and did he ever open my eyes! Of course, we will notice his two goals against the Baby-Sens, but he had a good tournament overall. His good instincts make it seem like he’s one of those guys who always finds himself at the right place at the right time offensively. He wasn’t afraid of getting in traffic either but let’s face it, those weren’t big NHL men out there. The true test is coming.


Logan Mailloux

I tried getting some updates on Mailloux’ shoulder to no avail. We know that he’s been skating but when his surgically repaired shoulder will be ready for contact is still unknown at this time, at least by common mortals like yours truly.

Joshua Roy

Joshua’s hand injury was said to be minor but he did not take part into any of the games in this tournament. We will likely see at the main training camp to see when he is in his development.

There you have it. Of course, I didn’t touch on every player but those are the ones that really stood out for me during those three games. In fact, I would dare say that no one looked out of place in that tournament for the young Habs. Some showed flashes of greatness and disappeared for long periods too. Your assessment could very well be different and that’s okay. We can all agree that it was great to see some hockey though, right?

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Habs 12 Most NHL-Ready Prospects

By JD Lagrange – Isn’t it fun to be able to look ahead and talk about players hitting the ice? After two years of COVID shortened off-seasons and an early elimination from participating in the playoffs, Habs’ fans aren’t used to that long of a delay. It seems like it’s been forever that their favourites have hit the ice, and there is a lot of excitement and novelty for the upcoming season.

There are some young guys in the organization who will be fighting for their lives trying to finally break through and fulfil their dream of playing in the NHL. The following is not a list of the Canadiens’ top prospects, but rather a subjective ranking of the prospects whom I feel are the closest to being ready to take the next step into the league.

1- Otto Leskinen

At 25 years old, calling him a prospect is pushing it. Let’s say that he’s the oldest one on that list and that’s why he’s at the top and I placed him amongst prospects because he came back to Montreal for one last kick at the can. He had a good season last year in the KHL and in Liiga and I’m fully expecting that with his age and experience, he is the forgotten one as fans only speak of Kaiden Guhle and Jordan Harris on the left side of the defense.

2- Justin Barron

Barron has one huge advantage over the team’s other young defensemen: he shoots right, a rarity in the organization. In fact, only David Savard and Chris Wideman are right-handed ahead of him. He has the size, the mobility and the skills, and he has a little bit of NHL experience under his belt. He will be turning 21 in November and he must come ready to play and contribute. It is his job to lose.

3- Kaiden Guhle

Admittedly, it is kind of weird to say that a 20 year-old is NHL-ready. Particularly a defenseman. But if you ask anyone, Guhle is mature well beyond his young age. He has the physique, the skating ability and good decision-making to be a contributor on this year’s squad, particularly that there are three open spots on the Canadiens’ defense at the time of writing this. He may be part of a rotation between Laval and Montreal with a few other prospects to start, but he’s very close to sticking with the big club.

4- Juraj Slafkovsky

When was the last time that we thought that an 18 year-old player was NHL-ready on the Canadiens? Fans will have a bad taste in their mouth from the Alex Galchenyuk and Jesperi Kotkaniemi experience and rightfully so. But unlike them, Slafkovsky is said to be the most NHL-ready of his Draft class. Further, he is a first overall pick. Oh that doesn’t guarantee him a spot on the team, far from there, but at 6-foot 4-inches and 229 lbs, and having played against men all season last year, he can handle it physically. He may or may not stick, but he’s close.

5- Jordan Harris

Harris is special. Having played his senior year of College, he’s already 22 years old. He did fairly well in the few games that he’s played at the end of last season. A bit undersized, his best attributes are his skating abilities, and how calm he is on the ice, even as a rookie. Not panicking at such a young age at that level is a huge quality. He may have to be part of that rotation between Laval and Montreal with a few other defensemen. As he said himself just recently, what’s important is that he plays big minutes.

6- Jesse Ylönen

I truly feel for Ylönen. The Canadiens have absolutely no room for him right now. Yet he is, in my humble opinion, totally NHL-ready. The 22 year-old right-winger has the speed, the shot, the offensive flair and the defensive awareness to play in this league. I’m just hoping that he managed to put some muscle mass on his six-foot frame in the off-season, as 168 lbs is way too light for him. Please Kent (Hughes), clear some space on the wing…

7- Arber Xhekaj

One word to describe “Jack-eye”: Beast! He played as an overager last year in the OHL and it showed. He man-handled those kids from his 6-foot 4-inches and 218 lbs frame. He doesn’t have the offense or skills Shea Weber had, but he has his sheer strength. Undrafted, he had a good camp last year and expect the 21 year-old to open some eyes at camp again this year. Another guy who can rotate between Laval and Montreal next season.

8- Mattias Norlinder

Perhaps the best offensive defenseman of the group, Norlinder struggled a bit to adapt to the North American lifestyle last year. At 22, he’s a year older and knows more what to expect. Great skater with good offensive instincts, he has a great first pass and good shot from the point. He’s not very physical in the defensive zone but he does utilize his positioning and stick work quite well. Another member of that rotation between Laval and Montreal, I’m thinking.

9- Cayden Primeau

Last year’s call-up was too soon for young Primeau. He was simply not ready, particularly not being left up to dry with the team in front of him. Thankfully, he managed to rebound in Laval after being sent back down as I was concerned that Montreal burnt him. It shows the resiliency and character of this young man. He needs to play, and to play often. So in my humble opinion, he plays close to 50% of the games with Jake Allen in the NHL, or as the starter in Laval. Let’s not mess around with this guy as the other goaltending prospects are a few years away.

10- Rafaël Harvey-Pinard

I have him at number 10 on this list but don’t count this guy out. The one they nicknamed Lavallagher, as a comparison to being the Brendan Gallagher of Laval, he will go through a brick wall to make his dream come true. And when someone is that determined, you should never count them out. Limited talent, he did remarkably well last season with the Rocket, accumulating 21 goals and 56 points in 69 games. But like Ylönen, he is facing the tough reality of too much NHL depth on the wing.

11- Emil Heineman

Surprised to see his name here? Heineman is, in my opinion, a wild card to cause some pleasant surprises at camp. The left-winger will be turning 21 in November and he did well playing against men in the SHL last season. Elite Prospects has this to say about him: “He’s the type that can fit anywhere in the lineup and play any role. There’s a strong push to his stride, which gives him added acceleration and top speed while skating in a straight line. He’s always got his feet moving, always maintains a high battle-level, and never shies away from making personal sacrifices to improve the two-way health of his team.”

12- Jan Mysak

Mysak had a taste of the AHL during COVID back in 2020-21, and he used that experience to his advantage last year, both in the OHL and on the International scene. In fact, he was a dominant player last year and kept progressing. He is likely to be playing in Laval next season, but he’s only a call-up away from showing what he can really do. You know who he reminds me of? Tomas Plekanec…

There you have it. You may agree with some of my choices, or rankings, and disagree with others. That’s okay as it’s totally subjective and definitely up for debate. Let’s drop that puck, shall we?

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