MONTREAL – It’s the first day of the Montreal Canadiens’ new season as the team has nowhere to go but to go up.
They finished at 32second abbreviation Last year’s place – in the unenviable position of having to stare at every other team in the NHL – and though the officers wouldn’t mind if they repeated the feat for the best odds on landing talent generational Conor Bedard to add what has become one of the most potential combinations. A talent in the league, the coach and his players don’t want to wear that stink for another season.
Their process has now begun, and the stories they write will be rich and alluring.
We can’t wait to delve into it. But before we do that, here’s a glimpse of what will happen over the next weeks of Canadians training camp.
Current salary cap area: Minus – $10,239,166 million
GM: Kent Hughes
Coach: Martin St. Louis
Assistant coaches: Stefan Rubidas, Alexander Burroughs, Trevor Letowsky
Unsigned players: no one
How will the inexperienced coaching staff ensure player development is properly handled in the bootcamp?
In a team that has put development as a top priority and is not expected to compete for a playoff place – no matter what the Stanley Cup – this season, the process begins here in bootcamp.
It affects so many attendees that, starting in the first round of 2022, Juraj Slavkowski and Philip Messar have selected young defenders Justin Barron, Jordan Harris, Kayden Guhli, Matthias Norländer and Arber Schickage, all of whom are in the mix to play NHL games over the coming period. months.
On top of bringing this team together and creating a strong bond within the room to give everyone the mindset of challenging largely low expectations, Martin St. Louis and Team Canada’s coaching staff will have to balance putting these young players to the test while they too. Put them in locations to shine. They will have to protect them from sudden public reactions to good or bad pre-season performances while honestly assessing their place in their development.
And while this all seems fairly standard in any training camp, it’s still a delicate process to navigate a relatively new NHL coach and staff with less experience than any other team in the league.
Every decision they make, no matter how small, looms large in the big picture – especially in a hot white market like Montreal.
Think of Slavkowski, who was first picked overall in July and given a star from the moment he wore the Canadians jersey. Everything St. Louis and his staff do with it over the coming weeks will be dissected to the ninth degree.
If they decide to start with what appears to be the team’s third line and describe it as facilitating it, people will say they don’t get a proper look at what he can do with players like Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, who are likely to be playing with him as an NHL developer. Conversely, if the 18-year-old starts with Suzuki and Coffield and doesn’t immediately collect goals – even in less organized and meaningless pre-season matches – the same people will immediately judge him unsuitable for the spotlight. St. Louis says the stick rushed it.
Regardless of whether Slafkovsky is about to take his first steps under this bright light, extending his time to adapt to it seems appropriate. Decisions with highly publicized prospects are seldom as rationally internalized as the people they hope to be.
It would be great to see how St. Louis frames his decisions and navigates all that intense scrutiny because what he says publicly is also a huge part of getting prospects like Slafkovsky right.
Of course, decisions he and the other coaches make ultimately govern the process. There isn’t much to say about it until they start making it.
Training camp battle worth watching:
The big point is in defense, as there are quite a few points available to grab and the players vying for them are mostly under 23s.
Joel Edmondson, Mike Matheson, David Savard and Chris Weidman are the only veterans in the position, meaning this competition could extend beyond the other 17 defenders invited to camp – a topic that’s explored in more detail in a section below.
Of the 17, it really boils down to three of Barron, Harris, Guhle, Norlinder, Xhekaj and Schueneman going to shine in practice and in show games.
Barron has a slight advantage on one of the spots as a right-hand man, given that all the others are shooting left and, aside from Harris, will play off-center to fill one of the team’s biggest gaps.
Both players got their feet wet in the National Hockey League last year, as did Scheunemann, who has been a professional longer than all these young defenders and has played more than 130 games at the AHL level.
The fact that the Michigan native is 27 years old and entering the peak of his career makes him a contender for a spot on the Canadian Blue Line.
Guhle also looked physically ready to do so a year ago, before bringing him back for what proved to be one recent dominant season in the WHL and on the international junior scene. It’s no exaggeration to point out that the 6-foot-2 bodyguard is more prepared for a full-time role than any other player he’s competing against in this camp.
Then there’s Xhekaj, who impressed the Canadian brass in the junior camp over the past week and delivered an all-out — and highly punishing — game that drew enough interest from Hughes throughout his final season at OHL to make the GM mention him. As one of the players he feels will help mitigate Alex Romanov’s loss by trading in the previous draft.
You could say that it doesn’t matter much how this is implemented in camp because there is a strong chance all of these players will rotate through the squad this season at one point or another.
But the season-long competition on the Blue Line begins now and nothing would be more compelling than seeing how the first stage of it plays out.
Expected lineup outside camp / depth chart:
Note that this is a loose projection based on the current depth chart and the uncertainty that players are, in fact, healthy enough to start the season. It’s done before players go through medical evaluations, so nothing is given until that happens, and of course, this picture is pretty fluid.
It will be fluid all over the camp, and fluid all season long. as always.
We’re only building this on what Canadians have right now, even if we can visualize some changes on the horizon before the meaningful games start.
For example, with the team lacking experience on the Blue Line and wanting to protect the confidence of all the young players vying for spots there, it is entirely conceivable that the Canadians would turn to the concession wire to fill the void. They have top priority in claims after finishing last season, which gives them ample opportunity to add to their roster without subtracting.
Not that they won’t pose.
Whether it’s through trade or concessions, Canadians will likely have a body or two to leave up front to create both roster and salary flexibility, so keep all of that in mind as you consider these lines and pairs.
Juraj Slavkowski Nick Suzuki Cole Caufield
Evgeny Dadonov / Jonathan Drouin – Christian Dvorak – Josh Anderson
Rem Petlake Kirby Dash Brendan Gallagher
Mike Hoffman, Sean Monahan, Jake Evans, Joel Jeremiah
*Paul Byron is listed as injured and it is doubtful he will start the season on time.
Mike Matheson David Savard
Joel Edmondson – Justin Barron
Kayden Jules – Chris Weidman
* Jordan Harris and Corey Scheuenemann alternately
*Knowing in full that Primo could outpace Montembault in camp after a fantastic display in the 2022 Calder Cup qualifiers with Laval, his eligibility to send him to the Palace without being subjected to exemptions puts him at a disadvantage in the competition – especially given the shortfall. From the depth of the NHL the Canadians have in this position.