Montreal Canadiens Pre-Season 2018-19

Sixty-six players. Whew! That's a lot.

Andrew Shaw and Shea Weber were out with injury and Paul Byron missed some. I believe Byron will be back in top form (with a nice shiny new contract) whereas I doubt Weber will feel 100% until next season or possibly by the post-season if the Habs make it. He's projected to play by December however after injuries and surgery, even though a player gets ice-time, it doesn't mean we can expect his star quality play. Patience is needed to heal so he'll be the superstar again next season.

I'm skeptical that Shaw can make a full recovery and return. His last concussion was really bad and personally I think he should retire instead of risking his neck. He seems like a good guy and has NHL talent but he can't handle the physical aspects of the game. If he returns, it needs to be as a different type of player.

Guys I think are getting a spot no matter what

Danault-Tatar-Gallagher
Domi-Drouin-Lehkonen
Plekanecs-Deslauriers-Hudon
3 open forward spots with a temporary fourth as Deslauriers was injured in Exhibition.

Alzner-Weber
Mete-Juulsen
Schlemko-Petry
Weber is injured so someone else will fill a spot.

Price
Niemi

With all that stated, it's not that I agree, it's just what I expect. As well, Kotkaniemi will at least get his nine games if not the full season considering how much Julien has been praising him. That's the same reason Schlemko is on my list. Sure, he's an okay player but considering Julien's praise, there's no reason to keep him off the list. I'm more likely to be wrong about Juulsen or Mete but I hope not. They're both exciting players.

Players fighting for the leftover spots
- and remember, there are also three floater spots that both Bergevin and Julien seem to like carrying despite it's negative impact on morale.

Defense: Simon Despres, Xavier Ouellet, Mike Reilly, Jordie Benn (in reserve at Laval there will also be capable players like Brett Lernout and Rinat Valiev.
Forward: Joel Armia, Michael Chaput, Jacob De la Rose, Nikita Scherbak, Matthew Peca and of course Jesperi Kotkaniemi (special mention should go to players I just happen to like in Michael Pezzetta, Michael McCarron, Nick Suzuki)
Goalie: It was never in question. Lindgren is good and he's even good enough to play backup or #1 but Price and Niemi are simply the guys who will take it and in fact Niemi will be a very sturdy backup. The real question in nets is Price. Is he healed? Is he ready?

Let's start with defense. Our top six are pretty set but with Weber out we need another and Benn is likely the favourite. No, not because he's the best. No he didn't have a good year last season. No, he didn't have a good camp this year. He didn't even play well in exhibition. I don't think he successfully completed a single pass. When Benn first arrived a couple years ago he was on a mission to prove himself and appeared to be a defensive specialist no one could get around. He also showed that the penalty-kill was like a home he would defend with his life. Then last year happened and he looks worse this year. I don't know what's wrong. Something behind the scenes? It's hard to believe he just became a poor player. I suspect something else however I'd like to see him traded. Despite that, I think he's the favoured player to start in the lineup.

What about the other three? Well one will stay with the team and the other two probably put on waivers. Reilly is an exciting skater who seems to go end to end at will. Despres gives it 100% and looks like a guy who really wants to play. He's solid and makes good decisions. Ouellet is the guy who dives across the ice at the last second to save his team. He also makes good decisions, hits and works hard. Reilly fits best with what Julien says he wants. If it was me, I'd keep Ouellet and Despres, demote Reilly to the Rocket and trade Benn.

My choice:
Alzner-Petry
Mete-Juulsen
Ouellet-Schlemko
Despres
Weber (injured)

What I expect of Julien/Bergevin:
Alzner-Petry
Mete-Juulsen
Reilly-Schlemko
Benn
Weber(injured)

It should be noted that Despres is on a PTO and not signed so he's easy to let go and forget. As well, in my choice it will be very tough to lose a player when Weber comes back whereas in Julien's choice, I think he'll already know. There is also the possibility of one of or neither Juulsen or Mete making the team as they are exempt from waivers however this will negatively impact their development in my opinion and be a mistake. Juulsen is one of the smoothest skaters I've seen in years and Mete has dependable written on his forehead.

Forwards... With Deslauriers out and Kotkaniemi in we have a lineup emerging.

Danault-Tatar-Gallagher
Domi-Drouin-Lehkonen
Kotkaniemi-
Plekanecs-

Hudon will most certainly be in there but whether as a third or fourth line remains to be seen. Before I get going I have a few things to say about three that went to Laval. Pezzetta is exciting and maybe he isn't NHL material yet but I would have liked to see him get more ice-time and attention. He's also a natural centre. Suzuki went back to Junior and while that wasn't a total surprise, the fact that Kotkaniemi was lauded and Suzuki sent packing surprised me a bit. Kotkaniemi may well have talent and even looks like Lehkonen did his first year albeit he plays a much smaller game and is afraid of contact - especially in the corners. I saw him avoid making plays because he didn't want to receive the hit. It's taken Lehkonen three camps to look like he's ready for the NHL. Lehkonen had a fantastic camp but it's his third. It seems like they plan to go that same route with Kotkaniemi. My only issue with it is that Suzuki had a better camp and played better in exhibition. He is right now the better player. In a few years that might change if the analysts were wrong about their placement of Kotkaniemi at the draft where we selected him #3 instead of Brady Tkachuk (who is going to have a stellar career in Ottawa). Lastly, McCarron has been derided by 'fans' for a long time when he fills a niche so badly needed on the team. He has size, plays big, can control the puck and make a good pass. His skating is sub-par but it's also leagues better than it was last year. He was asked to develop that skill and he did. He works hard and deserves a shot centring Tatar and Gallagher.

So, we have four wingers and an extra to add from what's left knowing that when Deslauriers comes back, he's staying and Hudon is taking one of those spots now. So, four more spots total.

Joel Armia hasn't shown me much to stand out. The Habs traded Simon Bourque for him. I didn't see much of Bourque but Armia is an easy risk. He has talent and is willing to work through traffic.

Michael Chaput had a decent camp and sometimes looked pretty good in his exhibition games. He certainly wasn't lazy but looked more like a centre than a winger. He's on the bubble.

Jacob De la Rose seems to be a favourite. I didn't notice much about him in camp so I can't say how that went but his exhibition experience was not especially good. He plays with size and can move opposing players but doesn't show any of the other skills necessary to succeed at the NHL level. He's okay but seems unhappy and unpolished when forced to the wing. He also wants to be at centre and plays better there although probably not as solid and influential as when Froese was there. Froese was one of those players who himself never looked spectacular but made his two wingers into better players. I guess I'm also influenced because I keep hearing about how Jacob is such an amazing player by analysts. They puff him up.

Nikita Scherbak is a big guy who plays a small game. He shows bits of talent but nothing to tell us he's ready for the NHL. He should be effective with the Rocket.

Matthew Peca... He's a tougher egg to crack. Unfortunately he was downed with a groin injury during camp and it's hard to say if it's a chronic thing or not. Prior to the injury he looked like a lock for fourth line centre to me. He was exceptional in that role. His one game back from injury was not. He did play well and hard but also had his pocket picked and made a couple errors in his own zone. He's one I'm rooting for. Once healed, and if he stays hungry, he's the guy.

I forgot to include Agostino above. That is simply because I see him in Laval. As well..... Byron? He limits the choices and makes us a better team. Sorry Paul. You are also an exciting player the Habs need. Byron really can fit anywhere up front and excels the more ice time he gets.

Danault-Tatar-Gallagher
Domi-Drouin-Lehkonen
Kotkaniemi-Hudon-Armia
Plekanec-Chaput-Byron
Peca-De La Rose

I'd rather see De La Rose developing in Laval but I think Julien will keep him. In the least, hopefully he goes down when Deslauriers comes back. I really want tro see Scherbak succeed however I think he needs some more time in the AHL. I'd be happy to be wrong as he has the tools to make it. I just don't think he's quite there yet. If he stays, it's likely at Armia's expense. I also still see a chance for McCarron to rise back up but it depends on how serious Julien is about his new 'system.'

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Comments

Kersus's picture

Schlemko's injury, while awful for him considering he finally made a training camp, is a boon for the extra defnesemen. Ouellet and Despres would be good 5th and 6th D-men with Reilly as backup. I suspect Julien will pick Benn and Despres will go. Either way, expect the normal doom and gloom from most media sources as everything is "the sky is falling" in Montreal. Schlemko, Benn, Reilly, Despres, aren't likely to make or break the team and there's depth right there. Ouellet on the other hand may be on a mission.

Kersus's picture

So, they're investing in Scherbak as expected although it's a debatable choice. Still another player needs to be waived before the 23 player deadline.

Kersus's picture

The date isn't correct as I went in later to fix some formatting. The original time/date is right after the Habs final Exhibition game.