Analyzing Canadiens’ Lines at First Training Camp Practice
The Montreal Canadiens first took to the ice for training camp on Friday, and again today, in Brossard, Quebec. The Canadiens had their 57-man training camp roster split into 3 groups: group A, group B, and group C. Here are group A’s lines:
Group B’s lines:
Chiarot - Petry
Alzner - Folin
Leskinen - Reilly
Group C is basically the tryout players. Here is a list of them:
Here are some thoughts on these interesting line combinations:
Josh Brook is getting a Look
I’m a poet and I don’t know it.
Many people thought Noah Juulsen would take on a prominent role in the roster on the first days of camp. After all, he is the favourite to be the bottom-pairing right-shot defenseman, slotting in the lineup next to Brett Kulak. However, it was rookie prospect Josh Brook who ended up next to Kulak on a defense pairing in group A. Brook had an impressive junior career with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors, posting 75 points in 59 games last year. He then received a 7-game call-up to the AHL Laval Rocket, where he posted one assist. Brook is considered a long shot to make the NHL out of camp. However, it seems that Claude Julien has no problem with Brook overtaking Noah Juulsen for an NHL spot, if Brook proves he is worthy. While Juulsen is more defensively responsible than Brook, Juulsen is also more prone to injuries – he suffered a season-ending eye injury last year and is listed as day-to-day after today’s practice – and doesn’t have the offensive punch that Brook has. Juulsen proved last year that he is NHL-ready. If he were to find himself out of an NHL job by opening night, he is still an intriguing prospect and could fetch a fair return on the trade market.
I hear Winnipeg needs help on their defense, after losing Trouba, Myers and Chiarot this summer. I was talking with a die-hard Jets fan the other day, and he mentioned that a certain RFA named Patrik Laine is being lowballed by Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. Apparently Laine is only being offered 5 million dollars per year. “What a joke” the Jets fan, who shall be unnamed, said. I wholeheartedly agree. A guy like Patrik Laine is not going to accept 5 million dollars per year. If that’s where negotiations are at, then Laine will not start the season with the Jets. It is better if someone can take this whole situation off Cheveldayoff’s hands. Someone who can offer an intriguing defenseman, like, say, Noah Juulsen, plus a few draft picks, like, say, one or two of twelve picks in the upcoming draft. As well, any team that trades for Laine has to offer a forward in return, probably a roster player, who can play a top-6 role, and maybe doesn’t fit very well in the team’s system. Someone like Jonathan Drouin. Can you see where I’m going here? Noah Juulsen, if outperformed in camp by Josh Brook, should be used as trade bait. Juulsen has top-4 potential and has already proved his worth in the NHL. He would also be going to a Jets team in dire need of decent defensemen. As well, going the other way is a sniper who fills a need for the Canadiens, and whose contract situation is a real issue for the Jets. This is never going to happen, but I would love to see Noah Juulsen, Jonathan Drouin, a 2020 second-round pick and a 2020 third-round pick for Patrik Laine. Perhaps I’m reading too much into these lines on the first days of training camp. After all, preseason hasn’t even started yet. Then again, I’m a reporter, an analyst and a fan. It’s my job to read too much into things.
Poehling and Suzuki Are Not Being Handed NHL Roles
Nick Suzuki and Ryan Poehling are expected to contend for top-nine, if not at least NHL, roles on the Canadiens this training camp.
It appears they are going to have to work for it.
Suzuki skated today at centre, flanked by Jordan Weal and Charles Hudon, who are both expected to compete for fourth-line roles. Poehling, meanwhile, skated at centre flanked by Phil Varone and Matthew Peca, who are both destined for the AHL. Are we looking at the first line of the Laval Rocket this coming season? Probably not. It’s way too early to look at lines as if they are set in stone. The Canadiens haven’t even played a preseason game yet. I’m more concerned about who Suzuki and Poehling play with during the preseason, not in the first few practices. But as I mentioned earlier, it is my job to read too much into things. If Claude Julien plans to have Nick Suzuki playing at centre the whole preseason, then that is a big mistake. The Canadiens’ centre depth is too good (wow I can’t believe I just wrote that) for Suzuki to play in the NHL as a centre. If he is destined for the NHL, he will be playing right wing. There is potentially a top-six role open for him on the right side. If Julien does not give Suzuki the opportunity to prove his worth on the wing, he is not giving Suzuki enough of a chance to make the NHL team. That is a mistake, because I believe that Suzuki has the potential to make the NHL this year.
As for Poehling, I’ve heard people say that it’s better for him to get first-line minutes in Laval than fourth-line minutes in the NHL. That’s ridiculous. First of all, the quality of competition in Laval is way below Poehling’s level. This makes it detrimental to his development for him to play in Laval. Second of all, Ryan Poehling isn’t necessarily going to be on the fourth line in the NHL. If he proves that he should be higher in the lineup, then he will be. Personally, I think that he could end up as the third line centre for the Canadiens this year. Third of all, Poehling could rack up plenty of points in Laval, but none of those goals and assists would count towards wins for the Canadiens; they would count towards wins for Laval. It is better that Poehling be able to contribute to the NHL team that will most likely be fighting for a playoff spot, than contribute to an AHL team and not bring his impressive skillset to the Canadiens. Lastly, if Poehling will be on the fourth line (which I doubt), that is a sign of impressive forward depth. What does a coach do with impressive forward depth? He rolls four lines, which means he deploys all four forward lines roughly equally. Ryan Poehling would be on the fourth line, yes, but he would be playing as much as he would on the third line. He can also get time on the penalty kill, as he is very defensively responsible. Ryan Poehling deserves to be in the NHL. If Julien intends to stick him with AHL-calibre linemates for the rest of training camp then he is making a grave mistake. However, we must keep in mind that none of these lines matter. They’re merely interesting to think about.
A few other worthy observations:
· Ben Chiarot is being paired with Jeff Petry. The two complement each other nicely. Chiarot is the more defensively-minded defenseman and Petry is more offensively-orientated.
· Paul Byron and Jesperi Kotkaniemi were together today. I hope that will change; the two had little chemistry last year.
· Artturi Lehkonen skated with Max Domi and Jonathan Drouin today. That right wing spot next to two of Montreal’s most offensively gifted players is highly coveted, and wide open.
· Canadiens are reportedly interested in Dallas Stars right-shot defenseman Julius Honka. I’m not quite sure why.
· First preseason game: Monday, September 16, 2019, against a split-squad New Jersey Devils, at the Bell Centre. I hope PK Subban plays on the Devils squad in Montreal.
To finish off, I would like to quote Canadian folk singer Stompin’ Tom Connors, “The good ol’ hockey game, is the best game you can name. And the best game you can name, is the good ol’ hockey game.”
And it’s about to return.
Go Habs Go
Signed, Le Bo