Montreal Canadiens: 7 Minor-League Prospects Who'll Make the Roster Next Season
It’s going to be an interesting offseason for the Montreal Canadiens.
While some players will be spending their time at the gym and out on the golf course, the new Habs general manager, assuming Pierre Gauthier is gone at the end of the year, is going to be busy on the telephone and meeting with players.
A few key players need to be re-signed before next season. Franchise goalie Carey Price is a restricted free agent, so the Habs need to sign him to a long-term deal. Young star defenseman P.K. Subban is also a restricted free agent, and the Canadiens will need to lock him up long-term, too. The Habs also need to sign up-and-coming sniper Lars Eller.
Another restricted free agent, gritty forward Ryan White, has impressed a lot of people with his play late in the year. He is a hard-nosed grinder and will not to back down from anybody. He's the type of character player the Habs need.
Montreal can let unrestricted free agents Mathieu Darche, Chris Campoli and Travis Moen go. They are expendable and can be replaced by younger players in the system, where there are quite a few players who are waiting for a chance with the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge.
White is just one example of a former minor-league prospect who is currently earning his spot on the Habs' roster.
And here are seven more minor-league prospects who will make the Montreal Canadiens roster next season.
Frederic St. Denis
The Habs already have a solid list of defensemen on the roster next year, including Josh Gorges, Andrei Markov and Yannick Weber. They will need to sign P.K. Subban, Raphael Diaz and Alexei Emelin, and after solid seasons by each, it is believed Montreal will make an offer to them all.
Tomas Kaberle is also under contract, and the Habs are expected to not re-sign Chris Campoli. So, that gives the Habs seven defensemen on the roster.
Frederic St. Denis has played 11 games with the big club this year and has looked reliable. He has spent the other part of the season with the Hamilton Bulldogs in the American Hockey League and has had a good season there as well, notching 28 points in 54 games. However, St. Denis is a restricted free agent, so the Habs will need to sign him to an inexpensive contract if they hope to keep him around.
He is a quality defenseman and could definitely be on Canadiens' blue line as soon as next year.
Louis Leblanc has played in 36 games this year with the Canadiens, scoring nine points, and the Habs are high on the speedy 21-year-old 2009 first-round pick.
Leblanc is under contract for the next few years and the Habs are hoping to shape him into a top centreman, although he can also play the wing. Leblanc has split his time between the NHL and AHL this year, but it is believed next year, he will play the entire year with Montreal.
Look for him on one of the top two lines for years to come.
Aaron Palushaj has appeared in 32 games with the Canadiens this year, as he also played some time in Hamilton. He was acquired in the trade that sent Matt D'Agostini to the St. Louis Blues.
But next year, he should be a full-time roster player for the Habs next year. Although he only has five points this season with the Canadiens, Palushaj, 22, should be a mainstay on the Habs’ third line next year, if the team wishes to sign the restricted free agent.
If he works on his game more, Palushaj could be a solid depth scorer for the Habs for the next few years.
Blake Geoffrion, acquired in the Hal Gill trade from Nashville, has the right surname to fit in with Montreal.
But he will need to work on his game if he wants to continue to play on the Habs' roster. Geoffrion has scored one goal in eight games this year with the Canadiens.
If he is to make the roster next year, it will be as a third- or fourth-line checker. He is a player who will dig in the corners, and that is something the Habs need. They also need him to score a few points.
Nathan Beaulieu, the highly touted Habs prospect, could get called up for a few games with the Canadiens next year if he makes the Hamilton Bulldogs.
But it is not believed he will be a mainstay on the Habs' blue line. The organization is known to groom its defensemen in the minors, so the 19-year-old Beaulieu still has a few years to go.
Montreal selected Beaulieu in the first round, 17th overall, in the 2011 NHL draft and his development in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is going well. Beaulieu joins a long list of defensemen waiting for a full-time job.
Not sure if the Habs have room on their roster for a player like Mike Blunden, but if they do, his gritty style will be welcomed.
He is a restricted free agent, but the Canadiens might want to sign the 6-foot-4 grinder who has played 33 games in the NHL this year, notching three points and 25 penalty minutes. It might be doubtful that Blunden will get a full-time spot on the Habs' roster, but if management feels the team is lacking size and grit, Blunden is part of the answer. And at a cheap price.
The Swedish prospect, Andreas Engqvist, is another up-and-coming hopeful Hab.
Engqvist has played 12 games this year with the Canadiens without any points, but the 24-year-old has 36 points in 50 games with Hamilton. The Canadiens will just need to sign the restricted free agent to a two-way deal if they want to give him another shot at making the team.
He has potential, but he just needs to bring the same game to the NHL, as he does in the AHL.
Defensemen Jared Tinordi and Brendon Nash, along with forwards Brendan Gallagher, Patrick Holland, Alexander Avtsin, Michael Bournival and Danny Kristo are also on the Habs radar, but aren’t necessarily likely to play for the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge next season.
But they are the future, and the Habs’ management will be keeping a close eye on these players in order to solidify their future.
Follow Taylor Shire on Twitter: @TaylorShire
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