5 Most Intriguing Montreal Canadiens to Watch During 2013-14 Training Camp
Sure, you’ve got your Norris Memorial Trophy-winning defensemen (doesn’t every team, though?) like P.K. Subban and your Vezina Trophy-caliber goalies (much like Sergei Bobrovsky entering last season) like Carey Price.
However, fans know pretty much all there is to know about those guys. When it comes to intrigue, it turns out a little mystery can be a good thing, and the “newer” the better—generally speaking.
Here are the players fans want to get to know a little more intimately, the five most intriguing Canadiens to watch during 2013-14 training camp:
5) Michael McCarron
At a listed 6’5”, 237 pounds, Montreal Canadiens 2013 first-round pick Michael McCarron is likely used to playing as a man amongst boys by now. The funny thing is, taking into account both weight and height, McCarron is also the biggest player at Habs camp...at just 18 years of age.
Obviously, McCarron, who plays right wing, is a long shot to make the Habs, to say the least. Having just been drafted purely on his potential to become a dominant power forward in the NHL, he still needs a few years to develop before successfully hitting the big leagues (and then big league players).
Nevertheless, as the team’s most recent first-round pick, McCarron is almost by default an intriguing player to keep an eye on at training camp...easy, too, considering he’ll stick out like a sore thumb on a foot.
4) Charles Hudon
Left winger Charles Hudon may not have McCarron’s pedigree (or size at 5’10”, 171 pounds) as a former fifth-round pick in 2012. However, Hudon is nonetheless a world-class talent.
After making Team Canada this past winter, Hudon suffered a back injury that kept him out of the World Junior Championship. Still just 19, Hudon is a good bet to make the team again in Sweden come the start of 2014.
For that reason alone, considering the amount of fanfare that surrounds the tournament, Hudon is worth keeping an eye on. Seeing as not just anyone makes it, it also says a little something about his skill level.
While he’s no Sidney Crosby by any stretch of the imagination, Hudon is in his good company as a former Quebec Major Junior Hockey League top offensive rookie of the year in 2010-11 (Crosby won in 2003-04).
Admittedly, success in juniors is hardly a guarantee of future success in the NHL. However, there is little disputing his skill set, which includes an excellent shot, incredible vision and a slick puck-possession game.
He’s apparently not all that shy about playing a physical game, either, already having injured fellow prospect Nathan Beaulieu, who’s much larger at 6’2”, 194 pounds, with a body check.
Needless to say, Hudon is one of the Habs’ top prospects at forward. He’s projected to return to his Chicoutimi Sagueneens after training camp and may not be ready to turn pro quite yet, but his journey leading up to that point is likely to turn a lot of heads.
3) Jarred Tinordi
Defenseman Jarred Tinordi has a decent chance to make the Habs' final roster out of training camp relative to Hudon and McCarron, but a lot needs to go right for that to happen, namely injuries to a couple of the dozens and dozens of defensemen above him on the team’s depth chart.
It may not be politically correct to hope for injuries, but facts are facts—even if that dozens and dozens bit is slightly exaggerated.
After earning ice time in all of the Habs’ five playoff games against the Ottawa Senators this past spring, Tinordi was rewarded by the team with a contract offer...first to Davis Drewiske and then to Douglas Murray.
It's almost as if during one of those playoff games, Tinordi spit in golden boy Carey Price's coffee or something. Weird.
While Drewiske is little more than an insurance policy, Murray was brought in to, in part, make up for Alexei Emelin’s absence for the first few months of the season. At 6’3”, 240 pounds, Murray, after all, has built up a solid reputation for being one of the league’s hardest hitters.
However, Murray is 33 and known to be a bit slow-footed. Considering Tinordi is about as big at 6’6”, 227 pounds (without the same mileage as Murray), he was thought to be a safe bet to at least be given a shot to fill the same void.
However, with the Drewiske and Murray signings, the Habs now have seven NHL-caliber defensemen in camp (not including Emelin).
Tinordi can still theoretically make the team, but he’ll have to impress the Habs further, to the point of them not being able to justify leaving him off it (or, again, to the point of him injuring everyone in his way).
While it’s safe to assume he won’t take it that far (although, he could be paying Hudon to do his dirty work), watching how he deals with being prematurely and nonsensically written off makes for quite the intriguing storyline.
2) Louis Leblanc
If someone would have told you at the end of last season that Louis Leblanc had a better chance at making the Habs out of training camp than Tinordi, you probably would have thought they were nuts.
After all, Leblanc falls behind fellow centers David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller and Alex Galchenyuk on the team’s depth chart, at least.
Add into the equation Tinordi’s brief stint with the Habs last year (while Leblanc was scoring just 18 points in 62 games during an injury-riddled season in Hamilton no less), and it’s incredibly easy to see how the latter could end up being labeled a relative bust by management.
Tinordi (2010) was of course drafted a year after Leblanc (2009) but seemingly well on his way to becoming a full-time NHLer before him.
One must not forget, though, that Leblanc is just one season removed from a half-year stint with the Habs as a depth player. Somewhat sadly, that may be a role that might best define how his career shapes up from this point onward in the eyes of management. In this context, though, that may be a good thing.
With captain Brian Gionta and George Parros likely to start 2013-14 on the shelf and the Habs boasting 11 healthy forwards on their current roster, there are at least few depth spots up for grabs. Leblanc may be the perfect fit, at least to start.
Leblanc may not be the Habs’ most dynamic offensive prospect, but he is arguably their most NHL-ready one with enough upside as a former first-round pick to warrant a second look from both fans and the team itself.
1) Daniel Briere
Yes, Daniel Briere is closer in age to 40 than 30, and yes, his best seasons are behind him. Still, anytime a team goes out and spends $4 million per year on a free agent, that player is going to warrant some well-deserved attention.
While Briere just practicing on the team’s first line is being read into a bit too much by the Canadian media, to the point of making headlines for some strange reason, Briere was a star in this league not all that long ago. As a result, fans can be forgiven for wanting to see exactly what he’s got left.
It seems unlikely that Briere will stay on that first line alongside Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais considering the success Brendan Gallagher had there last year. A much more realistic scenario will see him take Gionta’s spot on the second line out of the starting gates.
That isn’t to say Briere won’t end up seeing first-line action at some point. Once Gionta returns, unless Desharnais has sufficiently rebounded from his poor season last year, Briere could end up moving to center.
It’s all up in the air at this point, especially seeing as training camp just started this past Wednesday. However, Briere is a one-time 90-point scorer, a Quebec native and the team’s prized offseason acquisition—all due respect to George Parros.
Translation: The intrigue surrounding Briere isn’t going away anytime soon.