Reprint from HabsAddict.com
The last few days of the NHL off-season have been all about the free agent frenzy. With the NHL draft behind us and players changing cities, signing mega-deals, and teams remaking their rosters, there hasn't been a lot of attention paid to NHL prospects.
That, however, is about to change in the city of Montreal.
Tomorrow morning the Montreal Canadiens open their annual player development camp, kicking off a two-month push towards the new NHL season.
The Habs' Brossard practice facility will be filled with bright-eyed, bushy-tailed NHL hopefuls learning about what it takes to become an NHL player.
While there will be a ton of talent on the ice, there are four players in particular that should stand out and not just because of their skills.
Jarred Tinordi, Lars Eller, Aaron Palushaj, and Alexander Avtsin are all big kids—the shortest being 6'0" and the tallest 6'6"—with tons of talent to boot.
These four prospects represent a step in a new direction for a franchise that has been undersized for far too long. So let's take a look:
Jarred Tinordi - Drafted first round, 22nd overall, 2010 NHL draft
Hockey's Future profile of Jarred Tinordi:
During this year's NHL entry draft, many people thought the Canadiens would make a big splash by trading for an impact roster player. This was not to be.
What they did do, however, was trade up five spots to select Jarred Tinordi—a coveted player by many organizations picking in the twenties.
At 18 Tinordi already stands at 6'6" and 205 lbs. His projected NHL playing weight is around 240 lbs.
In addition to his size, this stay-at-home defenseman plays an aggressive "In your face" brand of hockey. He possesses a good skating stride and great first pass.
As if that weren't enough, Tinordi has leadership skills. He has captain of the future written all over him.
If you're looking for a comparison, he is something of a Mike Komisarek-type. He is bigger, stronger, and a better skater than Komisarek.
It will be a treat to watch this kid develop into the top-4 defenseman that he is projected to become.
Lars Eller - Drafted first round, 13th overall, 2007 NHL Draft
Hockey's Future profile of Lars Eller:
Lars Eller represents a different kind of prospect altogether because of how he got here rather than his skill set.
Being the lynchpin in the trade that sent Jaroslav Halak to the Blues, Eller is sure to attract a lot of attention come training camp.
At 6'0" and 198 lbs, Eller is projected to be a second line center in the NHL. In addition, his stature will provide the Canadiens with an element of skilled-size down the middle that they have not had since Kirk Muller wore a Habs uniform.
Described as a natural play maker, Eller displays great on-ice vision. He has a knack for finding the open man.
Eller is pretty solid at both ends of the ice—which should make Jacques Martin happy—but, like most young players, could use some more work on his game without the puck.
Of all the prospects at camp, Eller is the one that people will be watching the closest. If he does not pan out as projected, the Halak trade will end up looking like a bust.
Aaron Palushaj - Drafted second round, 44th overall, 2007 NHL Draft
Hockey's Future profile of Aaron Palushaj:
Aaron Palushaj is an interesting prospect for the Canadiens because he was once very highly regarded in the St. Louis Blues organization.
Palushaj's development hit a snag over the last 12 months and he started to fall out of favour in St. Louis. As a result, he was his traded to Montreal, last season, for Matt D'Agostini.
Checking in at 6'0" and 185 lbs, Palushaj is projected to be a top-6, goal scoring winger who is not afraid to play with a physical edge.
Palushaj is not that dissimilar to Max Paccoriety. The difference is Paccoriety is more of a pure power forward, where physicality is a much smaller element of Palushaj's game.
At 21, Palushaj seems destined to start the year in Hamilton.
Can he continue to develop and become a top-6 winger? Will he continue to fall and become a third or fourth liner? No one knows, but this development camp will go a long way towards determining Palushaj's future in the Canadiens organization.
Alexander Avtsin - Drafted fourth round, 109th overall, 2009 NHL draft
Hockey's Future profile on Alexander Avtsin
At 6'2" and 198 lbs, Avtsin is the type of big scoring winger that the Habs have coveted for years. Out of all of the prospects at camp, perhaps none has as high a ceiling as Avtsin.
Look him up on the Internet and you will see that Avtsin is a human highlight reel. Displaying quick skating and soft hands, he attacks defenders with speed, cutting to the net to finish with a rifling wrister. His style has some calling him him "Mini-Ovechkin".
Avtsin's combination of size, speed, and skill make him ideally suited for success in the NHL. Right now, he remains a project. He hasn't played a lot of hockey against high-level competition.
While he has the raw talent to be a top-6 forward he needs seasoning in the North American game.
Fortunately for Habs fans, Avtsin just opted out of his contract with Moscow Dynamo, sticking to his commitment to come to North America this season.
This is great news for an organization that has had a ton of problems getting Russian prospects to come overseas—See Alexi Emelin and Pavel Valentenko for exhibit A and B.
Making the Habs out of camp is a long shot. Avtsin has options with the Montreal Juniors holding his junior rights and the Hamilton Bulldogs warming up a spot for him.
A season or two of aggressive North American-style hockey is exactly what Avtsin needs in order to learn how to use his size to his advantage.
Tomorrow's development camp is a first step in that direction for him.
Whatever becomes of these four prospects, the Canadiens look like they are starting to restock the cupboards.
Given the cap constrains that the Canadiens face going forward, an injection of young, skilled, and inexpensive talent should help the them remain competitive for years to come.
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