Montreal Canadiens: Building a Defense for the Future

Matt Eichel@@mattyalloutSenior Writer IAugust 16, 2008

Build for the future...and your success will be forever.

I guess that's probably what Bob Gainey heard somewhere down the line.

After inking young defensive prospect Yannick Weber to a three-year deal, Gainey has all but cemented a bright future for the Montreal Canadiens' back-end.  Theirs is a future that includes a good deal of young and bright Minnesotan defensemen.

David Fischer and Ryan McDonagh are two of the brightest spots on the Canadiens' defensive horizon.  Playing with their respective NCAA clubs, they have taken their time to develop in the college system.

With both size and strength (Fischer—6'3", 190 lbs.; McDonaugh—6'1", 203 lbs.) they are going to be a welcome addition to the Montreal blueline in a few years.

Fischer has shown massive improvements in both his defensive and offensive games in his two seasons so far with the U of Minnesota Golden Gophers.  His 14 points (2 G, 12 A) in 45 games along with only 18 PIMs shows his well-disciplined type of play.

In his freshman year at U of Wisconsin, McDonagh netted five goals and added seven assists in 40 games along with 42 PIMs.  His fiery brand of defense is likened to that of fellow US defenseman Mike Komisarek.  A few years and he'll be calling the Bell Centre home.

At 6'0", 206 lbs. Mathieu Carle has taken a long time to get to where he is today.  With constant, nagging injuries plaguing many of his recent seasons in both the QMJHL and the AHL, Carle is looking to become an impact defenseman on the Canadiens' blueline.

His five seasons with the Acadie-Bathburst Titans gave the 20-year-old defender time to develop and fine tune his game.  His 18 goals and 51 assists for 69 points in 67 games in 2005-06 with the Titans just shows what Carle can bring to the table.

PK Subban has become one of the most reliable defenders on Team Canada's World Junior squad.  At only 5'10", 200 lbs., the small and shifty Subban is an offensive diamond in the rough.

The Canadiens' 43rd overall pick in 2007, Subban had terrific 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons (15 G, 41 A, 56 PTS—2006-07; 8 G, 38 A, 46 PTS—2007-08).   Subban seems to have a Francis Bouillon style of defending, yet with an offensive upside.

Trading away little shrimp Corey Locke to the Minnesota Wild for Shawn Belle was one of the better trades Bob Gainey has made relating to Habs prospects.  Locke, at only 5'9, 168 lbs., had four years of AHL experience under his belt but never seemed to elevate his play enough to get to the NHL full-time.

On the other hand, Shawn Belle, at 6'1", 235 lbs., has had both NHL and AHL experience and could factor in as a great seventh defenseman on the Canadiens' blueline.  Belle is a steady, stay-at-home defender and would be a welcome addition to the Habs' back-end.

Pavel Valentenko showed signs of greatness during last year's training camp.  Not known for his scoring output, but for using his rugged 6'2", 202 lbs. frame, Valentenko had his first taste of North American hockey with the Hamilton Bulldogs last season (57 GP, 1 G, 15 A, 16 PTS, 58 PIMs).

Valentenko was called up to be on the Canadiens' practice squad during the 2008 Stanley Cup playoffs, yet never got a start in the lineup.  Look for Valentenko to become another Igor Ulanov, yet smarter and more able to use his size and strength.

Yannick Weber is the second coming of Mark Streit in a way.  Weber's stats the past two seasons with the Kitchener Rangers have been off the charts.

With 13 goals and 28 assists for 41 points in 51 games in 2006-07, followed up with 20 goals and 35 assists for 55 points in 59 games this past season, Weber has cemented himself as an offensive juggernaut on the blueline.

Yet, standing at just 5'10", 195 lbs., Weber is able to use his size to his advantage (similar to Francis Bouillon) to make great defensive plays and hits.

Look to see Weber playing with the Canadiens in the very near future.

If past third round pick Alexei Yemelin (2004 Entry Draft) ever comes over from Russia, these are the players who, in the next two to four years, will be making their statements about why they should wear le bleu, blanc, et rouge.


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