Thursday, January 10, 2013

Thoughts on Team USA at the U-17 tournament

  Christmas Holidays are always fun, you get to see the expanded family and spend some time with them. You take part in countless of parties too. But this year my grandmother's rolled-log cake had a hockey taste, as I have watched a ton of hockey, thankfully. After having to watch most games  on average quality streams since the beginning of the year, I finally got to watch live hockey outside of my beloved Phoenix as the Under-17 IIHF world championship was held in Drummondville and Victorivalle.

  Those two towns being at an hour or so of drive from home, I couldn't miss such a great opportunity to see future NHL stars. In total I have watched 4 live games and the Gold medal final on TV. It might not be as much as I would have liked to, as the games were offered for free on , but I'm still pretty happy to have seen those games.

  Here are my thoughts on the U17 tournament.Remember though, I only had a couple of games (at most) of display to evaluate those kids, so I'm not going to project them as NHLers just yet!!!

  In total, I saw 5 teams play, Sweden, Québec, Ontario, USA and Russia. So I'll evaluate players by teams to make it a bit more ordered. This is the first of five articles.

Team USA:     Team USA came into the tournament as a legitimate team to win the tournament, considering their lineup plays and practices on a daily basis as a whole with the USNDT, unlike the Canadian teams for example. Let's not overlook the fact that they produce more and more talent, and you better understand why some experts had them taking gold in the tournament. They started out strong by beating the other top contending team in Team Ontario, and they can thank Jack Eichel for that.

Eichel, a Halifax Mooseheads property( acquired 15th overall in the 2012 QMJHL draft), was nothing less than sublime in that titan clash, which was the opener of the hostilities in the tournament by the way. He seemed to always be on the ice, whether it was a PP, PK, 5on5 , at the beginning of a period or at the end, to protect a lead or when his team needed a goal. And he wasn't used there because there wasn't other options on the bench, but because he's good in all those situations. He was probably the best skater in the tournament(I only saw half the teams though, but it would be surprising someone could outskate him). His technique is very fluid and efficient, it makes him lightning quick to jump on lose pucks or beat defenseman wide. Pair that with slick hands and a good wrist shot and you have a complete player. Eichel in my mind was the best player in the tournament. He would make Halifax a much stronger team, even if he's 16. Good thing Cam Russell didn't convince him, for the other teams of the league, although I would love to see him play in the 'Q. The 6'1 177lbs Right-handed center is very smart with the puck and showed tremendous vision and patience with it. He's unselfish and will give the puck to his teammate if he's in a better position than him. His coach with the U-17 says he's a hardworking kid too, who give it his all all the time, may it be in the gym or on the ice. Did I tell you Eichel had two goals in that particular game? At least two more goals were scored by his team because of him.

Goes without saying that I was impressed by the Massachusetts native. Sadly he didn't play in the Bronze Final against Team Québec, as I believe he was injured. If this guy stays on track, he will be a special player. I'll keep my eyes on him, and I'll have plenty of time to better evaluate his game as he's draft eligible in 2015.

USA hockey's rising is partly due to Canadians, as some Pro Canadian hockey players spend their career in the states and eventually set there. Those players have kids that usually become pretty good at hockey. This U-17 team wasn't strange to that as a few names were familiar: Wilkie, Turgeon and MacInnis. While Wilkie, the son of former Habs first Rounder David, didn't stand out ( to me), it was a different story for the sons of Al and Pierre. Both are big left-handed centers with good hands. MacInnis is a better skater than Turgeon, although not by much. Turgeon is a better puck distributer, like his dad was. MacInnis scored the game winner in the Gold medal where he showed his quick hands. Turgeon is currently playing for the Portland Winterhawks. The production isn't really there yet for him as he has a shy 3 points in 28 touts, but Portland always have strong teams, so ice-time might be rare for 16 year olds who lack footspeed.

Other standouts for Team USA to me were Sonny Milano, Alex Tuch, Brandon Fortunato, Jack Glover and Johnathan MacLeod.

Milano is a smooth skating talented left winger. He didn't standout much, to me, in the game against Ontario, maybe because I was too busy admiring Eichel, but against Québec he was very good. He doesn't impress with his speed, but at the same time he was outskating defensemen quite easily. His hands might not be as quick as Eichel's, but he had no trouble dangling through the other team's defense. He has work to do away from the puck but he's very smart with it, and doesn't waste it, unlike so many other 16 years old hockey players.

Tuch has work to do on his skating, but he's safe defensively. He's a big right-handed winger that has a heavy wrist-shot. He has no trouble winning board battles with his 6'3 219lbs frame let me tell you.

Fortunato was the smallest D for USA but he was probably their smartest. He was their PP QB and was the one leading the rush with the man-advantage, displaying a good first pass and even taking the blue-line when it was given to him. A very good puck distributor.

Glover and MacLeod play a similar game. Both big right-handed D's with good hockey IQ that love to play physical. They play a simple game, even though they weren't scared to jump into the play when given the chance. MacLeod is meaner than Glover I thought. Loved his game.

Next up is Team Sweden.

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My Team Canada

It's that time of the year.

One of the biggest hockey event annually nears and this week the heads are turned towards Calgary and Team Canada's camp for the Under-20 World Junior Championship held in Ufa, Russia.

If you didn't know, the scrimmages and games are available on for free.

With no further explications(they'll come after the lineup, don't worry), here's my Team Canada.

Jonathan Huberdeau - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Mark Scheifele
Charles Hudon - Ryan Strome - Ty Rattie
Phillip Danault - Boone Jenner -  Tom Wilson
Jonathan Drouin - Nathan Mackinnon - Brett Ritchie
Mark McNeill

Morgan Rielly - Dougie Hamilton
Scott Harrington - Xavier Ouellet
Griffin Reinhart - Matt Dumba
Ryan Murphy

Malcolm Subban
Jordan Binnington
Laurent Brossoît


1st line: This is a no-brainer. Once these guys get to know each other better, they'll form a terrific line that could challenge the Perry - Crosby - Bergeron as the best Canada has ever seen at the WJC.

2nd line: We've seen this line a bit yesterday. It should provide good offense too, Rattie having scored 57 goals last season and Strome leading the OHL scoring race. Hudon can certainly play with those two offensively, as his Hockey sense is off the charts, but most fans don't see him in an offensive role as he doesn't have the speed of a Mackinnon or the size of a McNeill. He was one of the most noticeable players in yesterday's Red and White bout, in a sea of first round picks. I think he'll be fine, but could possibly move down in the lineup if he doesn't produce.

3rd line: This is your typical shutdown line, with two very versatile players in Jenner and Danault and a big body in Wilson. This line will have to create momentum on forechecks and by cycling the puck. Danault and Jenner should also form a strong PK pair for Steve Spott.

4th line: That's far from your typical 4th line, but I think the Halifax duo is just too good to be left off the team. It's certainly not a habit for Team Canada to chose 17 year olds, let alone two, but these guys are the real deal. In a 10-day tournament like the WJC, chemistry will be valuable. The two Mooseheads are able to skate with the best in the world and could provide some offensive depth should the top two lines have trouble. Ritchie will play a similar role to Wilson with the two kids, he'll be there to dig pucks out of corner and distribute hits a plenty. He also has familiarity with Strome, which gives interesting options to coach Spott.

I also brought McNeill because he can play all forward positions and he too brings a lot of physicality.

As far as the D goes, the first pair seems to be a consensus amongst the experts since Murray went down. Hamilton and Rielly will be used in every situation. Ouellet is hands down the best Defender in the 'Q, both offensively and defensively, and will most likely be asked to play against the other countries' best along with returnee Scott Harrington. Ouellet should also see time on the 2nd PP wave, should there ever be a need for one (Nugent-Hopkins, Huberdeau, Rielly, Scheifele and Hamilton, talk about a dominating unit).

Reinhart will have the job to cover his partner, whether it is Dumba or Murphy, as both love to carry the puck up ice. To me Dumba has the edge on Murphy defensively and that's why I think he'll play a regular shift on the third pair.

Murphy is not the best in his own zone, but few match his offensive game. Some might want to see Sproul as the 7th defender, which would be a good choice too.

Malcolm Subban will be the starting goaltender for Team Canada, he is used to the Olympic ice, and he has more than solid this year in Belleville carrying the team on his back. Binnington is having a terrific season. I expect Subban to start every game, barring any injury/ bad performance. But it won't be easy skates to fill.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Habs' prospects rankings (15-11) and a few updates

Let's take a look at the news in the Hockey-sphere for the Province.

1) Six players from the 'Q made the U-18 Canadian team that will take part of the Ivan-Hlinka memorial Tournament.

Nathan Mackinnon, Zachary Fucale and Jonathan Drouin from the Halifax Mooseheads, Jérémy Grégoire(Chicoutimi Saguenéens), Yan-Pavel Laplante(PEI Rockets) and Anthony Duclair (Québec Remparts).

Mackinnon, Fucale, Drouin and Duclair were locks from the get-go, but it's nice to see more than two players make that team. It usually is a number smaller than that.

2) Galchenyuk "made" the U-20 USA team that presently plays against Sweden and Finland in Lake Placid. He's pivoting a line with JT Miller (1st round pick of the NYR in 2011) and diminutive John Gaudreau(CGY).

They played a game against Finland last night, I'll try to find out how good, or bad he did.

3) The brand new Palais des Sports Léopold Drolet has been revealed to the Sherbrooke Media and the fans.

click here for more pictures

4) Team Canada U-20 will play its first of four games (I said six in my previous blog) of the Russia-Canada Challenge today at 11PM ET on TSN2.

Charles Hudon will be trying to impress the Canadian brass that he deserves a spot on that team come December. The other players representing the 'Q or the province are Kevin Roy( NorthEastern University), Xavier Ouellet (Blainville-Boisbriand Armada), Philip Danault (Victoriaville Tigres), Jonathan Huberdeau (Saint-John Sea Dogs/Florida Panthers) and Maxime Lagacé (PEI Rockets).

5) A good read on Mike Cichy

6) Sebastian Collberg is unfortunately missing the games against Finland and USA taking place in Lake Placid due to a shoulder injury, but he apparently began to practice again today with his Frolunda squad in the SEL.

Now let's move onto the third group of my Top25 list of Habs prospects.

Previously I ranked and described:

25) Gabriel Dumont
24) Josiah Didier
23) Greg Pateryn
22) Brendon Nash
21) Alexander Avtsin
20) Joonas Nättinen
19) Daniel Pribyl
18) Aaron Palushaj
17) Brady Vail
16) Charles Hudon


[ranking] [name]

[age] - [height and weight] -  [team next year] - [position]

[stats provided by]

[my take]

#15 Darren Dietz 

19 years old - 6'1'' 207 lbs - Saskatoon Blades - RD/F

 I will always remember the first thing I heard about him. Cody Nickolet @WHLfromabove said of Darren that "He will punch anyone's face in".

He was right, fighting is a big part of Dietz's game. He isn't scared of anyone, a trait that seems common throughout the Blades' roster and he will defend a teammate any chance he gets. Dietz is a tremendous skater that loves to carry the puck in the enemy's territory to open up passing lanes. He also thrives when he's playing physical, it's not a fun task to play against him. He has pretty good hands and as he gets more and more confidence in his offensive assets, you'll see him use them more often.

But the best part of Dietz's game is his Defensive play, he labels himself as a stay-at-home D, and always thinks Defense-first. He could eventually become a 2nd/3rd pairing two-way physical D. He has the physical attributes, the skating ability, the skill, the hockey sense and the physical play to become so.

 He's going to play a last year in Junior as the Blades will be hosting the Memorial Cup. It will be interesting to see him play in pressurized situations like that. He should become a Pro the year after.

Here's a name Habs fan should keep in mind come the rookie camp and in the next few years. He could potentially become yet another steal by Timmins later in the draft. That same Timmins apparently raves about Dietz's potential and loves his attitude and his game.

#14 Steve Quailer

23 years old - 6'3'' 201 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - LW/RW/C

Steve is one of the most least talked prospect yet he could potentially fill a crying need for the Habs since he's a Power-Forward. He has everything required, the skill, the physical attributes and the playing style.

He's not scared to go in the dirty areas that pay off. While he could still add a few pounds of muscle, Quailer won't get pushed around next year in Hamilton and is physically ready to play against men.
He is a good skater, but could use a bit more explosiveness in his strides. He could also improve his shot, though it's not weak.

He lost a year of development in 2009-2010, due to a knee injury and had a bad year when he came back in 2010-2011. His last season in Northeastern U went pretty well , even though he was once again hit by a knee injury. He was the 2nd best scorer on his team despite missing around 14 games. Steve can play both sides of the ice well and was used in both PK and PP.

Question marks raise when we think about his knee though, something that could prevent him from progressing if he keeps hurting it.

It will be interesting to compare his progression with the other prospects in Hamilton this year, as evaluating a player in the NCAA is not the easiest thing. I think we'll see him in Montréal this year, because a few players are ahead of him, but he could potentially fill the hole the team currently has on the 2nd line beside Plekanec and Gionta  (soon to be Gallagher?) down the road.

#13 Morgan Ellis

20 years old - 6'1'' 196 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - RD

Morgan Ellis went last year from being an obscure prospect to some to one of the most talked about prospect the Habs have. You can thank the fact that he was traded to the Memorial cup hostee in Shawinigan, but mostly because he really progressed offensively. People overlooked him because his stats weren't impressive, but he was playing on one of the worst team in the 'Q. I know some scouts that saw his coming-out coming from miles. Morgan always had that game into him, but he didn't have confidence in it, and I still don't think he has enough confidence in it.

Many of you probably wondered why I have Ellis this low, well his lack of confidence in his offensive game is not unfamiliar with it.

Ellis is a two-way D that plays a positional game that doesn't require much speed to be effective. He has a huge shot from the point that takes a lot of time to load though. He has a good first pass in breakouts. He is very calm when he plays, and is flawless defensively. He's a defense-first D that I'd like to see become more physical. He uses his reach to his advantage in board battles and rarely loses those said battles. A very underrated part of his game is his pugilistic skills. He will never fight the Heavyweights , but he can defend himself pretty well. He's also a very adamant shot-blocker, which made scouts draw comparisons between Ellis and Habs' very own Josh Gorges.

He plays a very simplistic offensive game, but sometimes less is more. You rarely see him turn the puck over at the other team's blue line, and goes for the percentage plays. And that type of game seemed to pay off last year. But at the same time, that simplistic game makes me question the transition of his offensive game to the Pros. Hence why I ranked him this low. He could potentially go up on this list if he proves me wrong.

Ellis will join the Hamilton Bulldogs next year and should be pivoting a 2nd pairing, whether it is with Beaulieu to cover him or with Tinordi to form a shutdown pair. If he fulfills his potential, he will become a top4 D that plays in all the situation, a more offensive Josh Gorges, if you wish.

#12 Patrick Holland

20 years old - 6'0'' 176 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - C/RW

 Holland completely exploded last year offensively. He formed the most productive line in the WHL with overagers Brendan Shinnimin and Adam Hughesman. He had the least points out of the three though. Playing with those two certainly helped him grow his production, and we have to be careful before overestimating Holland. His numbers were inflated by playing with those two, but nonetheless he recolted an impressive amount of 84 assists.

Holland is a two-way Center. He is usually one of the hardest workers on the ice and is a pretty good skater. He back-checks hard and takes pride in his defensive play. He's a very good play-maker and is pretty good on the point as the passer on the PP. He can play a physical game and still be disciplined. He can play both the PK and the PP well.

His team had a good run during the playoffs, and he was a huge contributor. Unfortunately the stacked Winterhawks of Portland were just too strong for Tri-City.

He will need to improve his overall physical strenght before making the jump to the NHL. I think he could eventually end up being a 3rd line two-way center. His chances of making the NHL are very strong as he's a versatile player and could end being a top6 forward as much as he could become a checker. Only time will tell, and he'll be yet another interesting player to follow next year.  I'm certainly not the only one who's intrigued by those WHL numbers. We might see him getting a call from Bergevin if the team has too many injuries.

#11 Michaël Bournival

20 years old - 5'11'' 197 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - LW/C/RW

Bournival is another versatile player and can play all the forward position. He can also play in any situation, whether it is on PP, PK, to shutdown the opponent's best, play the last minute of a game, the first, or when his team needs a goal.

That's a huge reason why he made Team Canada junior last year. Sadly he didn't get much ice-time before the semi-finals against Russia. Don Hay then turned to him when his team was losing 5-0, and Bournival with his hardwork and great forecheck abilities brought the momentum back to the Canadian squad. Bournival is a fierce competitor and he'll fight for every loose puck. He has excellent footspeed, and to me it was a huge factor in his impressive offensive season last year. He is also a leader that leads by example.

I once thought Bournival and Leblanc were twins separated at birth.  Last season, he was truly dominant offensively and was scoring at a terrific pace. But after watching him more closely during the playoffs and the Memorial Cup, I settled down. I don't think he will ever be a scorer in the NHL. Unlike what I think of Leblanc, as you'll eventually see... Bournival to me lacks creativity offensively to become a Top6 forward. He also doesn't have hands as good as Leblanc does. He does have a heavy shot though, and usually settles for a shot instead of going fancy.

I eventually think he'll become a great checker for the Habs. He is a very good forechecker, excels in defensive missions and he's good on the PK. He's already ready physically, and skates fast enough to play at the NHL. So don't be surprised to see him called-up, or maybe even cause a surprise in training camp (even though there might be too many NHL contracts). He will more likely start the year in Hamilton on the 1st line with Holland and Gallagher.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 6, 2012

My Habs' prospect rankings (20-16) and a few updates

First off let's start with a few updates.

1) Brandon Shea has officially been traded to the Remparts for a 3rd round pick in 2015.

2) Looks like the Habs have invited Charles Sarault to the rookie camp.

Ryan Spooner@RSpooner2376
Congrats to my boy @sarault12 for his invite to montreal camp! Kids worked hard. #greatflow
I don't know much about him. His offensive game apparently evolved a lot last year. He did play with Yakupov on most nights but you can't attribute a jump from 38 pts to 87 just to Nail. He has been described to me as a hardworker. He's not the fastest out there but still has decent footspeed. He'll most likely play as an overager in Sarnia, probably on a line with Galchenyuk. He's not the biggest at 5'11 though.

3) According to Sean Lafortune, our 'Q players are doing a fine job at the U-18 selection camp in Toronto for the Ivan-Hlinka tournament.

Sean Lafortune@SeanLafortune
At this point I'm fairly confident that Fucale will start. Comrie and Martin is a toss up for the backup behind him
Sean Lafortune@SeanLafortune
Guys like Baptiste, Grégoire, Harper, Horvat and Petan are also really pushing for spots among the forward groups.
Sean Lafortune@SeanLafortune
Dickinson, Domi, Drouin, Duclair, Horvat, Kujawinski, MacKinnon, Reinhart and Ritchie probably have forward spots lined up at this point.
The roster will be announced today, after the last scrimmage.

In the previous blog of the rankings I gave my take on the guys ranked 25th to 21st on my list that went like this.

25) Gabriel Dumont
24) Josiah Didier
23) Greg Pateryn
22) Brendon Nash
21) Alexander Avtsin

Now let's move to the 2nd group of my Top25 Habs prospects.


[ranking] [name]

[age] - [height and weight] -  [team next year] - [position]

[stats provided by]

[my take]

#20 Joonas Nättinen

21 years old - 6'2'' 170 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - C/RW/LW

 Considering who Joonas played with on most nights last year, I can say he had a good first season in NA. At first he was barely used, playing on the 3rd/4th line but as the season went on Clément Jodoin gave him more and more ice-time.

The big Finn is a right-handed Center that is very good in the faceoff circle. He's a two-way player that can play any forward position if need be. I'd like him to get faster on skates but it's far from a weakness in his game. He has a good shot and a decent vision. He won't blow you out with his hands like an Avtsin will but he can still pull out a  move every now and then. Where he really excels though is in shutting down the opposing team. He plays a more aggressive game than Andreas Engqvist, but I'd like him to be more physical, especially with the frame he has. It will be interesting to see how his 2nd year in the Hammer will go, as his offensive contribution could grow, especially if he plays with more talented players.

Nättinen needs to get stronger both in the upper and the lower body, which should give him an edge in physical battles. He's still a couple of years away from the NHL, and he most likely won't be the first callup to the show, as Bournival, Gallagher, Holland and Palushaj are ahead of him.

#19 Daniel Pribyl

19 years old - 6'3'' 190 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs / Spraha Sparta - C

Daniel is another big bodied right-handed center. As an 18 year old last year, he played 17 games in the highest level in Czech-Republic, which is pretty impressive. He looks huge on skates. He's a very average skater, and will need to work on that in the next few years. He has tremendous hands with which he fools defenders a handful of times per game. His reach makes him a superior puck-protector. He's not scared to use his huge frame, which is something you always like to see with big guys like him. A point to note is that he's very good on the point on PP, and moves the puck well. He can play it both on his good and off side.

Pribyl could be labeled as a project as he has to improve his defensive coverage, his face-off abilities and his foot-speed to eventually make it in the NHL. But Habs fans are in the right to dream to see one day Pribyl play as Top6 forward for the most successful franchise in hockey. I couldn't see him make it in any other role, unless he significantly improves defensively, or somehow develops pugilistic skills.

I hope to see Pribyl cross the Atlantic Ocean and come in North America to play for the Hamilton Bulldogs as the Czech development system is one of the worst in the hockey world. They teach them how to stick-handle before they learn how to skate, they're doing it backwards. Ideally Pribyl would be playing in the CHL, but no team drafted his rights in the import draft, which is sincerely a shame. Rarely are the guys picked in the 2nd round in the import draft reporting, not only that, but most of the time teams pass on their 2nd euro pick. Mind blowing, I know. I'm sure a 'Q team could have used a flyer on Pribyl, who would be one of the best offensive player in the league if he reported. Anyways,  the chances of the big Czech coming over in the Hammer  are pretty good. While the Czech hasn't signed yet with the team, Clément Jodoin in a post-season interview said that the Bulldogs should be a pretty good team with the arrival of Bournival, Gallagher, Holland and, surprisingly for me of Pribyl.

Pribyl will need at least two years of AHL before playing in the NHL or becoming a call-up, but expect to hear about him at the rookie camp this year, as he plays a spectacular talent-based brand of hockey.

#18 Aaron Palushaj

22 years old - 6'0'' - 185 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs/ Montréal Canadiens - RW

 Here's a common name for Habs fans. Palushaj is at the crossroads right now. After three professional years, he now has to establish himself as an NHLer or else he'll be traded. While he has been a productive player in the AHL being at a point-per-game or PPG last year, so far, in his 43 NHL games, he has yet to prove he could do it in the best league in the world. He didn't get to play with talented players yet though, being on most occasions a filler on the 4th line. When he did play with gifted players, in the 2010 preseason with Cammalleri and Plekanec, he showcased his excellent foot-speed and his great acceleration. He did lack a bit of finish, but it looked promising.

My ranking of him might seem low to some of you, but his play at the NHL level far from impressed me. I don't think his offensive game will eventually translate to the higher level, as he tends to play on the perimeter. With the defensive systems applied to the letter nowadays, you need to go through traffic to be successful and get opportunities, and I can't foresee Palushaj playing that kind of game,  as it's not his. But hey, he's still pretty young at 22.

Palushaj is a play-maker, he likes to go wide and distribute the puck from there by flipping it over the D. While he's a fast skater, he has one of the weirdest skating technique I've ever witnessed. His strides are very large and you would think he loses explosion by doing, but it doesn't seem to slow him down much. He can pick his spots with his shot, but he will need to get stronger to get more velocity with it. It could be labeled as a weak shot. Palushaj is not a physical player, even though he's not scared of battling for the puck in the corners.

He's also decent in defensive coverage, even though I wouldn't use him on PK. He should be fighting for the 3rd line RW spot with Leblanc, but to me it's Louis' to lose. Aaron should be one of the first call-ups from Hamilton, whether it is as a checker or a 3rd liner as he's mature physically and newcomers like Bournival, Gallagher and Holland will need the minutes in Hamilton, way before playing on a 4th line, unlike Palushaj who won't be wasting his time.

#17 Brady Vail

18 years old - 6'0'' 196 lbs - Windsor Spitfires -  C

The first, and far from the last, on my list from the spectacular 2012 draft from Timmins and his staff, Brady Vail is an intriguing player. After an average rookie season in the CHL, he exploded offensively with a 52 pts season. That sudden offensive burst even made some scouts rank him in the 1st round in several mock drafts. (link's in french, sorry for our anglophone fellows)

 Because not only could he now contribute offensively, but he could still shut down the opposing team's best at the same time. It will be interesting to see if his offensive games stays put or keeps on improving.

Vail is a two-way center that is a fluent skater and excels defensively. He's a jack-of-all-trade. He can do it all. He's a hard-working guy that is already mature physically, a trait that certainly impressed Timmins. His description right now reminds me a lot of Tomas Plekanec when he was younger. We knew he would eventually make it to the NHL, but we didn't know exactly in which role. The most probable would be as a shutdown center, but if he keeps on improving his offensive game, we could be in for a surprise. Scouts seem to believe he will top out offensively, because his vision is not spectacular. Personally, I haven't seen enough of him yet to judge it.

Vail is the kind of player you send at the end of the game to protect a lead. He battles hard for the puck and is very good on the forecheck.

He's a guy I will follow closely this year. Depending on how his first half of the year goes, he might be given an invite to Team USA's U-20 Winter camp, getting ignored for the one taking place in Lake Placid this weekend.

#16 Charles Hudon

18 years old - 5'10'' 170 lbs - Chicoutimi Saguenéens - LW/C

Only the 2nd 'Q player on my list, Charles Hudon really turned heads after his impressive rookie season in Saguenay in which he nearly had a PPG. He also garnered attention at the U-17 where he had 11pts in 6 games, which bought him a ticket for the U-18 team with Canada. He was a guy I was really excited to follow previous to the 2011-2012 'Q season, being slated in the 1st round in some mocks early on. But his good play from his rookie season didn't carry onto his second year, and his stock fell, a lot. He plateau'd offensively and was struggling by sequences. Couple that with his small frame and his average skating and you better understand why he was still available at rank #122 for the Habs.

I must say I still expected him to go out earlier than that, around the 3rd round to be more precise. At that rank, I wanted the Habs to get him. But then Timmins selected another favourite of mine in Timothé Bozon, argh alrighty then. Somehow, he was still available in the 4th round when the Habs decided to go with Vail, who was also a very good pick at that stage. Coming at our 5th selection, I couldn't believe that Charles was still there, and much to my pleasure, he was selected by my beloved hockey team. I did scream in joy, but it wasn't the first time during the draft. Anyways...

When I see Hudon play, I see a lot of Mike Cammalleri. Both have a small frame, both are average skaters and pure snipers. The two can also be pretty good play-makers. Charles has a terrific vision and is always thinking offense. His creativity is off the charts, and he can separate himself from the defensive coverage with ease thanks to his smarts. He has a deadly shot, that is more precise than powerful, while not weak. He loves using his slapper off the rush. Hudon is also a hard-working player that isn't scared to go in dirty areas, coming out most of the times with the puck. He is decent in his own zone and rarely loses his coverage.

To make it to the next level, Charles will have to improve his skating, something that is far from impossible, if you look at how much a guy like Brendan Gallagher improved in that area in two years. He will also have to be more consistent in his effort, like any other player of his age. Hockey Canada seems to like his brand of hockey as he's going to play for Canada in the Canada-Russia challenge, a 6 games contest (3 in Russia and 3 in Canada) that will replace the Subway Superseries.
It should be broadcasted on both RDS and TSN for those interested. This invite certainly helps Hudon's case for Team Canada U-20 at the WJC. He will need to prove though that last year was just a fluke, that he's back in form.

Something interesting to note is that Charles, since he's a 94', will be eligible for the 2014 WJC too. So logically he will spend the next two years in junior, before moving to the AHL. Hudon should have at least an 80 pts season, but if everything falls in place, he could produce up to 100.

Thank you for reading, I'll be back later today with the next group of 5

You can follow me @Etienne_Pouliot on Twitter

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Habs prospects rankings. (25-21)

I promised you guys my Top10 of the Habs' prospects, but as I was making the list I really noticed how deep the pool was, and I found it unfair to some decent NHL prospects to not even mention them. It seemed like I had a lot to say on the candidates too. As I know you guys come here for blogs, and not romans, I found it wiser to go by group of 5, from the 25th to Galchenyuk the best.

Not to mention that you could make a case for some players ranked in this post as top ten prospects for the bleu, blanc, rouge.

Alright enough explanations, here we go.


[ranking] [name]

[age] - [height and weight] -  [team next year] - [position]

[stats provided by]

[my take]

#25 Gabriel Dumont:

21 years old - 5'9'' 172lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs  - RW/C

The native du bas du fleuve once was in my Top10, but that was after posting a career year of 51 goals paired with 42 assists for a total of 93 points in the 2009-2010 season, the season following his selection by the Habs, in the 5th round 139th overall at the 2009 draft. The same draft that saw the Tricolore pick Louis Leblanc #18 overall, in front of a rabid crowd at the Bell Centre. Some might have thought it was the fact that he had been drafted at home by his childhood team that made him nearly double his offensive output, but we later learned about the special player that was his centerman that year, Sean Couturier. But Sean, as good as he is, didn't score those 51 goals for Gabby. Gabriel is a fiesty player, that same year he had 127 penalty minutes.

The higher level the player plays in, the easier it is to get his true potential, and once Gabriel joined the Hamilton Bulldogs in the 2010 AHL playoffs after his junior Drummondville Voltigeurs team was eliminated, you saw that his offensive game wasn't why he was drafted. A thought that was confirmed the past two years he passed in the AHL. While he has yet to play a full healthy season in the professional ranks, Dumont's chances of becoming an offensive player at that level are slimmer than a Bretonne Crêpe. He still keeps on improving his production year in and year out, as he should shall I add. He impressed in his short stint with the habs last year. He displayed his assets, and I can tell you that every player on the teams he played against knew his name, or at least his number after the game.

Dumont brings a lot of energy on the ice, hits, and can even fight. He could be labeled as a pest, a smaller Maxim Lapierre if you wish. I could see him eventually become a 4th liner for the Habs, even though he doesn't have the usual frame you'd want for a guy in that role. He is more suited as a winger, given the type of game he plays, but he can play center too. He is an excellent penalty-killer and forechecker. He's a character kid. I remember Guy Boucher saying that during the playoffs and the  2009 Memorial Cup in Rimouski, Dumont played with cracked ribs and a broken hand. He was still the first to drop on the ice to block a shot or the F1 who distributed checks. Even with that broken hand, he jumped on the first player that dared to look the wrong way at Dimitry Kulikov, their best player. He's the kind of player that any coach love, a warrior. Those are the reasons that make me think he eventually could pierce in the NHL. Dumont has a precise shot and his hands are decent, but he won't blow you out with those. He's an excellent skater. Expect to see him as a callup if a 4th liner gets injured(perhaps Armstrong?), I'm sure Michel Therrien will love this little bugger.

#24 Josiah Didier:

19 years old - 6'2" 205 lbs - University of Denver Pioneers - RD

I'll be honest here, I only saw him play once in a real game, but I've read about him on several websites and from College Hockey fans though, so here's what I gathered from this huge bodied Defenceman.

Didier is made in the same mold of Greg Pateryn. He's a physical D that displays an impressive frame at the age of 19 only. Last year was his first in Denver U and the fact that he played 41 games is quite the feat. He played more than usual for a freshman, especially being a D. The injuries of teammates certainly weighted in but at the end of the year Didier was a starter for the Pioneers. While he's still very raw and could develop it later on, Josiah's offensive game is rather simplistic. Either he shoots or passes it to a teammate. He has a good first pass. His skating is fine, but could get improved if he wants to move onto the next level. He excels in defensive missions and on the PK.

He's a prospect that gets very little coverage here, due to his unspectacular playing style and the fact that he plays in the NCAA, but count on me to get to see him 5 times this year. With his frame, he's intriguing, but he should be staying another two or three years at the College level.

#23 Greg Pateryn

22 years old - 6'3'' 214 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - RD

Pateryn is the only asset remaining from one of the rare trades between the Habs and their ontarian rival the Leafs that sent Mikhail Grabovski in Toronto in return of Greg and a 2nd rounder that was later traded to the Hawks for Robert Lang. Today, we have to hand it to the Leafs' GM back then Cliff Fletcher, who won that trade. I have to say that Gainey didn't have many solutions  with Grabovski who refused to play for the Habs and complained about his ice-time. As I see it, Grabovski will most likely have done more in TO than Pateryn for Montréal when all is said and done.

Pateryn is still a decent prospect, that is a physical specimen. He has a weird skating stride that will most likely be improved by the Habs' specialists, but he still has decent movement speed. At least enough for what he needs to do on the ice. Because Pateryn's game is quite simple, he shutdowns the enemy's top line, punishing them when they try to deke through him. He's a leader and was relied a lot on last year by his coach in Michigan U to eat up minutes and play on the first pairing with fellow Habs' property Mac Bennett. He also had time on the PP, but was mostly used on PK as far as special teams went.

After four successful years in Michigan, he's ready to move onto the next level in Hamilton. But unlike what Eric Engels thinks or heard from scouts in the show ( and, his chances of making the jump straight to the NHL are very slim considering the impressive defensive crop coming in Hamilton and the defensive reality of the Habs (they have 7 D's with NHL contracts, without counting Subban who has yet to sign a new contract as a RFA). He will more likely be on Hamilton's 3rd pairing, having PK time on the 2nd duo. It will be interesting to see how he'll respond to fight challenges, because they're sure to come with the gritty type of game he plays. Last time Habs had a Michigan U formed physical D in the pros, it was Mike Komisarek and that was one weakness that stopped him from becoming a #2 D as opposed to his 3rd pairing defensive D self right now. After losing quite miserably to Lucic in multiple bouts.

As far as Pateryn's potential go, I could see him as a 3rd pairing defensive D in the NHL eventually, but that will probably be on another team, as the Habs will likely have better options coming up.

#22 Brendon Nash

25 years old - 6'3'' 205 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - LD

Here's a familiar name to most Canadiens fans. Due to a shoulder surgery, he missed the entire 2011-2012 season. A sad thing, because he was looking promising. He could have probably challenged Rafael Diaz and Alexei Emelin for a roster spot, even though he's a step under these guys in several departments.

Brendon Nash is a jack-of-all-trades, he can play both defensively and offensively. He can man the point on the PP and distributes the puck well. Ideally, you don't match him against the top opponent's line though. I would like to see him use more his frame to crush the other team's forwards, as he has impressive physical attributes. In his short stint with the Habs he displayed a good vision, but looked weak physically and slow against the Oilers and the Canucks, two pretty fast teams. It'll be interesting to see how much he improved those areas with all the gym-time he had last year.

As an AHL rookie he had a pretty good first year, posting 30 points. This year will be his last to prove to the Habs brass that he deserves his spot. I fear that he won't be extended next summer as we could see Dietz, Thrower and Bennett make their way up in the Hammer. Unless he plays out of his mind, of course. He should form a veteran pairing with Frédéric St-Denis this year in Hamilton.

#21 Alexander Avtsin

21 years old - 6'3'' 198 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - RW/LW

Another former Top10 in my list. Avtsin is one the prospect I had the higher expectations for. His minor-league numbers in russia were similar to the ones of a certain Alexander Ovechkin at the same age. The fact that he played in the KHL at only 18 also hyped him up in my rankings. Russian scouts were comparing him to Ovechkin, and were saying the only reason why he fell so much in the draft, he was taken 109th overall in the 4th round of the 2009 draft hosted in Montréal, was because of the Russian factor, even he was clear that he wanted to play in the NHL.

Then Avtsin came in America and prospect nuts like me had more footage to evaluate him.  He had a terrible first AHL year, having to play with a wrist injury for most of the year. He had trouble adjusting to the whole new culture, the NA rink size and the different type of game played here. Not to mention that he didn't speak a word of english when he took the plane from Moscow to Montréal. With hindsight, Avstin should probably have played a year in the 'Q, his rights being held by the then Montréal Juniors (now the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada). He would have made a great duo up front with fellow Habs prospect Louis Leblanc. But we don't know everything in that story. I'm not sure Avtsin would have came over right away, and leave plenty of money in the KHL, to play in an inferior league in Québec, where he would have probably earned one tenth of what he had with the Dynamo. One thing is sure though, it would have been ideal for him.

He had a slightly better year in 2011-2012 with the 'Dogs, obviously not in production, but his English got better and he had a better handle of what the coach wanted him to do. Again, he had trouble with injuries.

Avtsin, behind Galchenyuk, is probably the most talented prospect for the Habs. He has very good physical attributes that make him hard to push around. He's an excellent puck-protector as he has a very long reach at 6'3". His hands are off the charts and he has a hard shot he can place where he wants, with surgical precision. He is a fluent skater and has excellent foot speed. He's very good along the boards. He has one of the most complete toolbox of anyone on Habs' payroll, but he's missing maybe one of the most important thing for a professional hockey player, the desire. He has the same problem a certain Andrei Kostitsyn had, he seems most of the time careless and uninterested, which can become frustrating for his coaches. Once he'll know how to turn the switch ON, if that ever happens, watch out. He's as much a scorer as a playmaker, and can find teammates with brilliant passes.

I'm still prudent with him since he's still rather young and he haven't had the chance to play with talented players so far in Hamilton. On his first year he was used mainly on the 3rd/4th line, while last year Hamilton's team was depleted by the callups and the injuries. When he played with Leblanc, before Louis was called up in the NHL, Alexander showed what he could and went on a PPG pace. Which makes me give him another chance. To me, this next season is his last shot at proving he can amount to something, even though he still has two years remaining on his Entry-Level Contract, due to a slide. He's the perfect example of a boom or bust prospect. I've lost a lot of confidence in him in the past few years, but I would be happy to see him succeed, I'm not going to lose sleep over it though.

Okay I might.

I'll be back tomorrow with the 20 to 16 group.

You can follow me @Etienne_Pouliot on Twitter

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sorensen's future related to Grigorenko? Not so much anymore.

I was about to write about the nice problem that Patrick Roy could potentially have with his 3 stellar imports in Nick Sorensen(2013 draft eligible, some see him go in the 1st round), Grigorenko (picked 12th overall by the Sabres this year) and Nikita Kucherov (stolen at #58 in the 2011 draft) with the Remparts when the CHL dropped this bomb.

Would there be a lock-out in the NHL this year, the CHL imports that happen to be NHL 1st rounders (I'm not sure if it only concerns the 2012 draftees) wouldn't count as Imports for any CHL team. Which means a team could have 3 imports on their players list.

There's a point to note though, teams couldn't ice more than 2 imports(the NHL 1st rounders counting as an import as usual)in a game.

It's not clear?

Let's look at the Québec Remparts situation.

Grigorenko, as per Patrick Roy, is expected to play the allowed 9 game NHL-trial for the Sabres at the beginning of the NHL season. You might be aware that the NHL CBA between the NHLPA and the league has yet to be signed, so we're still unsure when the season will start.

So let's say the season starts 1 month late in November. Grigorenko would be available to play for the Remparts in the preseason and in the first two months of the year, the QMJHL starting in mid/late September.

I hear you now, "Yes but what about the other two Imports Sorensen and Kucherov?"

Well Kucherov had a shoulder surgery after his last season, and is not expected to be back before, you guessed it, November!

So the Remparts could start the year with the european duo of Sorensen and Grigorenko, then have Grigorenko leave for the Sabres camp, to get Kucherov back in November and ride the year with Sorensen and Nikita , not bad eh?

The only thing that could stop this perfect situation for Roy would be that either Grigorenko doesn't make the Sabres after his 9 game stint, or that the NHL lockout lasts longer than expected.

For the Roy detractors, this is yet another opportunity to criticize the CHL to do everything that pleases the Remparts' benchboss, Co-owner and GM. You can't deny that the situation seems to fall perfectly in place for the Remparts. But I wouldn't go as far as that.

Now what if Grigorenko doesn't make the Sabres?

Patrick Roy would have a nice problem in his hands, and I think that the odd man out would be the Swede Sorensen, as Kucherov and Grigorenko have been linemates in the CSKA system for a few years and display crazy chemistry.

Every team in the 'Q would line up to have the chance to ice a great player like Sorensen, but who could really afford it? And even if a team can afford his services and trade for him, where would Nick accept to play? Patrick Roy certainly weighted in Sorensen's decision to play for Québec, but as in every other business, money talks. I doubt Sorensen came in Québec for Roy's eyes.

A quick look at the teams lineup and available imports spot, and you can almost eliminate all the teams.

The 3 teams that stood out to me who could welcome, and have enough assets to get Sorensen are the Sherbrooke Phoenix, the Chicoutimi Saguenéens and the Rimouski Océanic.

Sherbrooke being a new team still have a plethora of draft picks to share, and only their Ukraino-Russian Import Vladislav Lysenko was confirmed as a roster player. The situation of Tomas Torok is still unclear. The ownership in Sherbrooke has plenty of money to spend on imports, and the city has bilingual institutions in both CÉGEP and University. The team is brand new though and is not very known, outside of the 'Q. Could Jocelyn Thibault,as an ex NHLer,  make him report? Another flaw in Sherbrooke's case, they won't be a contender, as much as I'd like them to be.

Chicoutimi's Evgeny Chakhotkin is the only import expected to report in Saguenay, but would Roy accept to trade a future NHL 1st rounder to their biggest rivals against who they will play more often than Sherbrooke? We're not talking about a 3rd liner here. Sorensen will completely change the face of the team he will play for.

I think that the most logical place where the swede could end up is in Rimouski. The owner of the Océanic is Maurice Tanguay, brother of Jacques Tanguay, who is  co-owner of the Remparts. While the Océanic is a divisional rival of Québec, they could potentially have more to offer than both Sherbrooke and Chicoutimi. Rimouski is loaded in talent, and I think they will surprise this year.
Rimouski, with Sorensen added, would be legitimate contenders for the President Cup, with the Remparts, the MooseHeads, the Armada and the Wildcats.

Thank you for reading, I'll be back later this week with my Top10 prospects for the Habs.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hi, my name is Étienne Pouliot and I love Hockey

Welcome to Everything Hockey in Québec!

My name is Étienne Pouliot, and as you probably have guessed, this blog is going to cover pretty much everything that happens in the "hockeysphere" in this lovely province that is Québec.

Some might have read about or from me already, as on and (mostly the Habs' board), I go by the nickname of QuebecPride.

Here's a piece I was quoted in, by my friend, Coyotes Blogger and fellow prospect follower Adam French. @AdamFrenchReal

A Draft from a Different perspective:

To resume what will happen here, I will write about  the QJMHL, the Habs, and the NHL prospects.

As a 'Q fan, it keeps infuriating me to see so little coverage for such a great developmental league through the major sports medias here (RDS, TVASports, Journal de Montréal, La Presse).

I have to admit though that La Presse has a good coverage locally, but you rarely see the front page filled with a story about the 'Q. TVASports (and Canal Vox) do show one game a week provincially, but that's not enough.

So seeing that, I've decided to help the cause and cover the 'Q in this blog.

I will report what I see mostly from NHL prospects in the league and future draftees but I will discuss about the league itself too.

I will have the chance to see a lot of Junior Hockey this year, Sherbrooke getting a team back. Don't even bother to ask, I bought my Season Tickets as soon as they were on sale.

Being from Sherbrooke gives me other logistical advantages too. I'm 45 minutes from both Drummondville and Victoriaville. So count on me to go watch games there when the top teams and the top NHL and Draft prospects will come by!

My PVR will also come in handy for friday night games at both TVASports( Canal Vox) and Sportsnet.

But I will not stop my evaluation to the Québec Territory.

I will also try to catch some of the NCAA, WHL and OHL games starring Habs' prospects on stream.

And I will of course watch the Habs religiously.

I haven't had the chance to see much of the AHL Bulldogs in the past few years, but that is subject to change as there will most likely be a stream going on covering the 'Dogs. Which coincides with the arrivee of a great crop in the Hammer. Lucky me.

If that wasn't enough, I try to catch an European game every now and then, starring the top players for the future drafts.

With all this hockey footage, I will be able to find more than enough stuff to write blogs on here.

One last thing, being an Administration student, I've learned that a product, to generate interest, and most of the time money, needs to offer something different from the competition.

Knowing that the 'Q is far from overcovered, that's a good start, but what will really be innovative about this blog is that it will have a French twin. Which means my blogs will be available in both English and French.

I consider billinguism to be an asset and count on me to take profit of it.

Thank you for reading