Habprospects.com: Hamilton Kicks Off Season

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    By Habster

    There is no reason to believe that the Hamilton Bulldogs can’t defend their Calder Cup championship season. They have a strong roster with a good balance between youth and veteran experience. The defense is solid and when injured players like Mathieu Biron, Mathieu Carle, J-P Cote and Andrew Archer return, it should be one of team’s strengths. It’s going to be fun to watch the progression of defensmen like Pavel Valentenko, Mathieu Carle and Jon Gleed throughout the season. Even though Valentenko and Carle are considered better prospects than Gleed, don’t under estimate Jon Gleed’s all round game (He is a very good skater with a solid shot and good size who needs to be a bit more physical).

    Another area of strength will be the Bulldogs goaltending situation where Jaroslav Halak and Yann Danis will make a very formidable tandem. Without question, Halak is the starter and will be the first goaltender recalled to the Habs if Carey Price falters or Huet/Price get injured.

    The group of forwards are talented and should play a solid all-round game. It will be interesting to see if Sergei Kostitsyn can continue his strong two way game in the AHL (I have little doubt he won’t!!!). He should be able to rack up some serious points if he is given any powerplay time (he was the London Knight’s point man and was very good at setting up his teammates). The remaining group of forwards will be solid: Matt D’Agostini, Maxim Lapierre, Corey Locke, Duncan Milroy, Jonathan Ferland, Eric Manlow, Ajay Baines, Cory Urquhart, Francis Lemieux, Janne Lahti, Ryan Russell, Greg Stewart and Jimmy Bonneau.

    Expect Eric Manlow to bounce back from last year weak offensive production as he played most of the season with an injured ankle. This year, he is 20 pounds lighter and healthy so he should produce more offensively than last year ( GP-60 G-5 A-13 PT-18). Maxim Lapierre will be his usual hard working self and be very motivated (he had 3 points in the ‘Dog season opener: HamiltonBulldogs.com: ‘DOGS STUN AMERKS IN OVERTIME 3-2 ) to prove he belongs back in NHL with the Canadiens after a poor training camp. Matt D’Agostini will also be expected to continue his great play from last year’s solid rookie season (GP- 63 G-21 A-28 PT- 49 +18).

    Four players that I will be watching with interest will be Janne Lahti, Cory Urquhart, Greg Stewart and Jimmy Bonneau. Go ahead and laugh at me if you want but these players have interesting storyline behind their career ambitions to make the NHL:

    Janne Lahti decided to leave a very solid Finnish Elite League career to give the NHL a shot. He had a very average Habs training camp and will have to improve his play with Hamilton to earn a call up with the Canadiens.

    Cory Urquhart played very well when he was called up from the Cincinnati Cyclones towards the end of last season when he collected 17 points in 30 AHL games. Urquhart oozes offensive talent and has good size (6’3″ 210lbs) for the center position but has never been able to put it together on a nightly basis. He is only 23 years old but needs a solid “break through” year to avoid being labelled a “career” minor leaguer.

    Greg Stewart was a solid contributor in the AHL playoff run with his solid, hard working style. He was all over the ice and hit everything in his way. He is a very good skater!!!

    Jimmy Bonneau is a player that intrigues me because he brings that tough guy/enforcer role to the Canadiens organization (something they lack). If Carbonneau sees his team being pushed around and run at on a nightly basis then Mr. Bonneau will possibly be called upon to help bring toughness to the roster. He is extremely limited on the skill set but that isn’t his role.

    Needless to say, it will be an interesting season for the Hamilton Bulldogs with numerous players either making the next step to the NHL or being labelled AHL career players. These are the story lines and interest points that make being a “total” Canadiens fan so intriguing!!!