Training Camp 2007: The Canadiens prospects are knocking on the door

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    By Habster
    The Montreal Canadiens will be starting their 2007 training camp on September 14th and there will be some very health competition for one or possibility two roster spots. Numerous prospects will be given an opportunity to showcase their talents to win a roster spot in the lineup or start the season as one of the reserves.

    Let’s take a closer look at the players vying for positions and the potential starting lineup that might come out of this year’s training camp.

    In my opinion(for what it’s worth), here are the players guaranteed positions on the roster (in no particular order or line):
    Center: Koivu, Plekanec, Smolinski and Lapierre

    Right wing: Kovalev, A. Kostitsyn, Latendresse and Kostopoulos
    Left wing: Ryder, Higgins, Begin and ??????????

    forwards: Streit, ?????????
    Defensemen: Komisarek, Markov, Hamrlik, Dandenault, Bouillon and Brisebois
    Extra defensemen: ????????
    Goaltenders: Huet and ??????????

    The above line up is also based on last year’s play but I must admit that Andrei Kostitsyn and Maxim Lapierre are probably not guaranteed spots but I would be surprised if they didn’t make the opening day roster (let’s assume they are to facilitate the process). Let’s also assume that Gainey and Carbonneau will start the season with 23 players since there are no salary cap issues/restrictions to worry about.

    I have placed Mark Streit as the extra forward which also gives Carbonneau the flexibility to use him on defense in case of injury during or before a game. This also eliminates the need to carry 8 defensemen on the roster. I have placed Huet on the roster as he will start the season as the starter and his salary guarantees his roster position.
    With all that being said, in my humble opinion, there will be two forward positions(1 in starting line up and 1 reserve), one extra defenseman and one goaltender spot that will be available.

    Here are the serious contenders for these spots on the 2007-2008 roster:
    Forwards:
    Janne Lahti: Bob Gainey probably didn’t sign Lahti to play in Hamilton even though he has a two way contract. Due to Lahti strong play in the Finnish Elite league and his strong two way game, I would consider him a strong candidate to win a reserve spot or a starting position. He has decent size, skates very well and can play on any line.
    Kyle Chipchura: probably is the most NHL ready forward among the prospects in Hamilton. He isn’t as sexy/interesting a choice as other players (Grabovski comes to mind) but has an all-round smart game that coach Carbonneau wants from his forwards. He also has great leadership qualities which cannot be overlooked.
    Mikhail Grabovski: certainly the most offensively talented candidate among the Habs prospects. He has that “take you out of your seats” type skills which would be a welcome addition to the goal deficient Canadiens’ line up. The only problem is that he is small and would have to play on the top two lines to be an effective player.

    Sergei Kostitsyn: as I’ve said before, the most versatile forward in the Habs system. He can kill penalities, man the point on the powerplay and can play an offensive or defensive role. Is still very young and probably will play in Hamilton this year but I guarantee that he will turn some heads at training camp (maybe even win a spot?).

    Other contenders: Duncan Milroy(didn’t look out of place when he was called up last season), Jonathan Ferland(tough, hard working player with good size), Matt D’Agostini( in the same mold as S.Kostitsyn, had a very strong 1st year with Hamilton), Garth Murray( great effort every shift but very limited offensively).
    Defensemen:

    Ryan O’Byrne: probably the most NHL ready defenseman in the Canadiens system with excellent size(6’5″ 235lbs), good skill set, shots the puck well and very responsible in the defensive zone. His strengths are clearing the net and one on one containment. Will need to display these abilities at NHL level to stay with the Habs.
    Josh Gorges: the Canadiens pro scouts saw something they liked for Gainey to trade away Craig Rivet to San Jose. Is a very strong skater who handles the puck well and makes good decisions. Needs to get stronger along the boards and clearing net as he had problems with big forwards cycling the puck.

    Jean-Philippe Cote: strong defensively and has good size (6’2″ 210lbs). Is very offensively limited and is an average skater who could have difficulties with speedy forwards. Development was slowed due to numerous injury problems last year.

    Mathieu Biron: has a very similar style and size (6’6″ 245lbs) as OByrne but with more offensive upside and a big shot from the point. Doesn’t seem as polished as O’Byrne is in the defensive zone. Has not made the most of his NHL opportunities with the Washington Capitals, Florida Panther and Tampa Bay Lighting (253 NHL games played).

    Pavel Valentenko: good size (6’2″ 210lbs) with above average skill set. He loves to take the body and will look for the big hit. Is solid one on one with the ability to clear the net. He probably needs a year in the AHL but should be a solid #4-6 defenseman in the NHL one day.

    Other contenders: Andrew Archer ( Good size but foot speed is a problem), Mathieu Carle ( very gifted offensive defenseman who needs work in the D-zone. Will one day be on Habs powerplay with his great shot), Marvin Degon ( excellent skater).

    Goaltenders:

    Jaroslav Halak: proved his worth last year by providing the Canadiens with solid goaltending down the stretch drive and almost into the playoff (Carbo should have started him against TO!!!). Has a hybrid style of goaltending that is very efficient and is rarely out of position. If Carey Price wins a roster spot, Halak will most likely end up starting the season in Hamilton unless Gainey can find a suitor for Mr. Huet and his $2.75 million contract ( highly unlikely at this time of the year).

    Carey Price: has accomplished so much at such a young age (turned 20 on Aug.16th): CHL goaltender of the year, U20 IIHF World Championship, tournament MVP, Calder Cup Championship and playoff MVP. Needless to say, a dream year which has elevated his status within the Habs organization to “franchise goaltender of the future”. It might be the “not too distant future franchise goalie” if Mr. Price has anything to do with it. He was, by all accounts (Habs players included), the best player at last year’s training camp so he’s not going to make it easy on Gainey and Carbonneau.

    Other contenders: Probably none with the exception of two solid prospects named Yann Danis and Cederic Desjardin. Unfortunately, they’re in an organization that is incredibly strong in the goaltending department.

    In the end, this year’s training camp will be very interesting with a lot young players trying to establish their place within the Canadiens organization. It should be fun to watch as they begin their hockey journey with the Habs system.