07/05/2016 7:18 AM
July 6, 2016 - 1:18 PM
Good afternoon from Brossard!
This morning’s on-ice sessions looked a little different from yesterdays’. Gone were the skating drills, replaced by high-intensity stick and shooting drills. It was a loud atmosphere at the Bell Sports Complex as the dozens of skaters simultaneously worked on their stickhandling.
My eye was drawn to one particular player who took to the ice in the second on-ice session of the morning.
Wearing #64, Jeremiah Addison, a 19-year-old forward who spent last season in the Ontario Hockey League with the Ottawa 67’s before joining the St. John’s IceCaps at the end of the year, was a whiz with the puck. He appeared to be in a good mood, sporting a wide smile as he worked hard to complete his drills.
Not only did he stand out on the ice with his skill, when I learned the 6’0” left-winger was from Brampton, I knew I had to catch up with him.
This year’s Development Camp was the second for Addison since being selected by the Canadiens in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and he was quick to admit that this year’s camp is just as fun as the last.
“It’s been fun,” he said with a smile. “I’m just soaking it all in. It’s a learning experience and I’m just taking it day by day. I think that’s all you can do in these types of situations.”
Addison was a dynamo on the Ottawa 67’s this past season, netting 27 goals while chipping in with 29 assists. His strong play earned him an Amateur Tryout Contract with the IceCaps in April. He ended the season on the Rock, suiting up for four games.
Even though his first professional experience came at the end of a long season, he feels he got a lot out of his short stint in St. John’s.
“I learned not only positional play but that it’s a faster game and that you can always do the little things right,” Addison said. “I was able to feed off that as I continued to play more and more. I enjoyed it.”
With the camp questions out of the way, I had to ask him a few questions about Brampton. His smile grew wider when asked what part of the city he was from.
“Sandalwood and Heart Lake,” he said proudly. “Sandalwood and Richvale to be exact. That’s where I was born and raised. I’m a Brampton boy. Right to the heart.”
He sheepishly admitted that he didn’t play his minor hockey in Brampton and instead elected to play for the Halton Hurricanes when he didn’t make the cut in Brampton, but he didn’t rule out the possibility of possibly playing again at home in front of family and friends.
“Wherever you play, you have to make the best of the situation,” he said. “I think that no matter where I play, I would be happy to play pro hockey. I haven’t been home in a while. I spent two years playing in Saginaw then another two in Ottawa. It would be great to play at home in front of family. That would be a great opportunity as well.”
While the sky is the limit for Addison as he embarks on his professional career, he’s pulling no punches when it comes to where he intends to play this season.
“My plan is to play in St. John’s next year,” he said matter-of-factly. “Obviously, I can’t control exactly where I play, I can only control my effort. That is my plan personally.”
With work piling up on my desk in Brampton, this will unfortunately be my final blog post of this Development Camp. It’s been an unbelievable experience to witness the prospects, the facilities and to meet so many wonderful people.
Beast Vice President of Business Operations Ken Vezina sums it up best.
“I think it’s a great thing heading into the second year of our affiliation to come down and see how they do business and actually experience a Montreal Canadiens event first hand from the operations standpoint,” he said.
“More than anything, yes, it’s a little bit of meeting some people and swapping strategies and that sort of thing, but it’s important to establish a closer tie. It’s remarkable how professional and organized and down-to-earth everyone is for being such an incredible organization. Every single person we interacted with has been so kind and generous with their time. It’s been a great opportunity to see first-hand how the Canadiens operate.”
Merci beaucoup, Canadiens de Montreal!
July 5, 2016 - 6:12 PM
Before going any further with my blog posts, I would be remiss if I didn’t immediately thank the Canadiens organization and staff for allowing us the opportunity to come and partake in the week’s festivities.
Even though the Beast are affiliates of the Canadiens, just being around the ‘mother team’ so to speak has been a very special experience.
If you have been following my tweets today, you may have noticed that I marvelled at the beautiful practice facility the Canadiens use here in Brossard.
Well apparently, I hadn’t seen the half of it. Midway through the day, Beast Vice Presidents Ken Vezina and Mike Miele joined me in Brossard to take in Development Camp.
During the scrimmages, Dominick Saillant, the Canadiens’ Director of Media Relations, took us on a tour behind the scenes of the Bell Sports Complex.
There is more to this facility than first meets the eye.
While the public-access areas of the facility are indeed nice, the inner workings of this building are nothing short of incredible.
Not only does this practice facility have its own press box, there’s a door that leads from the press box to a full media room, complete with Canadiens backdrop, ready to go for press conferences.
From there, a collection of beautiful corridors lead to the team offices, the majority of which are permanently located inside the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard and not the Bell Centre, including the office of Canadiens Head Coach Michel Therrien.
Just because this facility only serves as the club’s practice rink doesn’t mean they skimped out on amenities. There’s a full-size replica of the club’s Bell Centre dressing room, gym and player’s lounge, each more impressive than the next.
We finally made our way back to the press box to watch some of the scrimmages. All scrimmage games started at 4-on-4 then switched to 3-on-3. I like that. The Canadiens got it right. Development camp should be about exploring players’ abilities, not immediately plugging them into standard 5-on-5 systems.
I won’t bore you with the blow-by-blow of the various scrimmages, I’ll just hit you with some notes and quick hits, Beast-related or otherwise.
Mike McCarron, the giant 6’6” forward who just finished his rookie campaign in St. John’s this past season, seems to be rounding into form. He appears very quick in spite of his frame and still seems on track to become a prototypical power forward in the NHL, maybe sooner rather than later.
The Canadiens’ newest draft pick, Mikhail Sergachev, who was selected 9th overall just over a week ago, was the most impressive skater on the ice for my money. He was brilliant at both ends of the ice, netted a hat trick and made multiple intelligent plays at both ends of the ice. The guy seems like the real deal so far, but again, it’s early.
There’s a Brampton connection at Development Camp this week. Forward Jeremiah Addison, a 2015 draft pick who played four games with the IceCaps at the end of last season, hails from Brampton. I’m hoping to catch up with him as camp progresses tomorrow.
Also impressive throughout scrimmages: Daniel Audette (small but feisty and skilled), Charles Hudon (is he the most NHL ready player here?) and Charlie Lindgren (not only sharp in net but has that cool demeanour that NHL teams look for).
That’s it for me today. It’s been a long but rewarding day. I’ll be back tomorrow for more of the same. As always, if there’s something you feel I’ve missed or if there’s still some questions I haven’t answered, please let me know and I’ll do my best.
July 5, 2016 - 2:06 PM
Ok. I’ve determined it’s too difficult and quite honestly, a little unfair to attempt to identify future Beast forwards and defensemen based off of one morning of on-ice sessions.
Sure, I could tell you which players were better at skating on one foot or those who are wizards at skating with a puck under one of their skates, which comprised a lot of the morning’s mobility drills, but in no way do these drills tell us where these players are destined to play this season.
Instead, I focused on an increasingly interesting scenario concerning the Canadiens’ goaltending situation, which could very well have implications for the Beast.
With the acquisition of NHL veteran Al Montoya last week, the Canadiens now have five goaltenders under contract, ready to play professional hockey within the organization this season.
Presumably, Montoya and Carey Price will be the duo to start the season in Montreal. Mike Condon, who spent the entirety of last season in Montreal and appeared in 55 games with the Canadiens, could split time in Montreal as Price’s backup or may very well be destined for the IceCaps.
Zach Fucale spent all of last season in St. John’s and remains one of, if not the top goaltending prospect in the Canadiens organization. His winning CCM/AHL Player of the Week honours late last season proves that.
Newcomer Charlie Lindgren, fresh off a superb NCAA career with St. Cloud State University, got his first taste of action with the Canadiens last spring, making 26 saves in his big league debut in a 4-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on April 7, 2016.
The question now becomes: where do you put everybody?
Is it impossible to see the Canadiens or IceCaps carry a trio of goaltenders? Not necessarily. Of course, having so many high-end goaltending prospects is a problem a lot of teams would love to be faced with.
However, one would assume that the best course of action for developing these fine goaltenders would be to give them as much playing time as possible. You have to play to improve, right? And of course it’s not impossible that a goaltender gets dealt before the start of the season, negating this whole conundrum.
If the Canadiens’ goaltending situation remains the same by opening night, it’s not impossible to fathom that the Beast could be receiving a goaltender from the IceCaps and Canadiens.
Fucale is back at development camp for the second straight year and his first since completing his first professional season and admits he learned a lot last season in Newfoundland and wants to improve in his second year with the Canadiens organization.
“I had the chance to live many new things last year in my first year as a pro,” Fucale said. “All those new experiences will help me in the future. It helped me learn a lot as a goaltender. I made a lot of steps forward and all those experiences will help me in the future.”
Fucale is well aware that the acquisition of Montoya means he will have another goaltender to battle against for ice time and exposure but he admits that doesn’t change much for him.
“The way I see it, the Canadiens signed an experienced goaltender,” he said. “You see that all over the league. It doesn’t change the way I’m going to prepare for training camp. My job is to be as ready as I can to perform and that’s what I intend on doing. I’m excited about it. It’s going to be a good summer to prepare for training camp.”
Having watched Fucale throughout his junior career and even squeezing in a handful of IceCaps games throughout the 2015-16 season, I am familiar with what the Canadiens have in Fucale. Lindgren, on the other hand, was signed to the Canadiens organization in March and earned much of my attention during the morning sessions.
A not-too-big, not-too-small goaltender standing at 6’2”, Lindgren was impressive in his composure, poise and reaction time. Having already played a game in the NHL, it’s tough to pinpoint where he stands in the Canadiens’ goaltending hierarchy but he doesn’t care. He’s just enjoying his first Canadiens development camp.
“It’s been very cool,” Lindgren said of his experience at this week’s camp. “It’s a first class organization. They treat their players so well. It’s been a heck of a time. It’s been fun. We’ve been busy. It’s been really good hockey too.”
Lindgren sees the increased competition among the five Canadiens goaltenders to be a positive development took for him and his netminding brethren and thinks they will all become better goaltenders as a result.
“I tell everyone, that’s pro sports,” he said frankly. “It’s competition. You have to perform. That’s just going to push all five of us to keep getting better. It’s a good thing.”
Lindgren is aware that Brampton may become the new home for one of the goaltenders in the Canadiens organization and I assured him that I hope his career explodes and that we may never see him don a Beast sweater.
Still, I couldn’t help but play devil’s advocate and ask about the possibility of a Canadiens goaltender, maybe even himself, coming to Brampton.
“You never know,” Lindgren said. “Management is going to put me in a place that’s best for my development. Next year, my goal is to see time in some NHL games. That’s my goal and I’m going to keep working hard this summer and put myself in the best position possible.”
The players have now left the arena and are resting ahead of a series of scrimmages to take place at the Bell Sports Complex this evening starting at 4:00 pm EST. Following tonight’s scrimmages, I’m hoping to make one more blog post before calling it a night.
Once again, keep your eyes open on Twitter for more news and notes!
July 5, 2016 - 9:19 AM
Good morning from Brossard!
Chris Ballard here, reporting from Montreal Canadiens Development Camp at the Bell Sports Complex just south of Montreal.
I’ll be checking in with insights and updates for the next couple of days, hoping to fill you in on the Development Camp experience and to shed some light on what assets the Canadiens have in their prospect pool and hopefully identify players that could possibly suit up for the Beast this season.
Pinpointing possible Beast players for this upcoming season may not be easy. The Canadiens have assembled a great crew of prospects, 45 in total including 25 forwards, 16 defensemen and four goaltenders. All of these talented players are hoping to make an impression on Canadiens brass this week. While I’m confident that very few of these skaters are attending camp in hopes of being able to crack the Beast lineup, I will do my best to read between the lines to shed some light on who could possibly end up in a Beast uniform when the season starts in October.
A post like this requires a quick disclaimer: when I say I want to identify possible Beast players for this upcoming season, that’s not to say I’m looking for outliers who couldn’t possibly crack the Canadiens or IceCaps’ rosters. All players in attendance this week are among the best prospects in hockey and all have NHL aspirations. Who am I to judge these guys who have worked long and hard just to crack this camp? My observations will not necessarily be based on what I see on the ice, but will be based on age, experience, organizational depth and research based on the kinds of players that ECHL clubs get from their AHL and NHL affiliates.
As a point of comparison, a total of seven players from last season’s development camp spent time with the Beast at one point or another last season, including Angelo Miceli, Tim Bozon, Stefan Fournier, Mark MacMillan, Mac Bennett, Travis Brown and Dalton Thrower.
Do these players have anything in common? Is there anything we can take away from those seven players and use those parameters to identify possible Beast this time around as well? Let’s summarize, shall we?
Here’s some tombstone data: all seven players who suited up for the Beast last season were born between 1991 (Bennett) and 1994 (Bozon, Miceli, Brown). Three players (Fournier, Miceli, Brown) entered camp on a tryout or free agent capacity. Of the drafted players, all were drafted between 2009 and 2012.
Based on that information, the Beast’s highest hopes would belong to players born between 1992 and 1995, who are either free agents fresh off their junior or collegiate careers or were drafted between 2010 and 2013.
A quick scan of the roster sheet suggests that several players might fit that description and hopefully we can learn a little more about these players over the coming days.
The prospects will be hitting the ice for their first sessions of the day within the hour, so keep your eyes peeled to my Twitter feed (@cgballardsports) for updates and observations throughout the day.
Don’t forget about this blog either. Check back later today, as I plan to keep this blog running with two or three updates per day.
Until then, à bientôt!