The Canadiens farm system drew the lions share of attention for the Canadiens front office over the weekend .
Last Thursday, GM Marc Bergevin announced that the Brampton Beast will replace the Wheeling Nailers as the Canadiens East Coast Hockey League affiliate.
And then Monday morning Bergevin announced that centre Gabriel Dumont and defenseman Morgan Ellis have signed one year contract two-way contract extensions. Both are expected to start next season with the Canadiens new St. John’s IceCaps AHL affiliate in what will probably be their final chance to impress team management..
The 24 year old Dumont was captain of the Hamilton Bulldogs last season. He was eligible for unrestricted free agency on July first. After a promising start to his career, Dumont has seen his name drop down the Canadiens depth chart over the last two seasons mostly because his size and skating don’t match his aggressive playing style and leadership. Last season in Hamilton Dumont, scored 20 goals and 45 points. In three games with the Canadiens he failed to register a point.
The Canadiens appeared to have given up on Ellis early this season when, after only two game appearances he was assigned to ECHL Wheeling on November 9th. Suspected conditioning issues plus a lack of attention to the defensive side of his game appeared to be the main complaints about his game. At Wheeling his big shot produced 13 goals and 26 points in 39 games leading to his recall to Hamilton in February. The 6’1” 207 lb Ellis was a fourth round draft choice (117th) in 2010. He could have become a restricted free agent on July first.
It wasn’t all that long ago that the Canadiens didn’t have enough farm system player depth to stock even a full American Hockey League franchise. Up to 2003 they shared sponsorship of the Hamilton Bulldogs on a 50-50 basis with the Edmonton Oilers, Since then the Canadiens are not only fully stocking their AHL affiliate (now in St. John’s Newfoundland), but starting this fall they will have full responsibility for the roster of the Brampton Ontario Beast of the ECHL. Over the past few years the Canadiens were supplying their AHL spillover players to the Wheeling Nailers along with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Prior to that they supplied some players (including David Desharnais) to the ECHL Cincinnati Cyclones.
In hindsight the Canadiens may have telegraphed their move when they opted to send prospect defenseman Dalton Thrower to Brampton rather than Wheeling on a rehabilitation assigment in late December. Thrower was coming back from off-season ankle surgery. This was his first year as a pro. Thrower was selected by the Canadiens in the second round (51st) in the 2010 entry draft.
The Canadiens announced the transfer of their AHL franchise from Hamilton to St. John’s on March 12th. The Beast will be working with both the IceCaps and the Canadiens.