1-ott-sat-byron-scoresThe NHL has rules about the experience and quality of players that teams put on the ice for exhibition games. It states that in the 20 player lineup there must be eight “veterans”; a veteran being a player who was in 30 or more NHL games the previous season or one with 100 or more career NHL games.

Michel Therrien stuck to the ‘letter of the rule’ Saturday in Ottawa but, at exhibition game ticket prices he would never have been so bold as to put that kind of lineup on the ice at the Bell Centre.  His team was for the most part AHL calibre lineup which included an all-rookie defense and a combination of rookies and fourth forwards.  Still, they defeated the Senators largely NHL team 3-2 in overtime.

In the Canadiens defense, most of the tough training camp decisions surround the type of player that Therrien had in his lineup for this game and they have to get exposure somewhere..

So what did we learn from Therrien’s Saturday’s lineup?

We learned that Paul Byron will continue to be a very useful player for the Canadiens; that Nikita Scherbak has a good chance of living up to his 2014 first-round draft status; centre Mike McCarron plus defenseman Ryan Johnston are very close to becoming NHLer’s, Bobby Farnham is making his own case for an NHL job and Al Montoya seems destined to nail down the backup goaltending role.

1-ott-sat-byron-head-shotBYRON LEADS THE WAY

The Canadiens gave Paul Byron a three year contract this summer after he scored a career high 11 goals last season. He was in on all three Canadiens goals in this game (1 goal, 2 assists) and with five points in two games, is leading the camp in scoring.  He also logged a whopping 20:43 ice time.  The last time he got that much work in game might have been during his junior days in Gatineau.  We all know about his speed, penalty killing and competitiveness. What we’re waiting on the his scoring touch he showed in the QMJHL.

SCHERBAK

Trevor Timmins said he was “going for a home run” when he selected Nikita Scherbak late in the first round of the 2014 draft. Two years later we’re still waiting for him to hit it out of the park but he’s getting very close. Scherbak’s rookie year as a professional was held up by an injury that kept him out of the St. John’s lineup from November until January. He finished with only 7 goals and 23 points in 48 games. Seems to me, after spending the summer working out in the Canadiens Brossard training facility, there is more explosiveness to his game. He showed it against the Senators, especially with those two rushes in the opening two period.  Still some work to be done but there’s a good chance he becomes a true top-six prospect after another American League season.McCARRON

HKN Senators Canadiens 20161001McCARRON

Michael McCarron is very close to finding a role in the NHL. There may be the odd defensive issues holding him back but, the depth chart is his main barrier.  Since a fourth line role seems unlikely for his skill-set he probably will have to unseat David Desharnais as the third line centre or start his NHL career as a right winger. My betting is, he’ll start the season in St. John’s and be first in line for a regular season injury recall.

JOHNSTON

Nobody in the game got more icetime than defenseman Ryan Johnston’s 25:08. Therrien used him as a penalty killer and on the power play and at the end of the day he was plus-3. Johnston’s story is similar to Greg Pateryn. He spent three years in college and comes to pro-hockey late. Unlike Pateryn, he was undrafted.  Johnston’s not big but he can handle the puck and move it well    The one thing I noticed about him last season in St. John’s was how good his zone-entries were. Another one on the list for an early callup.

FARNHAM

My first reaction when the Canadiens announced they had signed Bobby Farnham was –  “Don’t they have enough players like him?”   Bergevin says he wants players who are difficult to play-against.  Farnham is one of those.  He’s abrasive and a disturber.  Somewhat of a Chris Neal clone.  Can he unseat one of the incumbent fourth liners?  By putting him in three of the first four exhibition games it’s apparent then Therrien is giving him a good long look.  . He’s on a two way contract, so the Canadiens can be flexible with him.

1-ott-sat-montoyaMONTOYA

People forget that Al Montoya was a first round-6th overall draft pick of the New York Rangers twelve years ago. He’s never been a number onegoaltender with any team, but has consistently been a terrific backup. Last season. behind Roberto Luongo in Florida. he played in 25 games with a 2.19 GAA and .919 save percentage.  I can’t believe Bergevin wants to go through the agony of watching a rookie goaltender shouldering the heavy load in case of another Carey Price injury.   I fully expect Montoya will be Price’s backup this season.

Notable

….Torrey Mitchell set up Byron for the game’s opening goal in the first minute. Midway through the first period he was hit in the face with an errant stick. He didn’t play again. Michel Therrien says the injury is minor.

.McCarron led his teammates with four shots on goal. Brian Flynn, Scherbak, Byron, Farnham and defenseman Tom Parisi had three each.

….The Canadiens will play in Toronto Sunday night and then will make their first cutdown of the training camp prior to the final two exhibitions at home on Tuesday against Boston and Thursday vs. Toronto. Carey Price and Shea Weber are expected to play in only the final game next Thursday.