Most of the players that were involved in Monday night’s Toronto/Montreal pre-season game at Scotiabank Place will find themselves in American Hockey League training camps next week. That includes around ten of the 18 skaters the Canadiens used in the game.
Ultimately, led by two-goal performances from Artturi Lehkonen and defenceman Xavier Oullet, the Canadiens beat the Leafs 5-1 with .
It was their third consecutive pre-season win.
Once again Claude Julien was careful about handling the 18 year old Kotkaniemi. For the fourth time he matched Kotkaniemi up against American League calibre opposition, in this case Marlie-bound centres Colin Greening and Trevor Moore. Kotkaniemi had another good night which included an assist on Artturi Lehkonen‘s first goal and, he was plus-three. He was named the game’s third star.
The next two games when he faces NHL calibre opposition will decide whether he starts the season with the Canadiens. Few are betting against it however.
Of the six defencemen used against Toronto, only Karl Alzner is a lock to start the season with the Canadiens next week.
Xavier Ouellet scored two goals and was pretty good against the type of opposition the Leafs put up in the game. He’ll probably survive the Tuesday cutdown but I think he might be a little too slow to crack what seems to be a starting seven-man defence that will probably include Petry, Alzner, Mete, Juulson, Benn, Reilly and Schlemko.
The same holds true for Rinat Valiev and Brett Lernout who also logged over eighteen minutes in the game.
Simon Despres, who’s on a Professional Tryout Contract, had 4 hits and 4 blocked shots and logged almost 20 minutes but I would be surprised if he’s offered more than an AHL contract.
6’5” Czech defenceman Michal Moravcik was outmuscled for the puck in each of his first two shifts. From that point his game got a little meaner. Later in the period he took exception to Adam Brooks forecheck and picked up a roughing minor. Moravcik upped his game the rest of the way. He’ll need AHL seasoning.
STILL STRUGGLING –
Nikita Scherbak is forcing the Canadiens into a very difficult position. At some point the Canadiens are hoping he will assert himself under game conditions but once again he hit and miss. If this continues, and there’s little reason to hope for better, the Canadiens are going to have to ask waivers on their former first round draft choice in order to send him back to Laval. Off what we’ve seen in camp, he’s not worth a claim but a bad team might want to take the risk.
Among those on the bubble who must clear waivers are Scherbak, de la Rose, McCarron, Michael Chaput, and Kenny Agostino plus defencemen Valiev, Lernout and Ouellet.
Charles Hudon could have been named one of the game’s three stars. He scored his first training camp goal and led his teammates with eight shot-attempts including five on goal. There was a late-game scare when he went knee-on-knee with Leafs defenceman Andreas Borgman. Hudon seemed to shake it off quickly however.
There was never any doubt that Joel Armia was going to make the Canadiens roster. This was his best game. Playing with Kotkaniemi and Michael Chaput he had the puck a lot and posted two assists and four shots on goal.
He never seems elegant about it, but Antti Niemi stopped 29 of 30 shots and, if there was ever any doubt, solidified his hold as Canadiens backup goaltender ahead of Charlie Lindgren.
Tuesday afternoon the Canadiens will make their second roster cut. Going into last night there were 37 active players (there are 6 on the injury list). Expect that number to be reduced to around 27 plus injuries following the cut. Injured players must remain on the Canadiens roster until medically cleared.
The Canadiens have two exhibition games left; against Toronto at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night and then in Ottawa Saturday. Expect NHL calibre teams for both of those games with the season opener coming a week Wednesday back in Toronto.