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Player Features

FEATURE | Former IceCap Eric Neilson: The Ultimate Pro

by Amy Johnson, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report

Neilson4
(Photo courtesy of the St. John’s IceCaps)

MONTREAL, QC — “I don’t need to take any vitamin D pills that I was taking in St. John’s, ’cause you get lots of it from the sun!” quipped Eric Neilson shortly after our call connected, describing the beautiful weather he was quickly getting accustomed to in Missouri.  Neilson recently took some time out of his busy afternoon to chat about his move from the St. John’s IceCaps to the ECHL’s Missouri Mavericks.

“Hockey-wise, it’s been awesome,” he said.  “I’m actually playing more hockey – I’m actually playing more now with the Mavericks, ice time, then I have in the last three or four years.”

At time of writing, Neilson had tallied 17 games with the Mavericks in the short time he’s been with the team – compared to just six games played with St. John’s in the first half of the season.  “We’re first in the league, we’ve got really good teammates here, and we’ve got something special going.  So I’m having fun going to the rink every day,” he added.

(Photo courtesy of the Missouri Mavericks)
(Photo courtesy of the Missouri Mavericks)

Eric said it didn’t take long for the die-hard hockey fans in Missouri to welcome him as one of their own.  “They love their hard-hitting, hard-working, you know – they don’t mind a scrap or two every now and then.  They enjoy that part of the game, too.  So obviously me doing what I do and my role, I fit right in right away and I’ve met a lot of nice people, a lot of great people down here so far.”

A 6-foot-2-inch, 205 pound right-winger, Neilson was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in 2004 after playing a few seasons in the QMJHL with Rimouski Oceanic.  He made his pro debut with the Bakersfield Condors (ECHL) in 2005 before playing with the Long Beach Ice Dogs (ECHL) in 2006 and the Alaska Aces (ECHL) in 2007.

During that season with the Aces, Neilson got called up to the AHL to play for the Peoria Rivermen.  He stayed with the Rivermen the following season, then went on to play with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2009.  Neilson played 38 games for the Bulldogs, scoring one goal and two assists.  After bouncing between a couple of other AHL teams, he found a home with the Syracuse Crunch in 2012 where he became a fan-favorite and team mainstay for three seasons.

(Photo courtesy of the St. John's IceCaps)
(Photo courtesy of the St. John’s IceCaps)

Making trips to St. John’s with the Crunch prompted a new dream for Neilson to chase: playing hockey in Newfoundland.  “Every time we came into St. John’s it just felt like home to me,” said the Fredericton, NB native.  “Being from the Maritimes, being from Atlantic Canada, I love the feel.  I love the people.”

It didn’t take long for that dream to become reality.  Early in the 2015-16 season, Neilson was signed to a PTO by the IceCaps after being sent down to the ECHL’s Manchester Monarchs.  The IceCaps Hockey Report team interviewed Eric after a road trip game against the Hershey Bears not long afterward – watch the video HERE.

From what we observed, it was apparent that Neilson not only made an impact on the ice, but also left a remarkable impression on his teammates, coaches, and surrounding staff members off the ice.  He says evolving into an upbeat team player was never an intentional choice, but rather a product of learning how to prove himself to new teammates ever since his days in junior.  “I learned the importance of being a good teammate and the communication wasn’t there, so you had to show other ways to express the way you’re gonna bring what you do for the team.”

For Neilson, getting the opportunity to play for the IceCaps, even if only for a few months, was everything he hoped it would be.  “I was so fortunate and so blessed to be able to go back and actually

(Photo courtesy of the St. John's IceCaps)
(Photo courtesy of the St. John’s IceCaps)

fulfill my dream of playing there,” he said sincerely.  “The people that I met there – Danny Williams and Glenn Stanford and the organization and the ownership, right down through the whole kit and caboodle, the staff.  It’s just something special.”

On January 16, 2016, just one month after signing Neilson to his second PTO, the IceCaps released him early after the Montreal Canadiens traded Jarred Tinordi and Stefan Fournier to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Victor Bartley and John Scott.  Neilson returned to the Manchester Monarchs who then traded him a few days later to the Missouri Mavericks for future considerations.

Now, he says, getting so much ice time in the ECHL allows Neilson to play more confidently and doesn’t require him to adjust his style of play.  “It’s a little bit slower than the American league, gives me a little bit more time to make a play with the puck or to react.”

In fact, Neilson has already lit the lamp twice for the Mavericks this season.  He laughed while recalling his first goal which came in his second game with Missouri.  “The puck was a rebound, I fanned on it.  The goalie made another save, I got the puck back again and I just fanned on it, actually, for the second time but this time it fooled the goalie, trickled through his legs and it was almost like it was a soft putt coming into the hole. It just barely crossed the goal line.”

Within the past couple of years, Neilson has realized that his hockey-playing goals have changed as he’s gotten older.  In a serious moment, he says he’s accepted that it’s possible he might not reach his “ultimate goal” of playing in the NHL but believes his role now serves a very important purpose.

“Now, for me, the goal and the motivation to come to the rink now is just to pass on what I’ve learned the last 10 years of my professional career to possibly a rookie or a second-year guy.  A younger kid who’s coming up through.”

He fondly recalls former teammates as an example.  “The smile on my face when I see a guy like Morgan Ellis get called up for the first time or when Dustin Tokarski got called up with Tampa Bay.  …Young guys that I’ve played with.”

For a seasoned veteran like Nielson, it’s moments like that which make all of the sacrifice and hard work worthwhile.  “I try to be a motivator and be a positive influence, have a positive attitude, and come to the rink every day with a smile on my face.”

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Feature Player Features

#AskAnIceCap | Nikita Scherbak Answers Your Questions [with AUDIO]

by Taylor McIlwaine , Digital Media Producer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

Nikita Scherbak (Photo by Rick Stephens | Rocket Sports Media)
Nikita Scherbak (Photo by Rick Stephens | Rocket Sports Media)

 

TORONTO, ON — Promising Montreal Canadiens prospect, Nikita Scherbak has some ideas about who he would put in his NHL starting lineup, and they might surprise you!

Nikita All Of the light
(Photo by Taylor McIlwaine | Rocket Sports Media)

For the St. John’s IceCaps, the 2016 Easter long weekend was spent rounding off a 14-day road trip, their last of the regular season. The team came to Toronto to face off against the Marlies in two games of good ol’ fashioned rivalry hockey. While they lost both games in the big city, 20-year-old Nikita Scherbak continued to show promising strides in his career, showing off some of that signature stick work and posting an assist.

The first round draft pick continues to clock big time minutes with the IceCaps, showcasing impressive puck handling and sly pivots, all the while, improving on his defensive play. His potential keeps growing in tandem with his determination and passion to be a top NHL forward.

After taking to Twitter and Facebook to collect some of your questions, I caught up with the Moscow-native in Toronto to get you some answers, and they definitely did not disappoint.

On Saturday afternoon, you played at the ACC and on Monday night you went to an NBA game at the ACC. How did you like watching the Raptors? Did you have good seats? — Jason (Markham, ON.) via Facebook

Scherbak: I was excited, really,  I like basketball a lot! It’s one of my favourite sports, because my mom used to play. So, about seats…[laughs] it wasn’t really good seats, I mean, it was on top, in the 300s. So, the guys made jokes on me in the morning, saying I watched from the CN tower, but I mean, that was my first experience, so I was really excited, and I [got the chance] to see Durant and Westbrook, they [are some] of my favourite players in the NBA, so it was really nice.

Scherbak: My music, actually, I put my music. Last couple of games, the boys give me a chance […] I don’t like, I’m not a big fan of country, so I like more techno and rap so yeah we’re listening to rap and techno before we go on the ice.

Describe the atmosphere of the dressing room: after a win and after a loss.

Scherbak: Well, it’s always tough, I mean, like when you lose the game and no one [is] happy, right? Because, obviously you’re trying, you put effort and something doesn’t go well so a bit more quiet after games. We try and just, I don’t know, try and forget right away that game, what happened on the ice.

And, obviously, when we win the game we’re all happy and we’re all smiling and it’s fun, you know, it’s fun to win!

What is your favorite thing to do when you are on the bus/plane? Play cards? Listen to music? Read? Sleep? — Amanda (Seattle, WA.) via Facebook

Scherbak: That’s a tough one, I don’t know. Try and get sleep maybe, but usually I can’t sleep on the bus or plane. I can’t sleep when I am sitting down so I try to play games on my iPhone or iPad or wherever. Watch a movie on the plane and listening to music.

https://twitter.com/jjjulia__/status/713192254408503296

Scherbak: A lot! I miss junior, I miss my junior career a lot, because it was so much fun. All the guys and the fans too, you know, it was crazy, especially in Everett. We had a good team, good year and uh, the crowd was good at those games so I was excited to play there, especially games against Seattle, it was sold out so it was awesome, I miss it a lot!

Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty recently joked that, “(Mike) McCarron probably has never shaved in his life.” When asked McCarron said that he shaves every three weeks. So Bobby, from Montreal, had to know..

https://twitter.com/montrealdesign/status/713176160541261824

Scherbak: I’m not a huge beard guy [laughs], so I don’t know, probably like same, yeah three weeks, maybe a month. I am not mustache guy, or not crazy beard guy so yeah, around three weeks too.

https://twitter.com/melina51196/status/713177037582823428

Scherbak: That’s a really tough one. I don’t know, if I were to be coach, I would, well first of all, I would take [Carey] Price in net, for sure, that’s 100 per cent. On defense, I would put Erik Karlsson and let’s say, Drew Doughty and forward would be [Sidney] Crosby, Jamie Benn and, uh, let’s take a Russian… let’s take [Pavel] Datsyuk!

https://twitter.com/JMMR85/status/713508628746145792

Scherbak: I’ll be honest, it doesn’t…it’s a tough one. I played a lot on the wing, basically all my career and this year, I start centre and I like it alot. I don’t know, I think I rather play centre now, like after a couple games playing centre, I would like to play centre.

Scherbak: Oh, I don’t know that’s tough. I mean all guys talented, to play on this team, in this league, you have to be talented and you have to be, you have to work hard. […] Obviously, the older guys, but maybe most talented, I would say Charles Hudon. I really like how he plays and the way, the skill he has, so I really like him.

Scherbak: Everything! I dont know, my parents, my friends. Just the atmosphere and my culture and just the city. I mean, I am born there, and I [haven’t] been there in a long time so I’m really excited to go back. [I miss] my parents a lot, I didn’t see them for awhile.

Scherbak:  [Laughs] Probably, no, I like to jump, jumping, maybe over something, on something. I don’t know, maybe bench press [laughs]. Let’s say bench press, I am not good at that any way, so…

What is your plan/schedule for the off-season? Randy (Waterloo, Ontario) via Facebook

Scherbak: So I will go home, back [to] Moscow, right away, I think, and we’ll see from that. I need to make a new Visa and stuff so we’ll see. Ill go home first and I’ll decide after that. Go and hang out with my parents a lot, try and see all of my friends, which is a lot of friends, I didn’t see them for 3 years and maybe go for a vacation somewhere, we will see, we will figure [it out]!

Thank you for sending us your questions! Missed out? Be sure to follow along with us on social media @IceCapsReport@AllHabs and @TaylorOliviaMc so it never happens again. Meanwhile, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for the promising career of Nikita Scherbak!

~~~

Listen to Nikita Scherbak answer fan questions here:

Categories
Player Features

IceCaps Roster Feature – Gabriel Dumont

by Nic Phelan, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report

Gabriel Dumont (Photo by RDS)
Gabriel Dumont (Photo by RDS)

ST. JOHN’S, NL. — Gabriel Dumont hails from the small town of Ville Degelis, about three hours north west of Quebec City just before crossing the border to New Brunswick. He was drafted 139th overall in 2009 after posting near a point per game in his sophomore campaign for the Drummondville Voltigeurs during their run to the QMJHL championship in 2009, and saw action against players like Taylor Hall and Jamie Benn during the Memorial Cup tournament. He followed up his draft finishing third in league scoring at 93 points over 62 games for Drummondville and a league leading 51 goals. Dumont was named to the QMJHL First Team All Star and the CHL Second Team all-star as a part of his final year playing junior hockey.

On June 1st, the Canadiens signed Dumont to a one year, two-way extension. The longest active member of the Hamilton Bulldogs/St. John’s IceCaps has spent the last five seasons with the Canadiens farm club. In 318 career AHL games Dumont has 73 goals and 81 assists for 154 points. Throughout junior and his early AHL career Dumont has proven to be more of a goal scorer, rather than a playmaker. In his 18 NHL appearances with the Canadiens Dumont did manage to take home an NHL goal against Marc Andre Fleury and the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 17th, 2013.

Dumont projects to remain with the IceCaps this season, with an occasional call up always a possibility. Although Dumont saw three games with the Habs last season, the IceCaps figure to have more young guys vying for a spot in the lineup which Therrien may prefer to see in the lineup such as Hudon, McCarron, Carr or even Scherbak. Serving as Captain for the Bulldogs in 2014-15 he’ll be heavily relied on to provide leadership to the young players as they make the transition.


In case you missed our previous player features:

IceCaps Roster Feature – Sven Andrighetto
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mark Barberio
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mac Bennett
IceCaps Roster Feature – Tim Bozon
IceCaps Roster Feature – Daniel Carr
IceCaps Roster Feature – Connor Crisp
IceCaps Roster Feature – Josiah Didier
IceCaps Roster Feature – Darren Dietz

Categories
Player Features

IceCaps Roster Feature – Darren Dietz

by Nic Phelan, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report

Darren Dietz (Photo by Agence QMI)

ST. JOHN’S, NL. — The 20 year old Medicine Hat, Alberta native played his junior hockey with Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. In 2011 the Habs drafted Darren Dietz 138th overall after posting 27 points in 68 games in his first full season at the junior level. This investment proved to be smart as he continued to take jumps in the following years to 44 and 58 points respectively over 72 games in 2011-12 and 2012-13, which also resulted in a first team all-star nod for the latter season. In addition to his offensive abilities from the backend, Dietz also played with an edge hitting triple digits in penalty minutes in both his last two seasons for the Blades. This physical presence was on display in his tenure with the Bulldogs and he gives opposing forwards a reason to keep their heads up.

Dietz had a quiet and shortened rookie season for the Bulldogs in 2013-14 only lacing up for 34 games, but followed that up with an impressive camp for the Canadiens last year which saw him stick around through the final cuts and continued to progress with 17 points over 71 games with the Bulldogs. A right handed shot, Dietz finds himself down the depth chart behind the likes of Subban, Petry, Gilbert and late season call-up Pateryn.

He has the potential to be a top-4, possibly top-2 guy with the baby Habs this season, and will battle with recent rookie camp stand-out Ryan Johnston for PP time with the IceCaps. The one thing Dietz has on his side is the consensus understanding that defensemen typically take longer to develop. We see this in the case of guys like Tinordi (23), Beaulieu (22) and Pateryn (25), and so there is no pressure to make the jump immediately, but 2014-15 should prove an important season to ensure his development continues in the right direction. If Dietz should continue to progress and he remains a candidate to be called up pending a trade or injury the aforementioned righties in the Habs lineup. Long term projections are still a little early to say, by no means is he a blue chip, but a nice piece in the cupboard for Martin Lapointe to continue to work with and potential to develop into an NHL player one day.


In case you missed our previous player features:

IceCaps Roster Feature – Sven Andrighetto
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mark Barberio
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mac Bennett
IceCaps Roster Feature – Tim Bozon
IceCaps Roster Feature – Daniel Carr
IceCaps Roster Feature – Connor Crisp
IceCaps Roster Feature – Josiah Didier

Categories
Player Features

IceCaps Roster Feature – Josiah Didier

by Nic Phelan, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report

Josiah Didier (Photo by Canadiens.com)

ST. JOHN’S, NL. — Josiah Didier is a lesser known name on the list of players projected to make the IceCaps roster. This is partly to do with the transition of the NHL moving to fast paced hockey with skilled forwards and puck moving defensemen. Didier figures to be a stay-at-home defensive defenseman.

Drafted in the fourth round of the 2011 Entry Draft, Didier opted to spend the past four years at the University of Denver. He had his most productive season with Denver this past year as he recorded three goals and eight assists over 40 games. He was alternate captain for a Pioneers team which made it to the Frozen Four last season.

After seeing his team bow out to the eventual National Champions Providence, Didier went on to sign a professional try-out contract (PTO) with the Hamilton Bulldogs and left a good enough impression on Sylvain Lefebvre and the Habs brass to be re-signed to a one year contract with the IceCaps this offseason. In his eight games under the PTO, Didier registered a single assist but played critical minutes with Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn playing with the Canadiens through their playoff run.

Didier brings a physical aspect to the back end that is missing with the absence of Pateryn and Tinordi. He’s known as a team player, a leader and isn’t afraid to play with an edge and physicality. Although he remains under the radar he figures to be leaned on heavily by the IceCaps this upcoming season mentoring young guys coming up through on how to be a professional.


In case you missed our previous player features:

IceCaps Roster Feature – Sven Andrighetto
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mark Barberio
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mac Bennett
IceCaps Roster Feature – Tim Bozon
IceCaps Roster Feature – Daniel Carr
IceCaps Roster Feature – Connor Crisp

Categories
Player Features

IceCaps Roster Feature – Connor Crisp

by Nic Phelan, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report

Connor Crisp (Photo by RDS)

ST. JOHN’S, NL. — Connor Crisp was drafted 71st overall by the Canadiens in the 2013 Entry Draft. The Alliston, Ontario native split his junior career between the Ontario Hockey Leagues Erie Otters and Sudbury Wolves where he collected 308 penalty minutes over 184 games.

In his rookie year with the Hamilton Bulldogs Crisp continued to use his hands creatively in his 39 games played registering 102 penalty minutes. He will be relied on heavily by the IceCaps to provide grit to a lineup which is primarily young players making the transition to the professional level. Traditionally a left winger, Marc Bergevin and company projects Crisp to be a guy that can step into a fourth line role if needed. In junior hockey, Crisp found ways to contribute on a regular basis, but he struggled quite a bit registering just two goals and three assists throughout 2014-15, to become an effective player for the Canadiens he will have to find a way to emulate a Brandon Prust or Patrick Maroon on both sides of the puck.

At 6-foot-3-inches, 226 pounds, the hard hitting forward imposes his will on his opponents, however walks a fine line which saw him sit three games last season for leaving the bench to partake in a brawl against the defending Calder Cup champions, Texas Stars, last December. It’s been a long time since the Canadiens have had an effective enforcer, the aforementioned Prust was the Canadiens closest resemblance but he lacked the size and often found himself mismatched against the heavyweights of the NHL. Although, a dying breed, a heavyweight can prove to be a physical presence and is often a locker room favourite among his teammates. Crisp has an uphill battle to make the NHL, serving similar size and grit as the Canadiens former first round pick Mike McCarron, with a lesser offensive upside.

In the meantime Crisp can take in hockey in St. John’s, learn from Sylvain Lefebvre and his coaching staff. He figures to be an immediate fan favourite in a city that has lacked any legitimate enforcers in the Jets entire tenure at Mile One Center. Meanwhile he can look to a character such as Maroon in Anaheim taking in first line minutes with all-stars/Stanley Cup winners, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry as inspiration. Maroon paid his dues with Adirondack and Syracuse/Norfolk over five years before making his debut, Crisp can only work hard and hope for similar results.


In case you missed our previous player features:

IceCaps Roster Feature – Sven Andrighetto
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mark Barberio
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mac Bennett
IceCaps Roster Feature – Tim Bozon
IceCaps Roster Feature – Daniel Carr

Categories
Player Features

IceCaps Roster Feature – Daniel Carr

by Nic Phelan, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report

Daniel Carr

ST. JOHN’S, NL. — To some, Daniel Carr came out of nowhere last season. Since the Canadiens Development camp, it appears hype has continued to build around the undrafted free agent signing from Union College. The native of Sherwood Park, Alberta, attended Union for four years totaling 78 goals in 160 games. He was also named team captain and carried the Dutchmen to their first championship title in school history with a dramatic 5-4 win over Johnny Gaudreau and the favoured Boston College, and then the No. 1 ranked Minnesota in the finals.

The Canadiens were quick to sign Carr and it proved worthy of a contract as he lead all rookie goal scorers in the AHL with 24 goals last year. Carr is out to prove that he was not just a benefactor of playing on the line of the Canadiens top prospect Charles Hudon, and that he made the line better by being there. This season he will play either first line minutes with the IceCaps, or a top six role with the Habs. He does not figure to play the traditional shutdown role of a third line forward, and his eligibility to move down without clearing waivers makes him valuable as that may prove to be the Canadiens biggest obstacle this year managing their youth.

At 6-foot 200 pounds, he has decent size but more importantly he brings a goal scoring repertoire from the left hand side. The Canadiens have made every effort to bring in right wing talent in the past several years following the evolution of Max Pacioretty, and so in a crowded right hand system, Carr proves to have a slight advantage for the upcoming season.

His chances however seem to hinge on the a couple scenarios. Pacioretty is currently rehabbing a knee injury which is expected to see him miss most, if not all, of the preseason. Though we can reference last season’s concussion at the end of the year, or the infamous fractured vertebrae courtesy of Zdeno Chara and the Bell Centre extensions, Pacioretty has always been a quick healer from injuries. Either way his absence leaves a void on the left side for the Canadiens coaching staff to get a good look at Carr. Additionally, if Pacioretty manages to get back on time, theres a chance Galchenyuk could be moved from the left wing to a center position. If this happens Carr could also see a door open. Either way there are opportunities for Carr to strut his stuff early this year with the Habs.


In case you missed our previous player features:

IceCaps Roster Feature – Sven Andrighetto
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mark Barberio
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mac Bennett
IceCaps Roster Feature – Tim Bozon

Categories
Player Features

IceCaps Roster Feature – Tim Bozon

by Nic Phelan, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report

Tim Bozon (Photo by Vincent Éthier )
Tim Bozon (Photo by Vincent Éthier )

ST. JOHN’S, NL. — The Canadiens 2012 third round draft pick is a feel-good story if there ever was one. In a publicly announced battle with meningitis, Tim Bozon was fighting for much more than a spot on the Habs roster. Bozon spent almost two weeks in a medically-induced coma in early 2014 after complaining of severe headaches and becoming non-responsive. Upon waking up from the coma, Bozon has to spend months rehabilitating and eventually made his way back to the Habs development camp that fall. He was sent back to juniors to the Kootenay Ice after the Habs brass deemed it necessary to bring him along slowly. Although this has effectively burned the first year of his entry level contract, it was well worth it for his development after finishing the 2014-15 season with 35 goals.

Bozon began his junior career on fire with the Kamloops Blazers putting up 71 points in 71 games in a much more defensive Western Hockey League. This warranted the Habs selection of him 64th overall at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. He never disappointed in his sophomore campaign putting up another 36 goals adding 55 assists on an electric line with J.C. Lipon and Colin Smith. Bozon has demonstrated in four seasons at the junior level that whether with a top tier team such as Kamloops (first in their division) or middle of the pack like Kootenay (seventh in their conference) , he’s been able to contribute by putting the puck in the back of the net.

As of now Bozon comes into the AHL with the advantage of being a year older than most rookies out of the Canadian junior system. Figuring to be more of a goal scorer, we have him slated to fit nicely on that second line next to big Mike McCarron and AHL vet Sven Andrighetto. Expectations must be dialed back as he still looks to find his way, but at 6-foot-1-inch and 207 pounds he has enough size to compete, and there is potential there to follow up Daniel Carr’s campaign as the top rookie goal scorer in the AHL. Goal scoring, after all, was his specialty in junior through four years Bozon found the back 140 times in just 260 games. That is exactly what Sylvain Lefebvre is hoping to get out of the Switzerland native.


In case you missed it:

IceCaps Roster Feature – Sven Andrighetto
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mark Barberio
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mac Bennett

Categories
Player Features

IceCaps Roster Feature – Mac Bennett

by Nic Phelan, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report

Mac Bennett (Photo by  Vincent Ethier)
Mac Bennett (Photo by Vincent Ethier)

ST. JOHN’S, NL. — Mac Bennett was selected 79th overall in the 3rd round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. This was a year where the Canadiens organization selected the likes of Louis Leblanc, Alexander Avtsin and Gabriel Dumont from the podium at the Bell Centre.  Leblanc was an ownership decision and proved to be a bust. Bennett, Dumont and Joonas Nattinen, currently playing for JYP in the Finnish SM-liiga, are the only prospects left from the ’09 crop.

Bennett took the slow and steady approach, playing one year with Cedar Rapids of the USHL and proceeding to University of Michigan where he completed his degree in musicology. During his draft year NHL Central Scouting had the following report on Bennett:

“Mac is a very strong skater with good acceleration and overall speed. He has very good lateral mobility and moves his feet quickly. He can lead the rush and moves the puck quickly from his own end. He has a very strong shot from the point. He is a very good passer. He runs the power play and distributes the puck well. His defensive zone play is very good. He is quick to gain and maintain control of the puck and moves it out quickly.”

Last year as a rookie with the Hamilton Bulldogs, Bennett had a modest stat line of four goals, eight assists for 12 points over 59 games. It is worth mentioning this was the first time in three years that he had played more than 32 games, so fatigue may have very well been a factor. Bennett figures to slot on the left hand side behind Jarred Tinordi and Mark Barberio, with powerplay time because of his offensive upside.

Bennett is one of these guys that have flown under the radar for the Habs amongst names like Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn have been given a shot by the Habs. In all likelihood he will spend the entire season with the IceCaps working on rounding out his 200-foot game in a bigger, faster pro league compared to the collegiate level. Long term it is tough to say if he will ever make an impact with the Habs, but his past coaches and scouts alike seem to see the work ethic in him that typically results in success. Best case scenario he’s a 5th-6th pairing defenseman in the NHL at some point (not necessarily with the Habs or in the near future), however the IceCaps are lucky to have him anchoring down that left side for the 2015-16 campaign. I expect he will see an increase in ice-time, and combined with his experience should produce a little better this season. However, without that increased productivity, seeing as offense has always been his bread and butter, Bennett may have already found his ceiling.


In case you missed it:

IceCaps Roster Feature – Sven Andrighetto
IceCaps Roster Feature – Mark Barberio

Categories
Player Features

IceCaps Roster Feature – Mark Barberio

by Nic Phelan, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report

Mark Barberio (Photo by Getty Images)
Mark Barberio (Photo by Getty Images)

ST. JOHN’S, NL. — This series projecting players to lace-up for the St. John’s IceCaps will overlap on many individuals who may end up playing with the Canadiens all season, and Mark Barberio is no exception to that rule. The hometown Montreal native was drafted 152nd overall in 2008 by the Tampa Bay Lightning. Barberio had a decorated junior career playing for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and Moncton Wildcats. During his tenure he accumulated 168 points and a plus-53 rating over 261 games. He also was named to multiple all-star selections and played in the Canada – Russia super series.

At 6-foot-1-inch and a shade under 200 pounds, Bergevin saw an opportunity to go after a 25-year-old defender who has shown the ability in the past to play a large role for his team. In 2011-’12 Barberio was a part of one of the most dominant AHL teams in league history. That year the Norfolk Admirals, coached by Jon Cooper, set a record in professional hockey for the longest winning streak. Winning 28 games in a row, a team which consisted of Cory Conacher, Dustin Tokarski, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, Barberio made a name for himself by winning the Eddie Shore Award for the top defenseman in the league. He finished that year in the top-20 in scoring (first among defensemen) with 13 goals, 48 assists in 74 games.

Barberio figures to compete for a spot for the Canadiens this fall. He’s a left-handed shot, and therefore falls behind the likes of Nathan Beaulieu, Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov. Although Emelin likes to play a physical game, all three players fit a similar mold as Barberio, a guy who can move the puck well. For that reason, I had selected Jarred Tinordi at 6-foot-6-inch and much more of a defensive presence to slot in over Barberio on the left hand side, but would not be all surprised to see either of these two start with the Canadiens as a seventh man or injury replacement.

With Barberio signed to a one year, two-way deal, the Canadiens are giving a guy a shot to make a difference. He will need to clear waivers if sent down, so you can believe he will get every look in training camp, but with the top three left-handed shots set in stone you have to wonder which of Barberio or Tinordi will the Canadiens risk getting picked up by another team. Of course the Habs could always pull a last minute trade to shed some cap space on a guy like Emelin and keep both players with the big club. Time will tell, and it’s up to Barberio to make that a tough decision for Michel Therrien and company. If he does end up on the IceCaps this season, Sylvain Lefebvre can consider himself lucky to have a bonafide No. 1 d-man to help youngsters like Brett Lernout and Dalton Thrower learn the ropes.


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IceCaps Roster Feature – Sven Andrighetto