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Canadiens Trade Louis Leblanc to Ducks for Conditional Fifth Round Pick

By Dale Lamontagne, Lead Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report

MILTON, ON. — The Montreal Canadiens have traded forward Louis Leblanc to the Anaheim Ducks for a conditional fifth round pick in 2015.

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

“After three seasons with the Canadiens organization we felt that moving forward the best option for Louis and our organization was to give him the opportunity to pursue his career with another team,” said GM Marc Bergevin in the teams press release

“Throughout his entire stay with our organization Louis showed great professionalism and a constant desire to improve. We thank him for his contribution and wish him success for the continuation of his career.”

This deal makes very little sense to me. Why? Well because although Leblanc has had a difficult time cracking the Habs line up, and staying consistent with the Hamilton Bulldogs, he is still a main piece to the core group of players there. Yes, he has fallen as a prospect, but he could have definitely been a useful a player in Hamilton. I originally thought Montreal would offer him a one-year deal so he could prove himself, but I guess they had other plans.

The soon to be Restricted Free Agent, spent most of the season with the Bulldogs, where he scored 28 points in 17 games.

If Leblanc plays 15 games with the Ducks, the Habs will receive the 5th round pick in 2015.

 

 

 

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Feature

Hamilton Bulldogs End-of-Season Report Card

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON, ON – There’s no hiding that it was a tough year in Hamilton. A team with a lot of fresh faces showed early season promise, before inconsistencies and midseason slumps left them in a similar spot to a year ago, battling to stay out of the AHL’s Western Conference basement. When the Bulldogs finally seemed to start putting things together late in the season, it was simply too late, with too much ground to make up in too little time.

The blame for a third straight year without a playoff spot can be put on many, but there were also some standout performances that deserved recognition.  Below is a review of the years of all players to have dressed for at least 5 games for the ‘Dogs this season.

 

FORWARDS

Sven Andrighetto – A

The diminutive speedy Swiss winger made his professional debut just a little more than three months after the Canadiens made him the 86th overall selection of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He produced right from the get-go with 7 points in 8 games in his first month, and quickly become a fixture on the team’s top scoring line, finishing with the best points-per-game average of anyone to spend significant time with the team this year. Andrighetto, 21, seems to be good for at least one shifty highlight-reel rush a night, and likely would have produced more than 17 goals and 44 points in 63 games (which still rank him among the league’s top 20 rookies) if he had better offensive linemates to work with. Certainly he looks to have an NHL future, but the question will be whether Montreal can really stand to add another 5’9″ body any time soon.

Andrighetto's brilliant rookie season is what shone brightest from a tough year in Hamilton. (PHOTO: Hamilton Bulldogs)
Andrighetto’s brilliant rookie season is what shone brightest from a tough year in Hamilton. (PHOTO: Hamilton Bulldogs)

Gabriel Dumont – A-

Dumont, 23, was deserving of co-MVP honours in Hamilton a year ago, but struggled to produce early on this season. Still, Dumont isn’t the player you should be counting on to score on a nightly basis, and he and the next player on this list were the two guys you could count on for a consistent effort night-in, night-out. Dumont’s ceiling seems to be as an intense, hard-working, two-way fourth liner, but as NHL teams most often look to fill those roles with big bodies first, his 5’10” frame will always hold him back. The Quebec-native is under contract for next season, where he will look to build off a strong end-of-season with the ‘Dogs (7 points in 7 games in April) in his continued quest towards a full-time role with the Habs.

Mike Blunden – A-

Blunden and Dumont were inseparable for much of the season, a duo that coach Sylvain Lefebvre would send out with any third linemate and in any situation, so it’s no coincidence the two paced each other in scoring. While that represented stagnation for Dumont, it was progress for Blunden, whose strong play was recognized with a token call-up for Montreal’s final game of the regular season. A leader on and off the ice, should the pending UFA be retained, he would be a strong candidate to assume the captaincy from Martin St. Pierre. There is no questioning Blunden’s work ethic, but he simply doesn’t have the legs to carry his 6’4″ frame quickly enough to be a regular everyday NHL’er, and his stone hands mean that for every point he was able to produce, two-to-three golden set-ups (typically from Dumont) went to waste.

Joonas Nattinen – B

If you don’t follow the ‘Dogs closely, you’d be forgiven for not knowing Nattinen much prior to this season. The 6’2″ Finnish centre missed all but 24 games due to injury a year ago, but had a strong bounceback campaign in 2013-14. Centering the third or fourth line for much of the season, through his work ethic alone, Nattinen seemed to inspire whichever wingers he was paired with to be at their best. Defensively responsible and strong in the face-off dot, while Nattinen’s offensive output was limited (15 points in 68 games), if he could play with the physicality he shows in spurts on a more consistent basis, he would have all the tools necessary to make a formidable NHL calibre bottom six guy. That said, Nattinen, 23, is an RFA this summer, and is unsure what his playing future holds. If he opts to return his native Finland, the 1:45 he played against the Toronto Maple Leafs on January 18th will allow him to live forever as an obscure Canadiens trivia question answer.

Christian Thomas – B-

There were lofty expectations of Thomas this season following his acquisition in return for vaunted prospect Danny Kristo, and an impressive rookie camp showing. Thomas showed flashes of his potential, often benefiting from playing opposite Andrighetto, but seemed to struggle to find a groove. His biggest weapon is a dangerous arsenal of shots, but unleashing them was dependent on set-ups from linemates, unable to create space for himself with any regularity. In addition to his shooting and despite his 5’9″ frame, the second year pro has the right instincts, willing to drive to the net every shift, and he did manage to increase his point-per-game production modestly from his rookie campaign. At age 21, it’s unfair to directly compare his output (11 goals and 27 points in 54 games) to 23-year old Kristo’s (24 goals and 42 points in 63 games), but Thomas will need a Michael Bournival-like off-season of hard work if he’s to challenge for an NHL spot as early as next season. He has tools, but is another player that will need to develop outside the norm to compensate for his lack of size.

Connor Crisp – B-

Many questioned the Canadiens selecting Crisp as early as they did in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, but the 20-year old improved his production in the OHL this season, and then fit in well during a small stint with the ‘Dogs towards the end of the year. Crisp moves up and down the ice adequately for a 6’2″, 220 lbs physical presence, and produced two goals in his first seven professional games as a result of his driving to the opposition net. It’s too early to speak to Crisp’s longer-term upside, but he has shown enough to earn a contract from the Canadiens, and may ease the “need” for signing a Nathan McIver or Kyle Hagel who brings little to the team (on ice) other than willingness to drop the gloves. He remains a project, but early signs are positive that he could develop into an NHL player.

Justin Courtnall – B-

Courtnall was an unknown coming into the season on an AHL deal, with many penciling him into a role as an ECHL call-up (where he spent most of last year). The nephew of former Hab Russ Courtnall earned every opportunity given to him this year, working his way into the line-up, and then off a fourth line, to spending considerable time with Dumont and Blunden. Despite his limited pro experience, at age 24, there may not be much room for development remaining in Courtnall’s game, but his responsible two-way play and hard work makes him a solid bottom six AHL’er. He only produced 9 points in 62 games, but was a guy you would notice for only the right reasons more often than not. He would be a welcome returnee next season, though it is just as likely he is edged out in the numbers game due to the potential additions of Crisp, Brady Vail, and Jack Nevins.

It looked like the Bulldogs had struck gold with the addition of St. Pierre last summer, but the signing largely flopped. (PHOTO: Robin Leworthy Wilson, Aerial Promotions)
It looked like the Bulldogs had struck gold with the addition of St. Pierre last summer, but the signing largely flopped. (PHOTO: Robin Leworthy Wilson, Aerial Promotions)

Martin St. Pierre – B-

I struggled mightily with this grade. Is it possible to give a team’s leading scorer and only proven offensive talent a lower grade than a B-? There was much hoopla surrounding St. Pierre’s signing last summer, as there should have been, given he is an AHL all-star and former point-per-game scorer. At age 30, however, it quickly became obvious that the Ottawa native’s best days were behind him. A majority of St. Pierre’s production (including 6 of his 10 goals) came with the man advantage, and he was frequently invisible at even strength. He was unable to elevate his linemates, and when paired with Patrick Holland – which was often – that line became a virtual black hole. That, in fact, can be identified as a first cause of the team’s disappointing season, as Holland and St. Pierre were expected to be two of the main offensive catalysts. This is not to say that St. Pierre brought nothing to the ‘Dogs, as many spoke to their captain’s leadership and important off-ice presence, and on a team with few truly skilled players, he did contribute important points on some nights. But his inconsistency and lack of intensity were such that coach Lefebvre even made him a healthy scratch for a night late in the season. Given this, I don’t expect him back, but he’ll need to be replaced with another veteran AHL scorer.

Brady Vail – B-

Small sample size for Vail, who saw a strange season end with a quick termination of his Bulldog tryout after just five games due to an ankle injury. Unlike last year, when he managed a goal and four points in a 12-game stint with the ‘Dogs, the versatile 6’1″ forward (and sometimes defenseman) was unable to find the scoresheet in the AHL this time, but to understand his season and future, one must look back to last summer. Vail had a strong 2012-13 campaign on a disappointing Windsor team, and despite looking AHL ready, was forced to return to the OHL because of his young age. Then something went wrong. A disappointing performance at Team USA’s summer WJC camp saw him sent home early in August. He came into Montreal’s rookie camp in September, and was the only drafted player cut prior to the start of the team’s main training camp. Then back with the Spitfires, he wasn’t given any of the leadership letters despite thought months earlier that he may have been next in line for captaincy. But his play and production picked up quickly, and he was one of the primary catalysts that got Windsor into the post-season. One would think the grit, scoring ability, and two-way play the 20-year old has shown would be enough to earn him a professional deal, but it wouldn’t be the first time a player was “blacklisted” by the organization for some unknown reason should he be allowed to re-enter the draft instead.

Nick Tarnasky – C+

If Tarnasky could skate, he would undoubtedly be an NHL player. A vast majority of the 29-year old’s 13 AHL goals this year came from the lip of the crease, as he uses his 6’2″, 224 lbs frame effectively to park himself right there. Unfortunately, he is seldom noticed otuside of that area, as he isn’t the guy you want carrying the puck up ice, and would often be caught down low, resulting in odd-man rushes against and reflected in his team-worst -17 rating. Tarnasky’s other asset is his fighting ability, but even still, while he represented an upgrade on Zack Stortini a year ago, he would just as easily be replaced as return.

Nick Sorkin – C+

Sorkin was given a professional tryout following the end of his college career with the University of New Hampshire, and early on seemed like he’d be no bigger blip on the radar than Matt Grassi the year prior. But Sorkin improved every game throughout his short stint in Hamilton, climbing the depth chart not unlike Courtnall, and working his way on to a scoring line. He moves well for a 6’3″ forward, and seems to understand how to position himself well on the ice to get open in dangerous spots. Still, with just one goal in eight games, he is on the fence for whether he can turn this tryout into a season-long AHL contract for next year. Turning 23 in June, he may be edged out in favour of younger talents.

Louis Leblanc – C

Early on, it looked like Leblanc might have learned his lesson from last season and gotten back on track. The effort was there, he was playing a smarter, more disciplined game, and the results were coming  with 8 points in his first 8 games, interrupted by a brief call-up to Montreal in the middle of his hot streak. From there, however, it was all downhill, managing only 20 points in the next 61 contests, and rarely having an impact on the game, typically chasing the play rather than controlling it. Despite decent footspeed, he frequently seems to be a step behind the play, and rarely engages physically. Admittedly Leblanc didn’t have much to work with, shifted down to a third line once his struggles began, and frequently saddled with Tarnasky at even strength, while receiving little powerplay time. But it was on him to prove that he deserved a better opportunity, and he was unable to separate himself from the pack, unlike some others on this list. Leblanc did manage to simplify his game and reduce the poor offensive-zone penalties of which he was often guilty a year ago, but the hope of him becoming an impact player seems to have vanished, and at this point his ceiling is an adequate two-way third liner. That has its value, of course, and at age 23, it’s too soon to declare he’ll never be a full-time NHL’er, but Leblanc himself has to consider his options thus summer as his 3-year entry level contract comes to an end. The most likely scenario is probably a one year deal from the Canadiens to prove himself, unless another team is interested in taking a flyer on a former first round selection, and he is included in an off-season transaction.

Patrick Holland – C

Holland was among Hamilton’s top forwards down the stretch a year ago, playing wing on a top line with Joey Tenute. As such, it was expected that he would play an important role on St. Pierre’s wing this year, but he never quite got going, resulting in a significant and disappointing dip in his development curve. His decline in production (from .4 PPG to .3 PPG) between his rookie and sophomore years came despite continued opportunity to man the point on a powerplay unit, though to his credit, he did manage to round out his game as a serviceable penalty killer as well. As seen during training camp and his short call-up, Holland can be a multi-dimensional player, willing to block shots and battle in his own end, but ultimately his natural ability is in playmaking, and that is the skill that he’ll need to continue to develop if he’s to get another crack at the big leagues. The 6’0″ forward has a year left on his ELC before any decisions need to be made, and he’ll again be expected to play a significant role as a young veteran in Hamilton in 2014-15.

Maxime Macenauer – C

Macenauer, 25, is a veteran of 29 NHL games, though how he ever convinced the Anaheim Ducks that he was good enough to make the roster in 2011-12 remains a mystery. A confident, defensively responsible pivot, Macenauer is clearly a coach’s player, earning the trust of Lefebvre and being handed a regular role as a first line centre between Andrighetto and Thomas, despite a lack of production. His 24 points in 73 games came through playing big (and largely ineffective) minutes on the powerplay and between his skilled wingers, while his most positive impact seemed to come on the penalty kill, where his strong face-off and positioning work helped the P.K. be one of the bright spots on this year’s Dogs team. The team seems to like him, so he could be retained, but on-ice he could easily be replaced (and ideally upgraded) by any AHL veteran free agent.

Stefan Fournier – C-

In his rookie campaign, Fournier would impress one game out of four, notably when playing with Nattinen, but for all the positive flashes, he would find himself back in the press box due to frequent, poor, momentum-killing penalties. Turning 22 later this month, Fournier still has time to work on his discipline and hockey smarts, and the organization can do nothing but be patient given the two years remaining on his entry level deal. Still, he doesn’t have the skills to be more than a third or fourth line AHL forward, and will have to battle for ice time with any new additions to the club for next season.

Jordan Owens / Erik Nystrom / Akim Aliu / Ben Duffy / Stephen MacAulay – D

All five of the above players left the Bulldogs during the course of the season, with only Nystrom technically remaining part of the organization as a player drafted by the Canadiens, but having signed a new deal to remain in Europe. Aliu was a darling of Bulldogs training camp, but his play puttered out early on in the season. MacAulay impressed in his first game in Hamilton after a call-up from the ECHL, but it was a flash in the pan before he and Duffy both opted to further their studies rather than continue playing pro hockey.

Robert Czarnik / Steve Quailer – D

Another less successful experiment was the trade of Qualier for Czarnik. Quailer produced in limited playing time with the Bulldogs, notably when slotted on Nattinen’s wing (a common theme), whereas Czarnik was never given much of a chance, and didn’t make much of the opportunities he did receive.

 

DEFENSEMEN

Simply put, there’s nothing left for Greg Pateryn to learn at the AHL level. He just needs a real NHL chance. (PHOTO: Vincent Éthier)
Simply put, there’s nothing left for Greg Pateryn to learn at the AHL level. He just needs a real NHL chance. (PHOTO: Vincent Éthier)

Greg Pateryn – A

Hamilton’s most consistent defenseman, the 23-year old Pateryn has little left to learn at the AHL level. His 15 goals rank second in the American Hockey League among blueliners and more than double his totals over a four year college career. He backed up his 34 points in 67 games with sound play in his own end, combining physical play with adequate footspeed on his 6’2″ frame. One would think the Canadiens would fine a place for a young, two-way right-handed blueliner with size, but Pateryn hasn’t been given a true opportunity to adapt and learn in the NHL. If the perhaps likely scenario of Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi starting the year in Montreal comes to pass, Pateryn is another favourite to take over as Hamilton captain, able to ease the transition of former D partner Mac Bennett to the pro game.

Nathan Beaulieu – B+

Beaulieu isn’t the player he was down the stretch in the AHL a year ago, where he dominated games in Scott Niedermayer-like fashion. The yo-yo trips to and from Montreal didn’t seem to rest well with him, and – given he’s blessed with all-world skill – it really is the mental aspects of the game that he needs to sharpen. An effortless skater with slick hands and a booming shot, the 21-year old tends to get frustrated or give up on plays when beaten or after making a mistake. Paired with a player like Pateryn or Josh Gorges, there’s no reason to doubt that Beaulieu could play in the NHL as early as the Fall, but he’ll need a responsible partner to help him make the jump. Once he has that learning under his belt, though, there is no reason to think he can’t be a regular top four rearguard.

Jarred Tinordi – B

Clearly the Canadiens have identified Tinordi as the guy they want NHL-ready fastest, a position in the depth chart which can’t be attributed to his AHL play. It’s not that Tinordi had a bad season in Hamilton. There was even a stretch prior to one of his call-ups where he was clearly the ‘Dogs’ best rearguard. But he isn’t particularly physical, gets himself out of position in his own end, and despite strong skating ability and willingness to jump into the rush, has limited offensive production to show for it. Tinordi’s frame and potential can’t be denied, but he’s still very raw in his development, and will need a lot of coaching and patience if he is to live up to expectations and be more than a bottom pair filler.

Davis Drewiske – B

Drewiske was very obviously disappointed to be sent to Hamilton once recovered from injury, and early on in his stint with the ‘Dogs, it looked like he might not stay in the AHL very long. Over his first few games, Drewiske played with the intensity you’d expect from a guy who has been forced to sit out so many months. But after that initial surge of adrenaline wore off, the poor decisions and mistakes seemed to crop up a little more regularly in his game, and you were reminded why the 29-year old has yet to lock down a full-time NHL gig. Drewiske has a year remaining on his NHL deal, but given he is likely under the three above names on the organization’s depth chart, he seems likely destined for waivers and a possible return to Hamilton next year.

Morgan Ellis – B-

A hot-and-cold season for Ellis saw him start the season as a prolonged healthy scratch. When given an opportunity to play, he took full advantage, using the departure of Magnus Nygren and injuries to Darren Dietz to help secure a job in the top four, where he was frequently paired with Beaulieu. Ellis managed a modest improvement in his point production, while gradually improving his all-around game, but remains far more of a project than most believed when he graduated from junior hockey two years ago. He was unable to maintain a high level of play, and the late season saw him return to scratch status in favour of some names lower down this list who have no NHL futures to speak of. Especially given the expected arrivals of Bennett and Darren Dietz, Ellis will need to prove he can remain relevant in the upcoming final year of his entry level deal.

It sounds like Nygren is willing to attend Montreal's camp in September, but a return to Hamilton won't be in the cards. (PHOTO: Brandon Taylor, Hamilton Bulldogs)
It sounds like Nygren is willing to attend Montreal’s camp in September, but a return to Hamilton won’t be in the cards. (PHOTO: Brandon Taylor, Hamilton Bulldogs)

Magnus Nygren – B-

Nygren was impressive upon his arrival in Hamilton, particularly in the offensive zone where his blistering point shot helped him put up 8 points in 16 contests. After a minor injury, however, Nygren decided he wasn’t happy with life on or off the ice in Hamilton, opting to return to his native Sweden to complete the season with Farjestad, where the 23-year old scored at a torrid pace with 12 goals and 20 points in just 25 games. The 6’0″ rugged blueliner was guilty of numerous offensive zone turnovers in Hamilton and needs to improve play in his own end, but his skills can’t be overlooked, and recent comments indicate his willingness to attend Montreal’s camp in the Fall, though his options would be limited to NHL or SHL with no interest in returning to the American League.

Darren Dietz – C+

Dietz’s pro rookie season was interrupted by multiple injuries, limiting him to just 34 games. The 20-year old is still seeking his first professional goal, after coming off a season where he led all Canadian Hockey League d-men in markers with 24. He should play a bigger role in Hamilton next season if he can stay in the line-up, and is likely to be joined by his former Saskatoon Blades teammate Dalton Thrower. Dietz is one of those middle-ground d-men at the pro level, not unlike Ellis, who does everything well enough without any one particular ability standing out. For this reason, it may take him longer to fully adjust to this stage and even longer still to get noticed, but he does have two full years remaining on his ELC to pile on some experience and learnings.

Joel Chouinard – C+

After Courtnall, Chouinard was the best of the players on AHL deals this season (though this isn’t saying particularly much). When it wasn’t Ellis sliding into the team’s top four on D, it was Chouinard, thanks to his defensive effectiveness and quick playing of the puck (and the absence of other viable options). At 24, Chouinard’s potential is likely nothing more than a bottom pair AHL d-man, but this season he helped compensate for the losses of Nygren and Dietz this year that could have left the ‘Dogs in quite a pinch. Unlikely to be back unless for extra depth in the ECHL, Chouinard was a stop-gap that must be upgraded for the team to improve.

Nathan McIver – C

McIver would look like he fit in well one shift out of five, but you’d be reminded of his limited skill set the other four. He basically gets into the line-up because of his pugilistic skills as the truest pure enforcer on the squad, and well, every team carries facepunchers in the American Hockey League. No reason to expect him back next year.

Drew Schiestel – C-

Schiestel was a surprise to go as early as he did in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft – taken in the 2nd round by the Buffalo Sabres – and he has never lived up to the organization’s expectations. The 25-year old Hamilton native showed no signs of getting back on track this year either, frequently misplaying pucks and losing coverage in his own end. The roll he can play is limited to full-time ECHL’er, providing depth as a call-up in case of injury. 

 

GOALTENDERS

Dustin Tokarski – A

Really the only reason the Hamilton Bulldogs were competitive at times this year, Tokarski confirmed his status as one of the top goaltenders in the American Hockey League this season. Sporting a sensational .920 save percentage and a 2.36 GAA, it was thought by some that Tokarski may seek a new challenge overseas or request a trade to another organization for a shot at a full time NHL gig next season, but his agreement to a two-year extension with Montreal provides the Canadiens with strong depth between the pipes. Though the indisputable trend is to favour netminders with size, Tokarski’s quickness and determination compensate for his 5’11” frame. The structure of Tokarski’s new deal speaks to the team’s plans for him, with a two-way contract for next season and an NHL only deal the year after, coincidentally the timing of the end of Peter Budaj’s current stint with the Habs, but this is dependent on his clearing waivers in the Fall.

Robert Mayer – B

Mayer represents quite the mystery in Hamilton. There is no doubt he was regularly outplayed by Tokarski, and yet coach Lefebvre continually sent Mayer out to start more than his fair share of games. And it wasn’t that Mayer didn’t have the talent to play at this level; he turned in some big performances to bank points for the ‘Dogs when it looked like they might still have a chance to reach the post-season. But consistency has always plagued the Czech-born, Swiss-citizen netminder, and you can typically tell from his first shot faced of the night whether he’s going to have a strong or poor outing. The situation is a curious one, complicated by the fact that the Canadiens gave Mayer a two-year deal last summer, meaning he has a year remaining when the Habs would likely prefer to promote 23-year old Mike Condon to the role of backing up Tokarski after he dominated the East Coast Hockey League. Mayer is as good as he will be, while Condon’s development is on a rising curve, so it’s possible the team agrees to allow Mayer to head to Switzerland this summer, or deals him to another club in need of AHL depth.

Devan Dubnyk – B-

Dubnyk was acquired simply because the Bulldogs were playing for their playoff lives in a pivotal 3-games-in-3-nights weekend and starter Tokarski was up in Montreal. Unfortunately, his season of struggles continued in Hamilton with a 3.33 GAA and a .893 save percentage, meaning his visit to Hamilton is certain to have been a mere layover. Dubnyk was a reasonable, proven NHL goaltender prior to this year, so there is no doubt he’ll get a contract from someone for next season in another effort to re-assert himself, but the Canadiens’ organization has no motivation to offer him a prolonged stay.

 

LOOKING AHEAD

So it was a tough year. But all is not lost, given the Canadiens will benefit from the experience gained by players like Beaulieu and Tinordi this season as they are promoted to the next level. And turnover from one year to the next in the American League can be so great that this year’s results don’t necessarily spell doom for years to come, even though it was the third straight season without playoff action in the Hammer. How does general manager Marc Bergevin – holding his own part of the blame for not finding the right veterans to fill out his AHL affiliate’s roster – go about turning the team around? A winning roster based on the pieces under contract might look something like this:

Sven Andrighetto – AHL VET UFA – Christian Thomas
Charles Hudon – Jacob De La Rose – AHL VET UFA
Mike Blunden – Gabriel Dumont – Louis Leblanc
Patrick Holland – Brady Vail – Connor Crisp

Greg Pateryn – Mac Bennett
AHL VET UFA – Morgan Ellis
Dalton Thrower – Darren Dietz

Dustin Tokarski
Mike Condon

Of course, being competitive depends on those AHL VET UFA spots being filled by quality players, and not Drew Schiestels and Ben Duffys, but you can add a real wildcard to the mix in Tim Bozon. Already signed by the Canadiens, Bozon continues his courageous recovery from a bout with meningitis that saw him hospitalized in a medically-induced coma last month. An established WHL sniper, it is unclear at this point where he’ll be in terms of health and physical conditioning by next Fall, and in turn what role he might be able to play in the organization. Also already signed is Jack Nevins, an undrafted prospect who has fit in well enough in a late-season stint with the ‘Dogs after his QMJHL career came to a close. Nevins is interchangeable with Vail and Crisp should the organization choose not to sign either, or reinforces the club’s important depth at this level.

Thanks for following Hamilton Bulldogs coverage at All Habs all season long, and we will continue to follow every development over the off-season.

Categories
Feature

Down on the Farm – ‘Dogs Packing Copps for Friday Night

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON, ON – It was a quiet week on the ice in Hamilton, as the Bulldogs had only a single game, allowing some of their conference rivals to close out games in hand. Unfortunately they also allowed those teams to gain points on them in the AHL’s Western Conference standings, as their lone outing was a disappointing 3-1 loss to the cellar-dwelling Utica Comets.

It wasn’t for a lack of chances that the Bulldogs dropped their second game in the past three following a season-long six-game win streak. Removing the empty netter insurance goal, the shots on the night were even, and a Hamilton had a number of chances to get on the board early, but failed to cash in. Finding themselves down 2-0 through twenty minutes, the ‘Dogs simply didn’t have it in them to come back, struggling to beat netminder Joe Cannata despite the poor season he’s having.

Leblanc must prove he belongs in Montreal before White and Galchenyuk are ready to return from injury. (PHOTO: BRANDON TAYLOR, via Hamilton Bulldogs)
Leblanc must prove he belongs in Montreal before White and Galchenyuk are ready to return from injury. (PHOTO: BRANDON TAYLOR, via Hamilton Bulldogs)

Of greater significance to Habs fans were the three players called up to Montreal this week. Joonas Nattinen – who I’d highlighted as an unsung hero this season for the ‘Dogs – wasn’t given much of a chance to make his presence felt, centering the fourth line against the Toronto Maple Leafs but seeing his ice time limited to just 1:45. Nattinen will be an RFA this summer, and if he opts to explore options overseas, he will join the ranks of some of the most obscure players to ever wear the CH crest.

Nathan Beaulieu – called up along with Nattinen – has been given a better opportunity and hasn’t looked out of place on the Habs’ back end. His playing has come at the expense of Raphael Diaz – a curious choice to say the least – but his puck-handling and skating abilities are welcome additions and certain upgrades on veterans Francis Bouillon and Doug Murray. It is critical for the Canadiens to begin breaking in their prospect blueliners at the NHL level, as it is difficult to have multiple players making that transition all at once.

Lastly, Louis Leblanc was recalled after Nattinen was sent down to fill a bottom six winger role. Leblanc was Hamilton’s second leading scorer at the time of the recall, and their most productive player at even strength. His overall game wasn’t particularly impressive at the AHL level, but there were few forwards on the ‘Dogs’ roster truly deserving of a call-up, and the Canadiens do have a need to figure out Leblanc’s career trajectory beyond this season sooner rather than later. Leblanc got a slightly greater audition than Nattinen, playing 7:49 on a line with Michael Bournival (whereas Nattinen got Travis Moen and George Parros as wingers), and remains in the mix for the time being, with Ryan White and Alex Galchenyuk still sidelined with injuries.

With underperforming veterans like Bouillon, Murray, Rene Bourque, and Daniel Briere frequently in the Canadiens’ line-up, combined with Montreal’s poor play as a team of late, it isn’t inconceivable that other Bulldog players get NHL auditions before the season is through to inject some youthful energy and enthusiasm. Perhaps it’s the fact that Hamilton is in a tight race for a playoff spot that has made the Canadiens reluctant to pull the kind of moves that would gut their AHL affiliate. Is it just Michel Therrien‘s insistence on favouring is veterans, or is the organization putting heavy value on playoff experience for their young prospects in a case of “Ask not what your Bulldogs can do for you, but what you can do for your Bulldogs?”

In an ideal scenario, Hamilton would remain as hot as their 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games indicates for the next while, providing them a cushion of points on which they can rest their laurels. That would allow the Canadiens to free up some roster spots pre-trade deadline for call-ups, and not leave the Bulldogs shorthanded for too long, as at least some of the organization’s junior prospects would be nearing the ends of their seasons. Hamilton stands to gain the likes of Charles HudonTim BozonBrady VailDalton Thrower, and potentially Swedish imports Sebastian Collberg and Jacob De La Rose for a stretch run, and will need open spots for them to fill.

This weekend is a busier one for the boys from the Hammer with a traditional American Hockey League three-in-three. The team has seen exceptional ticket sales for it’s Friday night match-up against the arch-rival Toronto Marlies Friday night, completely selling out the lower bowl at Copps Coliseum, and now opening the upper bowl to fans as well. Considering it’s also $3 beer night, the building should be rocking, and thus if you’re in the Hamilton area, act quick and pick up tickets from www.hamiltonbulldogs.com.

Categories
IceCaps game report

Americans Snap Bulldogs Streak at Six [with POST-GAME AUDIO]

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

POST-GAME AUDIO: Greg Pateryn | Robert Mayer | Sylvain Lefebvre

HAMILTON, ON – The Hamilton Bulldogs came home from a four-game road trip riding a six-game win streak, but a strong first period was insufficient to extend the streak to seven Saturday night against the Rochester Americans. It looked through twenty minutes as though the ‘Dogs might continue the dominance they displayed on the road, but the visiting Amerks got revenge from the first half of the teams’ home-and-home, slowly taking control starting at the game’s halfway point, and then controlling the flow in the final minutes to secure a 3-1 victory.

Greg Pateryn's powerplay marker gave Hamilton an early end, but the home team couldn't keep up the rest of the way. (PHOTO: HAMILTON BULLDOGS)
Greg Pateryn’s powerplay marker gave Hamilton an early end, but the home team couldn’t keep up the rest of the way. (PHOTO: HAMILTON BULLDOGS)

The game marked Robert Mayer‘s first start since winning the Spengler Cup during a brief loan to Genève-Servette. Mayer was phenomenal in the tournament’s final, particularly as Genève-Servette held on under siege during the third period.

Mayer’s shaky confidence has often been a knock against him throughout his professional career, so the hope was that the championship might give him something to build on back in the American Hockey League, but the extended time off between games saw him look hesitant off the bat. The first shot his way – coming from the blueline – squeaked through him, but fortunately trickled just wide of the cage.

From there, the Bulldogs took over the first period. On the team’s first powerplay at the midway mark of the period, Greg Pateryn took a feed from Christian Thomas along the blueline and took a few strides in from the point before firing a hard wrister past Nathan Lieuwen for a 1-0 lead. The goal was Pateryn’s seventh of the season, putting him just two behind Louis Leblanc‘s team leading nine. As much as Pateryn could help the Montreal Canadiens as an upgrade on D immediately, he has been Hamilton’s MVP through the first half of the season, and would be an enormous loss for the ‘Dogs.

Nathan Beaulieu and Sven Andrighetto had quality scoring chances looking to extend the Hamilton lead before 20 minutes were through. Beaulieu accepted a drop pass and displayed soft hands in weaving through the Amerks’ defense before firing a shot that rang off the post. A few shifts later, Andrighetto’s stickhandling ability allowed him to find open ice in the offensive zone, but his shot was narrowly wide.

The Bulldogs picked up right where they left off in the second period. Gabriel Dumont battled hard in front of Lieuwen on an early powerplay, finally leaving the puck for Mike Blunden to crash the goal and try to sneak one through the Rochester netminder, but to no avail.

After successfully killing ten penalties in Rochester the night previous, Hamilton was again set on not making the night an easy one for themselves. The Americans – who began to find their legs as the period moved on – hemmed the ‘Dogs in their own end for an extended period of time, eventually earning a powerplay thanks to a Christian Thomas failed clear attempt that sailed over the glass. Mayer was forced to make a big save lying on the ice in snow angel formation to help his ‘mates survive the kill.

But Rochester’s momentum only grew from there. Mayer – who also settled down as the game wore on – made the initial stop on a rush, but kicked the rebound all the way back to the point where Chad Ruhwedel was waiting. The blueliner’s shot would be tipped in front by Brandon MacLean to tie the game before Mayer could recover.

The third period started with both teams afraid to make mistakes. The biggest moment in the early-goings was a successful Hamilton kill of a Greg Pateryn penalty. It took till the midway point of the frame for the first real scoring chance, when Maxim Macenauer and Louis Leblanc broke in on a two-on-one. Macenauer opted to keep the puck and identified the nearside top corner, but Lieuwen got the blocker up in time.

Seconds after the unsuccessful rush, Luke Adam – always a thorn in Hamilton’s sign – deftly stickhandled inside the Bulldogs blueline to create room before spotting Johan Larsson alone in the slot. Larsson – acquired from Minnesota as part of last season’s Jason Pominville trade – quickly redirected the pass into an empty net as Mayer attempted to slide cross-crease, giving Rochester its first lead of the night.

By this point, the Americans had taken control of the flow of the game, and coasted the rest of the period with Hamilton unable to generate much in the way of chances to tie the game. Mayer skated to the bench following a Bulldog dump-in, but Rochester recovered, and Luke Adam – yes, him again – lobbed a puck into the empty cage with just under a minute to play, sealing the Amerks victory and ending Hamilton’s run.

“That first goal was really big for us, and I thought we were going to be able to feed off that, but we played one and a half periods of hockey, and that third period we gave the game away,” summarized the night’s second star, Greg Pateryn. “It happens sometimes. We have to break away from it.”

Pateryn was perhaps the biggest reason outside of Dustin Tokarski for Hamilton’s recent success, having found solid chemistry on a pairing with Jarred Tinordi after spending much of the early season beside Nathan Beaulieu. The 23-year old believes he and his new ‘mate can make a solid shutdown duo. “We’re starting to really build some chemistry. We’re talking out there, always trying to get better with the little things. He’s a really good player and I’m really happy to play with him.”

Critical for the Bulldogs is not to fall into the same trap they have earlier this year, where multi-game win streaks were essentially negated by extended losing streaks. They’ll have a chance to put tonight’s loss behind them quickly, as they hit the season’s official halfway point with a home date against the Iowa Wild Sunday. In the words of Pateryn: “We need to not let this loss get to us and take the positives from it. There are a lot of games in the season.”

 

Categories
Feature

Down on the Farm – State of the ‘Dogs

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON, ON – As the Hamilton Bulldogs approach the halfway point of their 2013-14 season, If one were to summarize it in a single word, it would be inconsistency.

A strong start with only two regulation losses in their first ten games was quickly wiped out by a five game losing streak. Then just when it looked like this season may be a repeat of the last, the ‘Dogs rattled off four straight wins, backed by stellar netminding from Dustin Tokarski.

The two men most responsible for Hamilton's success this season are goaltender Dustin Tokarski and defenseman Greg Pateryn (PHOTO: HAMILTON BULLDOGS)
The two men most responsible for Hamilton’s success this season are goaltender Dustin Tokarski and defenseman Greg Pateryn (PHOTO: HAMILTON BULLDOGS)

The club then idled for a spell, with a 3-3 record over their next six contests, before going cold once again with a second five-game skid in the first half of the year.

But Santa had some renewed hope tucked away in his sack for Bulldog fans, as the holidays brought with them a five-game surge for the boys from Canada’s Steeltown that now has them right in the thick of a playoff race in the AHL’s Western Conference.  It has been a rollercoaster, to say the least, and the real Hamilton Bulldogs will need to rise to the occasion early in 2014 to continue to gain ground on rivals who currently hold games in hand.

In Hamilton’s favour is that they sit in the American Hockey League’s weakest division, only three points back of the leading Toronto Marlies (who have two games in hand, mind you) despite being just three games above .500.

Also arguably in their favour is that they haven’t depended on a single player – or even single line – to carry them offensively this year. When the team is losing, this can be seen as a negative, as there hasn’t been a single forward they can go to for offense in a time of need. In fact, their inability to score often mirrored the problems of their parent club in Montreal. But in the American Hockey League, relying on a single player is a risky strategy, as not only do you live in fear of losing that player himself to injury as you would in any league, but you’re also at risk of losing that player to any injury or trade by your NHL affiliate.

Sure Martin St. Pierre has a sizeable lead on his teammates in terms of points with 25 in 32 games, but the undersized AHL veteran has been rather ineffective at even strength this season, padding his stats with the man advantage. Despite what the stat sheet says, his play thus far can be qualified as underwhelming.

Louis Leblanc’s nine goals lead the Bulldogs, but his game has been hot and cold, disappearing for stretches much like many of his fellow skaters. To his credit, Leblanc has managed to simplify his game this season – perhaps realizing his professional forte won’t be as a finesse/skill player – and cut down on poor undisciplined penalties.

Gabriel Dumont didn’t have a start to the season anywhere near like the past year, but one can’t question his effort level, and he has kicked it up a notch over the most recent win streak. At the moment, I would imagine he heads the call-up list among forwards.

Outside of Dumont, Mike Blunden is the other “safe” call-up at forward, but he’s often a Bulldog equivalent of Travis Moen; frequent recipient of scoring chances only to miss the net.

Patrick Holland got a deserved taste of NHL action earlier this season, and has progressed his game by showing intensity in all three zones. That said, he has failed to improve on his productivity from his rookie AHL season. A player who scored 109 points in his final year in the WHL, Holland was expected to take on more of the offensive load than he has thus far.

If there’s a forward who has delivered well throughout the season up front, it’s pro rookie Sven Andrighetto. The Swiss winger has eight goals and 15 points in his first 23 AHL games, despite missing a full month of the season with injury. Andrighetto is a rather one-dimensional offensive player, so the Montreal brass is likely to want him to mature further before any call-up.

While the forwards have been inconsistent, Hamilton’s MVP to date (perhaps outside of Tokarski) has been their rock on the blueline. Though Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi get all the press in Montreal as former first round picks, it’s Greg Pateryn that anchors the Bulldog defense. Both Beaulieu and Tinordi have struggled as sophomores, with the former frequently looking disinterested on ice, and the latter neither playing physically nor being air-tight defensively. But Pateryn has been getting it done at both ends of the ice (his 15 points in 28 games and plus-11 both lead all Bulldog blueliners) and appears about as ready to make the jump to the NHL as any second year pro could be.

A revelation of late has been the resurgence of Morgan Ellis, practically written off earlier this season as he bided his time as a healthy scratch. Ellis has a strong reputation as a leader on and off the ice, and to his credit, took it in stride, seizing his opportunity when given and establishing himself as a top four blueliner on the squad.

Expanding our coverage of the Hamilton Bulldogs here at AllHabs.net, this column will be a weekly feature on Thursdays for the remainder of the season, updating which Bulldog players are trending upwards or downwards, and highlighting some names you may be less familiar with down on the farm.

 

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Multimedia

Bulldogs in Pictures: Sometimes Jerseys Are Optional [GALLERY]

By Rabita, Photojournalist, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON,ON. — You might think that a hockey practice is rather routine: stretching, skating and drills. That may be partly true but there’s always something different.  It’s a time to watch the skills of the players but more importantly see the interactions between teammates and the coaches. Last time, I told you (and showed you photos) of the small fight between Darren Dietz and Nick Tarnasky.

(Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)
(Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)

Today started like any other practice. The players got on the ice and started their drills right away, split into white and red jerseys. It was good to see the older players being vocal, encouraging the younger players in the drills.  Something I found interesting (and wouldn’t have seen otherwise) is that the coaches actively participated in the drills rather than just instructing the players.

But what was the most fascinating to me was when goalie Dustin Tokarski returned to the ice without a jersey or protective gear and began going through the motions of saving phantom pucks and recovering for the next stop in his mind. He is a very focused athlete.

Enjoy the photos. I look forward to your comments.

 

Categories
Multimedia

Emotions On Display at Hamilton Bulldogs Practice [PHOTO GALLERY]

If you are a regular reader of All Habs Hockey Magazine, you know that we do things differently and you tell us that it’s one of the reasons you keep coming back. In addition to our comprehensive coverage of the Montreal Canadiens, we also commit to providing you the most in-depth coverage of prospects in the organization.  Being a Canadiens fan means you want to keep current on the progress of future stars too.

One of our Senior Writers, Dan Kramer, is in his second full season of providing you game-by-game reports for the Hamilton Bulldogs from the press box.  We are pleased to introduce to you Rabita, another member of All Habs team who will be providing you with images from Copps Coliseum.  Her experience in sports photography will tell you the story from Hamilton in pictures.

We have more changes in store for you that are just around the corner. We think that you’ll like them.

By Rabita, Photojournalist, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON,ON. — I’m used to be on the field as a sidelines photographer. But I knew that this photo assignment was going to be different when the pucks slammed against the glass, quite startling when one is looking through a camera lens. And the speed. Being rink-side gave a whole new appreciation for the speed, even at this level. The guys are really fast which made it a challenge to capture them in motion sometimes.

(Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)
(Photo by Rabita Naqvi | Rocket Sports Media)

The Bulldogs wasted no time getting warmed up and beginning their drills. The team worked hard all through the practice in preparation for Tuesday’s game against the Texas Stars. There was plenty of chatter on the ice with teammates encouraging each other. Players seemed to pair up reserving conversation with one partner. And the coaches showed their fun and joking side at times too.

At one point, the ‘communication’ became intense. Nick Tarnasky, playing the role of the veteran, felt that a rookie defenceman wasn’t taking things seriously enough. He and Darren Dietz exchanged rough language and eventually dropped the gloves. The minor dispute was settled quickly by the coaches and fellow teammates. Just the emotion of the game.

All in all, today was an incredible experience photographing the Bulldogs. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to capture the skills and emotions of these talented players.

I am pleased to join the All Habs team. I will be telling you the stories of Hamilton Bulldogs through pictures this season. I hope that you enjoy them. I’d love to hear what you think. Please leave me a note in the comment box.

 

Categories
Feature

Starting from the Bottom – Bulldogs Set to Open Camp

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

TORONTO, ON – There were few spots up for grabs in Montreal Canadiens training camp. The team had finished 2nd in the NHL’s Eastern Conference last season, and despite a disappointing first round playoff loss to the Ottawa Senators, the return to health of some key veterans and development of young players have many hopeful that the building blocks are in place for long-term success. With many players returning on one-way NHL contracts, camp held little suspense, and what little there was mostly vanished when Michel Therrien revealed his plans to stick to last season’s line combinations.

Stability is a foreign concept in the American Hockey League. Teams that perform well are generally led by top players, whose outstanding performances see them given shots in the National Hockey League the following season. Few players sign long-term deals to stay in the AHL, and thus seeing players swap teams annually is hardly an unusual sight. Drafted North American prospects come of age for league eligibility, and thus teams are stocked with new young hopefuls.

In Hamilton, coming off a season where the hometown squad finished dead last in the league, the multitude of new faces who will report for physicals Friday will be a welcome reprieve from the memories of a year gone wrong. Thursday, the group that will attempt to start from the bottom and work their way back towards respectability, was announced as the Bulldogs revealed their opening training camp roster.

Joonas Nattinen is finally healthy again but will have to battle for ice time in a contract season.
Joonas Nattinen is finally healthy again but will have to battle for ice time in a contract season.

On it are most of the names you’d expect. Louis Leblanc and Joonas Nattinen return at forward, while Morgan Ellis hopes to take on a larger role on defense. Robert Mayer will again battle for playing time between the pipes. Not listed but undoubtedly soon to join the group once cut from the Canadiens are Martin St. PierrePatrick HollandChristian ThomasMagnus NygrenNathan BeaulieuDarren Dietz, and Dustin Tokarski. Provided there are no further injuries, no more than one of Michael BournivalMichael Blunden, or Gabriel Dumont should stick with the Habs at this point either, though the latter two would be subject to waivers if they are to join the ‘Dogs. Injuries on defense may delay the return of a Greg Pateryn or Jarred Tinordi, but at least the former should eventually spend some time in the Hammer this season.

Then you add in the rest of the fresh wave of prospects with Sven Andrighetto, Stefan Fournier, and Erik Nystrom, and this summer’s depth signings in Stefan Chaput, Ben DuffyJustin CourtnallStephen MacAulayMatt Grassi, and Drew Schiestel, and you start to get a crowded picture.

One imagines a preconceived depth chart might look something like the following:

Patrick Holland – Martin St. Pierre – Christian Thomas
Mike Blunden – Michael Bournival – Louis Leblanc
Erik Nystrom – Nick Tarnasky – Sven Andrighetto
Stefan Fournier – Joonas Nattinen – Steve Quailer
Ben Duffy, Justin Courtnall, Stephen MacAulay, Stefan Chaput

Greg Pateryn – Nathan Beaulieu
Magnus Nygren – Darren Dietz
Morgan Ellis – Drew Schiestel
Matt Grassi, Joel Chouinard

Dustin Tokarski
Robert Mayer
Mike Condon, Peter Delmas

With so many names already penciled in, where does the suspense come into play? Well the names above aren’t the only ones on Hamilton’s camp roster. The Bulldogs have invited a number of others – ranging from high profile veterans and former prospects to the rather obscure – to attend camp on tryouts in the hopes of earning a job with the team.

Would an organization so bent on character give a chance to a player with the reputation of Aliu?
Would an organization so bent on character give a chance to a player with the reputation of Aliu?

The first name that stands out is Akim Aliu. The 6’4″ Nigerian winger was a 2nd round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2007, but the offense to his game never developed as the ‘Hawks had hoped. He has been labelled a head case with a bad attitude throughout his career, but has been able to reinvent his style of play, sliding into a tough guy / enforcer role that saw him appear in seven total games for the Calgary Flames split over the past two seasons. There tend to be far more fights in the AHL than the NHL, and thus most squads carry multiple enforcer-types, something the current Hamilton roster is light on. Thus, Aliu’s size and strengths could appeal to the team’s management enough to earn him a spot if he can show improved off-ice demeanour.

A more familiar name on the list is that of Alex Belzile. The 22-year old’s first pro season was spent largely with the ECHL’s Gwinnett Gladiators, but he impressed on a late-season tryout with the Bulldogs, scoring 8 points in 14 games while driving the net with regularity despite his very average 5’11” frame. Belzile frequently dressed on Hamilton’s top scoring line, though with the new bodies on the roster it’s tough to see exactly where he could carve himself a niche for the coming season. Still, he has already shown he can cut it, and so he should be considered one of the favoured tryouts to further stack Montreal’s AHL affiliate with forward depth.

A couple of other QMJHL-bred forwards also received invites. David Laliberte, a 2004 Philadelphia Flyers fourth round pick with 11 games of NHL experience, and Maxime Macenauer, a Anaheim 2007 third rounder who played 29 games for the Ducks in 2011-12, seem like they could bring every bit as much to the table as a Stefan Chaput or Justin Courtnall, but decisions will ultimately have to be made. While Hamilton certainly endeavours to put up better results than last year, they remain primarily a development team and need to leave room for prospects to get some ice time amidst the more experienced veterans.

wisemannjd
Wiseman’s out to prove he has something left in the tank, and could be a pleasant surprise.

The rest up front: Andre Bouvet-Morrissette is a 6’3″ 22-year old winger coming off his rookie pro season that was split between two AHL and two ECHL clubs… Kelsey Wilson is a 27-year old 6’1″ forward who has bounced around leagues with time in the AHL, ECHL, Austria, and the U.K… Jordan Owens is a veteran of 300 AHL games with a mediocre stat line who is coming off a year in Denmark… Chad Wiseman is a 32-year old Burlington, Ontario native who played nine NHL games between 2002 and 2006 and was once a top AHL scorer, but has been slowed by injuries (he could fill the homegrown scorer void left by Joey Tenute)… Trevor Bruess is an ECHL veteran who gets limited AHL action annually as a temporary injury replacement.

Dalton Thrower will be a name to watch on defense at this camp. Not turning 20 until December 20th, Thrower would be one of the league’s youngest players if he makes the team. But it’s no coincidence the Canadiens have yet to sign their 2012 second rounder to an entry level contract, as Thrower is also eligible to join the WHL’s Vancouver Giants for the coming campaign. If the Canadiens blueline is fairly healthy and thus Hamilton gets both Beaulieu and Pateryn back immediately, it’s likely Thrower will be sent down for a final junior season rather than sitting in the Copps Coliseum press box or heading to the ECHL. That is, unless he forced management’s hand with a standout effort in camp to begin reversing the effects of a disappointing 2012-13 season.

With Tinordi playing like he wants to stay in Montreal, the Bulldogs may be in the market for an experienced blueliner to round out their group. The inside track has to go to Matt Lashoff due to his appearance at Montreal’s camp, but he underwhelmed there, opening a door for the other invitees.

Given the aforementioned absence of toughness in the roster, Nathan McIver might be Lashoff’s biggest competition to earn a deal on D. McIver was a Vancouver Canucks eighth round pick in 2003, and collected 287 penalty minutes in 62 AHL games last season. He also appeared in 36 NHL games between 2006 and 2009, registering one assist and 95 PIMs.

A final notable is another one-time Canuck pick, 2009 fourth round selection Jeremy Price (no relation to Carey Price). The 22-year old two-way d-man completed his stint with Colgate University and then got a five-game tryout with the Chicago Wolves at the tail end of last season, but didn’t show enough to earn a full-time deal. With the prospect of Tinordi, Pateryn, and Beaulieu graduating to the NHL within the next year, the Bulldogs may look at someone like Price to provide extra insurance in case of injuries, trades, and call-ups.

The rest on D: Pierre Durepos is a 21-year old blueliner and former teammate of Nathan Beaulieu‘s, having spent the past four seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs… Paul Cianfrini is a journeyman whose career took from the OHL to Nipissing University and then to the ECHL for the past two seasons… Jonathan Narbonne is a 21-year old d-man who won a Memorial Cup with Michael Bournival and Morgan Ellis in Shawinigan in 2012.

The first on-ice sessions of camp will be this Saturday, and most practices and scrimmages are open to the public. If you’ll be in the Greater Hamilton Area, stop by and check out some potential future Canadiens. The full schedule can be found here:
http://www.allhabs.net/blog/2013/09/18/official-release-bulldogs-2013-training-camp-begins-friday/

 

Categories
Press release

Hamilton Bulldogs Training Camp Roster

BULLDOGS ANNOUNCE TRAINING CAMP ROSTER

Press Release
By: Hamilton Bulldogs staff

09/19/2013 2:37 PM -MONTREAL, QUEBEC – Montreal Canadiens and Hamilton Bulldogs General Manager Marc Bergevin announced today Hamilton’s training camp roster. The Bulldogs will begin camp tomorrow, Friday, September 20th with 18 forwards, 11 defencemen and four goaltenders.

Forwards
No. Player Sh. Hgt. Wgt. 2012-2013 Team
9 COURTNALL, Justin L 6’3″ 205 Providence (AHL) / South Carolina (ECHL)
10 CHAPUT, Stefan L 6’0″ 192 Hamilton (AHL) / Wheeling (ECHL)
12 MACENAUER, Maxime L 6’0″ 200 St. John’s (AHL)
15 NYSTROM, Erik L 5’11” 180 Karlskrona HK (SWE-1)
19 ALIU, Akim R 6’4″ 225 Abbotsford (AHL) / Calgary (NHL)
20 LEBLANC, Louis R 6’0″ 190 Hamilton (AHL)
21 BOUVET-MORRISSETTE, Andre R 6’3″ 201 Peoria (AHL) / Evansville (ECHL)
23 NATTINEN, Joonas R 6’3″ 197 Hamilton (AHL)
25 WILSON, Kelsey L 6’1″ 210 Trenton (ECHL)
26 OWENS, Jordan L 6’0″ 180 Soenderjyske (DEN)
27 ANDRIGHETTO, Sven L 5’9″ 182 Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
28 LALIBERTE, David R 6’1″ 206 Adirondack (AHL)
41 WISEMAN, Chad L 6’1″ 203 Albany (AHL)
42 DUFFY, Ben R 5’10” 177 PEI (QMJHL)
45 BRUESS, Trevor R 6’0″ 220 Florida (ECHL)
47 FOURNIER, Stefan R 6’3″ 212 Halifax (QMJHL)
55 MACAULAY, Stephen L 6’2″ 191 Saint John (QMJHL) / Halifax (QMJHL)
63 BELZILE, Alex R 5’11” 188 Hamilton (AHL) / Gwinnett (ECHL)
Defencemen
No. Player Sh. Hgt. Wgt. 2012-2013 Team
3 THROWER, Dalton R 6’0″ 203 Saskatoon (WHL)
4 DUREPOS, Pierre L 6’0″ 178 Saint John (QMJHL)
6 CIANFRINI, Paul L 6’1″ 205 Trenton (ECHL)
11 MCIVER, Nathan L 6’2″ 195 Bridgeport (AHL)
22 SCHIESTEL, Drew L 6’2″ 193 Rochester (AHL) / Greenville (ECHL)
24 PRICE, Jeremy R 6’1″ 190 Colgate (ECAC) / Chicago (AHL)
44 ELLIS, Morgan R 6’1″ 202 Hamilton (AHL)
46 LASHOFF, Matt L 6’2″ 205 Zurich (Swiss-A)
48 NARBONNE, Jonathan R 5’11” 180 Shawinigan (QMJHL) / Moncton (QMJHL)
59 CHOUINARD, Joel L 6’1″ 190 Lake Erie (AHL) / Denver (CHL)
61 GRASSI, Matt R 6’3″ 220 Michigan State (CCHA) / Hamilton (AHL)
Goaltenders
No. Player Sh. Hgt. Wgt. 2012-2013 Team
29 MAYER, Robert L 6’1″ 199 Hamilton (AHL)
31 FESTARINI, Christopher L 6’1″ 193 Niagara (OHL)
35 CONDON, Michael L 6’2″ 209 Princeton (ECAC) / Houston (AHL) / Ontario (ECHL)
39 DELMAS, Peter L 6’3″ 195 Hamilton (AHL) / Wheeling (ECHL)

 

Categories
Feature

End of Season Hamilton Bulldogs Report Card – Part 1

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON, ON – There was a lot of hope and promise surrounding the Hamilton Bulldogs entering the 2012-13 season. Despite the team’s struggles last season, an incoming class filled with some of the Montreal Canadiens’ top prospects, combined with the return of a proven top AHL netminder, meant the team had realistic aspirations of a return to the post-season.

Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan. The reasons the team was mired in the Western Conference basement throughout most of the season are plentiful. You can blame the combination of too many rookies on the ice and behind the bench. Early injuries to key veterans. Disappointing performances by players from whom more was expected. Not getting the calibre of goaltending it takes to win. Or a sheer lack of scoring punch.

Not everything was negative, however. A number of rookies impressed in their debuts at the professional level, and we saw the graduation of at least one impact player to the Habs. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to be around the Bulldogs throughout the season in Hamilton, and with the peril-filled campaign now in the books, here’s a look at a breakdown of their performances player-by-player.

reportcard

[part 1 of this report will assess only those who played at least 20 games for the Bulldogs this season; part 2 will look at those who played fewer]

 

FORWARDS: 

MIKE BLUNDEN – A

AHL Numbers: 54 GP, 10-12-22, +2, 76 PIM
The Skinny
: 26 years old, 6’4″, 218 lbs. 39 NHL GP in 2011-12. A favourite of Randy Cunneyworth. Grinder.
His Role: Blunden has shown he can produce at the American Hockey League level, so was most often inserted into Hamilton’s top 6.
His Performance: He was frequently one of the few players to actually show up during the team’s tougher stretches, doing it all on the ice. Produced scoring chances (even when they wouldn’t go in for him), played physically, killed penalties, was used on the powerplay. His numbers could have been a little better, but the effort was there night in and night out.
Future Outlook: He would be a good veteran to have back with the ‘Dogs, while being a serviceable call-up should Montreal’s fourth line need reinforcement.

MICHAEL BOURNIVAL – B+

AHL Numbers: 69 GP, 10-20-30, -3, 26 PIM
The Skinny: 20 years old, 6’0″, 187 lbs. Played for Canada at the WJC. Captained Shawinigan to a Memorial Cup in 2011-12. Just don’t remind him that his team first lost in the second round of the QMJHL playoffs.
His Role: Bournival played both center and wing on second and third lines as a pro rookie in Hamilton. He was used in every situation, earning considerable minutes on both the powerplay and penalty kill. A true two-way player, whose offensive game perked up in spurts but was unnoticeable on many nights as well.
His Performance: His 30 points were good for third on the offensively destitute Bulldog roster. Showed the development you hope for from a rookie, becoming more consistent as the season wore on, earning praise from his teammates and coach.
Future Outlook: May never project as more than a third liner, but positive signs he still has NHL upside. Requires more seasoning, likely to spend all of next season in Hamilton once again.

DARRYL BOYCE – C-

AHL Numbers: 22 GP, 1-6-7, -5, 27 PIM
The Skinny: 28 years old, 6’0″, 200 lbs. 84 career NHL GP, scoring 6 goals and 18 points. Allegedly.
His Role: A team full of rookies desperately needed some veteran leadership, and hoped to depend on Boyce – particularly once Palushaj and Geoffrion went down with injuries.
His Performance: Boyce was a disappointment from day one, providing little offense, taking poor penalties, and in no way carrying any sort of heavy load to take pressure off the young players.
Future Outlook: Was let go before the end of his 25-game tryout. Nothing to see here.

STEFAN CHAPUT – C+

AHL Numbers: 48 GP, 5-12-17, -12, 25 PIM
The Skinny: 25 years old, 6’0″, 185 lbs. Think of him as this year’s Phil DeSimone.
His Role: A skilled offensive forward that the team looked to for secondary scoring from a second or third line. He was on an AHL deal and worked his way back up from the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers.
His Performance: On a team crying for any additional offense, Chaput produced at a similar clip to his prior pro seasons. He would show flashes on some nights, and like so many of his teammates, be wildly inconsistent on others. But you couldn’t blame him for a lack of effort. Had his season ended early on the receiving end of a big open ice check.
Future Outlook: A dime-a-dozen type, unlikely to be back. Enough continuity in the roster, need to bring in some fresh blood.

GABRIEL DUMONT – A+

AHL Numbers: 55 GP, 16-15-31, -2, 83 PIM
The Skinny: 22 years old, 5’10”, 186 lbs. A career third/fourth line grinder who just happened to lead the team in scoring.
His Role: Everything. There were many glaring weaknesses at forward on this squad, and Dumont did his best to shore them all up. His physical game kept opponents honest in protecting his very young teammates, and he suddenly started burying pucks on a team starving for any scoring.
His Performance: Had he not missed 21 games with his time spent in Montreal, would have been the easy choice for team MVP. Fearlessly charged the net, fired pucks on goal whenever possible, and played big minutes in every situation. Was this season just an anomaly? Perhaps. As he himself said, the last time he led a team in scoring was probably in Midget or Peewee.
Future Outlook: The fourth line is crowded in Montreal, and there is even less room for more undersized forwards. But Dumont’s game is pure effort, and he is likely to stick with the Habs in at least a 13th forward role in the Fall.

OLIVIER FORTIER – C-

AHL Numbers: 32 GP, 1-1-2, -1, 15 PIM
The Skinny: 23 years old, 6’0″, 185 lbs. Too good for the ECHL. So basically, David Desharnais. Less skilled, but bigger and better defensively. They must be on similar contracts.
His Role: Fortier was Montreal’s third round pick in 2007. The Canadiens opted to let him walk this summer, but then brought him back on an AHL deal for the Bulldogs. He is a two-way forward, but put up strong ECHL numbers, earning him a recall.
His Performance: Fortier’s development was derailed seasons ago by repeated injuries. He got off to a shaky start in training camp, not in peak form, evident in subpar skating. He was a body to fill a spot. A lunchpale blue collar hard worker.
Future Outlook: Not the season Fortier needed to get back in the organization’s good graces. Unlikely to return.

BRENDAN GALLAGHER – A+

AHL Numbers: 36 GP, 10-10-20, +0, 61 PIM
The Skinny: 28 years old, 6’3″, 220 lbs. Actually that’s just how he plays. But you know who this guy is.
His Role: Ideally you don’t depend on a rookie to lead the way up front for your team, but Gallagher quickly assumed the role of offensive catalyst.  And did so with a smile on his face. Never met a shot opportunity he didn’t like or opposing crease in which he didn’t feel at home.
His Performance: His play was far better than his numbers indicated, with a lack of quality linemates and some poor puck luck despite may many shots and chances to blame. A remarkable rookie season that saw him play the exact same way he had in the WHL when making the jump to the AHL, and then ultimately taking that style straight to the NHL post-lockout.
Future Outlook: Gallagher looks to be an impact player in Montreal for years to come. A high-energy second line winger.

KYLE HAGEL – C+

AHL Numbers: 67 GP, 2-4-6, -13, 172 PIM
The Skinny: 28 years old, 6’0″, 205 lbs. The most kind-hearted scrapper since Georges Laraque.
His Role: Hamilton local. Willing combatant. Great teammate and community guy.
His Performance: Seemed like an important cog on the team. Somehow always in the right place at the right time, as opportune scoring chances always ended up on his stick. Unfortunately, you’d rather it have been pretty much anyone else on the team’s stick.
Future Outlook: As a fourth liner or 13th forward, seems like a guy the Bulldogs would want back. A leader off-ice. Every AHL team needs players willing to drop the gloves.

PATRICK HOLLAND – A-

AHL Numbers: 69 GP, 10-18-28, -12, 8 PIM
The Skinny: 21 years old, 6’0″, 175 lbs. Undoubtedly the best former 7th round selection Montreal has ever traded for in the middle of a game.
His Role: To prove that he had game and that his WHL numbers weren’t just a product of playing with two skilled overage forwards. Cemented himself a first line job by mid-season.
His Performance: Holland started hot, went cold for a bit, and then finished out the season as likely the team’s top offensive threat. He was moved to center temporarily then returned to a more comfortable role on the wing. Gained confidence as the season went on, challenging opposing defenders with quick dekes with increasing frequency and often successfully creating quality chances.  Great offensive instincts and played the point on the powerplay for most of the year. Season ended a few games early after taking a heavy hit, but it’s said to not be anything too serious.
Future Outlook: Should be one of the leaders up front for the ‘Dogs next year and a primary call-up option for an offensive forward role.

LOUIS LEBLANC – C

AHL Numbers: 62 GP, 10-8-18, -18, 53 PIM
The Skinny: 22 years old, 6’0″, 190 lbs. If we pretend he was injured and didn’t play this season, you’ll remember him as one of Montreal’s top prospects.
His Role: Leblanc was expected to be a leader for the team up front as a second year pro on a team of rookies. He wasn’t given much of a chance to rekindle last season’s sparks with Geoffrion and Palushaj, and spent most of the year on a third line with limited powerplay time.
His Performance: That said, Leblanc didn’t earn much more than that. Giveaways. Lazy penalties. Little creativity offensively. Decent work shorthanded, but that’s about where the positives ended most nights. Had a good patch or two, though still a wasted/lost season for him on the whole. He was hindered early on by a high ankle sprain – a tough injury to return from – but you can only point to that as an excuse for so long. Have to assume it became more of a mental thing, with frustrations mounting when production didn’t come as easily as it had the year prior.
Future Outlook: It’s too early to give up on Leblanc at 22, especially after not looking out of place in the NHL last season. He’s got enough skill and instinct to bounce back and even make the Canadiens out of camp in the Fall, but he’ll need to put in a lot of work and training time over the summer.

PHILIPPE LEFEBVRE – D

AHL Numbers: 23 GP, 4-3-7, +6, 10 PIM
The Skinny: 22 years old, 5’11”, 186 lbs. Every aspect of his game is about as remarkable as his size.
His Role: Fill a roster spot. Play on a third line. Keep it simple. Don’t get your team in trouble.
His Performance: I had to check three or four times to confirm he finished the season a +6. Really?? On THIS team?! Ok, seriously. Soft, small two-way player with no real discernible skill set.
Future Outlook: He has a year left on his entry level deal, likely to be spent split between the ECHL and AHL.

JOONAS NATTINEN – C+

AHL Numbers: 24 GP, 5-4-9, +6, 8 PIM
The Skinny: 22 years old, 6’2″, 187 lbs. Skinny is a fitting descriptor here.
His Role: A third line center you could think of as a less productive Andreas Engqvist. That may not sound overly flattering, but Engqvist was a great AHL player before heading back to Europe, and Nattinen is still young with potential to reach at least that level.
His Performance: Nattinen was a streaky scorer this season and last, but plays a solid all-around game. Adept in his own end, and willing to take the body. His season was cut short by a shoulder injury, but to his credit, he remained with the team all year, always seen around the dressing room after each game.
Future Outlook: He has one year left on his deal, which will determine his future in the organization. Should be counted upon in a third line role for the Bulldogs.

AARON PALUSHAJ – B+

Bulldog Numbers: 21 GP, 7-3-10, -9, 18 PIM
The Skinny: 23 years old, 5’11”, 187 lbs. 38 GP, 1-4-5 with the Canadiens in 2011-12. A huge fan favourite and leading offensive powerhouse… In the American Hockey League.
His Role: Palushaj was expected to be one of this team’s top players, standing in the spotlight to provide shelter for the first year bunch just getting their feet wet.
His Performance: While the effort was there, his production lagged early on. The magic between he and Blake Geoffrion seen last season was gone. Until the two synched up again. In the sense that a dozen games after Geoffrion was injured, the same fate awaited Palushaj. Pretty amazing he shared honours for being named “Hardest Working Bulldog of the Game” most often at year’s end with two other players despite playing only 21 games.
Future Outlook: You know the story here. When he finally got healthy, the lockout had ended, and Montreal tried to slip him through waivers to return him to the Bulldogs. And he ended up in Colorado, where he has played roughly 3 of every 4 games. RFA this summer.

STEVE QUAILER – B-

AHL Numbers: 64 GP, 6-4-10, -7, 54 PIM
The Skinny: 23 years old, 6’4″, 200 lbs. Scored the goal that saved Christmas in Hamilton with a highlight reel solo effort on Teddy Bear Toss night.
His Role: A third line winger who spent a little too much time skating around trying to keep up with the play. Also to provide the Copps Coliseum press gallery with endless hours of entertainment as a certain Hamilton Spectator columnist enjoyed randomly shouting out “QUUAAILERR!” whenever he would see him on the ice.
His Performance: Occasionally he would have a decent game offensively and you’d come away thinking there was something there. A drool-worthy frame, which he would use on other nights to put opposing players into the boards. Showed enough of a varied set of abilities to be hopeful that there remains some potential in him, but a long-shot project for the NHL at this point, despite having just completed his pro rookie season. Yet another player whose season ended with an injury.
Future Outlook: He’ll be back with the Bulldogs next season. He’s in a similar spot to Joonas Nattinen. That would be two-thirds of a tall third line.

ZACK STORTINI – D-

AHL Numbers: 73 GP, 2-4-6, -14, 241 PIM
The Skinny: 27 years old, 6’4″, 215 lbs. 257 career NHL GP, 14-27-41. And if you saw him play this season, you’d swear that was a joke.
His Role: Stortini was a big fan favourite when he won the Calder Cup with the Bulldogs back in 2007, and memories of that season are the only reasonable explanation for many still being a fan of his this year. A fourth line grinder who – most nights – couldn’t reliably take a regular shift.
His Performance: His physical game came and went, picking up later on in the season. His fights were more of the staged variety than sticking up for teammates. A locker room veteran, sure, but mostly useless on the ice. He seemed a coach’s favourite early on, but his poor play could only go on so long until he was put on the fourth line and played under 10 minutes a night.
Future Outlook: Wouldn’t expect him back. There is enough team toughness that one dedicated enforcer is enough in the squad’s everyday line-up. The veteran that’s needed would score more than six points in 73 games.

JOEY TENUTE – A-

AHL Numbers: 40 GP, 8-17-25, -3, 51 PIM
The Skinny: 30 years old, 5’9″, 190 lbs. The best Bulldog most Hab fans have never heard of.
His Role: After toiling in European leagues since 2008, Tenute didn’t play hockey this Fall. When his hometown Hamilton Bulldogs came calling mid-season, it looked like he’d be a short-term injury replacement. He would finish the season as the club’s first line center.
His Performance: Tenute produces from the get-go for the Bulldogs, quickly earning the upgrade from tryout to AHL contract. A leader on and off the ice, Tenute has a good release, quick hands, and sharp offensive instincts. A veteran of a single NHL game back in 2005-06 with the Washington Capitals, he’s unlikely to ever get another shot on that stage, but did everything that could be asked of him, while always a good, long-winded post-game quote.
Future Outlook: I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t like to see the hometown feel-good story back with the ‘Dogs next season, but the pending UFA would be much more natural on a second scoring line with a bigger or more skilled center to bare the top line workload.

 

DEFENSEMEN:

NATHAN BEAULIEU – A

AHL Numbers: 67 GP, 7-24-31, -8, 63 PIM
The Skinny: 20 years old, 6’3″, 191 lbs. Back-to-back QMJHL championships with Saint John’s under Montreal assistant coach Gerard Gallant – a man who empathizes with Beaulieu’s displeasure over having a French accent placed on his family name.
His Role: Around mid-December, something clicked. Beaulieu grew from a boy to a man, earning a top pairing role – most often with Greg Pateryn once he returned from injury – and holding it till season’s end. Top even strength minutes, number one powerplay minutes, and yes, even big penalty kill minutes.
His Performance: He was named the team’s top defenseman, rookie of the year, and most impressively, M.V.P. He matured on and off the ice. His 31 points tied for the team lead with Gabriel Dumont. And oh yeah, he started the year as one of the youngest players in the league! By season’s end, his confidence was at a point where he never hesitated to try to beat opposing players one-on-one or pull a quick spin-o-rama. He is skilled enough that it all worked more often than not, and when not, his tremendous skating ability often allowed him to correct his own mistakes.
Future Outlook: In a word, bright. Looks to be a certain future top 4 guy in the NHL, and his game will become even more complete as he fills out his frame. There will likely be one opening on the Montreal blueline in the Fall, and Beaulieu starts with an inside track towards locking it down.

ANTOINE CORBIN – C-

AHL Numbers: 30 GP, 1-2-3, -11, 22 PIM
The Skinny: 20 years old, 6’3″, 206 lbs. Played for Prince Albert, Hamilton, and San Francisco all in 2012-13. Three leagues, three very different cities.
His Role: Injuries necessitated the addition of depth players to the Hamilton blueline early in the season, and Corbin had impressed the most in training camp. A bottom pairing blueliner whose minutes were sheltered and who was often a healthy scratch.
His Performance: His size makes you wonder, but nothing to see here. Coaching staff seemed to lose trust in him early, preferring to bestow increased responsibilities on the other five blueliners many nights when he was in the line-up.
Future Outlook: He was a stopgap this season and shouldn’t be difficult to upgrade.

JASON DESANTIS – C

Bulldog Numbers: 27 GP, 2-3-5, -4, 18 PIM
The Skinny: 27 years old, 5’11”, 185 lbs. No relation to the director of the Montreal Impact.
His Role: DeSantis was a late-blooming breakout offensive rearguard for Saint John’s last season and brought in via trade to help a sputtering Hamilton powerplay.
His Performance: Disappointing offensive output and not the most dependable player in his own end. He had personal off-ice issues to deal with this season that took him away from the team for a spell, and may have been a partial cause for his regression on-ice.
Future Outlook: He’ll be a UFA this summer, and given his play, he’s likely to be one of those let go to allow a last place squad to reformulate its core.

MORGAN ELLIS – B-

AHL Numbers: 71 GP, 4-4-8, -16, 57 PIM
The Skinny: 20 years old, 6’2″, 196 lbs.
His Role: Many believed Ellis’s well-rounded game had him closer to the NHL than Nathan Beaulieu or Jarred Tinordi coming into the season. He was slower to adapt than the two first round picks, playing a #4 or bottom pairing role for the ‘Dogs, while taking shifts on the penalty kill.
His Performance: Pretty average. There were few nights where you noticed that Morgan Ellis was in the line-up, though for a defense-first blueliners, that isn’t always a bad thing. Had some trouble adapting to the pace of the game. Not much offense. Not particularly physical. Some raw skills with lots of room for improvement. Didn’t frequently make obvious poor decisions with the puck, so an acceptable first season as a pro.
Future Outlook: Ellis is still very young, but he’s behind the three other Hamilton rookies in the depth chart at present, so he’ll have his work cut out for him should he ever aspire to make the Canadiens. He’ll be a Bulldog again in the Fall on the second year of his three-year ELC, facing new challenges from the likes of Darren Dietz and possibly Magnus Nygren.

BRENDON NASH – B-

Bulldog Numbers: 26 GP, 1-7-8, +5, 39 PIM
The Skinny: 26 years old, 6’3″, 206 lbs. 2 GP with the Canadiens in 2010-11, narrowly missing the Heritage Classic in Calgary.
His Role: Nash missed all of 2011-12 following knee surgery, and had a hard time readjusting to start the current season. He and Frederic St. Denis were intended to be elder statesmen on the Bulldog blueline.
His Performance: The offense in Nash’s game took a step backward, and he lost a step in terms of footspeed. His game picked up a bit after his trade to the Florida Panthers (and San Antonio Rampage), but not enough to make him look like the legit NHL prospect he was in the last season he played.
Future Outlook: He will be an RFA this summer, and is probably more likely to earn an AHL deal somewhere than to be qualified and retained by the Panthers.

GREG PATERYN – A

AHL Numbers: 39 GP, 7-5-12, -12, 27 PIM
The Skinny: 22 years old, 6’3″, 214 lbs. Deserving winner of the “I was called up before Nathan Beaulieu or Jarred Tinordi award.”
His Role: While a rookie himself, at 22 on a blueline with three 20-year olds, Pateryn assumed a leader role. A steady, stay at home type, who can clear the crease and take the body on occasion, Pateryn’s offensive game – notably an accurate point shot – also came alive midseason, earning him a spot in the top powerplay rotation.
His Performance: When Pateryn was called-up to Montreal, he was Hamilton’s top d-man, playing 27+ minutes a night on a regular basis. He and Nathan Beaulieu started nearly every powerplay and penalty kill, with the star rookie attributing much of his progression to learning from the former Michigan Wolverine.
Future Outlook: Pateryn will have his hands full if he wants to stay ahead of Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi in Montreal’s depth chart, but it never hurts to have depth, especially on D. He’ll be an important member of the Bulldogs next season, especially should Frederic St. Denis seek an opportunity with an organization less crowded at the position.

FREDERIC ST-DENIS – B

AHL Numbers: 63 GP, 7-11-18, -2, 24 PIM
The Skinny: 27 years old, 5’11”, 190 lbs. 17 GP, 1-2-3 with the Canadiens in 2011-12.
His Role: To be the veteran leader of a very young blueline, logging the tough minutes in a shutdown role on a squad full of rookies. Or it would have been, had he been healthy and played anything like he did a year ago. Had the lockout no wiped out the first half of the NHL season, he may have gotten some games with the Habs in. But it provided enough time for other to catch up to him and take on bigger roles.
His Performance: It was unfortunately a disappointing season for St. Denis. He admitted as much himself at season’s end, saying he had played poorly much of the way. He recovered his game during the final stretch, gradually reclaiming a role as one of the better d-men on the club, but it was too late for him to benefit from another shot with the Canadiens, as by then his job had been overtaken by three first year players. It is somewhat surprising he wasn’t named as one of Montreal’s black aces heading into the post-season, as he seems a natural leader to keep around with the younger scratches, but it’s an indication as to how management viewed his season.
Future Outlook: He’s still a player who could fill in as needed on an NHL blueline short-term, but at 27 it’s unclear if there is another level to his game that could make him a regular in the league. He would be welcome back with the Bulldogs, but as a UFA, he may opt to join a club with a clearer path to a big league job.

JOE STEJSKAL – C

AHL Numbers: 31 GP, 1-5-6, -5, 16 PIM
The Skinny: 24 years old, 6’3″, 206 lbs. Don’t worry. You won’t have to learn how to pronounce his family name.
His Role: Stejskal got into 55 games as a rookie with the Bulldogs in 2011-12, but it was clear he’d have his work cut out for him to keep with the in-coming class. He occasionally paired with Jarred Tinordi on a giant defensive duo, but also spent considerable time with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers (where, it should be noted, he was no better than with the ‘Dogs).
His Performance: Stjeskal is capable of throwing his weight around, but he isn’t dependable with or without the puck in his own zone, and has no real offense to his game.
Future Outlook: This was the final year of Stejskal’s entry level contract, and it’s doubtful he’s done enough to earn a stay with the organization. His spot would be better filled by an AHL vetaran who can help drag this team out of the AHL cellar.

JARRED TINORDI – B+

AHL Numbers: 67 GP, 2-11-13, -14, 71 PIM
The Skinny: 21 years old, 6’6″, 218 lbs. Or simply, “Tinormous.”
His Role: Tinordi was a second pair player for most of the season, while logging big minutes in shorthanded situations. His production was on par with his yearly totals with the OHL’s London Knights. A captain in London, he earned an ‘A’ on his sweater in Hamilton midway through the year.
His Performance: Typical of a young player with such a large frame, Tinordi needed time to adjust to the correct positioning and speed of the game at this level. Still, his game improved in leaps and bounds over the course of the season, and following his brief stint with the Canadiens, he seemed to look to up his physical play, which had been missing for the most part this season. As he gets more comfortable with play in the professional ranks as well as his own body, it’ll be more natural for him to throw hits without fear of getting caught out of the action.
Future Outlook: Promising, both from a raw skills perspective, and given that what he brings to the table approximates exactly what the Canadiens are seeking. The most likely scenario would see Tinordi battle Pateryn and Beaulieu for one job in Montreal out of camp in the Fall, with the other two continuing to hone their skills back in Hamilton.

 

GOALTENDERS :

CEDRICK DESJARDINS – B-

Bulldog Numbers: 22 GP, 7-13-2, 2.94 GAA, .905 SV%
The Skinny: 27 years old, 6’0″, 192 lbs. Many fans seem to believe he made his NHL debut for the Montreal Canadiens once upon a time. But they’d be thinking of Yann Danis.
His Role: He was brought in to be a veteran starting goaltender and act as a last line of defense to build the confidence of the team’s young blueliners.
His Performance: In a word, underwhelming. Desjardins has proven in past seasons he can be one of the AHL’s top netminders, but he was anything but this season. Shaky rebound control and soft goals were commonplace, and while the club’s struggles were a team thing, not attributable to only goaltending, Desjardins’s play prior to his trade to Tampa Bay did little to steady the ship.
Future Outlook: This was Desjardins’s second stint with the Canadiens organzation. Would he ever come back a third time, to be traded away once again? Doubtful.

ROBERT MAYER – B

AHL Numbers: 38 GP, 16-17-3, 2.93 GAA, .908 SV%
The Skinny: 23 years old, 6’1″, 197 lbs. Affectionately known to some as “Bobbie Mayday.”
His Role: Coming into the season, little was expected of Mayer, who was clearly penciled in as a #2 behind Desjardins. It seemed as if the organization would be happy to just let him or Peter Delmas fight for the back-up position while they played out their contracts with the squad.
His Performance: In my eyes, one of the bigger surprises on the team. His numbers don’t jump out at you as being sensational, but on many nights, singlehandedly kept Hamilton in games. His rebound control was usually stellar, though the “inconsistent” label that’s followed him throughout his career reared its ugly head at times, which had many questioning the strength of his mental game. On multiple occasions, he would make the stellar ten bell stops, only to let a softie squeak through him moments later.
Future Outlook: Mayer has signed to play in Switzerland next season. It is possible the Canadiens may qualify him to retain his NHL rights before he leaves, as they did with Andreas Engqvist one year ago.