IceCaps game report

RECAP | Phantoms – IceCaps: An Unwelcome Homecoming

Friday April 1, 2016 
Mile One Centre, St. John’s, NL

St. John’s



Lehigh Valley

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


Forward lines and defense pairings: 

[one_half]Friber – Dumont – Holloway
Hudon – MacMillan – Scherbak
McNally – Ward – Gregoire
Scott – Yogan – Bozon[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Didier – Ellis
Parisi – Johnston
Bennett – Joyaux[/one_half_last]



Scratches: Shane Bakker, Alexandre Ranger, Ben Scrivens, Angelo Miceli, Markus Eisenschmid (undisclosed)
Injured Reserve: Connor Crisp (undisclosed), Michael Bournival (concussion)

Game Report

The last road trip of the season didn’t go well for the IceCaps. They probably were relieved to get back to St. John’s this week and take to their own home ice for the remainder of the year.  Their first visitors? The Lehigh Valley Phantoms, whom they hadn’t faced since October in Allentown.  The Phantoms didn’t make the IceCaps homecoming too sweet, however.

The first period looked good, with both teams getting a fairly even amount of shots, and no penalties.  Goaltenders Zach Fucale and Martin Ouellette looked strong in net and turned aside more than a few good shot attempts.

Charles Hudon was the recipient of a cross-check that sent him awkwardly into the boards and he had to be helped off the ice by a trainer and a teammate, looking woozy and unsteady.  He did not return to the bench.

In the second period, Taylor Leier put a puck past Fucale in the first minute and things went downhill from there for the home team.  Tim Bozon managed to get the IceCaps on the board, thanks to a helper by Cory Ward, but the Phantoms kept coming and finding ways to get the puck into the net.

The IceCaps only took two penalties in the game, but allowed a power play goal, while the Phantoms took six penalties and blanked the St. John’s power play units.  A late period empty netter by Lehigh Valley put the IceCaps away for good.

Brett Lernout was missing from the lineup as he was called up to the Montreal Canadiens on emergency status due to Nathan Beaulieu sustaining a thumb injury.  Ben Scrivens cleared waivers and arrived in St. John’s earlier in the afternoon, but did not dress for this matchup.

The series continues tomorrow night as the Lehigh Valley Phantoms return to Mile One for the fourth and final game between these two teams.

▲     Morgan Ellis, Andrew Yogan, Zach Fucale, Tom Parisi, Cory Ward

▼     Chris Joyaux, John Scott

 28 Shots 32
0 for 6 Power Play 1 for 1
4 Penalty Minutes 14
 FINAL 1 2 3 OT SO T
 IceCaps (29-31-8-3) 0 1 0 1
 Phantoms (30-32-4-3) 0 2 2 4
Scorers Goalies
  • STJ: Bozon (3)
  • LV:  Leier (19), Comrie (6), Hagg (3), Swavely (1)
  • STJ: Fucale (L) 15-18-4
  • LV: Ouellette (W) 3-3-0
 AHL Three Stars

  1. Martin Ouellette  LV
  2. Taylor Leier  LV
  3. Bud Holloway  STJ

 Video highlights
 Post-game interview

Quotes courtesy of IceCaps Hockey Report

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Follow @IceCapsReport on Twitter

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IceCaps news

Bulldogs Farm Update: Roster Changes

By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report
Twitter: @Dale_Bulldogs 


HAMILTON, ONT — The Hamilton Bulldogs have some new faces on their team as they embark on a trip down East to Newfoundland.

The Montreal Canadiens have sent defenceman Jarred Tinordi down to the Bulldogs as newly acquired d-man Sergei Gonchar makes his way into the lineup. There is no point to sit Tinordi in the press-box when he could be playing 20+ minutes with the Bulldogs. We could see Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu switch places throughout the next couple of months if the Habs back end stays healthy.

The Habs also made more roster changes this week, in the demotion of forward Rene BourqueBourque was placed on waivers earlier this week and was not claimed as was assigned to the Bulldogs.

Down in Hamilton, the Bulldogs signed forward Sahir Gill to a professional try out contract, once again. Gill has played eight games with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL this year scoring eight points (2 goals, 6 assists).

The Bulldogs took today to travel to St. John’s Newfoundland as they get ready for a two game set agiasnt the IceCaps on Thursday and Friday. I will have a game preview posted here on Thursday to get you set for the game.

The Bulldogs are back home on Sunday as they host the Rochester Americans.

Injury Updates

  • Jack Nevins: Lower-body injury, one week
  • Eric Tangradi: Lower-body, day-to-day
  • Christan Thomas: Upper-body, day-to-day


Press release

Canadiens Recall Bournival, Beaulieu from Bulldogs

Defenceman, forward combined for four points in two games this weekend with ‘Dogs

Hamilton Bulldogs Press Release

Photo by Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)
Photo by Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports)

MONTREAL, QUE. – Montreal Canadiens and Hamilton Bulldogs general manager Marc Bergevin announced today the Canadiens have recalled defenceman Nathan Beaulieu and forward Michael Bournival from the Bulldogs.

Beaulieu has split this season between the Canadiens and Bulldogs. In four games with Montreal, he has recorded two penalty minutes. In two games with Hamilton, he has recorded one goal and nine penalty minutes. The 21-year-old split the 2013-14 season between the Canadiens and Bulldogs. In 17 regular season games with Montreal, the 6-2, 194-pound defenceman recorded two points and eight penalty minutes, then in seven post-season games he added two assists and two penalty minutes. In 57 regular season games with Hamilton, the Strathroy, Ont. native recorded 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) and 33 penalty minutes. In 27 career National Hockey League regular season games, he has recorded four assists and 10 penalty minutes. In 126 career American Hockey League regular season games, he has recorded 59 points (15 goals, 44 assists) and 105 penalty minutes. Beaulieu was selected by the Canadiens in the first round (17th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Bournival has played in four games with the Bulldogs this season, recording four points (one goal, three assists) and two penalty minutes. The 22-year-old split the 2013-14 season between the Canadiens and Bulldogs. In 60 regular season games with Montreal, the 5-11, 196-pound forward recorded 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) and 18 penalty minutes, then in 14 post-season games he added one assist. In three regular season games with Hamilton, the Shawinigan, Que. native recorded three points (two goals, one assist) and two penalty minutes. In 76 career AHL regular season games with the ‘Dogs, he has recorded 37 points (13 goals, 24 assists) and 30 penalty minutes. Bournival was originally selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the third round (71st overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He was acquired by the Canadiens from the Avalanche in exchange for defenceman Ryan O’Byrne on Nov. 11, 2010.

The Bulldogs return to action on Wednesday, Oct. 29 when they’ll visit the Rochester Americans at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, N.Y. at 7:05 p.m. The ‘Dogs next home game will be on Tuesday, Nov. 4 when they’ll host the Americans at FirstOntario Centre at 10:15 a.m.

Hamilton Bulldogs 2014-15 season tickets, flex tickets, group tickets and single-game tickets are on sale now. For more information, call 1-866-DOGS-TIX or visit

Listen to all Bulldogs regular season and post-season games live on Hamilton’s AM 900 CHML, on or watch live on Catch every Friday night home game live in high definition on Cable 14.

IceCaps game report

Bulldogs Lose at Home to Rampage, 4-2

By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report

(Photo by Hamilton Bulldogs)
(Photo by Hamilton Bulldogs)

HAMILTON, ONT — The Hamilton Bulldogs entered their second game in three nights on a good note, as they defeated the rival Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum on Friday by a score of 4-1. It was a good outing for the Bulldogs, who have secured at least a point in their first four games played, but tonight, the Bulldogs could not come out on top, as the San Antonio Rampage took the game by a score of  4-2.


The Rampage opened the scoring in the first period, as John McFarland rushed the Bulldogs net and tucked the puck past goaltender Mike Condon. The Bulldogs then tied the game after Michael Bournival made a nice pass to Sven Andrighetto, who shot the puck past Rampage netminder Michael Houser to tie the game at one a piece.

The game would see a lot of back and forth chances for both teams, which saw the ‘Dogs hold possession of the puck for a good chunk of the period.

Midway through the opening period, Bournival stole the puck from the Rampage defender and created an odd man, 2-on-1 rush with Charles Hudon, the Bulldogs leading scorer, who then sniped the puck past Houser’s blocker side.

About five minutes later, the Bulldogs were awarded a power-play, but it wouldn’t go as planned. Rampage forward Brett Olsen was able to score his second goal of the season after Bulldogs defenceman Nathan Beaulieu coughed the puck up on the blueline, giving the Rampage the opportunity to create an odd man rush.

The second period would see the Bulldogs go scoreless and the Rampage extend their lead by two goals. Defenceman Steven Kampfer would deke by Hamilton’s defenders to score a nice backhand goal. It was a pretty nifty goal and it was Kampfer’s second tally of the season.

San Antonio’s second goal of the period and fourth of the game came with five minutes remaining in the period as MacKenzie Weager built momentum on an odd man rush and fed Bobby Butler a sweet cross-crease pass that was shot high over Condon’s blocker side.

In the third, there wasn’t much action expect for a few chances from both the Rampage and Bulldogs. But towards the end of the period, the ‘Dogs were trying hard to get on the board and tie as they were neatly cycling the puck in the offensive zone, potting a few shots on goal but the Rampage held on to secure the 4-2 win in Hamilton.

Dan Lawrie Player of the Game: Mike Condon

Mike Condon was awarded the Dan Lawrie Player of the Game for his outing tonight between the pipes. Condon had to make several game changing saves, which kept the Bulldogs within reach.

Next Game 

The Bulldogs are back at it tomorrow, as they conclude their three games in three nights series against the Rampage at 3:00 p.m. ET.


IceCaps game report

Bulldogs Win Big in Toronto, Defeat Marlies 4-1

By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report 

(Photo by Hamilton Bulldogs)
(Photo by Hamilton Bulldogs)

TORONTO, ONT — The Hamilton Bulldogs travelled down the 403 to Toronto to take on the Marlies for the second time this season. The Marlies spoiled the Bulldogs home opener at FirstOntario Centre exactly one week ago and tonight it was the Bulldogs with the victory, defeating the Marlies by a score of 4-1.


In the first period, the Hamilton Bulldogs would take the first lead of the game,  as recently-recalled Nathan Beaulieu would score his first AHL goal of the season. Michael Bournival, who was also sent down this week by the Montreal Canadiens, was credited with the primary assist after he made a nice feed to Beaulieu.  The young defenceman tucked the puck behind Marlies goaltender Antonie Bibeau.

The Bulldogs would see two power-play opportunities in the first period, but they struggled to get out of their own zone and to create scoring chances in the offensive zone. On top of that, the Marlies also had several chances on the penalty-kill. To be more specific, they had more chances down a man than the Bulldogs did up a body.

Hamilton goaltender Joey MacDonald faced 10 shots on goal in the opening period, and he made at least four big gloves saves to keep the Bulldogs up 1-0. MacDonald played a key period for the ‘Dogs, which allowed them to enter the first intermission up 1-0.

In the middle frame, the Bulldogs extended their lead to 3-0, with goals coming from Sven Andrighetto and Eric Tangradi. Andrighetto scored the Bulldogs second goal with a nice top shelf snipe two minutes into the period, and Tangradi scored his first as a Bulldog’ on the power-play, after he chipped the puck over Bibeau’s right shoulder.

MacDonald continued his strong play in the second period, and made two more nifty gloves saves, keeping Hamilton in the lead.

Towards the end of the period, both the Marlies and Bulldogs started to get under each others skin as there were multiple scrums with players ready to drop the gloves.

The remainder of the period saw a lot of back and forth play between the two clubs. The Bulldogs managed to outshoot the Marlies 11-5 in the second with a much stronger period offensively and defensively.

Moments after the third period started, Marlies forward Sam Carrick ran over MacDonald, causing his helmet to fly off his head. MacDonald showed some discomfort and was helped by the trainer, but was fine to continue the game.

The Marlies scored their first and only goal of the game on the power-play. Greg McKegg scored his first of the season as hhis inital shot snuck past MacDonalds glove side and into the net.

Charles Hudon then went off  moments after the the Marlies power-play goal for slashing and this is when the game started to pick up. However, the Bulldogs killed off the minor with very little issue.

The game would now get intense with the Marlies producing multiple chances, but MacDonald was able to shut the door and Tangardi scored his second goal of the game with the empty net. 4-1 final for the Bulldogs who lost back-to-back games last weekend.

The season series between the 403 rivals is now at one a piece with 10 more games on tap this season.

The Bulldogs are back in action tomorrow as they play host to the San Antonio  Rampage at FirstOntario Centre.

IceCaps news

BHR News: Bulldogs Add Crisp, Prepare for 3-Game Weekend

By Dale Lamontagne, Hamilton Bulldogs Correspondent, Bulldogs Hockey Report

(Photo by Hamilton Bulldogs)
(Photo by Hamilton Bulldogs)

MILTON, ONT — The Hamilton Bulldogs announced on Thursday afternoon that forward Connor Crisp has been officially medically cleared to play and has been re-assigned to the team. Crisp missed the first three games of the 2014-15 regular season after sustaining a shoulder injury.

The 20-year-old could make his 2014-15 Bulldogs’ debut during the team’s ‘three games in three nights’ weekend, which begins Friday in Toronto against the Marlies.

Note from practice

Bulldogs play-by-play guy Matt Holmes tweeted that Nathan Beaulieu was paired along side Greg Pateryn at practice, while the first line of Michael Bournival, Sven Andrighetto and Charles Hudon remains in tact.

Line up changes have not yet be officially made and should be made more clear come game time on Friday.

The Bulldogs take on the Marlies tomorrow at Ricoh Colliesum in Toronto and I will be in attendance. The puck is expected to drop shortly after 7:00 p.m. EST.

Press release

Canadiens Assign Beaulieu, Bournival to Hamilton Bulldogs

Beaulieu has played in four games with Habs this season; Bournival has one goal in two games with ‘Dogs


MONTREAL, QUE. – Montreal Canadiens and Hamilton Bulldogs general manager Marc Bergevin announced today the Canadiens have assigned defenceman Nathan Beaulieu and forward Michael Bournival to the Bulldogs. Both players are expected to rejoin the Canadiens on Sunday.

Beaulieu has played in four games with the Canadiens this season, recording no points and two penalty minutes. The 21-year-old split the 2013-14 season between the Canadiens and Bulldogs. In 17 regular season games with Montreal, the 6-2, 194-pound defenceman recorded two points and eight penalty minutes, then in seven post-season games he added two assists and two penalty minutes. In 57 regular season games with Hamilton, the Strathroy, Ont. native recorded 27 points (seven goals, 20 assists) and 33 penalty minutes. In 27 career National Hockey League regular season games, he has recorded four assists and 10 penalty minutes. In 124 career American Hockey League regular season games, he has recorded 58 points (14 goals, 44 assists) and 96 penalty minutes. Beaulieu was selected by the Canadiens in the first round (17th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

Bournival has played in two games with the Bulldogs this season, recording one goal and no penalty minutes. The 22-year-old split the 2013-14 season between the Canadiens and Bulldogs. In 60 regular season games with Montreal, the 5-11, 196-pound forward recorded 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) and 18 penalty minutes, then in 14 post-season games he added one assist. In three regular season games with Hamilton, the Shawinigan, Que. native recorded three points (two goals, one assist) and two penalty minutes. In 74 career AHL regular season games with the ‘Dogs, he has recorded 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) and 28 penalty minutes. Bournival was originally selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the third round (71st overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He was acquired by the Canadiens from the Avalanche in exchange for defenceman Ryan O’Byrne on Nov. 11, 2010.

Hamilton returns to game action on Friday, Oct. 24 when the club will visit the Toronto Marlies at Ricoh Coliseum at 7 p.m. The ‘Dogs will be back at home on Saturday, Oct. 25 when they’ll host the San Antonio Rampage at FirstOntario Centre at 7 p.m.

Hamilton Bulldogs 2014-15 season tickets, flex tickets, group tickets and single-game tickets are on sale now. For more information, call 1-866-DOGS-TIX or visit

Listen to all Bulldogs regular season and post-season games live on Hamilton’s AM 900 CHML, on or watch live on Catch every Friday night home game live in high definition on Cable 14.

Press release

Bulldogs, Future Habs Convene for Canadiens Development Camp

Fifty players invited to the Canadiens’ annual Development Camp

Montreal Canadiens PRESS RELEASE

IMG_03152Development Camp

MONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens announced Thursday that the team will hold its annual development camp, from July 7-11, at the Bell Sports Complex, in Brossard.

A total of 50 players will participate in the development camp, including 28 forwards, 17 defensemen and five goaltenders. Five of the six players selected by the Canadiens at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft held last weekend in Philadelphia will be among the participants, including first round selection Nikita Scherbak.

The list of players invited to the development camp includes 20 prospects drafted by the Canadiens organization, a few players acquired through trades or free agency, and more than 20 players invited on a try-out basis (list of players here).

All players will be divided into two groups (A-B). The first on-ice practice sessions will be on Monday, July 7, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on both ice surfaces at the Bell Sports Complex. On-ice practice sessions will take place in the morning for the remainder of the week, with scrimmages at the end of the day. A three-period intra-squad game will be played on Friday, July 11, at 9:30 a.m. All practices are open to the public.

Players participating in the development camp will be available to the media every day around noon (12:30 p.m.), starting Monday July 7.


#  Player 2013-14 Team Acquired Pos. Shoots Height Weight
6 AGOSTA, Justin (College player) New Hampshire (HE) Invite D R 6.03 210
26 ANAS, Samuel (College player) Quinnipiac (ECAC) Invite C R 5.08 148
58 ANDRIGHETTO, Sven Hamilton (AHL) Draft 13 RW L 5.09 183
48 AUDETTE, Daniel Sherbrooke (QMJHL) Draft 14 C L 5.08 175
40 BEAULIEU, Nathan Hamilton (AHL) / Montréal (NHL) Draft 11 D L 6.02 194
46 BENNETT, Mac University of Michigan (CCHA) Draft 09 D L 6.00 195
98 BOBYK, Colton Spokane (WHL) Invite D L 6.01 190
CARR, Daniel Union (ECAC) Free agent LW L 6.00 182
41 CONDON, Michael Wheeling (ECHL) / Hamilton (AHL) Free agent G L 6.02 209
97 CORSON, Dylan S.S Marie (OHL) / Barrie (OHL) Invite C L 5.11 190
92 CREVIER-MORIN, Marc-Olivier Gatineau (QMJHL) Invite D L 6.01 197
CRISP, Connor Sudbury (OHL) / Hamilton (AHL) Draft 13 C L 6.03 226
91 CURCURUTO, Gianluca Plymouth (OHL) Invite D L 6.01 195
34 DE LA ROSE, Jacob Leksands IF (SweAl) / Sweden Jr. Draft 13 C/LW L 6.03 187
72 DIDIER, Josiah (College player) University of Denver (WCHA) Draft 11 D R 6.03 218
84 DIETZ, Darren Hamilton (AHL) Draft 11 D R 6.01 204
85 ELLIS, Morgan Hamilton (AHL) Draft 10 D R 6.01 204
73 FEDERICO, Danny (College player) Quinnipiac (ECAC) Invite D L 6.01 205
86 FOURNIER, Stefan Hamilton (AHL) Free agent RW R 6.03 220
70 FUCALE, Zachary Halifax (QMHJL) / Canada Jr. Draft 13 G L 6.01 178
90 GADOURY, Philippe Halifax (QMHJL) / Nepean (CCHL) Invite C L 5.10 180
83 GOULET, Alexandre Charlottetown (QMJHL) Invite C L 5.11 190
47 GRÉGOIRE, Jeremy Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) Draft 13 C R 6.00 187
65 HAWKEY, Hayden Omaha (USHL) Draft 14 G L 6.01 180
71 HIGHMORE, Matthew Saint-John’s (QMJHL) Invite C L 5.11 174
82 HOLLAND, Patrick Hamilton (AHL) / Montreal (NHL) Trade RW R 6.00 185
75 HUDON, Charles Chicoutimi/Baie Comeau (QMJHL) / Canada Jr. Draft 12 LW L 5.10 178
55 IMAMA, Bokondji Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) Invite LW L 6.01 214
61 KOBERSTEIN, Nikolas Olds (AJHL) Draft 14 D R 6.01 180
38 LEHKONEN, Artturi Kuopio (FinE) / Filnland Jr. Draft 13 LW L 5.11 161
43 LERNOUT, Brett Swift Current  (WHL) Draft 14 D R 6.04 206
62 MacMILLAN, Mark (College player) University of North Dakota (WCHA) Draft 10 C L 6.00 171
11 MAKOWSKI, David (College player) University of Denver (WCHA) AHL D R 6.01 205
25 McCARRON, Michael London (OHL) Draft 13 RW R 6.05 237
68 McNALLY, Brandon (College player) Dartmouth (ECAC) Invite LW L 6.01 186
80 MOTTE, CJ (College player) Ferris State (WCHA) Invite G L 6.00 191
20 MUTO, Vincent (College player) Niagara University (AHA) Invite D R 6.00 204
15 NEVINS, Jack Hamilton (AHL) / Charlottetown (QMJHL) /  Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) Free agent LW L 6.01 204
63 PADAKIN, Pavel Calgary (WHL) Invite RW R 6.00 179
95 PAPIRNY, Jordan Brandon (WHL) Invite G L 6.00 170
53 RANGER, Alexandre Baie-Comeau (QMJHL) Invite RW R 5.10 181
42 SCHMALZ, Matt Sudbury (OHL) Invite RW R 6.05 206
28 SCHERBAK, Nikita Saskatoon (WHL) Draft 14 RW L 6.01 175
57 SEKAC, Jiri Praha HC Lev (KHL) Free agent LW L 6.02 195
64 SORKIN, Nick Hamilton (AHL) / New Hampshire (HE) AHL RW L 6.03 175
78 SZMATULA, Michael (College player) Northeastern (HE) Invite LW L 5.08 178
60 THOMAS, Christian Hamilton (AHL) Trade RW R 5.09 176
59 THROWER, Dalton Vancouver (WHL) Draft 12 D R 6.00 203
96 TRACCITTO, Reggie (College player) University of PEI (CIS) Invite D R 6.00 204
45 WARDLEY, Evan Seattle (WHL) Invite D R 6.04 208

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.



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.



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. 



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.



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.


Down on the Farm – Bulldogs Get Help from the Big Club

By Dan Kramer, Senior Writer, All Habs Hockey Magazine

HAMILTON, ON – A team with every reason not to show up on a Wednesday night got some help from two players who strongly believe they have plenty to play for, as the Hamilton Bulldogs – despite any hope of a playoff berth virtually nil at this point – downed the playoff-bound Abbotsford Heat 3-1 at First Ontario Centre.

The win was just Hamilton’s second in their past seven games, leaving them ten points out of the 8th and final playoff spot in the AHL’s Western Conference with only fourteen games remaining. The situation would have been even more grim if not for a couple of familiar faces that made returns to the line-up.

Bournival had 1 assist playing on left wing with Andrighetto & Thomas in his first game with the Bulldogs (PHOTO: Dario Ayala, Montreal Gazette)
Bournival had 1 assist playing on left wing with Andrighetto & Thomas in his first game with the Bulldogs (PHOTO: Dario Ayala)

First was Dustin Tokarski, unquestionably the MVP of a Bulldog team that has struggled to score all season, relying on stellar goaltending to win games. Fresh off a shutout of the Buffalo Sabres Sunday, Tokarski wasn’t forced to turn in his best effort of the season against the Abbotsford Heat, but managed 27 saves that allowed his side to overcome an early 1-0 deficit. As Devan Dubnyk‘s difficult season has continued in the AHL, having Tokarski back between the pipes should bring an extra dose of confidence to his team’s play, just as Carey Price‘s return seems to have done for the Canadiens.

Next was Michael Bournival, returning to game action on a conditioning stint in Hamilton after missing considerable time with a concussion. Bournival was a surprise in making the Montreal roster out of training camp in his second professional season, but hadn’t looked at all out of place in the NHL after hardly lighting the American League on fire last year. He showed in hist first AHL game of the season just how far his game had progressed, slotting right on to the top line with Christian Thomas and Sven Andrighetto, and energizing it to be the game’s best all night. Bournival would register an assist on Thomas’s game-winning goal, accepting a pass from Andrighetto and firing a shot on Aaron Dell before Thomas would bang home the rebound.

If Dell’s name sounds familiar to you, it’s because he attended numerous Canadiens’ off-season Development Camps back in the day. Many assumed the organization would sign Dell out of the University of North Dakota given their extended look at him and the thin pipeline in goal at the time, but such a move never came to fruition, and Dell has struggled to establish himself as more than a top ECHL starter to date.

But back to Bournival, a peculiar Sylvain Lefebvre decision was to play the natural center on left wing on the top line. Andrighetto, having played wing all season, was shifted to centre for the first time. While it may be as simple as limiting Bournival’s responsibilities for his first game back in over a month, it’s also interesting to consider the Canadiens may have taken the same approach as they did with Louis Leblanc. That is to say having made the determination that a player doesn’t project to the next level as a centre, and thus permanently switching him to the wing.

Integrating Bournival into the line-up required Lefebvre to make a decision on who to sit. Rather than cut one of his fourth line energy players, the head coach decided to use the opportunity to send a statement to a guy supposed to be one of his offensive leaders but whose game has been in sharp decline as a sophomore. Just as he tried to do in sitting Martin St. Pierre two weeks ago, Lefebvre hopes a one-game benching of Patrick Holland will get the versatile, two-way forward going for the final stretch. The situation is a pretty significant reversal from this time a year ago, where Holland was far more valuable to the ‘Dogs as a first line winger than Bournival as a third line pivot.

At 22, Holland is hardly a lost cause, but if he want another sniff at the NHL beyond the five games played there this year, he’ll need to show in the final year of his entry level contract that the present season was merely a blip on the radar of his development.

Two other notable players were out of the line-up Wednesday, but not by the coach’s own will. An injury plagued pro rookie season for Darren Dietz has come to an end, the team announced, with the defenseman not expected to return until 2014-15. A less serious lower body injury forced Greg Pateryn to miss the game. The d-man is considered day-t0-day, with his absence necessitating huge minutes from a top pairing of Nathan Beaulieu and Davis Drewiske.

Drewiske has played strong two-way hockey since joining the Bulldogs, and will be an important piece if the team manages to win enough games to keep things interesting over the final fourteen contests. Once the season is done, he will undoubtedly serve as one of the “black aces” in Montreal, and will be available to challenge for an NHL roster spot in the Fall, given the year remaining on the contract he signed last summer.

Also interesting to watch we’ll be how Hamilton handles its three-headed monster in goal. Despite Tokarski’s far superior play, the staff never hesitated to sit him for Robert Mayer after a tough loss, and now with both Dubnyk and Mayer in the mix, despite all he’s shown, Tokarski’s leash may be even shorter.

The ‘Dogs have two home games this weekend before heading out on a nine-game road trip. Friday’s game against Milwaukee and Saturday’s rematch with Abbotsford are must-wins, or the team will see the plug pulled on the life support on which its season rests. This also means it may be the last chance for hometown fans to see their team in meaningful action this season, so grab your tickets now from