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On the Road With the IceCaps: Coming Together [GALLERY]

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(Photo by Rick Stephens | Rocket Sports Media)

WHITEHALL, PA. — A hockey practice is not only a learning experience for the players on the ice but also instructive for those who follow the team. The IceCaps Hockey Report team caught up with the IceCaps as they were put through their paces during the road trip in Pennsylvania.

The Rink at Lehigh Valley (Photo by Rick Stephens | Rocket Sports Media)
The Rink at Lehigh Valley (Photo by Rick Stephens | Rocket Sports Media)

The players were wide-eyed as they entered the well-worn old barn. Jacob De la Rose said that it reminded him of the rink where he played his minor hockey. But as they walked along the boards to the dressing room many commented that the ice looked good. “I can smell good ice,” said Eric Neilson.

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The Rink at Lehigh Valley (Photo by Rick Stephens | Rocket Sports Media)

“When we pulled in, everyone was like ‘Woah, what is this?’,” said Mike McCarron, “But the ice was good. It was a good practice. Guys were moving their feet good.”

McCarron was the first to take the ice at the arena known as “The Rink at Lehigh Valley.”

The IceCaps began practice will a typical line-rush drill but with a twist. They didn’t use pucks. The invisible puck drill was a trademark of former Canadiens forward Jimmy Roberts back in his coaching days primarily with the St. Louis Blues organization. According to IceCaps team broadcaster Brian Rogers, it was the coaching staff’s tribute to Roberts, who passed away on October 23rd of this year.

IceCaps assistant coach Donald Dufresne played for Roberts when Jimmy was the coach and general manager in the mid-90’s of the Worcester IceCats (Blues AHL affiliate.) Canadiens assistant coach J.J. Daigneault was also a member of that roster.

Dustin Tokarski (Photo by Rick Stephens | Rocket Sports Media)
Dustin Tokarski (Photo by Rick Stephens | Rocket Sports Media)

Passing without a puck was, for the most part, tape-to-tape. The line rushes by the forwards were creative and the phantom shots were of the booming variety. But it was the goaltending where imaginations flourished with spectacular glove saves and the occasional double-pad stack.

“The guys, I think they missed their shots,” said Zach Fucale, “That was a little bit of a fun time to start the practice. It got everyone fired up.”

The 3-on-3 drill was especially intense with some solid contact. It was a spirited, high-energy practice with players being encouraged to be very vocal to communicate with teammates. This is a talented, strong skating team with good camaraderie.

“Sorry Tick” drowned out the rest of the ice noise as a restrained shot from defenceman Brett Lernout got up a little high on Dustin Tokarski. The body language of the former Canadiens backup and his lack of crispness in a shoot-in drill hinted that Tokarski is not necessarily enthusiastic about his new assignment. (Tokarski was recalled by the Canadiens on Sunday in light of an injury to Carey Price.)

With the net empty, Lernout practised one-timers in rapid-fire succession displaying a potent shot and remarkable accuracy. After several minutes, he celebrated loudly his several dozen goals.

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

The head coach showed that he still has a little velocity to his shot as a blast from the stick of Sylvain Lefebvre went part way through the twine remaining caught up in the netting for all to see.

McCarron was second-to-last off the ice as the session ended just over an hour after it began.

Check out our gallery of photos from IceCaps practice.

 

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Feature

St. John’s IceCaps Projected Lineup 2015-16

by Nic Phelan, Lead Correspondent, IceCaps Hockey Report

Sven Andrighetto (Photo by Hamilton Bulldogs)

ST. JOHN’S, NL. — In the next couple months the All Habs team will be taking an in-depth look at the St. John’s IceCaps roster for the upcoming season 2015-16. For the lineup below the assumption is that Daniel Carr, Charles Hudon and Jarred Tinordi will start the year with the parent club, while players like Mark Barbeiro, Sven Andrighetto and Christian Thomas are listed in this lineup. It’s understood that several players could be interchanged. With that said, we will be featuring a piece on each player while forecasting if we will see them play with the big club this season.

Forwards:

Christian Thomas – Gabriel Dumont – Nikita Scherbak
Tim Bozon – Mike McCarron – Sven Andrighetto
George “Bud” Holloway – Jeremy Gregoire – Stefan Fournier
Connor Crisp – Brandon McNally – Mark MacMillan

Defense:

Mark Barbeiro – Darren Dietz
Mac Bennett – Morgan Ellis
Joel Hanley – Brett Lernout
Ryan Johnston – Dalton Thrower
Josiah Didier

Goaltenders:

Mike Condon
Eddie Pasquale
Zach Fucale

The first line begins with Gabriel Dumont, the Bulldogs captain and leading goal scorer from last season. Nikita Scherbak is a blue chip prospect so expect him to be surrounded with the right pieces to help him learn to be a pro, while getting critical minutes.

The second line, Bozon – McCarron – Andrighetto, has a youth aspect to it, but I believe the size differential between the three, their abilities to score from different parts of the ice and most of all, their work ethic will make them a successful second line.

Holloway – Gregoire – Fournier appears to be a solid third line on paper, all responsible in their own end with a scoring upside.

Finally Crisp – McNally – MacMillan which I have affectionately called “the McCrisp line.” I fully expect that Connor Crisp will quickly become a fan favourite in St. John’s.

Defence is a little tougher to project, we really don’t know what the pairings will look like, depends on their shot hand and experience. I’m sure that head coach Sylvain Lefebvre already has an idea of the pairings he’s anticipating.

Goaltending is a very straight forward category as I believe that we will see all three of these players start a game for the IceCaps this season. What is yet to be seen is how Marc Bergevin & co. would like to develop prospect Zachary Fucale. I believe that Fucale is likely to play in Brampton as the starter for the Beast (ECHL) to start the season.

With that said, I think there are questions surrounding Dustin Tokarski who is set to become a restricted free agent on July 1, 2016. Tokarski’s fate will start a domino effect which could result in Mike Condon backing up Carey Price in Montreal.  Fucale could take starts in St. John’s while Eddie Pasquale (IceCaps record holder under the Jets regime) would likely sit as backup either way. It is worth noting after watching Pasquale over the last few years, I believe he is capable of overtaking Condon if given enough time this season.

~~~

With one month left until preseason action begins, I’ll be taking a look at each player in-depth, providing you an idea of what to expect in St. John’s and potentially Montreal in 2015-’16.

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Press release

Canadiens Re-assign Defenceman Brett Lernout to Bulldogs

CANADIENS RE-ASSIGN BRETT LERNOUT TO BULLDOGS
Habs’ third-round pick in 2014 had 42 points in 72 games with WHL Swift Current this season

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

MONTREAL, QUE. – Montreal Canadiens and Hamilton Bulldogs general manager Marc Bergevin announced today the Canadiens have re-assigned defenceman Brett Lernout to the Bulldogs from the Western Hockey League’s Swift Current Broncos.

In 72 regular season games with Swift Current this season, Lernout recorded 42 points (14 goals, 28 assists) and 68 penalty minutes. The 6-4, 206-pound defenceman added one goal and four penalty minutes in four post-season games before Swift Current was eliminated from the WHL playoffs this week.

In 205 career WHL regular season games with the Broncos and Saskatoon Blades, the Winnipeg, Man. native has recorded 66 points (23 goals, 43 assists) and 214 penalty minutes.

Lernout was selected by the Canadiens in the third round (73rd overall) in the 2014 National Hockey League Entry Draft. The 19-year-old was signed by the Canadiens to an entry-level contract on Dec. 19, 2014.

The Bulldogs will be back in action on Saturday, April 4 when they’ll host the Utica Comets at FirstOntario Centre at 7 p.m.

For more information on Hamilton Bulldogs flex tickets, group tickets, single-game tickets and 2015-16 season tickets, call 1-866-DOGS-TIX or visit hamiltonbulldogs.com.

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

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Press release

2014 NHL Entry Draft: Canadiens Add Six New Prospects

CANADIENS SELECT SIX PLAYERS IN 2014 NHL ENTRY DRAFT

Three forwards, two defencemen, one goaltender among newest Habs prospects

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – The Montreal Canadiens – National Hockey League affiliate of the Hamilton Bulldogs – selected six players, including three forwards, two defencemen and one goaltender at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft on Friday, June 27th and Saturday, June 28th at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

With their first pick (first round, 26th overall), the Canadiens selected forward Nikita Scherbak. In 65 regular season games with the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades in 2013-2014, the 18-year-old recorded 78 points (28 goals, 50 assists) and 46 penalty minutes. The 6’0”, 172-pound forward led all WHL rookies in scoring this past season and was named the Blades’ most valuable player, rookie of the year, plus/minus leader and three-star award winner. The Moscow, Russia native earned Saskatoon’s top scorer award after leading the Blades in goals, assists and points.

With their second pick (third round, 73rd overall), the Canadiens selected defenceman Brett Lernout. In 72 regular season games with the WHL’s Swift Current Broncos in 2013-2014, the 18-year-old recorded 22 points (eight goals, 14 assists) and 103 penalty minutes. In 133 career WHL regular season games with the Broncos and Blades, the 6’4”, 206-pound Winnipeg, Manitoba native has recorded 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists) and 146 penalty minutes.

With their third pick (fifth round, 125th overall), the Canadiens selected defenceman Nikolas Koberstein. In 51 regular season games with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Olds Grizzlys in 2013-2014, the 18-year-old recorded 18 points (five goals, 13 assists) and 153 penalty minutes. The 6’2”, 180-pound Barrhead, Alberta native is committed to play for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s University of Alaska Fairbanks Nanooks.

With their fourth pick (fifth round, 147th overall), the Canadiens selected forward Daniel Audette. In 68 regular season games with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Sherbrooke Phoenix in 2013-2014, the 18-year-old recorded 76 points (21 goals, 55 assists) and 79 penalty minutes. In 122 career QMJHL regular season games with the Phoenix, the 5’8”, 177-pound Buffalo, New York native has recorded 105 points (31 goals, 74 assists) and 144 penalty minutes. He’s the son of former Canadiens forward Donald Audette.

With their fifth pick (sixth round, 177th overall), the Canadiens selected goaltender Hayden Hawkey. In 33 regular season games with the United States Hockey League’s Omaha Lancers in 2013-2014, the 19-year-old posted a record of 22-6-3 with a 1.99 goals-against average, .926 save percentage and three shutouts. The 6’0”, 180-pound Fremont, California native is committed to play for the NCAA’s Providence College Friars.

With their sixth and final pick (seventh round, 207th overall), the Canadiens selected forward Jake Evans. In 49 regular season games with the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s St. Michael’s Buzzers in 2013-2014, the 18-year-old recorded 63 points (16 goals, 47 assists) and 79 penalty minutes. The 6’0”, 172-pound Toronto, Ontario native is committed to play for the NCAA’s University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish.