ALLENTOWN, PA. — The Montreal Canadiens AHL affiliate, the St. John’s IceCaps are currently on a six-game road trip through Pennsylvania. The IceCaps Hockey Report | All Habs Hockey Magazine team was onsite in Allentown for two games against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The IceCaps split the series with a 3-2 win on Friday night. You can read our full game report here.
Our IceCaps Hockey Report team also attended practice. IceCaps forward Daniel Carr kindly spent a few minutes with our video producer, Amy Johnson.
ST. JOHN’S, NL. — Connor Crisp was drafted 71st overall by the Canadiens in the 2013 Entry Draft. The Alliston, Ontario native split his junior career between the Ontario Hockey Leagues Erie Otters and Sudbury Wolves where he collected 308 penalty minutes over 184 games.
In his rookie year with the Hamilton Bulldogs Crisp continued to use his hands creatively in his 39 games played registering 102 penalty minutes. He will be relied on heavily by the IceCaps to provide grit to a lineup which is primarily young players making the transition to the professional level. Traditionally a left winger, Marc Bergevin and company projects Crisp to be a guy that can step into a fourth line role if needed. In junior hockey, Crisp found ways to contribute on a regular basis, but he struggled quite a bit registering just two goals and three assists throughout 2014-15, to become an effective player for the Canadiens he will have to find a way to emulate a Brandon Prust or Patrick Maroon on both sides of the puck.
At 6-foot-3-inches, 226 pounds, the hard hitting forward imposes his will on his opponents, however walks a fine line which saw him sit three games last season for leaving the bench to partake in a brawl against the defending Calder Cup champions, Texas Stars, last December. It’s been a long time since the Canadiens have had an effective enforcer, the aforementioned Prust was the Canadiens closest resemblance but he lacked the size and often found himself mismatched against the heavyweights of the NHL. Although, a dying breed, a heavyweight can prove to be a physical presence and is often a locker room favourite among his teammates. Crisp has an uphill battle to make the NHL, serving similar size and grit as the Canadiens former first round pick Mike McCarron, with a lesser offensive upside.
In the meantime Crisp can take in hockey in St. John’s, learn from Sylvain Lefebvre and his coaching staff. He figures to be an immediate fan favourite in a city that has lacked any legitimate enforcers in the Jets entire tenure at Mile One Center. Meanwhile he can look to a character such as Maroon in Anaheim taking in first line minutes with all-stars/Stanley Cup winners, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry as inspiration. Maroon paid his dues with Adirondack and Syracuse/Norfolk over five years before making his debut, Crisp can only work hard and hope for similar results.
ST. JOHN’S, NL. — To some, Daniel Carr came out of nowhere last season. Since the Canadiens Development camp, it appears hype has continued to build around the undrafted free agent signing from Union College. The native of Sherwood Park, Alberta, attended Union for four years totaling 78 goals in 160 games. He was also named team captain and carried the Dutchmen to their first championship title in school history with a dramatic 5-4 win over Johnny Gaudreau and the favoured Boston College, and then the No. 1 ranked Minnesota in the finals.
The Canadiens were quick to sign Carr and it proved worthy of a contract as he lead all rookie goal scorers in the AHL with 24 goals last year. Carr is out to prove that he was not just a benefactor of playing on the line of the Canadiens top prospect Charles Hudon, and that he made the line better by being there. This season he will play either first line minutes with the IceCaps, or a top six role with the Habs. He does not figure to play the traditional shutdown role of a third line forward, and his eligibility to move down without clearing waivers makes him valuable as that may prove to be the Canadiens biggest obstacle this year managing their youth.
At 6-foot 200 pounds, he has decent size but more importantly he brings a goal scoring repertoire from the left hand side. The Canadiens have made every effort to bring in right wing talent in the past several years following the evolution of Max Pacioretty, and so in a crowded right hand system, Carr proves to have a slight advantage for the upcoming season.
His chances however seem to hinge on the a couple scenarios. Pacioretty is currently rehabbing a knee injury which is expected to see him miss most, if not all, of the preseason. Though we can reference last season’s concussion at the end of the year, or the infamous fractured vertebrae courtesy of Zdeno Chara and the Bell Centre extensions, Pacioretty has always been a quick healer from injuries. Either way his absence leaves a void on the left side for the Canadiens coaching staff to get a good look at Carr. Additionally, if Pacioretty manages to get back on time, theres a chance Galchenyuk could be moved from the left wing to a center position. If this happens Carr could also see a door open. Either way there are opportunities for Carr to strut his stuff early this year with the Habs.