Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Canadiens Depth Preview: The Wingers (Part 2)

Following on from the preview of the centres in the organization, I'm going to go through the wingers (based on the list of those who have progressed as far as a training camp invite). Once again, Part 1 will be big-team guys, Part 2 will be the farm system as it stands now.

Based on team lists, prospect lists and my evaluations, here is the list of centres in order of importance to the team:

  1. Alex Kovalev
  2. Alex Tanguay
  3. Andrei Kostitsyn
  4. Chris Higgins
  5. Sergei Kostitsyn
  6. Tom Kostopoulos
  7. Guillaume Latendresse
  8. Georges Laraque
  9. Mathieu Danadenault
  10. Gregory Stewart
  11. Matt D'Agostini
  12. Max Pacioretty
  13. Thomas Beauregard
  14. JT Wyman
  15. Danny Kristo
  16. Alexandre Monohan
  17. Mike Glumac
  18. Ryan Flinn

First call-ups

Gregory Stewart

Greg is first in line for one reason – he has shown he can do this. Last season's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Greg Stewart showed that he could bring a new level of energy and zip to the team.

In a little over a year, Stewart has gone from a nobody who looked to be redundant in an organisation carrying Garth Murray to a unique proposition. If I had to describe what he could bring, I'd have to say "A younger Begin". It doesn't tell you everything, but it gives the feel. Greg is actually bigger than begin, though I suspect from his career stats, a little less talented around the net. The thing is, there is room for a player like Begin/Stewart, but probably only one. Given Begin is a known quantity, that means Stewart has his work cut out for him.

Thc West Island Chronicle (of all papers – I used to deliver this to Mr. Skrudland) tells us that:

Gregory Stewart says he cut out "a month of boozing" from his summer ritual to get ready for Habs camp.

They go on to say the sober reality is that he will probably start in Hamilton, but I think he has a chance. As I said Begin is a known quantity, and one of his known traits of late has been to get injured about every second appearance. It would certainly be nice to have a durable alternative to Steve on tap. That, for me is Mr. Stewart at the moment.

He appears at first on this list precisely because all smart money is on Begin to be the first player going on the wing for the Habs to get injured, and thus making way for Stewart to ride shot-gun in the press box for a while.

Greg's 2007-08 Review

Matt D'Agostini

When Greg Stewart took his opportunity in April and made hay, D'Agostini made little to no impression at all (at least on me). This is fine, though, as first NHL games are not the place to judge a prospect (unless it's Stewart and I feel like it).

Matt D'Agostini is the next winger down in what I would only describe as a shallow pool of talent for the Canadiens. He has earned the place on the depth chart by being the best player left from Hamilton last season. And he does is with respectable, though a long way from spectacular, numbers.

Matt played 76 games in the AHL, most on the first line, and came away with 23 goals. It would be alright if offence wasn't meant to be the reason we were interested in the first place. But, from the Canadiens point of view, it is somewhat shocking that we can talk about depth when this is one of the pieces we are talking about.

Those who disagree with this viewpoint are more optimistic. Habster at AllHabs, for example, thinks that with his quick shot, Matt D'Agostini can be a quicker version of Michael Ryder. I can tell you that is the most optimistic outlook possible. Ryder scored nearly 140 goals in junior to Matt's round 49. D'Agositin is looking at third line on a good team (that's what we hope we are now). He has talent enough to fill in when necessary, but is not a long-term threat to the the Kostitsyns livelihood, I don't think.

But enough negativity. To be fair to D'Agostini, he is what he is – a late round draft pick trying to improve his game in the AHL in the hope of one day playing in the big leagues. He is doing a good job at progressing too, as he is matching his junior outputs in the AHL. I think another season will do him a world of good, particularly on the top line. And, it will allow the Canadiens time to judge whether they have a late bloomer on their hands.

Matt's 2007-08 Review

Max Pacioretty

Lower in the pecking order because of experience alone. Plus I made the list before this training camp.

Pacioretty is certainly the best winger the Canadiens have in the farm system at the moment, and the one with the most potential. You can tell from my review of D'Agostini, that that isn't saying much, but please let me assure you, Pacioretty is impressive.

Max is no giant, but considering he could still put weight onto his frame, he's big. And, more importantly he uses his body and his strength to his advantage. What's more for a guy that's not even 20 yet, he has some mean achievements.

His stats at the age of 17 in the USHL (no laughing stock anymore) showed promise. But his performance last year as a rookie at Michigan (the best hockey school there is) showed star potential. To walk onto a team of 20 and 21 year-olds all also vying for playing time and NHL eyes and to strip their ice time and beat them in the scoring race is impressive stuff. And point-per-game in the NCAA is no joke either. And he continued to wow people this summer, first at the Canadiens rookie camp, and now at the camp with the men.

One Guy who knows what he is talking about had this to say of Max:
"He looks like a pro right now. Sometimes it's tough to say that about a (19-year-old). He looks mature and he had a really good season in his first year at college. Now we'll see what he can do with the older guys."

If that evidence showed us that he can learn and quick, his state of mind shows us why (from the Gazette):
"I'm not expecting anything like (making the team) to happen," Pacioretty said, horseshoed into his dressing-room stall by a generous media scrum. "I'm just expecting to keep my eyes and ears open and learn as much as I can from the camp, to try to improve and play the best I can."

All excellent stuff, so the only question that remains is whether the managers on the team feel he will be better served by playing top-billing down in Hamilton or whether he takes the Carey Price 3/4 season route to starting. My bet is that it will be Hamilton to start, but if ideas or, heaven forbid, scoring dry up, Max is the only realistic option to remedy that.

I'm at the end of the profile and realise I haven't mentioned that Max is meant to be the long-lost power forward. I think that's yet to be seen. But, really the reason I overlooked it is because it is merely a bonus to me if he is. The fact he is driven, mature and capable of excelling at all levels of play thus far are so much more important to me in my analysis.

Minor leaguers

Thomas Beauregard

I get the feeling there is something to Thomas Beauregard. Something pretty good lurking within him.

First of all, he can score. As you know this is something I don't think can be taught. Defense can be taught (to an extent), no one can make a scorer of a guy who isn't. Secondly, he seems to have a bit of character.

Did you guys know that his hero is his brother? His brother who lost an eye in an horrific on-ice accident with (coincidentally) Habs prospect Xavier Delisle in 1994. It was Sports Illustrated material when he made his comeback. I believe Thomas when he says he has learned a lot from his older brother – how to overcome adversity.

Thomas' adversity seems to involve being constantly overlooked. This rare scouting report sheds a bit of light on Thomas:
Scouted Strengths are : Good hockey sense with well rounded decision making in the offensive zone, when on his game extremely effective and dominant in all three zones.

Scouted Weaknesses: Mitigated play in his zone, skating and speed needs to improve dramatically

Not surprising, as this must be the scouting report on every scoring star who doesn't make it. What's different about Thomas is that he seems to be making progress. 5 years in junior would have been enough to kill most careers, but he topped it off with a spectacular goal per game campaign and an impressive 124 points. His excitement to be at Habs camp was shortly turned into disappointment at landing in Cincinnati, but he turned that into a positive experience as well by scoring at PPG clip and winning the league's championship trophy.

There is no way that Thomas will play in Montreal this season. that scouting report is real and is believed. But, if he shows the same determination he has in the past and comes to grips with the AHL and what it takes to score there, Beauregard may be back in a very different position next season.

JT Wyman

This year's Greg Stewart. I want to dismiss his claim altogether.

The thing is though, James or JT was a Mr. Hockey finalist in Minnesota (Habs scouts drool) and an Ivy leaguer. There might be more to Mr. Wyman than meets the eye.

He's already trying for the Bulldogs and not the Canadiens, and as you can tell by my list, he's quite a way down the pecking order. I don't think we'll be seeing him for quite some time in a Montreal uniform.

Skillwise, I think it is fair to say Wyman is buried in this list, and with the youth on the team currently, he might have to look elsewhere (Columbus?) to get NHL ice time. But, the feeling I get about Wyman is that he could just be one of those useful guys to have around, say come playoff time (not this year, some future year). I am thinking of Ed Ronan or someone like that. A year in Hamilton should tell us a lot more than a career in Dartmouth did.

For the future

Danny Kristo

After years of choosing back-line players with our top draft picks, this draft we finally dedicated to the winger. First there was Tanguay. Then there was Kristo.

From what I heard, Timmins was extra-pleased to get his paws on Kristo in the second round. You almost get the feeling he would have taken the player with that 25th pick.

The talent analysis on Hockey's Future says it all:
Kristo is slightly undersized. That being said he has good speed and plays a smart game on the ice.

Smart game. US National team. Second in goalscoring. Every other scouting report contains the word "thinking" – a very encouraging thought.

Danny's back to whence he came for this year, and a good thing at only 18 he has a lot to learn. Including which music he should be listening to: Danny Kristo's ipod.

With the talent pool so shallow on the wing and even at forward in general, Danny is a welcome addition. A couple more like him would help.

Alexandre Monahan

Every year the Habs invite a few lucky local boys to have a go at making the team. This year, it was Alexandre Monahan.

I put him in the "For the Future" category mainly because he had to return to junior. But as an undrafted, 165 lb, 6 footer, I'm not really holding much hope. Certainly, he'll have to do a lot better than his draft year where he managed a mere 8 goals and 27 points. Last year was better (38 goals). But Alex, this year is make or break...


Mike Glumac

Another undrafted player who has done well to cobble a place for himself in the next-to-highest league in North American hockey. Were we the Toronto Maple Leafs, this guy would be a cult hero already and vying for John Pohl or Nathan Perrott's in their hearts. In some ways, it's nice not to automatically fall in love with every guy who tries hard, but just can't quite manage the level of play.

It's worth looking at his stats, though, if only to browse his old teammates at the Pee Dee Pride.

Ryan Flinn

Barring a change in our uniforms to black and orange/yellow, there was never going to be any room for one Ryan Flinn on the Habs roster.

I can see that he might be a handy guy to have around for fights in the lower leagues that still look a lot more like NHL 1975 than the current NHL does. It wouldn't surprise me in the least though if we never hear his name spoken in the Montreal papers again. Here are the stats for the giant from out East.

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