Every year the Canadiens surprise us all with a list round about this time that includes a few names that we have not been considering or discussing.
This year, the Canadiens have invited a whopping 31 players to rookie camp. Several are former Bulldogs, others are draft picks and the rest are what I would consider to be newbies.
The chances of any of the 8 new guys overcoming preconceived rankings and very real gaps in quality to play on Bell Centre Ice during a season are slim. But even so, I thought it would be interesting to have a quick look into who these guys are:
1) Robin Gusse (G)
Robin is a young undrafted prospect of 18 years. He has made the QMJHL his home for the past few seasons. He was once the deemed starter in Chicoutimi and won "Defensive Rookie of the Year" in 2009-10, but lost his position last season to eventual first round pick Christopher Gibson. He was later traded to Rouyn-Noranda where he posted the best stats on a horrific defensive stats line (3.72 and 0.888).
He was on the national team's radar last season, being invited to the Canadian U18 training camp. He didn't make the final roster, of course. He did, however, play for Canada/Quebec at the Ivan Hlinka tournament for U17s the previous season.
Still young and obviously once highly touted, Gusse looks like he is a very worthwhile tryout. He may even win a spot on one of the farm teams in the relatively near future, which shouldn't surprise those that have been following the Canadiens goaltending depth charts.
2) Olivier Dame-Malka (D)
Invited to the earlier Canadiens development camp in June, Dame-Malka is an interesting find. He's a 21 year-old with 4 years experience in the Q. This past season, he really rocketed in production and came third overall in scoring for defencemen. 55 points over a season was good, but what certainly must have caught the eye was 9 goals and 19 points in 15 QMJHL playoff games this past season.
Those who watched the QMJHL playoffs say that he dominated the Montreal series and has a bomb from the point. At 5'10" there will be questions, 116 PIM could indicate that he can take care of himself, or just that he is always out of position defensively. We'll have to keep an eye.
3) Tony DeHart (D)
A second offensive defenceman with an invite. This guy was drafted once (125th overall by the Islanders in 2010), but is now apparently free to go his own way.
Two seasons ago he stormed the OHL with 50 points from the back end and followed it up this season with 30 points for the Oshawa generals. Like Dame-Malka he had an eye-catching stats line in the playoffs (12 points in 10 games).
Nobody seems to have that much else to say about him. So other than his size, stats and the fact that one team once thought he was worth using a draft pick on (15 months ago) is all we have to go on. Again, it's hard to see a player like this ever getting too far up the charts, but well worth a look.
4) Josh McFadden (D)
Guess what? Another offensive defenceman. Another nice stats line. This past season McFadden was third among defencemen in the OHL in scoring (after the two Ryans and ahead of Dougie Hamilton). From 4 goals and 30 points in 2009-10, he exploded for 19 goals and 72 points in 2010-11. The 6-0, 200-pound offensive defenceman improved his defensive play in the second-half of the season and led the Wolves power play to No. 1 in the OHL.
Sudbury made the playoffs and McFadden played well, but they weren't a powerhouse in the OHL. To put up those numbers on a team like that, I'm glad our scouts were paying attention, this could be interesting.
5) Jordon Southorn (D)
A local boy who used to play for Lac-St. Louis is also getting a look. His stats might look good on another day, but these first three guys really set a high standard. He's reputed to be strong and physical which is always good and has good feet. Unfortunately the killer line for a defenceman (needs to improve decision making) makes an appearance in his byline. The Bulldogs need help, however, so you never know.
6) Ben Winnett (F)
A former Leafs pick who was a scoring sensation in the BCHL in 2007. His fermentation in the NCAA hasn't gone as well as maybe it has for others, but he put up some respectable results with the Michigan Wolverines. He's played with Pacioretty and Pateryn and Bennett, so he's been there a while. He's apparently fast and beats his opponents with speed, but obviously not that much anymore. He looks like a depth forward. Perhaps a good hard-working one given his team's success while he attended Michigan.
7) Etienne Brodeur (F)
The undrafted local boy who led the QMJHL in goals scored. I treat him as this year's 8th round draft choice, though he doesn't yet have a contract. The reason he did not get drafted is predictable. He's small. but 53 goals in today's QMJHL speaks for itself and should put most qualms about size to rest. he can obviously deal with coverage and break it wide open.
In terms of exciting upside, I think this guy might be the diamond in the rough of the tryouts here. Of course, it's always important to see how a player adapts to the next jump in speed and intensity, the NHL, even the AHL is a long way from the Q.
8) Philip DeSimone (F)
Max Pacioretty's friend, former Sioux City linemate and 2011 training partner got his invite to camp and the scoop was to Max on twitter. DeSimone outscored Pacioretty in his USHL campaign, but has not kept pace since. Instead his career took him to New Hampshire (not Michigan) where NHL dreams are not as often made (Bobby Butler excepted). Still DeSimone had his number called on draft day and has dnone well enough to expect to see at least AHL time one of these days.
The downside for DeSimone with the Canadiens organzation, as I see it, is that he sees to be a playmaker. Not that I have anything against playmakers. However, the Habs have a few and probably a few more in the minors. He might have looked better with a big line of goals for UNH.
Still, he obviously has some pull with the organization through max and might extend his look through that alone. Given how exciting I thought Bobby Butler looked when I saw him play in person, I am not about to write off a UNH Wildcat right now.