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Bergevin: Suzuki, Fleury deserved roster spots

General manager Marc Bergevin says the pair impressed all preseason long with their respective performances

by Matt Cudzinowski @CanadiensMTL /

BROSSARD - General manager Marc Bergevin finalized the Canadiens' 23-man roster on Tuesday shortly before practice began.

Youngster Ryan Poehling was the last cut. The 20-year-old forward was assigned to the AHL's Laval Rocket.

You'll recall that Poehling suited up for just two preseason games after sustaining a concussion on September 18 in Bathurst, NB.

That, according to Bergevin, played a key part in the decision to send him down.

"We envision our young players playing four or five games [during the preseason]. Unfortunately, Ryan got hurt. He missed 10 days and played just two games. We were satisfied with his performance, but it wasn't enough for us," explained Bergevin, during a press conference at the Bell Sports Complex.

Make no mistake about it, though, Bergevin doesn't envision the St. Cloud State University product remaining in the AHL ranks for long.

"Like I said to Ryan this morning, it's just a matter of time until he comes back to Montreal," stressed Bergevin. "He'll go play in Laval. He's in a good situation with Joel Bouchard. I don't have an exact date, but we'll see him in Montreal in the near future."

Video: Marc Bergevin's press conference

While Poehling is Laval-bound, fellow 20-year-old top prospects Nick Suzuki and Cale Fleury will officially start the 2019-20 campaign with the big club.

One of 13 forwards to earn a job, Suzuki impressed the Canadiens' brass from start to finish at training camp, capping off the preseason with the overtime winner against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

"He was good. He kept getting better," praised Bergevin. "I can't tell you when I made the decision that he made the team, I just let it happen. But I knew all along he was going the right way."

For his part, Fleury made Bergevin a believer by putting the full extent of his skill set on display.

"He's a physical presence on the ice. He skates well. He moves the puck. He plays with confidence," noted Bergevin, who made Fleury one of eight defensemen to begin the year with the CH. "He was assertive. He played with poise. He was consistent. He gives us this little edge of physicality. And, he's a young player. I like to see young players working hard."

Bergevin met with both Suzuki and Fleury ahead of the on-ice session to give them the good news.

But he also had some words of wisdom to impart on them as well.

"I explained my expectations of them, that a training camp is a little bit easier than the beginning of the season and that eventually the level will go up, too. They have to be ready to step up with the increased intensity in the NHL," emphasized Bergevin. "I also told them to take things one day at a time and enjoy themselves. There's nothing better than when youngsters make decisions for us. We always leave spots open for young kids. Both of them earned spots to start the season here."

And just to put the magnitude of Fleury's accomplishment into perspective, Bergevin closed his Q&A by revealing something else he communicated to the blueliner on the South Shore…

"I told him, 'I don't give out jobs like tickets on a turnpike,' You need to earn it," concluded Bergevin. "He did, and so did Nick. That's why they're here."

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