LONDON, ON - The 2016 Rookie Tournament wrapped up for the Canadiens' young guns on Sunday afternoon, which meant that it was time for coaches to evaluate the players and players to evaluate themselves.
PRIDE AND PRAISE: Following Sunday afternoon's contest, the Canadiens' director of player development, Martin Lapointe, reflected on the performance of several of the team's up-and-coming prospects over the last three days of competition.
Several players, in particular, caught the eye of the two-time Stanley Cup champion, who served as the squad's head coach in London, ON against the best and brightest youngsters the Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators had to offer.
With respect to Artturi Lehkonen, Lapointe appreciated his contributions on the ice and his overall attitude as well.
"He played well. He's a guy who loves playing hockey. Every time we told him he'd be playing a game, he was very happy," praised Lapointe, who featured the Finnish forward in all three games and watched him chip in with one goal and three points during that span. "He's always on the puck. He has a good sense of the play, too. He's a good passer, a good skater. He showed us that during all of the games."
Mikhail Sergachev, meanwhile, certainly solidified his place in Lapointe's memory with a remarkable effort on Sunday afternoon. In addition to throwing his weight around against the Senators and dishing out a monster highlight-reel hit, the Russian defenseman also was a catalyst on offense, serving up a pair of perfect feeds to Daniel Audette that both resulted in goals.
"He showed that he's a strong skater and that he has excellent vision," mentioned Lapointe, clearly impressed by what the 18-year-old rearguard brings to the table. "He made some really nice passes to Audette on those goals."
Video: Audette on his rookie tournament experience
A SATISFIED SOLDIER: After suiting up for the first two games of the 2016 Rookie Tournament at Budweiser Gardens, Michael McCarron wasn't in uniform for Sunday afternoon's finale against the Senators.
Nevertheless, the 21-year-old forward met with members of the media following the contest to share his thoughts on his efforts in Southwestern Ontario. He certainly had a lot to be proud about, factoring in on the scoresheet with three goals and four points in his two appearances while pivoting a line flanked by Lehkonen and Nikita Scherbak.
"I thought I had a good tournament. I thought my line was able to find some chemistry early on and I think that's what was able to give us some success," said McCarron, referencing the line combining for three goals and eight points in the tournament opener on Friday night - an 8-3 victory over the Penguins' top prospects - before helping to generate his game-tying marker in Saturday night's 4-3 loss against the host Maple Leafs.
The Grosse Pointe, MI native insists tournaments like these go a long way towards helping him and other youngsters in the Canadiens' fold get back in the swing of things quickly. With the start of main camp just days away, McCarron says playing high-intensity games really helps him get his feel back fast.
"This camp is a great stepping stone to go into the main camp. It gets my feet under me and gets my legs up to speed. Last year, it helped me a lot," shared McCarron, who put up 17 goals and 38 points in 58 games for the AHL's St. John' IceCaps last season, while also seeing 20 games of NHL action with Michel Therrien's troops. "I'm sure this year I'll benefit from it a lot, too."
Serving as the Canadiens' team captain in London also meant a lot to the former OHL standout, who made a triumphant return to a city that means a great deal to him.
"It felt really good [being named captain]. It's humbling to be looked upon as a leader from your peers," mentioned McCarron. "There are a lot of leaders in that room. Everybody knows what to do and what they're capable of. It's a great atmosphere for this rookie camp."
Video: Lernout on his rookie camp experience
JUST THE WAY HE LIKES IT: Defenseman Brett Lernout felt right at home playing in a high-octane affair against the Senators' young guns to close out the second annual event.
It afforded him the opportunity to play the style of game he's been accustomed to for years.
"It was really physical. Ottawa always seems to bring a tougher team, a bigger team. They're really physical guys. I was expecting it," shared Lernout, a tough customer in his own right. "I thought I was physical out there. I played my role, made simple plays, and was just tough in front of the net."
The 20-year-old defenseman, who is entering his second season in the pros in 2016-17, knows that displaying those types of attributes on a consistent basis is the best way for him to keep moving up the Canadiens' depth chart year after year.
"If I'm going to play in the NHL, that's the type of role I'm going to have to play. I've got to be physical. I've got to make a good first pass and just be simple out there," said Lernout, who made his NHL debut with the Canadiens for one game last season. "It means that they're interested in me and it means that I'm progressing. I've just got to go out there and play my role."