BROSSARD- With rookie camp officially wrapped up, it is now up to the Canadiens’ player development staff to decide which prospects to invite to main camp beginning Wednesday at the Bell Sports Complex.
Several defensemen with NHL experience, including Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn, are favored to continue their training camp journey. As it were, the race for a spot at main camp is somewhat more open among the prospects playing up front.
While many forwards have shown flashes of offensive genius during the week-long rookie camp, three of them have been particularly impressive during the last two intra-squad scrimmages.
Known more for his toughness and resourcefulness (as evidenced by a one-game stint as the starting goaltender for the OHL’s Erie Otters last season) than for his goal-scoring instincts, tough guy Connor Crisp showed off his surprisingly soft hands with a three-goal outburst in Monday’s scrimmage.
“Last night, I was telling [fellow camp attendee Zach] Fucale that I should be a finesse player instead. Look what happened today,” joked Crisp.
Crisp’s offensive outburst is far from a surprise for those familiar with the 19 year-old’s playing style. All three of his goals were scored in the goal-mouth area, where Crisp used his imposing 6-foot-3, 226-pound frame to create space for his linemates and complete the scoring play.
From a finesse standpoint, the duo of recent QMJHL graduate Ben Duffy and Swedish draft pick Erik Nystrom was hard to beat. Nystrom scored twice on Monday and nearly completed the hat-trick if not for an unlucky bounce on a two-on-one led by Duffy.
“I was looking for [Nystrom] the whole way. I got a hat trick in the last game of [the summer development camp] and he was a big part of that, so I wanted to get him one too. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out,” mentioned Duffy. “His cross-ice pass was on the mark, but the defenseman caught a piece of the puck with his stick blade and the pass bounced over Nystrom’s stick and out of his reach.”
While Duffy describes his playmaking abilities as his biggest strength, he is by no means bashful when he has a scoring opportunity, as evidenced by a slick goal he scored during a scrimmage shootout on Sunday. The right-handed centreman went wide and faked a shot, before going the other way and banging in a quick wrist-shot off the post.
“I like that move, where you make the goalie think you’re going to shoot glove side, and then drag it around and aim stick-side. Usually, he’s not really expecting that,” explained the Lower Sackville, NS native.
When it comes to pure shooting ability, however, few at the camp could match Christian Thomas. The 5-foot-9 right winger boasts an explosive first stride and the most potent release of all forwards on the ice throughout the week. On Sunday, he took a pass at the opposing blueline, bested two defenders with speed and beat the opposing goalie with a perfect snap shot right off the crossbar and in.
“[Since] I’m a smaller guy, I need to be able to move my feet, get into the high-traffic areas and put the puck on net. My strength is definitely my shot,” offered Thomas.
Author of 19 goals in his first AHL season, the Toronto, ON native is poised to make an offensive impact as a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2013-14. If he can keep shooting and scoring, however, a call-up to the Habs wouldn’t be out of the question for the 21-year-old.
Jack Han is a writer for canadiens.com
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