MONTREAL - With plenty of new blood brought in this offseason, there will be no shortage of players competing to crack Jacques Martin’s roster this fall. But as the team’s stars-in-waiting are looking to prove, it’s not just the big-name newcomers fans should keep their eyes on.
Seizing their time in the spotlight, there were a few youngsters who stood out from the pack when they got their chance to shine in Montreal. Moving up from Hamilton and making a big splash in the big leagues last year were Matt D’Agostini, Max Pacioretty
and Sergei Kostitsyn.
Making the most of his first impression, D’Agostini took advantage of his 53 games with the Habs by collecting 21 points, including 12 goals. When he was called up in late November, the 22-year-old was lighting up the AHL, sitting third overall on the league’s point leaderboard. Luckily for Habs fans, his scoring touch didn’t stay behind when he made the trip to Montreal. While he may have been held off the scoresheet in his first appearance in front of the Bell Centre faithful, D’Agostini followed up his debut performance by sniping in four-straight games. The Sault-Ste-Marie native closed out his rookie campaign with an impressive 12 goals under his belt, one of just 11 Canadiens to hit double digits last season.
Making the jump from college to the pro ranks last season, Pacioretty didn’t take long to prove he belongs playing with the big boys, either. Fresh off celebrating his 20th birthday, the New Canaan, CT native started last season on the farm in Hamilton before getting the call from the Habs on December 26. The youngest player on the Canadiens’ roster, Pacioretty was the Bulldogs’ third-leading scorer when he was brought up, orchestrating 20 points in his first 26 games as a pro. Drafted 22nd overall by Montreal in 2007, the budding power forward suited up for 34 games with the big club last year, picking up 11 points in that span. Showcasing his versatility, the speedy left winger also tied Josh Gorges
for the team lead with a stellar plus-5 differential in February.
Sergei, the younger Kostitsyn on the Habs’ roster, had a roller coaster year in 2008-09. The Novopolotsk, Belarus native posted 23 points in 56 games in Montreal, a slight dip from his breakout rookie season a year earlier. Sent down to Hamilton for a little fine-tuning midway through the campaign, the 22-year-old regained his offensive touch to the tune of 13 points in 16 games in Steeltown, earning himself a one-way ticket back to Montreal. With his big brother Andrei not having hit his own stride until his third NHL season, Sergei could be gearing up to do the same in 2009-10.
With an added year of seasoning under their belts, the three young forwards will now be looking to make their way into Jacques Martin’s good books – and up his depth chart – when camp opens this September. Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com
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