The Montreal Canadiens get their training camp started on Thursday for medicals and physical testing. Here are some of the main things to watch as the camp gets underway.
The Goaltending Situation
This may seem pretty straight forward, until you look a little deeper. First, the Canadiens have three NHL caliber goaltenders in Carey Price, Peter Budaj and Dustin Tokarski. It is unlikely that the Canadiens will carry three goaltenders, so likely one will be either traded or lost on waivers. However, the reason there might not have been a decision made yet can be two-fold. One, they are undecided and want to have a competition between Tokarski and Budaj or two, they are concerned that Price will be ready for the season.
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Price suffered a pretty serious injury last year, and while he may be ready to take part in training camp as per a report yesterday, the Canadiens would probably rather make sure than to leave themselves in a position of weakness. If Price is healthy, the decision on his back up can be made later. If he isn’t, you’ll be happy they still have both Tokarski and Budaj.
The Top 9
It’s pretty obvious that if the Canadiens follow their playoff success, they will be using a Top-9 instead of the typical Top-6, Bottom-6. So, right now you can pretty much give Top 9 spots to the following:
That leaves one spot remaining. You can probably relegate Manny Malholtra, Travis Moen, Dale Weise and Brandon Prust (and the added wrinkle of Drayson Bowman) to a rotation of fourth line duty. That leaves one spot open for Michael Bournival, and a pack of rookies – mainly Nikita Scherbak, Jiri Sekac or Sven Adrighetto. You can maybe put Christian Thomas and Jacob De La Rose in that fight as well, but they are longer shots.
This is really the only position up for grabs among forwards. It will be interesting to see who gets the first look and what they do with the opportunity.
The Changing Of The Guard
The Canadiens will have a new look on defence this year without Josh Gorges and Douglas Murray. However, it remains to be seen whether the team will keep both Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi with the big club out of training camp.
That was put in further doubt when reports surfaced that Francis Bouillon would be invited to training camp. That doesn’t guarantee him anything, but if you give Michel Therrien a choice, it’s possible the team would keep Bouillon as a seventh defenceman in the press box rather than one of the youngsters.
All this means – for all the spots I mentioned – is that there will be intense internal competition and that is never a bad thing. The more players you have you can play, the more they will fight to stay in the lineup. Depth brings a lot of positives and part of that is the fact you need to make hard decisions in training camp.
And you will love the depth as soon as the inevitable injury hits as well.
We will have more training camp coverage, including the list of invites, when they announced later in the week.