The Canadiens training camp is coming to a close with only one preseason game remaining on the schedule. The team will start the regular season on October 11th against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The main roster is pretty much set outside of a few depth decisions. This means it’s safe to grade the team’s individual players on their performances at camp. Let’s take a look at those who stood out with strong camps and those who didn’t meet expectations.
Canadiens Training Camp Grades
Stand Outs: Kirby Dach, Kaiden Guhle, Logan Mailloux, Emil Heineman, Joshua Roy
One of the biggest performers at camp was forward Kirby Dach. Dach had a goal and two assists in three preseason games. He primarily played centre alongside Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Juraj Slafkovsky. Dach impressed at centre between these two youngsters and demonstrated that he’s ready to break out and solidify his role as the team’s second-line centre behind captain Nick Suzuki. Kaiden Guhle had similar results as he also prepares to head into his second season with the Canadiens. Guhle impressed with his continued poise with and without the puck. Guhle also potted a goal in a losing effort versus the Leafs on Saturday night.
Three youngsters also impressed the Canadiens brass this camp. One of them has an opportunity to make the team out of camp. Joshua Roy was one of the youngsters who by general consensus, stood out the most throughout the duration of camp. Many thought Roy would make the team out of camp but he was surprisingly cut last week in the team’s biggest round of cuts. Nonetheless, Roy impressed and will get a chance to further develop in the AHL with the Laval Rocket.
Mailloux was recently sent down to Laval as well. Heineman on the other hand, remains at camp. Both have impressed with their offensive prowess thus far in camp, although the scoresheet hasn’t been reflective of that. Heineman has a solid opportunity to make the team and start at left wing on one of the team’s bottom two lines. With veterans like Joel Armia and Jesse Ylonen struggling at camp and no other youngsters grabbing the role, Heineman has been presented with a great opportunity. In Mailloux’s case, he likely isn’t ready for a full-time role with the club due to some defensive lapses in his game. However, due to injuries to Mike Matheson, Chris Wideman, and Gustav Lindstrom that may prevent them from starting the season, Mailloux may get a few games in the NHL early in the year.
Solid Camps: David Reinbacher, Juraj Slafkovsky, Cole Caufield, Sean Monahan, Mattias Norlinder
Canadiens top draft picks Juraj Slafkovsky and David Reinbacher both had solid showings at camp. Reinbacher didn’t bring fans out of their seats like Connor Bedard or Adam Fantilli who were drafted ahead of him. But Reinbacher’s poise for an 18-year-old defenseman is rarely seen as he seemingly never makes the wrong play or a poor read. Slafkovsky struggled to start camp but after scoring against the Senators that began to change. Slafkovsky showed flashes of why he was taken first overall a year ago. Slaf also found chemistry with Kirby Dach and Rafael Harvey-Pinard and hopes to build on this newfound chemistry in a top-six role this season.
Cole Caufield and Sean Monahan, both coming off of season-ending injuries, had solid showings at camp as well. Caufield scored a goal and an assist against the Senators in a dominant showing. Every time he touches the puck he seems to get a scoring chance and doesn’t look like he’ll need to shake off any rust. Monahan was consistently solid despite being juggled around the lineup all camp long. It’s unclear where he will start the season, whether at centre or on the wing alongside Caufield and Suzuki. However, he will provide solid two-way play to whichever line he ends up on.
Mattias Norlinder at 23 years old is often forgotten amongst the team’s surplus of defensive prospects. After signing in 2021, Norlinder has failed to live up to expectations. In this camp, however, he brought himself back into the conversation. Due to the aforementioned injuries on the backend, Norlinder may start the year with the club. Norlinder scored a goal in the team’s most recent game versus the Leafs as a part of the comeback win. He quarterbacked the top power play unit in place of Matheson and proved capable in an offensive role.
Disappointing Camps: Sam Montembeault, Brendan Gallagher, Sean Farrell, Joel Armia, Justin Barron
Sam Montembeault is the team’s most important player this year and if the team is to have any success it will rest on his shoulders. After a solid showing last year, the hope is he will break into a starting goalie role this year while simultaneously earning himself a contract. However, he has struggled in his preseason appearances. Including a goal from nearly centre ice which will find itself on the blooper reels for the foreseeable future.
Veterans Brendan Gallagher and Joel Armia had very disappointing training camps themselves. Both will make the team due to longevity and contract status, however. Although this poor play following injury-riddled seasons doesn’t bode well for the duo’s future with the club. On the other end of the spectrum, youngsters Sean Farrell and Justin Barron were looking to solidify themselves full-time roles after short stints at the end of last season. Both players failed to live up to expectations and Farrell was one of many players who was cut and assigned to Laval last week. In Barron’s case, he still has a chance to crack the roster even without injuries. But he didn’t do enough to force the coaching staff to keep him around.
Training camps and preseason are far from a projection of a player’s upcoming season. However, for many of the youngsters mentioned this Canadiens training camp has dictated where they will play this season. And for the veterans, it has given them a chance to shake off the rust and see how they need to prepare for the long season ahead. Nonetheless, it’s always interesting to give out individual player grades for the Montreal Canadiens training camp.
Main Photo Credit: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports