With the NHL lockout into full swing and pre-season games cancelled, some of the Canadiens players have taken to Plan B for now, finding a home to play until the NHL resumes action. While a few have headed for Europe, attention will shift focus to Hamilton, where some of the Habs future will be aiming for a shot at making their professional debuts.
The Bulldogs camp will open this weekend in Sherbrooke, Quebec, allowing fans to get a first look of the season at some prospects they have been anxious to see. While fans had a glimpse of Louis Leblanc, Michael Blunden and Blake Geoffrion up with Montreal last season, this year's training camp for Hamilton will allow a couple of key draft picks to showcase their talents in the AHL camp.
Brendan Gallagher impressed several people last season during the Canadiens training camp and through some pre-season action. This year, he'll enter the Bulldogs camp knowing what to expect at the pro level, and have the bar raised a little higher. While his 77-point season with the WHL Vancouver Giants this past year was lower than the 91 he posted in 2010-11, he appeared in 12 fewer games, and therefore increased his points-per-game ratio to 1.43, up from 1.38 and his goals-per-game ratio to 0.76, up from 0.67. These are all signs of confidence gained through camp last year, and another year of maturity.
Arguably, the main focus at the Bulldogs training camp will be on Nathan Beaulieu, Morgan Ellis and Jarred Tinordi. All three players enter camp with some notable achievements in the past few years. Tinordi and Beaulieu are both first round picks from the 2010 and 2011 Drafts and have impressed scouts with their work on the blue line. They are not alone as Ellis, a fourth-round pick in 2010; has some scouts talking about him in the same class. All three will garner much attention on the back end.
Michael Bournival will be someone to watch among the forwards. He is coming off a 30-goal, 56-point season with Shawinigan of the QMJHL and was a name bantered around to watch last year.
Other players assigned to the Bulldogs by Montreal include Alexander Avtsin, Alain Berger, Gabriel Dumont, Patrick Holland, Philippe Lefebvre, Joonas Nattinen, Steven Quailer, Ian Schultz, Brendon Nash, Greg Pateryn, Joe Stejskal, Peter Delmas and Robert Mayer.
So, while the current Canadiens players' future remains in limbo for the next while, the future players of the Canadiens will begin their next chapters this week in hopes of impressing Hamilton head coach Sylvain Lefebvre and the rest of the Habs brass.