BROSSARD – After arriving back from their 5-1 win in Toronto late Monday night, the Canadiens were back at the office at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard and were hit with the news that more training camp cuts had arrived.
First, the Habs announced that they had sent defensemen Michal Moravcik and David Sklenicka to the Laval Rocket, returned centerman Nick Suzuki to Junior, and released winger Joel Ward from his tryout.
Then, the club announced that five players – forwards Byron Froese, Michael McCarron, and Hunter Shinkaruk, and defensemen Brett Lernout and Rinat Valiev – had been placed on waivers.
For Jacob de la Rose – who remains in the mix for a roster spot with the Habs – it’s all a matter of a numbers game, though he has faith that McCarron still has potential to be reached.
“There are a few spots available, and the competition is really tough. There are a lot of good players,” said the Swede, who skated in 55 games with the Canadiens last season, producing 12 points and adding 29 penalty minutes. “There are some tough decisions for management to make. Big Mac is a great player and he’s still young, too.”
As for Suzuki, who came to Montreal along with Tomas Tatar in the Max Pacioretty trade, head coach Claude Julien explained that while the London, ON native is a sure bet to play in the big leagues, heading back to the OHL was the best move for him right now.
“We liked what we saw. There’s a good chance he’ll make Team Canada (Junior). We thought it was best for him to go back to Junior,” reasoned Julien. “That was the best decision. I like his skill set. He has incredible vision. He’s definitely an NHL player, but not this year.”
The roster moves made today mean that some other newcomers to the Montreal organization are still being given a look for opening night.
First among them is defenseman Xavier Ouellet, who has shown poise and confidence on the backend in preseason action, which Julien attributes to his past background at the top level.
“He’s a guy who has spent time in the League. He has a good shot and he uses it well. He has a certain amount of experience,” outlined Julien. “But last night’s game was not against an NHL roster, so we’ll have some decisions to make after the final two exhibition games.”
Then there’s de la Rose, who has had a much stronger showing at camp than he did last year, according to the Habs bench boss.
“Jacob has had a good camp. He scored a nice goal the other night. He’s involving himself much better than he did last year,” he shared. “He has some good attributes but he needs to bring more in games.”
Next is Michael Chaput, who admitted he had some butterflies knowing what kinds of decisions were on the horizon.
“I’m happy to be here, that’s for sure. This day is always stressful. But I’m trying not to think about it too much so that it doesn’t take up too much space in my head,” said the 6-foot-2, 199-pounder. I’m trying to continue to play my game and earn my spot.”
Last, but certainly not least, is the Habs’ third overall pick at the 2018 Draft, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who took the trip to Toronto and came back with an assist, a plus-3 rating, a shot on goal, and a blocked shot on the night.
Much has already been made about the decision Kotkaniemi will be forcing on Habs management. But on Tuesday, the young Finn was asked how he felt about facing the media on a daily basis if he were to spend the season in Montreal.
“Yes, every day,” he concluded with his trademark smile. “It’s fun!”