André Tourigny issued a warning to hockey fans on BPM Sports on Friday, at the dawn of rookie games across the four corners of the NHL.
Host Martin Lemay asked him what he recommended listeners watch during these matches instead of relying on the scoresheet and getting carried away with the results.
“The other team’s formation!” “, replied the head coach of the Arizona Coyotes straight away, before bursting into loud laughter. “The story will be different against Crosby, Malkin and Letang on the other side, compared to whoever played on the third line in the junior ranks. The youngster may get three points today, but tomorrow he will come back to reality. »
It is important to recall this wise reflection today, following the first two meetings of the Canadian’s prospects at the rookie challenge in Buffalo.
We can of course rejoice in this clear victory in the second match, these two goals from Joshua Roy, a less messy performance from defender Logan Mailloux, a better performance from attackers Filip Mesar and Jan Mysak, but it is also important to put things in context.
The CH recruits faced a team, that of the Bruins, with nine undrafted players, three players with a minimum of 50 games in the American League and only one first round pick, 21e in total.
Among these three American League players, Georgii Merkulov dominated with 24 goals, but the second, Fabian Lysell, who disappointed in his first year among the pros, with only 14 goals, including 3 in his last 22 games, and the third John Beecher, who had 23 points in 67 games.
Their six defenders had no professional experience. Five came from the junior ranks and one from the NCAA, Mason Lohrei. Only this one was drafted beyond the first five rounds, at 58e rank. Both goaltenders in uniform were undrafted and played last season in the QMJHL.
Two ECHL caliber clubs faced each other on Saturday afternoon. We were indeed far from Crosby, Malkin and Letang, as Tourigny would have said.
The Canadiens’ management knew the caliber of the opponent and even chose to rest their captain William Trudeau, their first center against the Sabres, Owen Beck, as well as Sean Farrell and David Reinbacher.
This is not a question of reducing the productivity of the young people at work on Saturday, but of remembering that we should not evaluate their chances of breaking into the team or not, or even that of the American League, following ‘a very low caliber match.
The first match of the tournament, Friday, was much more complicated. The Sabres, rich in prospects, sent five first-round picks there, including three top fifteenIsak Rosen, Matthew Savoie and Zach Benson.
Jiri Kulich, 28e overall in 2022, was smoking hot last year in the American League and defenseman Ryan Johnson, 31e pick in 2019, is already 22 years old after four years at the University of Minnesota. In addition to Rosen and Kulich, there were five other American League players and two Russians from the KHL.
Trudeau, 20, a 2021 fourth-round pick, has been by far the best of his group. Already a pillar in Laval last winter, he seemed too strong for this level of competition. Beck, only 19 years old, also played in an inspired way. We can already see great maturity in his game, but his wingers, Emil Heineman and Joshua Roy, were rather timid.
More was also expected from Sean Farrell given his short NHL experience and 2022 late first-round pick Filip Mesar. This one looked better against a weaker team, in the middle, the next day. Their center on Friday, Riley Kidney, struggled, as did the next day. His seasons of 100 points or more in the junior ranks no longer count. He will fight for a position in Laval and the game is not yet won.
The Canadian’s first pick in 2023, fifth overall, David Reinbacher, was not bad, but also messy at times. He has the excuse of age, 18, of his lack of familiarity with the size of North American ice rinks and of his adaptation to a new culture. We can see the potential.
Logan Mailloux, 20 years old, had a very difficult first match. He was on the ice for the Sabres’ first three goals and can be credited for two.
This first at the end of the first round in 2021, 31e in total, has a very interesting size at 6 feet 3 inches and 220 pounds. He has a lightning shot, has good straight-line skating and has great individual skills with the puck. But his faults remain the same from his year of eligibility while playing in the third division in Sweden and during the following seasons in London in the Ontario Junior League: he tends to be stationary when starting on a backward skate on opposing counter-attacks, he often misreads the game in defensive territory, he sometimes tends to position himself poorly in space in his zone and he does not always make the right decisions with the puck.
Another young right-handed defender, Justin Barron, obtained for Artturi Lehkonen two years ago, had some of these flaws when he arrived in Montreal and he returned transformed from his internship in Laval. Perhaps Jean-François Houle and his deputies could have the same effect on Mailloux?
The Canadian’s hopes face those of the Ottawa Senators at 1:30 p.m. Monday. Led by Ridly Greig, with 20 games of experience in the NHL, Ottawa does not have the power of Buffalo, but remains superior to Boston. They beat the New Jersey Devils prospects, but suffered a beating against the Penguins prospects, missing Greig and defenseman Tyler Kleven, eight games into the National League with the Senators last year.
Already the end for Mike Babcock
Mike Babcock will therefore not have managed a single game in Columbus. He did not survive the turmoil launched by former hockey player Paul Bissonnette during his podcast last week: Bissonnette says he collected confidences from hockey players who criticized Babcock for asking his players to give them their cell phones to then broadcast photos on a television screen in his office. After an investigation by the Players’ Association, Babcock chose to empty his office.
Quebec coach Pascal Vincent will therefore experience his hour of glory, after a dozen years of waiting for his first chance as head coach. He will be presented to the media at 12:30 Monday with CEO Jarmo Kekalainen. He will have to answer, among other things, an uncomfortable question: why did you hire a torture coach, driven out of the NHL a few years ago for abuse of power?