With Shea Weber, Alexei Emelin and Andrei Markov all absent due to their participation in the World Cup, the Montreal Canadiens have had a chance to get long looks at other blue liners during training camp. As the Montreal Gazette’s Pat Hickey writes, several players have taken full advantage of the opportunity and impressed the team’s coaching staff.
Hickey specifically identified Nathan Beaulieu and Greg Pateryn as having “stood out” so far, while 2016 first-round pick Mikhail Sergachev and free agent signing Zach Redmond were both impressive in the team’s recent game against Ottawa.
Redmond has scored a goal in each of his preseason appearances and has shown a physical element. He was added in the offseason to provide depth and a solid camp might earn him a spot on the regular season roster.
Sergachev would have to really impress in order to stick. Montreal likely wishes to see the young Russian defender, who just turned 18 in June, get lots of quality ice time and the best chance for that would be if he was returned to junior.
Beaulieu and Pateryn are both already penciled into the club’s top-six and Montreal has to be pleased at their play so far. The Habs were recently said to be taking calls on the 23-year-old Beaulieu but if he’s been as impressive in camp as Hickey suggests it seems unlikely Montreal would be too keen on moving him. With a healthy Carey Price set to return from injury and an improved defense, it wouldn’t be hard to project a return to the playoffs for Montreal.
Elsewhere in the Atlantic Division:
- When Florida went out and acquired Reto Berra and James Reimer – via trade and free agency respectively – this summer, Mike McKenna’s prospects of winning the Panthers backup goalie job dried up. But as George Richards of the Miami Herald writes, McKenna has been down this road before and knows all it takes is an injury to give the 33-year-old another opportunity between the pipes in South Florida. McKenna: “No matter what the situation looks like with contracts, you always want to put your best foot forward. You never know what will happen through the course of a season. I’m just trying to go in the right direction.” Last season, McKenna was called up from the AHL when Al Montoya went down with an injury, though he didn’t see any NHL action. As it stands, Roberto Luongo will be the starter with Reimer serving as his understudy. That would seem to put Berra in position to be the starter for the Panther’s AHL affiliate in Springfield but the 29-year-old veteran would have to clear waivers before being sent down and could conceivably be claimed by a team in need of an experienced backup. That would again elevate McKenna to third overall on the organization’s goaltending depth chart and would put him in line for promotion should Luongo or Reimer suffer an injury.
- Tampa Bay is looking for depth scoring and one player who could help address that need is Erik Condra, as Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times writes. Condra had a disappointing first season with the Lightning, scoring just six goals and 11 points in 54 games after signing a three-year, $3.75MM deal with Tampa. Condra twice hit the 20-point plateau as a member of the Senators and the Lightning would likely be content with that level of production. Smith also lists Cedric Paquette and Cory Conacher as two more players who could also offer some scoring punch in the bottom-six. Conacher had by far his best NHL season during the 2012-13 campaign which he began with the Lightning. That season, Conacher tallied 29 points in 47 games – 24 in 35 with the Lightning. Conacher was dealt in-season to Ottawa in a deal that brought Ben Bishop to Tampa Bay in what has turned out to be quite the steal for the Bolts. Paquette saw his goal output decrease from 12 in 2014-15 to just six last season. Tampa would surely benefit from a return to double-figures in goals scored from the grinding Paquette.