In recent years, the CHL has been awash in talented Canadiens’ prospects. However recent drafting practices and graduation has largely emptied the Habs’ CHL coffers. The majority of the most promising prospects are toiling in the NCAA, while the next wave of Canadiens can already be found in Hamilton.
However, there is a quartet of Canadiens’ prospects in the junior ranks who offer varying degrees of promise. Not surprisingly, given the club’s recent defensive draft habits, the most promising prospect is a blueliner, but there’s also a surprise goaltending prospect who’s looking to make a “big” impression on the club in the future.
Olivier Fortier, C, Rimouski Oceanic — QMJHL
6’, 183 pounds
3rd round, 65th overall, 2007
Fortier has made a solid impression on the Oceanic, since coming from Drummondville in a trade during his rookie season. And with Rimouski hosting this year’s Memorial Cup, the left-shooting center should enjoy plenty of opportunity to experience that post-season pressure upon which the Canadiens are so high.
In 14 games this season, Fortier has contributed four goals and added 11 assists. He was hoping to rebound from a down season last year, in which he only accounted for 46 points in 67 games – an 18-point drop from his 69-game production the previous season. Unfortunately an early-November knee injury is expected to keep him out of action for a while.
Playing his normal, robust style, the 19-year-old Fortier collided with Baie-Comeau Drakkar netminder Marco Cousineau, and the resulting third-degree ligament strain will keep him out of action for a minimum of two months, and effectively ends any chance that the Ancienne-Lorette, QC native had of suiting up for Team Canada at the WJC.
If there is a bright side to this injury, the fact is that Fortier should be at full strength come the post-season and the two months off will leave him fresher for the challenge of winning junior hockey’s top honor in his home rink.
P.K. Subban, D, Belleville Bulls — OHL
6’0, 202 pounds
2nd round, 43rd overall, 2007
Much is expected out of this blueliner from Rexdale, ON, and the early-season reviews have been good. Following a breakout 2006-07 campaign and a stellar post-season last year where he reclaimed some of that lost magic, Subban has started out strong for the OHL-contending Belleville Bulls.
In 23 games, Subban’s scored four goals and added 24 assists. He also played a key role on Team OHL in their recent contests against the Russians (he was an alternate captain for the club), and he is expected to play a key role on the blueline for Team Canada this year in Ottawa.
With Belleville poised to go deep in the OHL playoffs and as a key blueline member of a Team Canada squad that’s always expected to compete for top honors, Subban should have plenty of opportunities to grow and shine this season.
Subban’s growth is coming in leaps and bounds – exemplified by a strong training camp showing this season with the big club – and there’s no reason to expect it to stop anytime soon.
Robert Mayer, G, Saint John Sea Dogs — QMJHL
Signed as a free agent, 2008
The Canadiens’ goaltending depth underwent a major overhaul this off-season. With Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak firmly ensconced in Montreal, Yann Danis heading to Long Island, Cristobal Huet involved in a mid-season trade last year, and Cedrick Desjardins and veteran Marc Denis in Hamilton, the club needed to add some depth and youth between the pipes to the organization.
Part of that depth was obtained through the draft – the other half acquired via free agency. Robert Mayer, who was a part of last year’s Swiss World Junior club, spent last season in North America, tending goal for the St. John Sea Dogs. The Canadiens invited Mayer to a tryout camp earlier this year and the 19-year-old was subsequently signed to a three-year deal.
Mayer’s play has been solid with the Sea Dogs, who currently are holding down third place in the QMJHL’s Atlantic Division. He’s compiled a 15-7-2 record behind a 2.97 GAA and an .899 save percentage in 25 games.
Originally from Havrivov in the Czech Republic, Mayer has dual Swiss/Czech citizenship, but plays internationally for the Swiss club.
Jason Missiaen, G, Peterborough Petes – OHL
6’8, 200 pounds
4th round, 116th overall, 2008
The Habs’ fourth-rounder this season has some big shoes to fill – fortunately at 6’8, he’s more than large enough to do it. Jason Missiaen is now the nominal starting goaltender with the Peterborough Petes following the early-season trade of Trevor Cann to the London Knights.
In his third season with the Petes, Missiaen will likely see the majority of the team’s starts – despite the recent signing of OHL veteran Ryan Daniels, who came to the club as an overager after the trade – as Missiaen represents the future for the Petes. That said, in the two games in which the steady Daniels has played, the lowly Petes have won both contests. Missiaen’s play will have to improve if he’s to hold onto the No. 1 role.
In 16 games, Missiaen has posted a 5-9-1 record. And although he has a 3.73 GAA, those numbers are is artificially high. Missiaen’s Petes squad is often overmatched, outshot, and out-talented by other OHL clubs. His .905 save percentage reflects better upon his play.
The club felt comfortable trading the veteran Cann due to Missiaen’s continued development and emergence as a legitimate No. 1 goaltender. Now with the opportunity firmly before him, it’s up to the Chatham, ON native to prove that his club’s faith – and that of the Canadiens, who drafted him despite limited in-game action – was warranted.