Montreal Canadiens possess numerous talented defensemen at CHL level

By David Thicke
Photo: Morgan Ellis is one of several talented Montreal blueliners currently playing at the CHL level. (Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

The Montreal Canadiens have eight prospects at the junior level; one in the OHL, four in the QJMHL, two in the WHL, and one in a US Prep School. The defensemen have size, grit, character, and are highlighted by Nathan Beaulieu‘s offensive skill. The forwards are smaller, quick skating, but highly talented offensively with the little spark-plug, Brendan Gallagher leading the way.

OHL

Jarred Tinordi, D, London Knights
Acquired: 1st round (22nd overall) in 2010

After a successful 2011 NHL training camp with the Montreal Canadiens, Jarred Tinordi returned to his OHL London Knights where he was named the team’s captain for the 2011-12 season.

Tinordi started the season by showing grit, strong character and leadership while throwing punishing bodychecks and standing up for his teammates on the needed occasions. He would miss 10 games due to an eye injury suffered in a fight with Johnny McGuire of the Erie Otters on October 14th. The second year defenseman has returned to the Knights lineup, wearing a full facial shield to protect around the eye while it heals. Tinordi has only four assists along with a plus-11 rating and 34 penalty minutes (two fighting majors) in 13 OHL games.

The huge, physical defensive defenseman will be expected to play the shutdown role while providing a strong net-front and corner presence in his team’s defensive zone. The second year defenseman will be trying to develop his offensive game and learn to pick his spots when engaging in fisticuffs as his team needs him more on the ice than in the penalty box. Don’t expect him to start shying away from fighting however.

The Montreal Canadiens decided to lock-up their 2011 number one draft pick early by signing Tinordi to a three-year entry-level contract on the 2nd of November 2011. The big defenseman is one of the players who could be selected to man the blue line for Team USA at the 2012 World Junior Championship Tournament after making the cuts at the summer camp.

QJMHL

Olivier Archambault, LW, Drummondville Voltigeurs
Acquired: 4th round (108th overall) in 2011

Olivier Archambault was returned to the junior level to play for his new QJMHL team, the Dummondville Voltigeurs after a good showing at his first NHL Training Camp with the Montreal Canadiens.

The highly talented winger is expected to bring an offensive punch to the Voltigeurs in his third QJMHL season while improving his defensive play away from the puck. He can produce highlight reel goals and plays but has yet to show his willingness to work in the defensive zone. Archambault has scored eight goals along with nine assists and a terrible minus-12 rating in 21 QJMHL games. One excuse for his poor plus/minus ratio could be that the Voltigeurs are not a powerhouse team with star centerman, Sean Couturier (PHI) staying in the NHL this season.

Michael Bournival, C, Shawninigan Cataractes
Acquired: Trade with Colorado Avalanche, June 26th, 2010

After missing a good part of the 2011 NHL Training Camp with the Montreal Canadiens, Bournival was able to show his solid two-way game in a couple of NHL pre-season games before being returned for his fourth season in the QJMHL.

The offensively skilled centerman was on a torrid pace having scored 12 goals with two assists in just 10 games for the Shawninigan Cataractes when he suffered a shoulder injury in practice. Bournival would miss four weeks of play and was unable to participate for the QJMHL in the 2011 Subway Super Series against Team Russia. The Cataractes’ captain returned to play on November 15th, 2011 but only resumed his goal scoring ways in his next game against Chicoutimi, where Bournival scored the tying goal in the third period and the game winner in overtime.

Bournival could, if healthy enough, get the chance to participate in the 2012 World Junior Championship for Team Canada.

Nathan Beaulieu, D, Saint John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 1st round (17th overall) in 2011

Nathan Beaulieu is clearly the top prospect for the Montreal Canadiens’ organization. During his NHL pre-season games, the smooth skating, offensively talented defenseman showed flashes of just how good he’s going to be in the future on the team’s main power play unit.

The number one draft pick was returned to the QJMHL for his fourth season with the 2011 Memorial Cup Champion, Saint John Sea Dogs after a successful NHL training camp. Beaulieu started the season off playing a much more defensive role and being a physical presence in all three zones of the ice. The offensively skilled defenseman was carefully picking his spots to create scoring chances but has quickly showed that he’s the main cog in the Sea Dogs power play.

Beaulieu has started to pick up the offensive side to his game while still playing the shutdown role and has shown great character in dropping the gloves to stand up for his teammates. He has scored six goals (two on the power play and one shorthanded) along with 14 assists and a plus-16 rating while taking 47 penalty minutes (three fighting majors) in 23 QJMHL games. Beaulieu was selected to play for the QJMHL in the Subway Super Series against Team Russia where he proved to be one of the best defenseman for the QJMHL in the two game series.
Beaulieu has a very good chance of making Team Canada’s squad for the 2012 World Junior Championship Tournament.

Morgan Ellis, D, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Acquired: 4th round (117th overall) in 2010

After a good 2011 NHL Training Camp with the Montreal Canadiens, Morgan Ellis was returned to the QJMHL Cape Breton Screaming Eagles where he will play his fourth season and second as their captain.

Ellis has quickly established himself as a more all-rounded physical defenseman while logging big minutes on a poor Cape Breton team. The smooth skating defensive minded defenseman is again showing that he can be the offensive force from the blue line on the team’s power play unit. He has scored seven goals (six on the power play) along with 11 assists and a minus three rating while taking only 10 penalty minutes in 21 QJMHL games.

Ellis was selected to represent the QJMHL at the 2011 Subway Super Series against Team Russia and was asked to play a shutdown role for the team in the two game series.

WHL

Darren Dietz, D, Saskatoon Blades
Acquired: 5th round (138th overall) in 2011

After attending his first NHL Training Camp with the Montreal Canadiens, Darren Dietz was returned to his WHL Saskatoon Blades team where he was named an Alternate Captain for the 2011-12 season.

The tough, physical defenseman has been playing big minutes in the shutdown role while playing on both the power play and penalty killings units. Dietz has already improved on last season’s offensive numbers and has shown a willingness to defend his teammates by dropping the gloves when it’s needed. He has produced solid numbers so far by scoring five goals (three on the power play) along with 10 assists and a team leading plus-19 while taking 45 PIMs ( three fighting majors and a misconduct) in 24 WHL games.

Brendan Gallagher, RW, Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 5th round (147th overall) in 2010

In his second NHL training camp with the Montreal Canadiens, Brendan Gallagher caused quite the stir in the team’s NHL pre-season games where he seemed to create scoring chances on every shift. The little dynamo looked like he might get the chance to start the 2011 NHL season in the Canadiens’ lineup but close to the last day of his deadline, the team returned him to the WHL Vancouver Giants for the 2011-12 season.

Gallagher has been on a mission since returning to the junior level where he has set a torrid scoring pace of 19 goals (eight on the power play) along with 17 assists and a plus-10 rating while taking 27 penalty minutes (one fighting major and a misconduct) in just 21 WHL games. The small offensive winger was selected as the Captain for one of the 2011 Subway Super Series against Team Russia but was unable to get his name on the score sheet. When Gallagher arrived in Regina for game five against the Russians on November 16th, 2011, he was informed by his agent that the Montreal Canadiens had offered him a three-year entry-level contract.

Gallagher will be hoping to make Team Canada for the 2012 World Junior Championship Tournament after failing to make the squad last year.

USHS

Colin Sullivan, D, Avon Old Farms Prep School Varsity A
Acquired: 7th round (198th overall) in 2011

At the time of this article, it appears that Colin Sullivan will continue being unconventional in his approach to becoming an NHLer. The 18-year-old solid defenseman has not signed to jump to the main stream leagues like CHL, USHL, and EJHL but has chosen instead to return to his high school team, the Avon Old Farms Winged Beavers in Milford, Connecticut. To some people, this would appear to be an unwise decision but the Avon Old Farms’ Varsity program has seen at least a dozen players reach the NHL like Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, Chris Higgins, and Jonathan Quick (LAK) to name few of them. All these NHL players have played under the guidance of legendary Coach John Gardner who has run the Prep school’s Hockey program for the last 37 years.

Sullivan has a written agreement to attend Yale University for the 2012-13 school year. His Varsity hockey season will only start on November 30th, 2011 and the NHL draft pick will play about 27 regular season games with added games for playoffs. The fast skating defenseman continued to work on all aspects of his game both on and off the ice over the summer to prepare for his senior year.