Deadline to Sign ’99 Picks Fast Approaching

By Chris Boucher
The Montreal Canadiens have until June 1st to sign their 1999 Draft picks who have played Major Junior hockey. Six players fall into this category. They are Alexander Buturlin, Matt Carkner, Dusty Jamieson, Marc-André Thinel, Sean Dixon, and Jerome Marois. If last year is any indication, the prospective signings will only be announced at the eleventh hour. In fact, last year’s signings of Francois Beauchemin and Michael Ryder were only announced on June 2nd.

Alexander Buturlin -RW (Drafted-99(2/39))

The Sarnia Sting’s Alexander Buturlin began the season quietly, but broke out with 5 points in his ninth game. His was incredibly consistent, going no more than 2 games without a point at any time during the season. He averaged 1.14 PPG, but his greatest accomplishment was his plus/minus. He finished +14, on a team where the next highest total was +4. Seventeen of Sarnia’s players finished the season in the minus, while only 4 (including Buturlin) finished with a plus/minus above zero.

The 6’0″, 187 lbs. Buturlin played 58 games. He had 65 points (28-37-65), and was a team-leading +14, with 27 minutes in penalties. Seven of his goals were scored on the powerplay, while 1 was scored short-handed. He had point scoring streaks of 4 games on three different occasions, along with one streak of 5 games between November 12th, and November 22nd.

Alexander had a relatively strong World Junior Tournament. He scored 4 goals and added 1 assist in 7 games, including 2 goals in the game against Canada. He finished with a +1 rating, but did not handle the puck with as much confidence as he has shown in North America. His 5 points were good enough for 19th place in the overall scoring race, while 2 of his goals were scored on the powerplay.

Buturlin’s game is more than the sum of his stats. He’s a smart player with deceptive speed, and great hockey-sense. His vision is above average. He likes to fall off the opposing teams’ radar just long enough to score. This season was the biggest of Buturlin’s career; Specifically in terms of a contract with the Habs’. In this regard his performance throughout the season was well worth a passing mark.

Matt Carkner -D (Drafted-99(2/58))

The Peterborough Petes’ Matt Carkner returned to his junior club at the beginning of the season following some unsuccessful contract negotiations with Habs’ Management. Carkner was not happy with his treatment during training camp, and felt the Canadiens were not prepared to sign him at fair value. His comments suggested that he would not be continuing his development as a member of the Canadiens’ organisation. In fact, he later stated that his goal for the season was to play well in order to gain interest from another NHL team.

Upon his arrival in Peterborough, Carkner scored a goal in each of his first 2 games. He played some strong hockey during the beginning of the season before being sidelined with a charley horse on October 27th. He continued to play his physical game, finishing the season with 128 minutes in penalties.

The 6’4″, 220 lbs. Carkner played 53 games. He had 16 points (8-8-16), and was +7. One of his goals was scored on the powerplay. He had one point scoring streak of 3 games, along with 3 streaks of 2 straight games with at least one point.

Carkner has not been able to develop his skating as much as the Habs would like. His mobility is less than average, and he is easily beat to the outside by smaller and more mobile forwards. His character and toughness are above reproach, however he still remains a one-dimensional defenseman.

Dusty Jamieson -F (Drafted-99(5/136))

The Sarnia Sting’s Dusty Jamieson’s season can actually be broken down into two completely different half-seasons. He struggled during the first half; Registering only 14 points (4-10-14) in 34 games. Yet he exploded offensively in the second half; Registering 35 points (10-25-35) in 32 games. He continued his output into the playoffs. Although Sarnia was swept by Plymouth, Jamieson still managed 8 points (4-4-8) through only 4 playoff games.

The 6’2″, 185 lbs. Jamieson played 66 games. He had 49 points (14-35-49), and was -6, with 22 minutes in penalties. Six of his goals were scored on the powerplay, while 1 was scored short-handed. He had one point-scoring streak of 5 games, along with one streak of 7 straight games with at least one point.

Jamieson really increased his stock with his second-half, and playoff performances. He’s a smart player with strong hockey sense. He not only plays all 3 forward positions effectively, but he can also play the point on the powerplay. Considering his improvement this season, the Habs would be taking a chance by not signing such a versatile player.

Marc-André Thinel -F (Drafted-99(5/145))

The Victoriaville Tiger’s Marc-André Thinel was an offensive force throughout the season. Not only did he increase his output compared to the previous season, but he also improved his overall game. Particularly his physical presence; nearly doubling his penalty totals. He was less consistent in the playoffs, but still managed to match Simon Gamache’s offensive totals before being eliminated by Val D’Or in the second round of the playoffs.

The 5’11”, 170 lbs. Thinel played 70 games. He had 150 points (62-88-150), and was +56 with 101 minutes in penalties. He finished with 23 powerplay goals to go along with 9 short-handed markers. He was shutout in only nine games during the entire regular season. He also enjoyed a career-high 21 game point-scoring streak which lasted from December 5th to January 26th.

The Canadiens love Thinel’s offensive flair. They are however concerned about his overall game. His size is less of an issue now compared to earlier in his junior career. Last word out of the organisation was that they were looking for him to be more involved. A final decision would likely be based on Thinel’s playoff performance. Barring any negotiation problems, look for Thinel to sign a contract before the deadline. It makes no sense to give up on a player with this much talent. Particularly when a player’s greatest improvement comes between the ages of 21 and 24.

Sean Dixon -D (Drafted-99(6/167))

The Erie Otters’ Sean Dixon has improved dramatically since his draft year. He plays a strong defensive game, and has greatly benefited from playing on a winning team. His season can best be described as quietly effective.

The 6’3″, 190 lbs. Dixon played 63 games. He had 20 points (3-17-20), and was +41 with 31 minutes in penalties. He scored 1 powerplay goal. He registered two 2-game point-scoring streak, as well as one streak of 3 straight games with at least one point.

Although Dixon skates with an unusual deep bend in his back, his skating is more than adequate. He makes a strong first pass, and focuses mainly on his defensive game. His progression over the last season has been stellar, and he may only be at the beginning of his improvement curve.

Jerome Marois -D (Drafted-99(9/253))

The Rouyn-Noranda Huskies’ Jerome Marois turned some heads during the Canadiens’ training camp. He carried this success over to his Junior season where he exploded out of the gate with 12 points in his first 6 games. He tallied off slightly after his strong start, particularly near the end of the season when he began to fall into injury trouble.

The 6’1″, 196 lbs. Marois played 68 games. He had 83 points (36-47-83), and was +24, with 119 penalty minutes. He had 5 short-handed goals along with 7 powerplay markers. He enjoyed one 10-game point scoring streak, and continued to play strong defensive hockey. He is a strong short-handed player, and was used consistently on the number one penalty-killing unit.

Marois may be signed solely based on his size combined with his performance during last season’s training camp. He has good puck-handling ability, and is an adequate skater. However, his overall consistency is less than stellar. He tends to take the odd shift off, particularly when he begins to struggle offensively.

The Canadiens’ have a strong record when it comes to signing their draft picks. No unsigned player in recent memory has come back to haunt the Canadiens. Whether this is due to astute money management, or poor drafting is anyone’s guess. However, the ’99 Draft could still hold some surprises, and possibly a ghost or two.

Feel free to e-mail me with any questions or comments. Just click on my name at the top of this page. I am a former goaltender with writing, scouting, and coaching experience.