Recent Hab happenings

By Chris Boucher
While most Canadiens’ fans wait for word on Brett Hull, the Habs’ prospect development camp continues in Ville St. Pierre. Recent Hab happenings include Marcel Hossa signing a 3-year deal, Vadim Tarasov and Andrei Kruchinin arriving in Montreal, and Alexander Buturlin close to signing a contract in Russia.

Marcel Hossa (1st round, 2000) signed a 3-year deal with the Canadiens. The physical commitment he showed during the off-season definitely contributed to the contract offer. Throughout the development camp the 6’1′, 211 lbs. Slovakian has consistently demonstrated his superior strength and puck-handling skills. The Canadiens feel his development will be best served by the pro game. The center turned winger has an outside chance of making the big club. But the safe bet is on Hossa starting the season in Quebec.

Last season Hossa played in 58 regular season games with Portland. He registered 90 points (34-56-90), and was +11, with 58 minutes in penalties. Fourteen of his goals were scored on the powerplay, while 1 was scored short-handed. He was named the WHL’s top player for the week ending October 22nd, and also for the week ending March 18th.

Playing with Slovakia during the World Junior Championship, Marcel seemed to under-achieve. He scored only 1 goal during the tournament, while adding 3 assists. He did however demonstrate some impressive play-making skills, and came away from the tournament with a +1 rating on a Slovakian team that finished in 8th place.

Although Portland played extremely well in the WHL playoffs, Hossa was unable to contribute at his regular season pace. He played 16 playoffs games. Registering 12 points (5-7-12), while amassing a +7 rating to go along with 14 minutes in penalties. Three of his goals were scored on the powerplay.

In other news, the Russian media is reporting that Alexander Buturlin (2nd round, 1999) is close to signing a contract with Salavat Yulayev UFA of the Russian Elite League. The right winger has already played an exhibition game, and should finalize the deal by the end of the week.

Playing with Sarnia in the OHL, Buturlin began last season quietly. But broke out with 5 points in his 9th 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 a 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. The Russian winger is by no means out of the Canadiens’ plans. His development should benefit from the Russian game. Many scouts feel that Buturlin’s creativity suffered in the OHL. Sarnia played a defensive oriented game, which some feel handcuffed Alex.

While Buturlin played in Russia, two of the Habs’ Russian prospects began their careers in North America. Vadim Tarasov (7th round, 1999) and Andrei Kruchinin (7th round, 1998) arrived at the Canadiens’ Development Camp on Monday. Tarasov immediately impressed goaltending coach Roland Melanson with his puck-handling skills; an unusual ability for Russian-trained goaltenders. Last season, Tarasov played parts of 33 games with Metalburg HK of the Russian League. He was a combined 16-13-4, with a 2.10 goals against average, and a .912 save percentage.

Kruchinin meanwhile is a mystery to most Habs’ fans. The 6’0, 190 lbs. defenseman is a five-year veteran of the Russian League. He’s a left-handed shot, and plays a steady defensive game. Scouting reports indicate that he’s not overly physical, but is positionally sound, and anticipates well in the defensive zone. He split last season between Lada Togliatti and Molot-Prikamie Perm. Playing 41 games, and registering 8 points (1-7-8), while amassing 28 minutes in penalties.

Click on the Canadiens’ logo at the top left of the page to see a listing of the Habs’ top prospects. Including biographical information, and up-to-date stats.

Feel free to E-MAIL me with any questions or comments (In English or French). Just click on my name at the top of this page. I am a former goaltender with writing, scouting, and coaching experience