It was Christmas in July for NHL-prospect fans in Montreal, as 22 of the Canadiens youngest and brightest took part in the organization’s prospect development camp.
Save for absent Russian first-rounders Andrei Kastsitsyn and Alexander Perezhogin, along with minor-pro prospects Ron Hainsey, Mike Komisarek and Marcel Hossa, these players make up the future as far as the Habs are concerned.
The group of prospects present at the camp will make up much of the team that plays in the prospect tournament scheduled for the Corel Centre in Ottawa September 6th – 10th.
Eighteen of the players on the ice are recent Canadiens draftees, while four players invited to the camp on try-outs. Invitees included Michel Robinson Bergevin, a 20-year-old goaltender who finished the season in Shawinigan of the QMJHL; Derick Martin, a 21-year-old defenseman who played last season at St. Mary’s University; Adam Paiement, a 21-year-old right winger who played for the OHL’s Belleville Bulls last season; and Evan Shaw, a 19-year-old right winger who started last season in Michigan State before moving to the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts.
The Future Looks Bright
Among the draftees, Oskari Korpikari was particularly impressive, as the young Finn was described by a fellow scout as the surprise of camp. Chosen in the seventh round of the 2003 draft, Korpikari continually displayed superior puck-protection skills and quick outlet passes. Esthetically speaking the 19-year-old already looks like an NHL defenseman.
Another relatively unknown defenseman also showed off his talents to the team’s braintrust. Matt Shasby, a fifth round selection from the 1999 draft owns exceptionally strong edge-control. Combine this with a powerful, effortless stride and you have the makings of an NHL defenseman. Like Korpikari, Shasby remains unsigned.
Christopher Higgins, who just signed his first pro contract, spent the camp showing why Montréal made him the team’s first-rounder in 2002. Recently drafted Corey Locke, like Higgins displayed excellent puck-protection skills and sublime hockey sense. Although limited to a practice environment, Locke, who was chosen in the fourth round of the 2003 draft showed a substantially quicker first step than scouting reports would lead us to believe.
Recently signed Andrew Archer possesses the size, skating ability and work ethic necessary to become a solid presence on the blueline; particularly impressive was his reach and edge control.
Among the goaltenders present were Olivier Michaud and Jaroslav Halak. Michaud came equipped with his already established lateral quickness. When moving from post to post, the 19-year-old goaltender possesses quickness beyond his years. That said, he must work on his aggressiveness; particularly when challenging shooters one-on-one.
Jaroslav Halak, the Habs ninth round pick in 2003 was also at camp. Although not as refined a talent as Michaud, the 18-year-old goaltender has a strong foundation of talent. That said, he must improve his lateral movement and overall body control.
The Montréal Canadiens hope that steady, and substantial improvement of the prospects in this camp could develop into the Christmas present many Hab fans have been wishing for since 1993.
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