In 2004-05, the Montreal Canadiens once again entered into an agreement to split their farm team in Hamilton of the AHL with another NHL team. For the third season in a row, Canadiens management have brought in players from another organization to help improve the team, partnering with the Dallas Stars organization. The Stars are sending up to six players to Hamilton. The Canadiens were able to get some of the Stars top prospects, and players that had NHL experience, which has helped the eight first-year players in Hamilton this year. The Bulldogs have slowly improved throughout the season, and have come back from being a long shot to make the playoffs, to being right in the mix for the final playoff spot.
With the loss of some highly skilled players like Alex Perezhogin (suspension), Josef Balej (trade), Mike Komisarek (injury), Benoit Gratton (European league), and Marcel Hossa (European league), coach Doug Jarvis has had his hands full trying to field a competitive team every night. The team has had the benefit of the skills and experience of Steve Ott, Dan Jancevski, Trevor Daley, Antti Miettinen and Dan Ellis, which has helped the Bulldogs remain competitive.
Tomas Plekanec, C – 22 – After leading the Bulldogs in scoring last season, once again Plekanec leads the team in goals (22), assists (27), points (49) and game-winning goals (5) in 62 games. For his hard work and efforts, he was rewarded by being named to the AHL All-Star festivities where he won the fastest skater award and was named the MVP of the game.
Chris Higgins, LW – 21 – Entering his second season in the AHL, expectations were high after a great rookie year where Higgins was near the top of the league in rookie scoring, just behind teammate Alex Perezhogin. Things did not go very well for Higgins early on this season, as he was getting his chances but the pucks just weren’t going in. He never gave up and over time more and more pucks started going in. After a slow start, Higgins is now second on the team in scoring with 40 points and an impressive team leading four short-handed goals as well as four game-winning goals.
Corey Locke, C – 20 – Locke entered his rookie season without high expectations, despite being named the CHL player of the year, as well as two-time OHL player of the year and two-time OHL leading scorer. With his lack of size he has often been overlooked, but from the start of the season on, Locke has shown he has the abilities not only to produce offensively in the AHL, but to be one of the top rookie scorers in the league as he currently sits in sixth place in rookie scoring for the league with 34 points.
Duncan Milroy, RW -22 – Milroy’s rookie season didn’t go well until he started to find some consistency in his game towards the end of the season and in the playoffs. This year, his role with the team was increased to make up for some of the loss of the offensive players from last year’s team. After a somewhat slow start, he’s been able to pick up his offensive production which has helped the Dogs when they needed it most. Milroy has 28 points in 58 games.
Andrei Kostitsyn, RW – 20 – Fans eagerly awaited the arrival of the Canadiens first round pick of the 2003 draft, signed this summer and brought over to the AHL to adapt to North American hockey. There was talk of him playing in the WHL this year instead of letting him play for Hamilton, as there are few 19-year-old players in the AHL. But he was able to showcase his skills to management and under the defensive-minded Doug Jarvis, Kostitsyn has been able to show a great deal of improvement, especially his defensive game which was clearly lacking. Kostitsyn hasn’t had great success offensively, but he is sixth on the team in goals (12) and tied for sixth on the team in plus/minus (+3).
Ron Hainsey, D – 23 – Hainsey did not start the year with the Bulldogs, but was signed early in the season to add some depth and experience to the defense as a former AHL All-Star. Hainsey has gotten his chances throughout the season as he often runs the power play with Trevor Daley, but the points have been hard to come by. Now partnered with recent arrival Mike Komisarek who is more defensive-minded, Hainsey has seen his point totals increase. He now has 13 points in 50 games, but is –10, worst on the team.
Jonathan Ferland, RW – 22 – Ferland entered his second season with the Bulldogs with the expectations of playing a bigger role with the team, but injuries have gotten in the way. He is now finding ice time harder to come by as the Dogs make a push for the final playoff spot. Only two goals on the year in 46 games, Ferland likely isn’t very happy with his offensive production, but he does bring a solid physical presence as well as one of the hardest working players on the team.
J-P Cote, D – 22 – Cote was forced to miss a large chunk of the season due to injuries, but when he’s in the line-up the Dogs are a better team with his strong presence both physically and defensively. Not known for his offensive skills, Cote did lead the Bulldogs in plus/minus last year with an impressive +27, and this year he again leads the team with a +9. He has eight points in 37 games.
James Sanford, D – 20 – This rookie defenseman was picked up as a free agent this summer out of Moncton of the QMJHL. Sanford started off the season playing in the ECHL, where he was leading the Peoria Rivermen in scoring for defensemen and was named to the ECHL All-Star team, although he missed the game on recall to Hamilton. Since then, he’s shown off some impressive offensive skills, as well as a willingness to get involved physically despite his lack of size. He’s scored all three times he’s been used in the shootout. He has seven points in 25 games with Hamilton.
Andrew Archer, D – 21 – Archer entered his second professional season with hopes of getting an increased role with team. Coach Jarvis has in fact given him more ice time, which in turn has seen Archer respond well. Despite his lack of offensive abilities, Archer continues to play a safe positional game, although not as physical as one might expect from such a big body at 6’4. Still he has shown a steady improvement over last year, and he’s even scored his first ever AHL goal. Last season he went 30 games without a goal and only one point, but this season he has seven points in 51 games and is +3.
Yann Danis, G – 23 – Danis was signed last spring, a four-year career in the NCAA which included several Brown University and ECAC records, as well as being named one of the final three Hobey Baker finalists. Danis is having a great year for the Bulldogs, despite often being given very little offensive support or defense help in front of him. Danis will likely be a strong candidate for the team’s MVP award when the season ends, as it’s likely the Bulldogs would not be in the playoff race if it weren’t for his impressive play this season. With four shutouts in just over 40 games played, Danis can steal a game on his own, but mostly he’s known for his technical and positional play.
This past summer, the Montreal Canadiens entered into an agreement with the ECHL Long Beach Ice Dogs to be their secondary affiliate. After a very poor season last year, the Ice Dogs looked to revamp the team by changing the entire player roster — no player from last year’s team remains with this year’s team. The Canadiens sent down Olivier Michaud and Christian Larrivee to start the year with the Ice Dogs, having Cory Urquhart join the team after a one-game stint in Hamilton. Matt Shasby followed after 11 games in Hamilton, and finally Michael Lambert was just sent down after 40 games with Hamilton.
Long Beach recently lost out at the chance to take over first place in the West Division, failing to hold a three-goal lead in back to back games.
Olivier Michaud, G – 21 – After a slow start to the season, Michaud has rebounded well and has seen his ice time increase with injuries and a call-up to Long Beach starter Chris Madden. Long Beach has been one of the top teams in the league all season, thanks in part to excellent netminding from ECHL All-Star Madden, with Michaud stepping right into the starters job and doing a very solid job. He is 16-12-1, with a 2.56 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.
Christian Larrivee, LW – 22 – Larrivee also had a slow start to the season. He did get a call-up to Hamilton, but things didn’t go as well for him as they did in last year’s two-game stint that saw him pick up two points in two games. Instead, he had one point in nine games. Back in the ECHL, points were hard to come by, but Larrivee was doing all the little things right, working hard, getting lots of ice time in all situations and showing some improvement in his physical game. As the season has progressed, his production has increased although he likely won’t reach last year’s clip. He has 16 points in 39 games, for .41 points per game compared to last season’s .46 points per game.
Cory Urquhart, C/RW – 20 – After dressing for only one game in Hamilton, Urquhart was sent to Long Beach in an effort to get more playing time and work on some aspects of his game. He’s currently sixth on the team in goals (13) and points (22) in 49 games, which isn’t bad for the youngest player on the team. Urquhart could have been sent back to the QMJHL, but instead is playing professional hockey in against older and more physical players.
Matt Shasby, D – 24 – Shasby was able to land himself a roster spot with Hamilton right out of camp, but with the addition of NHL veteran Dan Focht after 11 games, Shasby was sent to Long Beach to get more playing time. Last season he enjoyed a very solid rookie year in the ECHL with Columbus, and he has continued that this season as he has played well for Long Beach, often running the power play and jumping into the offensive zone. He has 11 points in 26 games and is +12.
Michael Lambert, LW – 20 – Lambert spent 40 games with Hamilton struggling to get ice time and not producing much offensively, with only seven points and a 4.5 shooting percentage. When NHLer Steve Begin was signed, management sent him Long Beach, where he again struggled until this weekend which saw him record his first ever goal in the ECHL and then follow it up the next night with another goal. He now has two goals in six games and is –3.
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