Habs’ Prospects Break Camp

By Chris Boucher
The Canadiens’ prospects were on the ice for the second time Wednesday morning as André Savard led them through their morning workout. The mood during warm-up was low-key, but that quickly changed as Savard, along with Michel Therrien, Roland Melanson , and Éric Lavigne began the real on-ice workout.

The practice began with a 6-man neutral zone drill. Six players were given pucks and made to skate at medium/high intensity between the two bluelines. The object of the drill was to force the players to handle the puck while keeping their heads up at all times. Marc-André Thinel really excelled during this drill. It allowed him to showcase his speed and puck-handling ability.

Due to the language barrier, Andrei Markov was given some special attention. Markov showed good speed, and a quick first step. His mobility was excellent. He paid especially close attention to the on-ice direction, and seemed to respond well to suggestions.

Mike Ribeiro was definitely the best puck-handler on the ice. He was able to have his way with opposing defensemen during drills. Until they got a hand on him. This tactic would invariably result in Ribeiro being pushed off the puck. The extra 20 pounds of muscle that Ribeiro was reported to have put on during the summer didn’t seem to help in this regard.

Jozef Balej has speed and mobility in spades. He was incredible to watch in full flight, and his puck-handling was strong as well. Matt Higgins looked good out there too. He had a strong first step, and showed a high level of intensity throughout every drill.

The entire practice was tailored more toward speed and skill. For this very reason players like Jason Ward and Aaron Asham didn’t exactly light up the place. Their skills will go on display when the scrimmages begin.

Also due to the nature of the drills, neither goalie was able to stand out from the other. Both Evan Lindsay and Mathieu Garon relied mostly on their butterfly styles. Roland Melanson seemed to focus more on Lindsay during the shooting drills; shouting out the occasional suggestion.

Camp continues Thursday morning.

Prospect of the Day:

Marc-Andre Thinel (F) 5'11/170 03/24/81 D-Mtl99(5/145)

1999-00 Victoriaville 71 59 73 132 +2 55 19 2

#1 Strength- Offensive prowess
#1 Weakness- Strength

Thinel averaged 1.86 points per game for the 1999-00 season. Up from the previous season’s mark of 1.58 points per game. Marc-Andre showed more consistency last year, although he continues to fall into periodic scoring slumps. His plus/minus is very low for someone who contributes so much offensively. This stat demonstrates Thinel’s need to focus on the defensive side of his game. Something he hasn’t been able to do as Victoriaville’s “go to guy” offensively.

Thinel was named the QMJHL’s offensive player of the week on 2 different occasions this season. He scored 5 points in a game 5 different times, and he registered 4 points in a game 8 times. Marc-Andre also had an amazing 18 game point scoring streak which lasted January 30th through March 11th. Nobody in the Canadiens’ organization doubts Thinel’s offensive abilities. What is questioned is his ability to play both ends of the ice surface, as well as his size and strength. Only time will tell with Thinel.

NHL Projection – Anywhere from second line player to career AHLer.

Current Stock Status – On the rise.