Name: Eric Chouinard
Birthdate: July 8, 1980
Birthplace: Atlanta, Georgia History
History – Chouinard has been a Canadiens “surprise pick” when he’s been selected 16th overall in the 1st round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. Most experts were expecting the Habs to draft another Quebec Remparts prospect, Simon Gagne, who’ve been picked 6 spots later by Philadelphia. The Canadiens scouting staff then explained that they chose Chouinard because of his size and his scoring ability. They also said that they were expecting Eric do walk in his father’s footsteps. Eric’s father, Guy Chouinard, was a dangerous sniper for the Atlanta Flames in the late 70’s and he’s now the Quebec Remparts head-coach.
Talent Analysis – Eric Chouinard has it all: speed, size, stick-handling, shooting, passing, instinct. He has tremendous raw skills and a rare instinct for the game. Chouinard is big, but is also quick. He has long, smooth strides and when cruising full speed he can cross the neutral zone in just a few strides. He’s also extremely good at carrying and protecting the puck, and he’s really hard to stop. He can pass the puck really well, quickly, without looking twice. But Chouinard is primarily a natural goal-scorer. He rather like to give the puck to a teammate and get in position to take a shot, and he has a great instinct at getting open, right in the right place, to receive a pass. He has a real sniper mentality, and will take loads of shots from all angles. And what a shot! Chouinard’s shot is as hard as accurate, and he releases it exceptionally quickly. Chouinard is also great in the faceoff circles. His great stickhandling and size allows him to win almost all his faceoffs. But that’s maybe the only occasions in which Chouinard uses his size, and that’s his biggest flaw. Despite his size, Chouinard is still playing like a small finesse player. He’ll wont use his size other than to protect the puck. He’s not extremely combative and doesn’t particularly like to go along the boards. He almost never hit or finish his checks, and if he misses a pass or a shot, he’ll often get discouraged and skate back to his bench looking down. His lack of intensity and consistency is a big weakness in his game. However, Eric Chouinard is the go-to guy of his team. When the game is on the line, he shines. A real clutch player, Chouinard raises his game up when the competition is high. He’s the type of guy that needs to be challenged and motivated to express all his talent. When he’s fired up, he’s everywhere on the ice and does it all. That’s probably the only time you’ll see him finish his checks, and with his size and speed, he can prove to be punishing. If only he could learn to maintain that kind of intensity all the time, Chouinard would have all the talent and physical capacities needed to be a premium sniper in the NHL.
Future – Right now, Chouinard’s stock is stagnant. He didn’t had a really good training camp with the Canadiens this fall, so they sent him back to Quebec. It seems that at this stage of his development, Chouinard is still relying on his instinct more than anything. He has a great instinct, he’s a natural, but he’s so talented and could achieve so much more that one have to wonder if all that talent isn’t going to waste right now. Maybe its not in Chouinard’s best interest to have his own father as a coach. Eric would benefit more of a coach that’ll really push him to the limit and also teach him more, as right now Chouinard still looks like a diamond in the rough waiting to be shaped into a complete player. Talent-wise, Chouinard has no flaws, but he’s just not doing everything he’s capable of, and that’s a flaw. At a certain point, the Canadiens will have to take a decision in his case. Either they decide to make him concentrate on his scoring and move him to the left-wing, as they did with Brian Savage a couple of years ago. In that case, with his instinct and talent, Chouinard could surely become a 1st-class sniper, a potential 50-goals scorer. But the Canadiens could also decide to leave him at center, and in that case Chouinard’s future is far less predictable, as it would all depend on his intensity and consistency level. He could become an elite center as well as a 2nd or 3rd class, one-dimensional player. The best that could happen to Chouinard would be to play one year or two in the AHL under coach Michel Therrien, who’s known for his liking of aggressive, hard-working players. Maybe then Chouinard could be taught to better use his size, and also to be consistent and intense. In all cases, Chouinard potential can range from a second Joe Nieuwendyk, Petr Nedved, Dmitri Kristich or Stephane Richer. He can make it big or miss it big, it only depends on his will.
Year Team League GP G A PTS PIM
1996-97 Sainte-Foy Midget AAA 40 21 39 70 40
1997-98 Québec QMJHL 68 41 42 83 18
1998-99 Québec QMJHL 62 50 59 109 56
Name: Mathieu Garon
Birthdate: July 31, 1980
Birthplace: Chandler, Quebec
History – Garon is now playing his second season with the Montreal Canadiens AHL farm club, the Quebec Citadelles. Selected 44th overall by Montreal in the 2nd round of the 1996 NHL Entry draft, Mathieu Garon had a stellar junior hockey career with the QJMHL Victoriaville Tigres. Garon was Victoriaville’s franchise player, the next in a long Quebec tradition of outstanding goalies such as Waite, Potvin, Brodeur, Thibault, Fichaud, Theodore, Denis, Giguère and many more. Last season was Garon’s first in the AHL, and he spent most of the year as the team #2 goalie behind Jose Theodore’s backup, but he still started 40 games. This season, Theodore is in Montreal and Mathieu Garon is the Citadelles #1 goalie.
Talent Analysis – Like most of if not all goaltenders from the Q, Mathieu Garon has grew up idolizing Patrick Roy. Therefore Garon is another butterfly goalie who’ll rely on great anticipation and positioning to cover the lowest part of the net. On low shots, Garon is nearly invincible, because is legs are extremely quick and he covers a lot of space due to his size. Garon is also a good puckhandler, and he has incredibly strong wrist, a bit similar to Martin Brodeur, but Garon doesn’t come out of his net and help his defence as much as Brodeur does so. He’s also very intelligent and reads the play very well, so he’s rarely late shots aimed at his net. However, like most butterfly goalies, Garon’s weakness is on high shots. That’s the part of his technique he’ll have to work on the most if he wants to become a #1 goaltender in the NHL. Despite his tall stature, Garon’s upper-body is leaning down too much, giving extra space above his shoulders for upper-deck shots. Garon’s reflexes on high shots is also a problem, and he gets beaten too easily on his glove side. But the same remarks were made about Patrick Roy at the beginning of his career. Garon would just benefit a lot from taking example on Roy and straighten his upper-body, coming square at the shooter. That way, he wont have to rely on his reflexes as much because the puck will hit him in the chest and arms by itself. But Garon’s quickness, size, instinct for the game and ability to perform under pressure is enough to put him amongst the goaltending’s prospects elite, along with Finley, Luongo, Denis and Co.
Future – This year, Garon will be the Citadelles #1 goalie with a team that is much likely to play an offensive and aggressive type of game, the way coach Michel Therrien likes it. So its likely that Garon will often have to face his fair share of shots every game. The Citadelles are also going to miss their best defenseman Francis Bouillon, who graduated to Montreal due to the injuries to Malakhov and Brisebois. One thing that should play a positive role in Garon’s development is the moving of the franchise from Fredericton to Quebec City. Garon will find in Quebec City an environment much more similar to Montreal than Fredericton was, with fans who’ve cheered for an NHL franchise (Nordiques) for 15 years. So Garon will be playing front of an experienced and tough crowd, which should prepare him well for the time when he’ll move up to Montreal. So this season will be a good test for Mathieu Garon. And his destiny is also closely tied to Jose Theodore’s status in Montreal. There will be two new expansion teams next year, and the Habs might lose Theodore to Minnesota or Columbus. unless they trade him before then.
Year Team League GP W L T SO GAA
1995-96 Victoriaville QMJHL 51 18 27 0 1 4.19
1996-97 Hull QMJHL 53 29 18 3 6 2.97
1997-98 Hull QMJHL 47 27 18 2 5 2.68
1998-99 Fredericton AHL 40 14 22 2 3 3.09
Name: Mike Ribeiro
Birthdate: July 31, 1980
Birthplace: Montreal, Quebec
History – Mike Ribeiro’s story is a common one. The one of an extremely talented QJMHL player who’ve been overlooked by all NHL teams at the Entry Draft because of his small size. The Canadiens said they took a chance when they selected him in the 2nd round of the 1998 Entry Draft, making this crafty puckhandler the 45th pick overall. Ribeiro just had won the QJMHL Best Rookie Award that year with a 125 pts campaign. The following season, Ribeiro racked up 167 points and was the undisputed CHL scoring leader. In September 1999, Ribeiro participated to his second NHL training camp with the Habs. His smart positioning, rare creativity and his impressive improvement compared to the previous training camp, especially his defensive game and the fact that he added 15 pounds; all that and also the injuries plaguing the team earned him a place in Montreal, much earlier than what everybody expected.
Talent Analysis – When it comes to anticipation, ice vision and hockey sense, Mike Ribeiro is in a small, world class group. Because of his ability to always be one move ahead of everybody, to always be in the right position at the right time, to make a smart, perfect pass to a teammate without even looking, is habit to stand behind the net and control the puck while waiting for his teammates to be in scoring position, and despite a slick frame and a less than stellar speed; all that put together eventually drew comparisons with the Great One, Wayne Gretzky. But for now, this is as far as any comparison can go. Ribeiro’s 165 pounds are still a disadvantage for him, because he’s not fast enough to avoid hits, especially along the boards. Defensively, Ribeiro will always have problems against bigger players, unless he develops a defensive awareness that could be as effective as his offensive awareness. And what an offensive awareness that is! Ribeiro’s extremely creative, often taking the opponents by surprise with a perfect pass that nobody ever expected. Ribeiro’s passes are quick, solid, right on target, and rarely predictable. But even though he has world-class passing and playmaking skills, Ribeiro is also a dangerous scorer. One his best strength is his positioning without the puck in the offensive zone. If he’s not in possession of the puck, Ribeiro will “disappear” from the defensemen’s sight and get open for a pass, a rebound or to get possession of a loose puck. And his shot is as accurate as his passes. He doesn’t have a booming slapshot, but he use it often with a rare accuracy. Whether it’s a slap or wrist shot, Ribeiro has an extremely quick release and his very dangerous in the slot. At best, he could develop into a mini-Gretzky and flirt with any team’s top 2-line. At worst, he’ll be nothing more than another version of Craig Janney. but a feisty one!
Future – Ribeiro’s future is now hard to predict. Just a couple of months ago, most experts would have saw him finish his junior, then play a year or two for the Habs farm club before expecting him in the NHL. But Ribeiro didn’t seem to have agreed with such a scenario. During last season, he worked to improve his defensive game, and also trained hard to gain weight, which resulted in an additional 15 pounds. He went to the 1999 Canadiens training camp with the intention to show what he was capable of and the Habs kept him. Now this is two surprises in one. First, nobody ever expected Ribeiro to be in the NHL at 19 of age, and second, nobody ever expected the Canadiens to keep a player still of junior age. The tradition in Montreal always been to let the players finish their junior, then to make them spend a year or two in the AHL to polish their defensive game. Now its to wonder if the Canadiens decided to change their philosophy and go with youth, or if they’re just trying to cope with the abnormally high number of injuries they’ve suffered early this year. In the first case, Ribeiro will stay in Montreal and you can expect him to become the team’s regular 2nd-3rd center quite early. In the second case, Ribeiro will probably be sent down in the junior or to the Quebec Citadelles to work on his defensive game and skating. But in any case, Ribeiro might well prove to have been the 1998 best kept secret, and the Canadiens best draft pick since more than a decade. He’s already a fan favorite in Montreal.
Year Team League GP G A PTS PIM
1996-97 Mtl-Bourassa Midget AAA 43 32 57 89 48
1997-98 Rouyn-Noranda QMJHL 67 40 85 125 55
1997-98 Rouyn-Noranda QMJHL 69 67 100 167 137