Canadiens Prospect Report from Hull

By Scott Petersen

Tomas Linhart: Slow first step kept him behind the play and unable to recover on errors. Gets turned around and facing away from play too often. Crossed up with defence-partners on several plays as didn’t read very well. Communication problems. Didn’t recognize pinch and cover. Will take time to adjust to smaller ice surface? Doesn’t keep head up long enough to ensure pass target and passing lane still there. Doesn’t exude confidence with puck, seems hurried. Not a quick release on shot and neither a powerful, nor accurate one. Not overly physical or effective at using his body. Got better and more patient as tournament wore on, but peaked at average.

Bottom Line: It’s too early to tell whether Linhart will develop into anything tangible for the Canadiens in the future and his inability to speak English made things on the ice extra hard for him. But his upside doesn’t appear to be great and he’s going to have to take a steep learning curve to put his game anywhere near an NHL caliber. The rumours of his physical play were either exaggerated or will take time to develop in a new style of game. At best, he’ll probably be an NHL fill-in and/or AHL regular.

Mike Komisarek: Makes nice pinches… usually high percentage. Quick to the puck and good body control. First instinct is not an offensive one. Not always quick up the ice carrying puck and wants to find open player, not carry himself. Stickhandling and puck control not great (possibly tentative at first) but took more risks as tournament progressed. Has good body positioning and uses reach to advantage when in possession of puck or fighting for it. Strong along boards in own zone and doesn’t get beat man-on-man.

Quarterbacked powerplay very confidently and got off good, hard, low shots on net. Quick release and strong, accurate snapper could be his key to any offensive production. Not quick, but has good speed stemming from powerful stride. Doesn’t come out on wrong end of too many checks. Makes forwards bail across the middle and shrugs off opponents. Needs to think the play faster. Can get caught out of play trying to take out an opponent. Not afraid to fight and can handle self fairly well, but technique and greater success in bouts will come with time.

Bottom Line: Komisarek will be an NHL defenceman sooner rather than later, but how much he figures into the future with the Canadiens will be decided by how much he continues to develop. He will need seasoning in the AHL as he makes further adjustments to the pro game both offensively and defensively. The talk of him possibly developing into a one-man wrecking machine at both ends of the ice is overhyped as his offensive abilities aren’t astounding. Komisarek has top four potential and should see many years ahead matched against opponents’ top lines, and he should see more offensive production with time and confidence in the NHL.

Andrew Archer: Good mobility moving side to side with opposing forward. Decent agility for a big guy. Good body positioning and uses his size and strength well in the defensive zone. Could use another gear—has a hard time catching opponents once beaten. Outlet pass needs work. Usually makes the smart, safe play. Doesn’t play outside limits often, but can surprise when does. Keeps shot low and accurate, but expect more strength on it. Prefers the defensive game and has solid positioning. Doesn’t get caught up in the physical play or jump up to make a big hit, but could hit more with his size.

Bottom Line: Archer does the little things well and could develop into a steady NHL defenceman. I think he undersells his ability to some degree and still has room to improve his puck-moving and offensive play. He tries to keep the game simple and it works well for him for the most part. Archer is likely to see a couple years in the AHL before trying to make the jump to the NHL and a shot at the final defence-pairing.

Duncan Milroy: Reads play well. Knows how to use his body to shield the puck and buy time to find the open man. Doesn’t stand out. Has a quick first step when he sees an opportunity. Has surprising speed at times, but doesn’t use enough. Can disappear for long stretches. Does better with stronger linemates and when he is the go-to guy. Hasn’t improved enough over last year’s performance. Wasn’t thrown off by physical play, but too often seemed like he was trying not to overexert himself and keep from getting injured.

Bottom Line: The forechecking and physical play that set Milroy apart from the pack at last years’ rookie tournament was almost invisible this time around. He seemed content to let others do the dirty work, while he either saved himself for main camp or took a step back in his play. Milroy needs to find that edge he lost from last year’s performance and put it to show at the main camp to solidify his spot as a top prospect. In glimpses, he did show promise. Milroy is likely a future third-line player who will need to work on the defensive side of his game to make it to the next level. He can capitalize on opportunities, but doesn’t put everything together consistently enough to warrant standing on the top two lines in any capacity other than as a fill-in. He does have the potential, however, to produce in the future as an NHLer.

Jozef Balej: Quick on the puck and an agitating forechecker when he gets the urge. This can force bad decisions by defencemen in their own zone. But only goes for puck with stick, and doesn’t use body enough on the forecheck. Hard snapper and prefers the top of the net. Shifty with puck but can stickhandle self into corners. Attracts attention of opposing forwards, freeing up space for linemates. Dangerous circling out of the corner with the puck. Prone to making low-percentage plays. Great change of pace, plenty of gears to keep defencemen off-balance. Will shoot from anywhere. Could use teammates more. Tries to be too fine with his shots at times.

Bottom Line: Balej has all the tools to be a top sniper in the NHL, but he will need experience at the pro level. He will have to make several adjustments to the way he plays to make himself a solid NHLer but he has the size, speed, stickhandling, shot and vision to make it work. How much he’s willing to adjust his game will determine whether he will be the next Zigmund Palffy, Sergei Berezin or AHLer. He should eventually find a spot on a top line in the NHL, but a checking role is not for him.

Tomas Plekanec: Not an overwhelming shot, but an accurate one that he uses well. Keeps head up, making him hard to hit and allowing him to see where help is. Good at reading linemates and getting the puck off quick, whether it be a pass or shot. Very shifty and has nice moves in open ice. Quick hands on faceoffs. Tireless forechecker who uses his stick well. Not much for physical play, but not his game and doesn’t shy away from it. Smart backchecker who picks his spots well. Could bear down on his finishing shots a bit more. Thinks the game well at both ends of the ice. Could have trouble handling larger, opposing centers in the corners at the pro level.

Bottom Line: Plekanec is a very skilled player with the opportunity to have a bright future in the NHL. He picks up the North American game very quickly and has good hockey smarts to form a base from. His offensive skills should put him on a top line with at least one other highly-skilled player to work with and read off of. He could use some added weight and the only thing that could hold him back from regular duty in the NHL within a couple years is his size and how he’ll handle larger opponents, especially in the defensive zone. Plekanec is destined to spend a year or two in the AHL.

Olivier Michaud: Good reflexes and strong with low shots. Can be beaten upstairs and goes down too often and too quick sometimes. Needs to stay more upright in butterfly style as is smaller goalie and needs to take up as much room as possible/stay square to the shooters. Deflects and controls rebounds well. Needs to move out of crease and challenge shooters a bit more. Has quick glove hand and good body control. Follows the play well.

Bottom Line: Michaud has another busy year ahead of him and he needs to take every opportunity out on the ice to improve himself and work on his positioning. He has a great base to form a strong future as a goaltender from, but it’s going to take some time and experience. Michaud’s small stature means he has to work extra hard to make sure he finds a way to cover as much of the net with each save attempt he makes and perfects his positioning. He should be a long-term project, but could have starter potential.