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Rookie Tournament Breakdown

September 8, 2019, 10:01 PM ET [206 Comments]
Karine Hains
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
First things first, it's important to remember that this is only a rookie tournament and that these guys have been practising together fo only 4 days now. Performance in this tournament shouldn't be given too much importance and the best example of that was Kotkaniemi's display at last year's event. After one game, most everyone thought he wasn't ready for the NHL as everything seemed to be going too fast for him and he looked like he was being suffocated out there by the lack of space. As camp went on though, we saw him adapt and take his rightful place in the Canadiens' opening night line-up.

Now that the word of warning is out of the way, I can tell you that the Montreal rookies lost to the Sens 4-2 on Saturday night (with one goal coming in an empty net) and to the Jets 2-1 tonight. There were some bright spots to be seen in those loses though:

-Raphaël Harvey-Pinard:
The 7th round pick (201 overall) at the last draft found himself on a line with Ryan Poehling and Nick Suzuki for most of the two games. He did not look out of place at all and you can tell that he's trying his hardest to earn a contract. He's yet to be signed and with 48 contracts out of the possible 50 signed for the Habs there isn't that much room. That being said, he played well, made the most of his opportunities and even scored on Saturday night. The TSN commentary crew were impressed with his performance, labelling him Montreal's best player on Saturday.

-Jake Evans: He played a full season with the Rocket last year gathering 13 goals and 32 assists for 45 points in 67 games. Tonight, he eventually ended-up playing centre between Harvey-Pinard and Suzuki once Joël Bouchard decided to mix things up a little to try and generate some offense. He also had an assist on the Canadiens' lone goal of the night scored by Alexandre Alain.

-Ryan Poehling: He's big and he can use that frame to protect the puck and he's quite the playmaker. While he showed us in his first NHL game last season that he could score goals, the player we saw this weekend was more intent on finding his teammates on the ice and setting them up to score. I cannot wait to see him play more games this preseason and see what he can do. He definitely looks more ready than many of the other players but there is without a doubt still room for improvement. It will be interesting to see what management decides to do with him.

Nick Suzuki: He has clearly worked on beefing up in the last year and it shows on the ice. In the last year, he went from 183 pounds to 200. That's quite the jump and it's sure to help him play against men this season. Gone are the days of junior hockey and he seems very aware of it. I think it's safe to say that we can see the first sparks of a nice little chemistry forming between Poehling and him and this could be very good news for the Laval Rocket, should they both end-up in the AHL for seasoning (don't rip my head off this is not an impossible outcome...it would more than likely temporary but it could definitely happen). We also saw this weekend that he's sporting a new number; 14... Farewell Pleky and welcome Suzuki!

Overall, it's worth mentioning that much like the big club, the baby Habs struggled with the man advantage going 0/4 on Saturday and even giving up a shorthanded goal tonight but like I said, this is a rookie showcase and there is still plenty of room for improvement. It's also worth remembering that Cole Caufield and Alexander Romanov were not present to name a couple and that yes, the future is bright.

The rookie camp will conclude on Tuesday with the game against university players and we'll know then who's earned an invite to the main camp which gets underway on Thursday with the medical and physical tests in Brossard. In the meantime though, tomorrow the Habs will hold their annual golf tournament and it sure will be good to see all the guys back in town and ready to report for duty!
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