The Montreal Canadiens had some new faces on the ice, as defencemen Justin Barron and William Lagesson joined the Canadiens for practice today.
Ever since it was announced by general manager Kent Hughes that Justin Barron would report to Montreal, rather than the Laval Rockets, the anticipation had been building to see the young defender practice with the club. Sporting number 52, Barron was able to get acquainted with his new teammates and head coach Martin St. Louis as he got acclimated to this new organization.
Justin Barron’s First Day With the Montreal Canadiens
As a key piece in the trade that sent Artturi Lehkonen to the Colorado Avalanche, fans are excited to see what Justin Barron can bring to the team. Barron wasted very little time blowing away the Montreal market, as the Halifax native brushed up some pretty impressive French to start his interview. He explained the feeling of being traded to a team he had grown up watching as a kid.
“I’m really excited. This is a team I grew up watching very often as a kid,” said Barron in French. “It’s a great opportunity for me, and I’m very happy to be here.”
Barron also appreciated his first practice with his new teammates and coaching staff. He was impressed with St. Louis’ choice of practice drills, as it forced him to get out of his comfort zone and think creatively during practice.
“I met with him before practice, and he seems great,” said Barron of his new head coach.”The practice had a lot of drills where you have to think and be creative, a lot of game-like drills. Looking forward to building my relationship with him.”
Barron also has some friends within the Montreal Canadiens organization that haven’t yet made their way to the Habs’ lineup, like former defence partner Kaiden Guhle. Barron and Guhle formed Team Canada’s shutdown pairing at the World Junior Championships in 2021. They’ve kept in contact ever since.
“He texted me after the trade. Mostly just catching up,” said Barron on his recent conversations with Kaiden Guhle. “He was really excited for me, and we both realized there’s a chance we get to play together here someday. We had some good chemistry.”
Barron has high expectations for himself, seeing himself as a solid two-way player capable of being used in every single situation. He wants to continue growing his game and has spent a lot of watching top NHL blueliners in the league, especially Alex Pietrangelo, to help him develop his own style.
“Alex Pietrangelo, I’ve watched a lot over the last 6-7 years,” said the youngster regarding his role model. “I really like his game; he’s a great skater, got good size. He can play in all situations and is a great leader.”
The plan has not been laid out for Barron just yet, as his play will dictate where he spends the rest of the season, but he’s certainly succeeded in making a very good first impression on his first day.
St. Louis Will Put Barron In Position To Succeed
St. Louis cautioned the need for patience and careful utilization when it comes to his management of the young defender. He believes that the youngster needs to be adequately insulated within the lineup and put in a position to succeed.
“It’s a tough position to come into. We want to help him grow into the player the organization thinks he can be,” said St. Louis about how difficult it is to be a young defenceman in the NHL. “We’re going to put him in a position to be successful, and pairing him with the right guy is going to be part of the equation.”
With so much room to grow and learn, it’s clear that the choice of defensive partner could be a make all the difference. St. Louis didn’t want to label what kind of defenceman Barron is just yet, preferring to let the young rearguard express himself on the ice and dictate his own style.
“I know management has watched a ton of video on him, and I already have an impression of the kind of game he plays,” said St. Louis of his young defenceman. “As we bring him in the games, I think we’re going to get a true telling of what kind of player he can be.”
The Montreal Canadiens bench boss was adamant that Barron would create his own opportunities with the Canadiens, and that Barron would be given every chance to show what he could do on this team. He believed that Barron’s time with the Canadiens this year will be invaluable for him moving forward as a player, going into the end of the season and preparing for next season.
“He’s going to get an opportunity here to showcase who he is,” said St. Louis about the opportunity that Barron has in front of him. “His play is going to speak for himself. The opportunity he’s going to get here down the stretch will help him for next year.”
William Lagesson Joins His New Team
Acquired in the Brett Kulak trade with the Edmonton Oilers, William Lagesson also joined the Montreal Canadiens for practice today for the first time. The rugged, defensive rearguard was one highly regarded by the Oilers, but seemed to hit some speed bumps along the road this season. Being traded to Montreal will help provide him with a much-needed change of scenery and play a very precise role on the bottom-pair for the Canadiens moving forward.
“I need to play regularly and get some confidence in that. I need to improve my offensive game and make more plays out there,” said Lagesson about what he needs to do to become a regular in the Montreal Canadiens lineup. “You also can’t forget what brought you here to the NHL, and that’s a good defensive game.”
Other Montreal Canadiens Practice Notes
Although there were some new faces on the ice, there were also some notable absentees, as Nick Suzuki and Jonathan Drouin were missing from practice today. Both were said to be out with maintenance days.
Carey Price, who had attended the last couple of practices with the Canadiens, was unfortunately not practicing today due to a non-Cvoid related illness.
Brendan Gallagher was back with the team and present at Brossard, but did not practice with his teammates today, as the Canadiens stated he wasn’t yet ready to resume on-ice activity.