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Five Montreal Canadiens Players That Need To Seize The Day

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BUFFALO– Prospect tournaments offer a fantastic chance for young Montreal Canadiens players to stand out among the bevy of hopefuls vying for a job in the NHL. On the flip side of the coin, it can also lead to a player’s stock dropping if they don’t seize their opportunity.

Time to shine

Take Mattias Norlinder, for example. He played fairly well in the Canadiens’ first two games of the tournament, but for a player of his age and ilk, playing fairly well is not good enough. One of Norlinder’s biggest issues in Buffalo has been his tendency to start slow. By the time the second period comes around, he’s found his rhythm. That’s when he starts creating high-grade scoring chances, either due to his ability to walk the blue line, or his penchant for generating controlled exits.

Norlinder happens to be the exact type of defenceman the Montreal Canadiens desperately need on the roster this season. His puck retrieval skills paired with his skating ability and elite hand-eye coordination fit the bill as the perfect modern defenceman…on paper, anyhow.

But he simply can’t afford any slow starts if he’s to earn a spot in the lineup versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on Oct. 12.

The same can be said for Jordan Harris, who, by all accounts has enjoyed a decent, yet unspectacular tournament. It’s rather harsh to judge these players on two games, especially given their lack of familiarity with their teammates, but ‘harsh’ is the best, and most accurate way of describing professional sports.

Harris was good, but not great in his first two games. He made several smart plays, particularly when he timed his pinches carefully, but he also made several questionable pinches that put his defensive partner in a tough situation.

The good definitely outweighs the bad in his case, that much is clear, but there’s simply no room for error when trying to convince NHL teams you’re worthy of a spot in the lineup.

Pushing Forward

Three particular forwards come to mind when discussing the importance of wrapping up the tournament in style: Brett Stapley, Riley Kidney, and, of course, Juraj Slafkovsky.

In Stapley’s case, he’s had a rather underwhelming showing, though you’d be hard-pressed to describe his performance as poor. He’s been okay. Just okay. As he prepares to enter the next chapter in his hockey journey, he’ll need to find another gear, as to convince Jean-Francois Houle and Co. he’s ready for significant ice time with the Laval Rocket.

As for Kidney, I thought he played an excellent, if not quiet game on Thursday night versus the Sabres. While his linemates were focusing solely on offence, Kidney did a good job covering the defensive side of things. With that in mind, the coaching staff will surely want to see a little more offence from the player that reached the 100-point plateau in the QMJHL this season.

A first-overall pick, on the other hand, doesn’t need to shine, as much as he needs to focus on making the right decisions when in control of the puck. We’ve already discussed the importance of giving Juraj Slafkosvky a healthy developmental runway, but at the same time, you do want to see consistent progress. So far, Slafkovsky has improved upon his areas of weakness every time he hits the ice, and that’s exactly what Montreal Canadiens management will hope to witness when he faces the Ottawa Senators on Sunday.

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