Montreal- A Montreal Canadiens roster filled with some of the club’s top prospects showed some fight against the New Jersey Devils despite falling short 2-1.
In such a low-scoring game, the devil’s in the details; and there were a lot of details.
Owen Beck continued right where he left off since the very first game of the Prospect Challenge. He was poised with the puck and looked like he belonged between Cole Caufield and Mike Hoffman on the top line for the Montreal Canadiens. He played a very intelligent game and was the perfect support player for his defence.
On top of an excellent faceoff percentage, he also showed off his shot much more than in previous games, by posting four shots, one of which was destined for the back of the net, but was denied by the crossbar.
Owen Beck was *this* close to breaking the tie pic.twitter.com/wgR1LBxB48
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) September 27, 2022
Beck may soon be returned to the OHL, but he’s certainly made a name for himself during this year’s training camp.
It didn’t take long for Cole Caufield to return to his scoring ways during the preseason.
While on the second powerplay of the Canadiens’ first preseason game of the year, Caufield was able to fire home a wrist shot in the smallest of openings for his first goal of the preseason.
Mike Hoffman was able to feed him from atop the circle and Caufield made no mistake, firing a laser that beat Mackenzie Blackwood short side.
Cole Caufield stays doing Cole Caufield things.
PP snipe makes it 1-0 Habs! pic.twitter.com/KqPodfSh0f
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) September 26, 2022
Guhle Taking Flight
Kaiden Guhle showed some good puck protection down low and was able to extract the puck in tight situations to initiate the breakout. But we already knew that Guhle excelled in that department.
What stuck out the most was his puck-carrying ability, lugging the puck up the ice with such speed and authority that he caught the opposition off guard and created odd-man rushes out of nothing.
His pairing with Jordan Harris was the most fluid pairing on the ice, not just for the Montreal Canadiens, but for both clubs. Guhle was able to adventure in the offensive far more with Harris being able to back him up on the defensive side.
The combination is an interesting experiment that could be tried again in another game.
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) September 26, 2022
Harris For President
Jordan Harris played a sound game overall and was the anchor on his pairing; preferring to stay back and cover his basis while Guhle was more adventuruous.
Slow and steady is Harris’ calling card; using his skating and smarts to get out of trouble and make the right play on 99% of his shifts.
He made a miraculous save in the first period in support of Jake Allen, who was out of position after making an initial save. Harris just has a knack for knowing where to be on the ice and supporting his teammates; even his goaltender.
He certainly hasn’t hurt his chances of cracking the Montreal Canadiens’ roster out of camp.
Earning His Stripes
Filip Mesar displayed some very good at stickhandling in tight spaces, able to spin on a dime to evade coverage. He was effective at gaining the zone by protecting the puck and using his shiftiness to make space for himself and find an open man. He showed some poise with the puck, choosing to be patient and let his opponent commit himself first before making a play; an early sign of maturity in the 18-year-old’s game.
He continued to show his talents as a trigger-man on the powerplay, as he unleashed powerful wrist shots on a dime in the bumper spot; a rare position for a player of his size and stature to play, but, despite that, it works for him.
Mesar is going to keep pushing to prove he belongs in the pro-ranks in North America; with his preferred destination being the Laval Rocket.
Juraj Slafkovsky got a taste of what life as an NHLer will look like, and, for a prospect so raw, that comes with positive and negative outcomes. He showed his ability to protect the puck and use his underrated agility to maintain possession in the offensive zone, however he was sometimes caught overthinking the play or making the extra move that cost him possession. What is encouraging is he came on strong toward the end of the third period and came close to creating the play to tie the game on multiple occasions.
The benefit is, you can’t teach what Slafkovsky is good at, but you can surely help him correct the intricate details of his game that may have worked on larger ice surfaces to better optimize his game for the NHL.
Justin Barron was not physical or decisive enough in the defensive zone, often getting beat by his man and chasing him around the zone. When the puck was on his stick, he hesitated or tried to get too cute with the puck, which resulted in a few turnovers. The good news with Barron is that the flashes of brilliance are there, but further development is needed in his case.
It’s just a question of whether it’s in Montreal or Laval.
Mattias Norlinder also showed some signs of inexperience, especially in the defensive zone. His decision-making was a second too late on most of his plays and he lacked conviction when it came to his breaks outs. He often used his backhand to try and make a play, rather than pivot his body to open up his passing options on the rush.
He can be forgiven to a degree, as he was playing on the right side as a lefty, but Norlinder is one of those players that desperately need to show more moving forward.