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Canadiens Analysis

Canadiens: Xhekaj, Matheson and Dufort Excel, Slafkovsky Notes



montreal canadiens scirmmage

The Montreal Canadiens hosted their final intra-squad scrimmage on Saturday, presenting a great opportunity for several prospects to stand out from the crowd.

We’ll start with two players who have garnered much attention since the start of training camp: Logan Mailloux and Juraj Slafkovsky.

Montreal Canadiens Prospect Watch

There’s an easy way to identify if Mailloux is in the ‘zone’. If he’s feeling confident, he’ll take roughly 42 shots per game. That was the case on Friday, which led to a much better outing for the 20-year-old defencemen.

He carried the momentum into Saturday’s scrimmage, taking shots from every angle whenever the opportunity arose.

Now, some may argue that it’s not the best approach, and there’s something to be said about shot selection, but you want young prospects playing with as much confidence as possible, especially during these intra-squad games.

However, there was one play that epitomized the issue with Mailloux in the defensive zone. He blindly tried to clear the puck up the middle of the ice, and it was quickly intercepted. It led to a prolonged shift in the offensive zone and several high-danger scoring chances for the opposition.

It’s not a prospect-defining moment, but he will have to make better decisions in the defensive zone when under pressure.

Fortunately, his breakout passes, for the most part, were pretty good, as evidenced by the great pass to set up Isaac Dufort’s goal.

Speaking of Dufort, I had noted that he was having a very good game prior to his goal. He was all over the ice, creating chances whenever he saw an opening. His effort level was better than most, and that’s the type of play that gets noticed by the coaching staff.

The Slafkovsky Dossier

Slafkovsky had a decent game, in that he had a few great opportunities to score, but he did shy away from taking shots when he reached high-danger scoring areas.

A little more confidence will do him some good, and to gain that confidence he’ll need to take as many shots as possible. Essentially, he needs to follow the Mailloux blueprint: always shoot.

He finished the scrimmages on a high note, scoring a beautiful shootout goal thanks to his excellent reach and underrated hand-eye coordination.

It wasn’t a perfect outing for Slafkovsky by any means, but he did a good job keeping up with Alex Newhook and Josh Anderson, both of whom are much faster skaters.

Overall, Slafkovsky has had a decent camp so far. Some fans may ask for more, and that’s understandable given his status as a first-overall pick, but I wouldn’t say he’s been awful, as some have suggested.

That’s way too harsh for a player who is just finding his legs after a long layoff due to a season-ending injury.

Matheson On Parade

We generally use scrimmages to evaluate younger players, but it’s worth noting that Mike Matheson has been flying out there during every single shift.

He’s clearly the best defenceman on the ice, by a wide margin, and considering he missed most of training camp last year, a strong camp should bode well for his season.

As an aside, Filip Mesar had his best game of camp. He was involved in most plays and put several quality shots on the net. He’s slowly yet surely finding his game the longer training camp goes on.

X Gave It To Them

Speaking of defencemen playing well, Arber Xhekaj looks like a 10-year veteran out there.

He’s joining the play with regularity, and it often leads to great scoring chances for his team, such as his excellent wrist shot that led to the first goal of the game.

He followed it up with a blast from the blue line to tie the game in the dying second of the second period, yet more evidence that he has an underrated offensive game.

Of all the defencemen at camp not named Matheson, Xhekaj is clearly playing with the most confidence.

Miscellaneous Montreal Canadiens Notes

Brady Keeper has had a quiet, but efficient camp with the Canadiens. He’s playing well in the defensive zone and he’s picking the right moments to join the rush.

I did not know much about Keeper before he arrived at camp, but I’m getting the sense that I underrated his value. He should be an excellent defenceman for the Laval Rocket this season.

William Trudeau continued his excellent camp, though that’s not a surprise. He’s playing with almost as much confidence as Xhekaj and Matheson. If he doesn’t manage to earn a job with the Habs to start the season he’ll surely be among the first call-ups from the Rocket.

I also enjoyed watching Xavier Simoneau, but that’s par for the course in his case. Few players in the entire hockey world are more entertaining than Simoneau, who plays as if he’s a 6’7 power forward.

Without trying to be negative, Emil Heineman probably could have had a better outing, especially when we consider he was playing with Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki.

Of course, they already have an elite level of chemistry, and it’s difficult to adapt, but I would have liked to see Heineman a little more involved in the play. He wasn’t bad, but he didn’t exactly seize his opportunity, either.

Saturday was the last four-team scrimmage of the training camp, with the action moving to the Bell Centre for the annual Montreal Canadiens Red And White intra-squad game on Sunday afternoon.

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