On a day when Max Pacioretty and company took to the ice at the Bell Centre for day one of rookie camp, the veterans weren’t too far behind.
At precisely 9 a.m. this morning, Pacioretty, a can’t-miss prospect who was head and shoulders above the pack at the recent development camp, and 22 other players did their best to impress Guy Carbonneau and the rest of the Canadiens’ coaching staff. As they came off the ice at 11 a.m., many of the Canadiens’ veterans then took a turn on the Bell Centre surface for an informal scrimmage.
Expect more of the same for the rest of the week in advance of the start of full training camp this weekend.
For Pacioretty, this is his opportunity to show the organization that maybe, just maybe, this youngster is ready for the “big show” after leaving the University of Michigan behind in favor of an entry-level contract with the Habs. But he’s not naive enough to think that the coaching staff is ready to pencil him into the Canadiens’ lineup.
“They’ve got a lot of forwards in the system, so I”m not expecting anything like that to happen,” said Pacioretty. “I’m just expecting to keep my eyes and ears open and learn as much as I can in camp.”
After a solid prospects camp in July, Pacioretty felt his next step in his development would best be served by turning pro. At 6 feet, 200 pounds, the Connecticut native has “power forward” written all over him and is clearly ready for that next step.
“I know that the first year of pro is important for development. I’m trying to focus on my improvement as a player. I really don’t have any expectations right now, I’m just trying to get ready for the season coming up.”
For Pacioretty, that will likely mean a ticket to Hamilton and the AHL Bulldogs. Because as impressive as this young man has been to people like Trevor Timmins, the team’s Director of Player Development, there isn’t a ton of room on this Canadiens’ roster for fresh blood up front. Bob Gainey’s roster was effectively firmed up when he obtained Robert Lang from the Chicago Blackhawks for a second-round draft pick.
(Speaking of draft picks, Gainey deserves full marks for obtaining Josh Georges and a draft pick in the trade that sent Craig Rivet to San Jose a couple of years back. The draft pick the Habs ended up with as part of that deal? Yup, you guessed it: Max Pachioretty.)
As for Robert Lang, he joined his new teammates today at the Bell after arriving in Montreal last night following a rather lengthy drive from Chicago. Another newcomer, Alex Tanguay also made his debut in a Habs jersey today, although the former Calgary Flame had a chance to meet many of his new teammates at the club’s charity golf tournament earlier this month.
“I had a lot of stuff and driving was an easier option, even though it was a 12-hour drive,” said Lang. “It wasn’t that bad.”
One of the first things Lang did after arriving last night was have breakfast with his old friend, Alex Kovalev, before the two joined more than a dozen other veterans on the ice for today’s informal session. Lang and Kovalev played together as members of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and today Carbonneau suggested that he could put the two together at some point during the pre-season.
“I’m thinking about it,” said the Coach. “Alex, Andrei Kostitsyn and Thomas Plekanec was probably our best offensive line last season. It’s not fair to the other two guys on day one to split them up. We’ll probably start with the same lines we had last year, but we have enough games to try to experiment.”
The chemistry experiment will begin in earnest Monday, when the Canadiens’ open up pre-season play in Halifax with a game against the Boston Bruins. In the meantime, the rookies and veterans will share the ice at the Bell Centre through Friday, when the players will report for physicals in advance of day one of full training camp Saturday.