Defenceman Yannick Weber and forwards Max Pacioretty and Ben Maxwell were among the players to survive the first-round of cuts as the Montreal Canadiens sent a total of 18 players packing this morning.

PK Subban and Olivier Fortier were sent to their respective junior teams, while the following players have been ticketed to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League:

Goalies Cedrick Desjardins and Loic Lacasse, defencemen Paval Valentenko, Shawn Belle, and Chad Anderson, as well as forwards Brock Trotter, Ryan White, James Wyman, Mike Glumac, Olivier Latendresse, Yanick Lehoux, Ryan Flinn, Mathieu Aubin, Ryan Russell, David Desharnais and Thomas Beauregard.

The chances of Weber, Pacioretty or Maxwell sticking the big team once the Canadiens close out pre-season play Saturday when the Minnesota Wild come  to town are slim.  The chances that perhaps all three might be invited to join the Big Club for the two-day bonding session at Mont Tremblant this Thursday and Friday are somewhat better.  Management could make the decision to reward the three for their solid play (so far) by extending an invitation.

It would be well deserved.

Although Pacioretty looked tired in Saturday’s 3-1 loss in Ottawa (he didn’t play in last night’s 3-2 shootout win over the Panthers at the Bell Centre), the young man has had himself a very solid training camp and pre-season.  Although only 19, that 6-2, 200-pound frame of his fills out his jersey number 67 nicely.  He has a very solid presence on the ice, and is clearly beginning to live up to his billing as a power forward.

The slick Maxwell has battled injury problems in recent seasons, but the 2006 draft pick, who was impressive at training camp last year, has been even more impressive this time around.

But it’s young Yannick Weber who is really giving Canadiens‘ management something to chew on, with three pre-season games remaining. Weber, a gifted offensive defenceman who lit it up with Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League last season (20 goals, 35 assists in 57 games), notched his second goal of the pre-season last night: a terrific shot from the faceoff circle to beat Tomas Vokoun on the power play.  A stocky 5-10, 194 pounds, nobody is going to confuse Weber with, say, Mike Komisarek. But the native of Switzerland is a smooth skater, crisp passer, and the owner of a deadly shot from the point: like fellow Swiss star Mark Streit, who left the Canadiens at the end of last season for the greener pastures of unrestricted free agency.

Yannick Weber is an upgrade over Mark Streit, certainly in terms of defensive talent.  However, whether or not he’s enough of an upgrade to steal a spot along the Canadiens blueline, is doubtful.  One thing that Streit had going for him in Montreal was his versatility which saw head coach Guy Carbonneau use him up front, more often than not.

We’ve seen what Weber is capable of along the blueline.  Apparently he has some pretty good moves in the kitchen, as well.  Claims he’s a pretty good cook.  And he’s certainly added something to the Canadiens‘ training-camp menu.

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