With the final cuts having come on Tuesday October 1st, a few days before the start of the 2019-2020 regular season, I take a look at who impressed, who did not and what the final cuts mean for both the players and the team.
Those Who Impressed:
Jake Evans is not far from playing regular minutes in the NHL. He has really grown since he signed his entry-level contract over a year ago and has refined a lot of the things he had to clean up. His skating looks a lot smoother. His puck control is better and he uses a lot more of his frame. Joel Bouchard has helped him reach the next level, but you have to give credit to Jake who took it upon him to get better. He could easily come in and fill a fourth line role next season. I forgot to mention…. he’s a former seventh-round pick.
Otto Leskinen was signed last season and not many knew who he was. He’s been very mobile during the off-season games and made a case for himself to be part of the final eight defensemen. He made a good impression and more North American hockey seasoning should refine some of the things he had to. He showed some good signs at pro camp.
When Alex Belzile was signed last year, it was part of a depth move for the Laval Rocket. He showed in 2019 at camp that he could be a reliable and dependable call-up if he plays well and the team needs him. His offensive side is what makes him stand out and he led the Rocket in goals scored last year. I expect him to be in the top three leaders for the team and if there are injuries to be on the list.
Karl Alzner said that he had lost weight and was more mobile going into 2019 training camp in Brossard, Quebec. Most, if not, all of the lineups did not have him. He was going to come in and prove many of us wrong. While he didn’t play as a top four defensemen, he played well enough to catch the team’s attention and might actually get a call up if there are injuries during the year. He looks like he’s taken it upon himself to change his style and adapt as well. That’s good news.
Not Good Enough
Xavier Ouellet said that he wanted to be in Montreal. He didn’t show anything that warranted his presence in the top eight. He seems too slow for the league and it might be best to stay as the captain of Laval. He needs to work on his foot speed if he thinks of getting a phone call.
While he didn’t have bad performances, Josh Brook has a lot of high expectations this year after his excellent 2018-2019 season in the WHL as he was tied for the lead in points for a defensemen. He needs to be more confident with the puck and transition with more control. He did show signs of offence in the games he played, but not enough to have an extra look.
One of the bigger disappointments was Charles Hudon. While he didn’t play bad, he wasn’t good enough to be in the final 13 players. He had to show something to separate him from the others who were fighting for the same roles. The team needs more offense and Hudon is known for his scoring abilities. He wasn’t fully committed in my opinion and has fallen down the depth chart. He needs to fully invest himself or he’ll be a free agent way into the offseason.
Players like Ryan Poehling and Cayden Primeau were limited in performances. Poehling suffered a concussion early in the games and missed some time which warranted his arrival to Laval. He did play well in the games he participated in and while the sample size was small, general manager Marc Bergevin said he’d be back sooner rather than later if he got back to the level he was at before the injury. Primeau was always going to be sent down to backup whoever started for Laval which ended up being Charlie Lindgren, but played in a limited roll and seemed to be good.
Other players either had no expectations or were automatic locks to be at the Laval camp regardless of performance. What matters now is that the young players progress and the vets get up to speed because if injuries occur in Montreal or somewhere else, they want their name to be called.