Montreal Canadiens: Rookie Tournament Game One Top Five Performers

Sep 28, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Emil Heineman (51) lines up for a face-off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 28, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Emil Heineman (51) lines up for a face-off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first period at Scotiabank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

The Montreal Canadiens took on the Buffalo Sabres in the opening game of the rookie tournament last night. It was the first return to game action of Canadiens players since April, even if it was just their youngest prospects taking on fellow youngsters in an exhibition game.

Often times ahead of a rookie showcase, once you see the lines for both teams, you can begin to pick players that will have strong performance, as per their reputation. Different players stand out for different reasons and seem to always elevate their play and play brilliantly regardless of the scenario. Some disappoint and just look lost out there, or as though the competition is just too difficult and then there are the players who disappoint.

But the first game gives a good indicator of how the offseason helped each player grow. Not everybody stands out right away. But here are the five players that had strong outings, and stood out for the Montreal Canadiens rookie team.

David Reinbacher

For all the reasons that you would suspect, David Reinbacher stood out, and the Sabres took notice, trying to throw him off of his game on multiple occasions with big body checks. But he showed his strength, resiliency and maturity by just shaking them off and treating it like just another day at the office. There’s no question that his play against men in the Swiss NLA paid dividends for the defender, as the physical play wasn’t a surprise to him, and his added 15 lbs of muscle aided him nicely.

Florian Xhekaj

Florian Xhekaj skated well, and while he didn’t do much offensively, he did display some of the trademark Xhekaj physicality, standing up for his teammates on multiple occasions. He also made sure to be on the right side of the puck at all times, and he kept the opposition honest with some huge hits. The added size and improved skating speed were noticeable against the Buffalo Sabres squad of rookies, and it was refreshing to see a big bruising forward going to battle for his Canadiens teammates.

Owen Beck

Owen Beck’s skating and tenacity with or without the puck are the same traits in his game that put him on the Canadiens’ radar. He moves so effortlessly and while he has a high motor, and great mind for hockey, he has an uncanny ability to always be around the puck when he is on the ice. Beck looked strong in the faceoff dot, and his speed opened up space the entire game for his linemates.

Joshua Roy

Joshua Roy doesn’t have blazing speed, but he has the ability to look like he isn’t skating hard but transitions up the ice with a  certain smoothness and fluidity. His hands are such a huge part of his game, whether it be for making nice little two-foot saucer passes or stripping the puck off of the opposition’s sticks, they stand out. He is so smart and has a little Sam Reinhart in his game, which is a compliment as Reinhart is a brilliant two-way winger, and he just ends up in the right place all the time, even if his improved skating isn’t a strength.

Emil Heineman

The shot has been well documented, and it stood out again, although Emil Heineman didn’t score. What he did was force defenders to rush their decision with the puck to avoid giving him a clear chance to score. Heineman’s speed is noticeable, and when he decides to turn on the jets he is impressive to watch. He wasn’t able to help out much offensively, but there is no denying that he had a strong game, and will look to continue that trend going forward.

Ultimately, I was surprised that some guys didn’t stand out more, and how goaltending looked to be pretty shaky, albeit behind a defence that is chocked with likely career AHL players, other than Mailloux and Reinbacher.

Speaking of Mailloux, I debated putting him in the top five, and he even had a nice rush up the ice in the third period, but he was just okay, so he would get pick number six. Xavier Simoneau showed his Gallagher-like tenacity, dropping the mitts during the first frame and he potted a goal, so he would round out the top seven.

Game two goes tomorrow against the Boston Bruins, it’s a 3:30 puck drop. The staff at A Winning Habit will provide content about each of the three games.

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