The second day of Montreal Canadiens Training Camp featured two inter-squad games, one at 9 a.m., and the other at 1 p.m., from the team’s practice facility in Brossard, QC. The fans got to see the Canadiens take another step in preparation for the 2024 regular season. They looked faster, and the passing was much crisper, there was just a step up in the tempo today, in comparison to yesterday. There was a hat trick, one defenseman showed why he is so highly regarded and another had a two-goal outing.
Jakub Dobes had a strong outing, Quentin Miller continued his strong play, and the regulars looked expectedly solid. Mattias Norlinder had a goal, and his mobility stood out, while Kidney had another strong game. William Trudeau continued to be an interesting guy to watch, and his two-game sample size has looked promising, he looks ready for a big year.
There were five guys that stood out and had brilliant performances, let’s dive into what they got up to during the second day of training camp.
Mike Matheson was just flat-out giving everybody a live viewing of how to shred the ice up with beautiful edgework. He was smooth, and made it look so effortless, and that on its own could be reason for him to be on this list. But he is at the top spot because he was fantastic in all three zones, and his brilliant Savardian spinorama to set up a tally was, for my money, the play of the day.
Matheson looks as though he had a very productive summer in the gym, and it has already paid dividends for the Habs’ number-one defender. He looks like he is ready for the regular season already, and his skating looks to have taken another step, which is crazy to think about. He looks like a quarterback, at the blue line, he widens his stance and sits on his heels, daring defenders to attack. When they do, he just jukes one way and skates off in another direction leaving them in the dust, which was exactly what he was doing at camp.
Logan Mailloux‘s skating always stands out, because he is so smooth for his size, making effortless strides, that give him the time and space for his mind and deft puck skills to take over. He loves to rush the puck and make smart, heads-up passes, and when he can activate as a second layer, it usually works out well for him. He did so twice today, capitalizing on both opportunities and he has continued to look better each day, a positive sign for the Belle River native during his first taste of Habs training camp.
Defensively he has been solid, aside from a gaff here and there, which will be a natural part of his development, he has played a sound game in all three zones. The mobility continues to be impressive, and it is translatable to the NHL; he already looks like one of the strongest skating Canadiens blueliners, and he has yet to play his first NHL shift. The shot, and moreover his willingness to use it, will be welcomed additions to the blueline when he is ready.
Jared Davidson had his offensive ‘coming out party’, showing off his great shot to collect a hat trick. The third goal came when he was double-shifted and got to play alongside Suzuki and Caufield. Suzuki sprung him on a breakaway, and he deked to his backhand before slipping the puck five hole.
Davidson showed the offensive touch that earned him attention from the Canadiens scouting. The over-ager is playing for a contract, after playing out his five years at the junior level with the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds. A late bloomer of sorts, Davidson is looking to follow the same path as Arber Xhekaj and emerge as a great story, who just needed a little more seasoning.
Justin Barron‘s biggest question mark has been his play in his own zone, and so far it looks as though he has cleaned it up, although the preseason will give a better sense of that. But through his first two scrimmages, he has looked poised and confident, carrying the puck up the ice with great fluidity. And his shot has been utilized, as well, but he has consistently made smart plays with the puck.
For Barron he is in an enviable spot, with both David Reinbacher and Mailloux about a season away from playing in the NHL, he has an opportunity to establish himself on the Canadiens’ weaker right side of the blueline. He has the tools, and frame to thrive in the league as a defender with some offensive touch, so long as he can clean up his defensive zone play. I think he has a big year ahead of him, and all signs point to him having a breakout season.
For me, if I have to convince myself not to include a player on the list, and I feel guilty if I do, then they deserve to stay put. That’s exactly the case for Quentin Miller, he didn’t make flashy saves or do anything spectacular, but he relied on his skills to help the team. He did so very well, limiting the opposition to just one goal, on a tally by Mattias Norlinder.
He was steady, and while he wasn’t tested a lot, he stood tall and effectively kept the puck out of the net. The reality is that he will be returned back to his junior club, but the confidence he will gain from the experience of his first NHL camp will aid him, in what will hopefully be a big year for the young goaltender. He has looked calm, cool and collected in his crease, and the confidence that he has in his game is very apparent.
These performances do not indicate a promotion or lock to make the Canadiens roster for NHL hopefuls. But they are a sign of things moving in the right direction. With the preseason beginning on Monday night against the New Jersey Devils, these strong performances could translate to a spot in the lineup for the preseason opener.
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