Montreal Canadiens Altering Development Camp Strategy

The Montreal Canadiens took a different approach to development camp this season.
2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits
2024 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits / Candice Ward/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens did things differently for their development camp this season. They had the annual scrimmage, which saw Michael Hage, Sam Harris, and Joshua Nadeau stand out. However, their practices and invited players differed from recent years. The Canadiens had just one first-round pick at camp, this year's 21st overall selection Michael Hage. They told their European players to stay home and keep training instead of spending a week traveling to Brossard and participating in three days of on-ice activities.

David Reinbacher, Filip Mesar, and Oliver Kapanen didn't bother to make the trip to the development camp. Ivan Demidov wanted to attend. However, visa problems made it impossible for him to make the trip. Last year's camp had seven tryout players out of the 37 attendees. Meanwhile, this year's camp had 30 players, with 15 of them being the property of the Canadiens from the draft. The other 15 were on a tryout, with Nadeau being the standout.

The Canadiens worked on a similar situation for the on-ice practice sessions. The drill was divided into three stations and had them getting the puck off the wall and getting to a scoring area to take a high-danger shot on the net. The drills were basic but effective, as the Canadiens emphasized how they wanted their prospects to play. Wall pickups and getting to high-danger scoring areas are starting to become integral teaching points in hockey, and I thought it was an effective drill for Francis Bouillon to run. Ironically, I saw some junior-aged kids running a similar drill at a local rink this past weekend, so it shows that the Canadiens are evolving their skill development sessions.

The Canadiens also had three-on-three work in one end. The implementation of small-area battle drills is becoming more prevalent in hockey circles. When hockey gets tougher in the postseason, players must adapt to these high-intensity moments. A team can't win unless they battle for every puck. Generally, the team that wins more puck battles in the offensive and defensive zone will be the team that emerges victorious. Look at a team like the Panthers, especially their clinching game seven win, where they won every puck battle against the Oilers.

The skills taught in this camp affected some players, notably Sam Harris. He stood out in the puck pick-ups off the wall and getting to high-danger scoring chances. It all came to fruition in the scrimmage when Harris scored a hat trick using some of those tricks from the drills.