The Canadian has a choice to build his defense
With only four veterans of more than 200 NHL games under contract in defense, there are several positions available within the Montreal Canadiens squad during his camp. And the candidates to fill them are just as numerous.
Among them, Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Arber Xhekaj and Justin Barron have already had the opportunity to demonstrate their skills during the rookie tournament in Buffalo.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to assert themselves in front of the leaders of the Canadiens and against young people of their age, underlined coach Jean-François Houle, who leads the hopes of the Habs this weekend. There are no 10-year NHL veterans here, only players their age. »
Barron, Harris and Mattias Norlinder all had a taste of the NHL last winter. They do not see their participation in the rookie tournament as a disavowal, quite the contrary. Rather, it’s an opportunity to get a head start on other absent candidates like Corey Schueneman, Otto Leskinen and Madison Bowey.
“It was useful for me to play a few games last season, told Harris, Thursday, after the morning training of the Canadian. I was able to meet the staff, the players and start learning the game system.
“I always come here in the same state of mind. I want to do my best while having fun.”
For Barron and Guhle, the occasion is particularly significant as they had to tend to injuries over the summer. The team had also decided not to include Guhle in its training for the first game, Thursday evening against the Sabres, so that he had a little more time to find his synchronism.
“I just want to get back in shape. I haven’t played since April 5th. It’s been a long time, » Barron said.
The young defenders are aware that the door is wide open for them at the Canadiens. However, general manager Kent Hughes claimed earlier this week that it was not impossible that some rotation would take place within the squad to ensure that all young defenders get quality playing time.
That means most of them could spend time following Houle’s advice at the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League.
« My goal is to play the full season with the Canadiens, » Barron said. But the final decision is not mine.
“Yes, you can possibly get more playing time (with the Rocket) and the schedule is less busy. There are several advantages”, he added about a possible stay with the club-school.
The group is also aware that it has the opportunity to develop together and, if all goes well, become a key element of the success of the Canadian for many seasons.
« It’s good! I was able to meet Arber and Kaiden on the bus (to Buffalo). I had met Justin last season, recounted Harris. It’s a good group of young defenders.
« And with Nick (Suzuki) being made captain — congratulations — he’s young and we’re seeing this core of young players that are forming. »
Hughes has often talked about the young group of defensemen when discussing the Canadiens’ recovery plan. The next few weeks should allow us to learn a little more about the potential of this group.
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