Tuesday, July 23, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Montreal Canadiens

Dames et monsieur, le prochain arrêt en notre tournée, Montréal! (how was my French?)

Brady Vail - Windsor Spitfires
Firstly, Vail needs to be rewarded for playing every game for Windsor the past two years. It speaks volumes to his heart, determination and conditioning level. Playing all 68 games of the OHL regular season is hard enough one year, but to do it back to back is very impressive. As I've mentioned in a few other articles, it was a tough year for a member of the Spitfires to really stand out. While Vail wasn't bad, he didn't take any major steps forward from 2011/2012 either. He's still a very solid player at both ends, who excels in winning battles along the boards and who has an underrated ability to set up linemates for scoring chances. He has good vision and makes good decisions with the puck in the offensive end. This offseason he'll have to continue to dedicate himself to further his conditioning. Getting quicker and stronger will help his game in a lot of ways, particularly in the offensive end. Adding some power to his wrister and making him harder to separate from the puck will allow him to further boost his offensive production. He's going to have a good shot at the first line center job in Windsor next year and will likely get some pretty talented linemates (like Kerby Rychel). I'd love to see him crack the 70 point plateau in his final junior season.

Connor Crisp - Erie Otters
A good pick up by the Habs. I figured he'd get taken in 2013, although no doubt earlier than I would have expected. After playing sparingly as a rookie in 2010/2011, and missing most of last year due to injury, this was pretty much Crisp's first full OHL season. He's got a lot of very attractive and intriguing qualities as a hockey player. He's got a good release in close and has good hands for cleaning up garbage near the crease. He's also big and protects the puck well to create that time and space for himself. He's a battler at both ends of the ice and plays the game hard. As you may have guessed by his penalty minute totals, he's also a skilled and eager fighter. A pugilist who can also put the puck in the net is relatively rare thing in the hockey world these days. Just how much he develops as an offensive player will depend on the improvements he makes to his skating. He'll need to get quicker and more explosive if he wants to be more than just a crease crasher/net presence. But he's definitely got some potential as a 3rd/4th line guy. And even if the skating doesn't quite improve, he could still play the role of an enforcer who can occasionally pot a goal or two. Next year the Erie Otters should be a better hockey club and Crisp will be right in the thick of things. He'll continue to see powerplay time and will get a chance to play a top 6 role. I'd love to see him pot 30 goals next year and I think it's a reasonable goal.

*of note, the Habs will have at least one additional player in the OHL next year as Mike McCarron will be playing in London. Jacob de la Rose was drafted by Windsor in the Import draft, but reports suggest he'll be staying in Sweden because he can not get out of his contract there.

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