Posted on 27 May 2015 | Comments OffMONTREAL – The Montreal Canadiens introduced the recipients of the Guy Lafleur Awards of Excellence and Merit for the 2014-15 season on Wednesday. The awards are presented annually to hockey players at the amateur level who best combined hockey performances with academic excellence. The program was introduced in 1985 with the objective of encouraging sports and academic excellence for players competing in all three major amateur hockey leagues in the province of Quebec; the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), member schools of the Canadian Interuniversity Sports in Quebec (CIS) and the Quebec Junior Hockey League (QJHL). Honorees are selected by a jury made of representatives from the sports media, the hockey and education communities. The Montreal Canadiens award recipients of the Guy Lafleur Awards of Excellence a $6,000 scholarship over a 3-year period, and the beneficiary of the Guy Lafleur Awards of Merit earns a $1,000 scholarship. "These bursaries allow young hockey players to continue studying while also playing sports, something which wasn't possible in our days," underlined Lafleur during a press conference at the Bell Centre. "Today, there are so many opportunities for our youth to succeed, and I tip my hat to all of these athletes who work so hard every year to perform just as well in the classroom as they do on the ice." Recipients of the Guy Lafleur Awards of Excellence 2014-15 QUEBEC INTERUNIVERSITY SPORTS Olivier Hinse (Concordia Stingers) In his third year at Concordia University where he is pursuing a degree in the Child Studies program in the Education Department, Olivier Hinse enjoyed a solid season in 2014-15 recording 18 goals and 13 assists 26 games earning several awards and honours, including the 2015 Ron Lapointe Award for leadership, academics and athletics at Concordia University. Hinse, who was the Stingers captain, was also the recipient of the Dr. Randy Gregg Award as the CIS men’s hockey player who best combines leadership/community services, athletics and academics. The Sherbrooke native also enjoyed a career year in the classroom as well earning a 3.09 GPA. A skilled hockey player and a student with great potential, Olivier also found time to get involved in the community supporting various charities and causes. In 2014-15 he repeated as the Stingers’ ambassador for Score with School program and was a driving force behind the four-on-four tournament for the Stingers. Olivier is an athlete and a student who cares for his community. QUEBEC MAJOR JUNIOR HOCKEY LEAGUE Jeremy Grégoire (Baie-Comeau Drakkar) Jeremy Grégoire hails from Sherbrooke, in the Eastern Townships and is a 4-year QMJHL veteran, including the last two as a member of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar after beginning his junior career as a Chicoutimi Saguenéen. With 41 points, including 3205 goals, in 2014-15, he ended his junior career with 223 points in 220 regular season games. An vital part of the Drakkar’s offense, Jeremy enjoyed a force to reckon with in the playoffs recording 21 points (10 goals, 11 helpers) in 12 games. The 6’0’’ and 190 lbs winger is not only praised for his on-ice achievements but also for his dedication and determination to succeed in class. His hard work on the ice was rewarded with a 6th round selection by the Montreal Canadiens in at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Jeremy is equally devoted when it comes to reaching his scholastic goals, earning an 87% grade point average and graduating from the Baie-Comeau CEGEP. Despite busy academic and hockey schedules, he managed to volunteer at various charitable endeavours. He is a regular at some hockey clinics for kids and continues to be one of the spokesperson for the Fondation des jeunes bègues du Québec. Jeremy Grégoire is a gifted athlete and a devoted student, but first and foremost he is an exceptional young man. Recipient of the Guy Lafleur Award of Excellence as the QMJHL candidate last year, Jérémy continued to shine in 2014-15 to be a contender and a repeat winner. A class act, he chose to give the cheque to an equally deserving candidate who enjoyed an outstanding year on the ice and in the classroom; Dominic Talbot-Tassi of the Moncton Wildcats. "I've been fortunate enough to win this award two years in a row now, and Dominic has been a runner-up both times. It's a scholarship, and I think he also deserved to win it," acknowledged Grégoire of the Wildcats rearguard. "He was very happy. I don't think he was expecting it, but he earned it." Dominic Talbot-Tassi (Moncton Wildcats) A defenseman who completed his fourth season in the QMJHL suiting up with the Moncton Wildcats in 2014-15, Dominic Talbot-Tassi began the past season with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada before a trade sent him to Moncton. He had previously played with the Drummondville Voltigeurs and the Sherbrooke Phoenix. The 2014-15 season was Dominic’s best in the QMJHL racking up 51 points (9 goals and 42 helpers) in 63 games. He also added 11 points in 16 playoff games. Despite changing province and arriving with a new team in Moncton, Dominic never let up and continued his academic progression with the collegiate on-line education program and enrolled at the University of Moncton where he attended a few classes. A graduate of the Esther Blondin College, Dominic showed the determination and dedication to reach his scholastic goals and hockey objectives. The Moncton Wildcats candidate for the Marcel Robert Award presented to the QMJHL top scholastic player, Dominic Talbot-Tassi was the scholastic player of the month for the Wildcats in February. Despite a busy schedule, he managed to find the time to get involved in the community. For the greater part of the season, he regularly visited and encouraged two young patients suffering from leukemia. He also volunteered to take part in the annual blood clinic and the Greater Moncton Christmas Parade. Recipient of the Guy Lafleur Award of Merit 2014-15 COLLEGIATE MEN’S HOCKEY LEAGUE Xavier Labonté (Dragons du Collège Laflèche) Xavier Labonté is a hot commodity in men’s collegiate hockey. Blessed with great size, he has outstanding hands and knows how to rack up points making him one of the league’s top prospects. In 2014-15, as a 19 year old, Xavier recorded 40 points, including seven goals and a spectacular plus/minus differential of +12. His offensive prowess earned him to lead all league defensemen in both assists and points. The captain of the Dragons over the past two seasons, he amassed 101 points in 94 career games at the collegiate level. He completed his third year in Natural Science at Collège Laflèche maintaining an outstanding grade average of 92.4%. Labonté, who was born and raised in Trois-Rivières, has been involved in his community taking part in the festival des Nuits polaires and the Marche du relais walk-o-thon raising funds in the fight against cancer. He also volunteered at various events to promote school hockey among kids. Through his academic results, stellar play on the ice and community involvement, Xavier is a front line ambassador for the Mauricie region and a legitimate recipient.
Posted on 27 May 2015 | Comments OffPRESS RELEASE MONTRÉAL – Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin, announced on Wednesday the appointment of Vaughn Karpan as director of professional scouting. The 2015-16 season will be Karpan’s 11th season with the Canadiens organization, having previously served as amateur scout from 2005 to 2010 (five years), and the past five seasons as professional scout. Karpan, 53, also worked with the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes organization for 13 years, including five seasons as director of amateur scouting, from 2000 to 2005. A native of The Pas, Manitoba, Vaughn Karpan played with Canada’s men national hockey team from 1983 to 1988, competing at the Olympic Games in 1984 (Sarajevo) and 1988 (Calgary). A graduate of the University of Manitoba, the former left winger also captained the university hockey team. Karpan also played a season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL in 1979-80.
Posted on 27 May 2015 | Comments OffQUEBEC CITY – As Zachary Fucale closes out his Junior career, he’s savoring the entire Memorial Cup experience. Just a few hours away from celebrating his 20th birthday, Fucale clearly isn’t the same goaltender he was when he participated in the Memorial Cup for the first time two years ago. Back then, the young netminder finished the tournament in style by winning it all as a member of the Halifax Mooseheads. Now a grizzled veteran of the QMJHL ranks who ranks third in league history in wins among goaltenders, Fucale is ready for the next step of his development : the start of his pro career this fall. Before making that all-important jump, though, he’s looking to soak up anything and everything from his second career trip to the Memorial Cup and add a second Canadian title to his resume. “It’s different this time around because my time in Junior is coming to an end. I’m not taking anything for granted. I don’t want to look back later on and say that I should’ve enjoyed myself more. I won’t make that mistake,” admitted Fucale, who boasts a 1-0-1 record and a 3.48 goals-against average in two outings during the 2015 Memorial Cup. “In the locker room, our mentality is to enjoy it all and give everything we’ve got every game. We’re thinking that way because it will all be over eventually and things will go back to normal. But, we’re very confident in terms of what we think we can accomplish in the tournament.” Confident that they can claim the top prize at the annual event, Fucale and the Remparts are counting on the unwavering support of the local fans, a luxury that was afforded to them as the host team this year. That support has the Rosemere native playing in a far different environment than the one he was exposed to in Saskatoon in 2013. It’s a setting Fucale is comfortable with, though, having donned his country’s colors at the World Junior Hockey Championships on home turf a few months ago. He knows that while the circumstances might have changed, the highly competitive nature of Memorial Cup contests is quite similar to those involving Team Canada at Christmas time. “The pressure you feel during an international tournament is different. Right now, these are the top teams in Canada. What’s good this year is that things are tight between the four teams. We’ve all earned the right to be here. Every game is close. It will probably be like that until the end of the tournament,” offered Fucale, who secured a gold medal at the World Juniors back in early January. “Here in Quebec, we really feel that our fans are behind us. They push us, they help us and it gives us a lot of energy. It’s very special, especially in such a historic place like Quebec City. There’s a lot of energy in the city during the tournament and we’re very privileged to be playing here. That’s for sure.” With a record of one win and one loss, the Remparts could make things easier on themselves if they manage to best the Rimouski Oceanic on Wednesday night. They certainly won’t be lacking in motivation. After all, Rimouski downed Quebec for the President’s Cup just last week, claiming the QMJHL title. The chance to send their rivals packing is something Fucale and the Remparts simply don’t want to pass up. Nevertheless, the talented netminder isn’t the type of player to let his emotions get the best of him. Instead, he’ll focus on the fact that neither squad can afford to lose this game. “We’re all looking forward to this game. There’s a big rivalry with Rimouski. Regardless of what happened in the President’s Cup Final, though, it’s in the past,” stressed Fucale, referencing the heart-breaking double-overtime loss the Remparts suffered in Game 7 at the hands of the Oceanic. “On Wednesday night, both teams have to win if they want to keep going. There’s no tomorrow, for them and for us. We feel lucky to still have a chance to earn a spot in the semi-final.” If his road to the Memorial Cup goes on until the very end, Fucale will meet up with another Canadiens hopeful, Michael McCarron, in the decisive contest. Fucale faced off against the Oshawa Generals forward in the preliminary round, giving up a goal to the Michigan native in the second game of the tournament. Used to taking on the 6-foot-6 forward during Canadiens intra-squad games, Fucale admits that his future teammate has improved significantly since last September. “Since training camp, everyone has improved during the year. It isn’t any different in his case. He’s big and strong. He protects the puck well and he works hard,” explained Fucale, who was selected 11 picks after McCarron in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. “He definitely played a good game against us. He’s the type of guy you’d rather have on your team.” Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
Posted on 27 May 2015 | Comments OffMONTREAL – If there’s one player who gave it his all every time he hit the ice in 2014-15, it was Brendan Gallagher. While things like character, effort and heart cannot be represented statistically, here are a few numbers that speak volumes about Gallagher’s campaign. He registered 254 shots on goal during the regular season, which was good for 16th spot in the NHL. He scored 21 goals at even-strength, which ranked him fourth among right-wingers behind only Corey Perry (29), Vladimir Tarasenko (29) and Nikita Kucherov (27). He was the third-best goal scorer on the Canadiens in 2014-15 with a career-high 24 goals and he also ranked sixth on the team with 47 points, another personal best. Through three seasons, Gallagher boasts 116 points in just 207 career NHL games. If that wasn’t impressive enough, take into consideration that the Canadiens’ No. 11 is just 23 years old, stands just 5’9” tall and was a fifth-round pick, 147th overall at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles. How about another number for you? Six. That’s the number of years Gallagher received in a contract extension general manager Marc Bergevin afforded him last November, rewarding the consummate warrior with a lucrative deal just 24 games into the season. That enabled the Canadiens to avoid the standard bridge contract scenario in the process. “There are a lot of factors that you have to take into consideration when you’re evaluating a player. Both myself and the organization were comfortable with giving him six years from the start,” shared Marc Bergevin, just minutes after making the contract extension public late last year. “We did a lot of comparisons and we looked at his numbers. There’s always a risk when you decide to go with a long-term deal with any player. Right now, we feel that the risk is worth it. From Day 1, Brendan has shown a love for Montreal. He wants to be a member of the Montreal Canadiens. He’s proud to be here. He likes the city and the fans. That made the job a lot easier.” Canadiens fans will have the opportunity to watch Gallagher for at least the next six years, but all that matters to the young forward right now is readying himself for next season. His objective? Helping his teammates in any way possible and continuing on a path towards lifting the CH to new heights in 2015-16. “Now, we have to get ready for next season and focus on being better for each other. We’ll take a few weeks to rest and then get back to work,” explained Gallagher, an Edmonton native, during his season-ending media availability session at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. “We can do some things out there to help Carey [Price]. Being a part of a team and being a good teammate is about doing the little things. It’s about doing things that often go unnoticed to help someone else do their job. If we want to win, we’ll learn those lessons as we go along. Our group continues to mature and learn.” Gallagher’s outstanding work ethic didn’t go unnoticed by the fans or his general manager, who certainly appreciated his unwavering commitment to sacrificing his body for the sake of his team, particularly by working hard in the blue paint and pestering opposing netminders. “We love the way he plays,” praised Bergevin. “Whether you’re 6’8” or 6’1”, he sees everyone the same way. He’s always got his foot on the gas. We know what type of player he is. He never takes a shift off. He’s never done it. Some nights are harder than others for him, but in general the effort is always there and his character has no limits. He works hard. He gets to loose pucks. He’s not afraid of anything. He battles every night.” While no player in the Canadiens’ fold sported the coveted “C” in 2014-15, Gallagher showcased his brand of leadership by paying the price night in and night out, creating scoring chances and chipping in with 47 points between October and early April, before registering five more points during the playoffs. With that in mind, Bergevin didn’t rule out adding a letter to Gallagher’s jersey at some point down the road. “A player like Brendan Gallagher has a ton of potential,” confided Bergevin at his end-of-season press conference on the South Shore. “Maybe one day [he’ll wear one], if we decide to go that route. His work ethic is exceptional. He never takes a break during a game. He’s a player who could eventually wear a letter on his jersey. He’s got a lot of leadership qualities.” Regardless of what the future has in store, Gallagher insists he’ll continue exhibiting those qualities that have earned him a stellar reputation early on in his NHL career. “I try not to change who I am. I think leadership is about leading by example. You have to prove that on the ice. If I feel that something needs to be said, I’ll say it,” concluded Gallagher. “If someone has something to say, whether they wear a letter on their jersey or not, they’ll stand up and say it.” Here’s to six more good years, Brendan. Élise Robillard is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
Posted on 26 May 2015 | Comments OffQUEBEC CITY – Michael McCarron is taking advantage of the 2015 Memorial Cup to show Canadiens fans what the future has in store. The Habs’ lack of size at centre has been a hot topic as of late in Montreal. Even general manager Marc Bergevin affirmed that acquiring a towering pivot wasn’t as easy as some people believed. Fortunately, the CH might have a solution to that problem already in the system. Few Canadiens supporters could have foreseen just how far McCarron would have come in such a short period of time. Plying his trade in London at the outset of his Junior career before moving on to Oshawa in January, the Michigan native has steadily evolved into an effective player in every facet of the game. McCarron has opened plenty of eyes and generated a lot of talk since the start of the tournament, reaping the rewards of a productive offseason last summer and a commitment to leaving a disappointing 2013-14 OHL season by the wayside. “Before the season started, I knew what I wanted to do: I wanted to win an OHL championship, I wanted to go to the Memorial Cup and I wanted to win the Memorial Cup. My offseason preparation definitely helped me, especially lasting this long,” explained McCarron, who sits tied for third in tournament scoring with three points in two games. “I’ve been lucky enough to not have any major injuries this year. Knock on wood, I’m still playing. My body is still in pretty good shape and I’m really excited for the rest of the tournament.” A few weeks after wrapping up a productive regular season in which he registered 28 goals and 68 points in 56 games, McCarron added 18 more points during the Generals’ playoff run. It’s safe to say he made it abundantly clear that his transition from the wing to centre hadn’t affected his play at all. That was even more apparent during the Memorial Cup as the 6’6”, 225-pound forward orchestrated a number of good scoring chances and never let anything stand in his way. “To play centre, I knew I had to be faster and more explosive. Even if I was a winger, I was ready to make this transition,” explained McCarron, who has won 28 of the 56 draws he’s taken at the Memorial Cup. “I love playing centre now because it lets me have the puck more. It gets me involved and it allows me to up my confidence level earlier in the game.” While many people were expecting to see the Erie Otters and Connor McDavid represent Ontario in Quebec City, McCarron and the Generals capitalized on a lack of attention to cause the surprise of the playoffs in the OHL. That’s very different than what the Canadiens’ first-round selection in 2013 experienced as a member of the Knights, who were hosting the tournament in London. Willing to admit that the expectations in the Forest City were far too high, McCarron is keen on making the most of his squad’s stellar position in the standings for the remainder of the tournament. Just one win away from securing an automatic berth in Sunday’s final, McCarron is out to deliver another standout performance on Tuesday night against the Kelowna Rockets at the Colisee Pepsi. He’ll be looking to impress a strong contingent of his future fans, many of whom have made the short trip between Montreal and Quebec City. “I think our team can do a lot better. We haven’t played a full 60 minutes yet. I think we can still do that, starting tonight. It’s so hard to win this tournament. Since it’s so short, you have to be ready right off the bat. You have to win at least one game and we were lucky enough to win two so far,” concluded McCarron. “I love playing on big stages. I think I play better on those kinds of stages. I love being in Quebec City, especially with a lot of Canadiens fans in the stands. On the other hand, I don’t know if they’re booing me or rooting for me [because I belong to the Canadiens]!” Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
Posted on 25 May 2015 | Comments OffMONTREAL – As far as changes of scenery go, Torrey Mitchell couldn’t have asked for better in 2014-15. Once a member of the College Charles-Lemoyne Riverains on Montreal’s south shore during his Midget AAA days, Mitchell never could have imagined that some 15 years later, he’d be playing for his hometown Habs. Yet there he was suiting up at the Bell Centre for the first time as recently as March – just several kilometers from where he grew up – the latest stop on an NHL career path which has already taken him through San Jose, Minnesota, and Buffalo. “It was great. My family and friends are here, so it was a dream come true for me to play [in Montreal]. Hopefully I’ll get that chance again next year,” acknowledged the 5-foot-11, 189-pound forward who becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. “It was nothing but positive, I had a good experience and I’d obviously love to be back.” Although July 1 is traditionally moving day in Quebec, the Greenfield Park, QC native would much rather keep his bags unpacked this summer. Acquired by general manager Marc Bergevin at the NHL trade deadline in an attempt to bolster the team’s defense on offense, Mitchell didn’t disappoint. And the 30-year-old center wasn’t disappointed with the move either, after making an instant jump from the bottom to near the top of the league standings. “I’ve never been the most offensive player, so adjusting wasn’t too difficult. I’m a defensive forward and I think I performed well,” admitted Mitchell, who improved his faceoff efficiency from 47.2% to 56.9% with the Habs. Notably used on the penalty kill, Mitchell formed a primarily defensive duo with Brandon Prust down the stretch in Montreal, spending 9.6% of his total playoff ice time alongside the veteran forward while down a man – logging the second-most ice time behind only Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty. It was also during the playoffs that Mitchell made his biggest mark in the points column, picking up a goal and four assists over just 12 postseason games with the Habs – good for fourth among his teammates in that category, while compiling a plus-4 differential. Not to mention finally realizing a childhood dream. “My most memorable moment of the season was probably scoring during the playoffs,” recalled the Canadiens’ latest No. 17, who lit the lamp for the first time as a Hab during Game 1 against Ottawa at the Bell Centre. “I felt like a kid again.” Now waiting to find out what his hockey future holds for him next, Mitchell will spend the offseason at his summer home in nearby Vermont, incidentally with a phone, also most likely nearby. Vincent Cauchy is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Steven Nechay.
Posted on 22 May 2015 | Comments OffWhether he’s hosting a television show or a radio program, Charles Lafortune always keeps a close eye on his beloved Canadiens. We met up with the man who discovers some of the best voices in Quebec to learn more about his passion for all things CH. How long have you been a Canadiens fan? CHARLES LAFORTUNE: I’ve been a Canadiens fan since I was born. There really wasn’t any other alternative. I went to see games from time to time with my father at the old Forum. I wore my footed pyjamas, I had my pennant and I would skate on the hardwood floor in my living room. What is your best Canadiens memory? CL : I think it’s the Stanley Cup win in 1986. I was in high school back then. It was really a Cinderella story with Patrick Roy’s performance and everything else involved. It was just extraordinary. Was hockey more of a family affair or just an interest amongst friends? CL : It was primarily with friends. The 1986 Stanley Cup Final was going on that spring while I was in Secondary V. I finished school with a Stanley Cup. I was in a basement in Laval and we were watching the game. I think we had a pool going on, and I came out on top. Did you play hockey growing up? CL : I played Inter-City. Then, after Bantam, I played hockey and basketball. Between the two, I finally opted for basketball. I got back to playing hockey later on with people from the Journal de Montréal. I’m a defenseman. So, if we put you on skates, would you be able to hold your own on the ice? CL : Yes. It wouldn’t be a problem. I took the challenge during the Quebec-Montreal television series, and it wasn’t embarrassing. I tried to do the Peter Forsberg move. Unfortunately, I hit the post. What is the most unusual place you’ve ever watched a Canadiens game? CL : It was in Tracadie, NB. We were playing hockey for some charities with the Journal de Montréal. We were watching the Canadiens game in a bar, and there was such a big snow storm outside that the police came to tell us that we shouldn’t leave the establishment. Everyone had to stay there. All of the roads were closed. They served us beer all night long and we slept on the floor. So, you were basically forced to watch the game… CL : Definitely. Not just the game, but the news and then a replay of the game after that. Sixty-eight centimetres of snow fell in five hours. It was completely crazy. Have you ever recorded a game and watched it later? CL : It’s happened. But, generally you always end up knowing the score before sitting down and watching it. You get in the car and the radio is on. “It’s 3-2 Canadiens…No!” We saw you with your son, Mathis, during a Canadiens game last year. Who is the bigger fan? Him or you? CL : It’s definitely me. My son is autistic, so he really doesn’t understand anything when it comes to hockey. When I go to games with him, I have to admit that it’s just so we can have that father-son experience. I feed him ice cream for three straight periods. Which Canadiens player do you think would make the best contestant on a show like La Voix? CL : That’s an excellent question…I don’t know which of the guys on the team plays any musical instruments. Do you need to play a musical instrument in order to sing? CL : It helps sometimes. It helps to be familiar with musical notes. I think P.K. would be funny. I think he’d definitely have potential. Who would make the best judge on the team? CL : I’d have to say Carey Price. He rarely shows any emotion. He’d just sit there, and he wouldn’t flinch. “You’re doing well. Yup, everything is going good. You might be overdoing it a little bit, but we’ll fix that, P.K.” You’re very active on Twitter, especially during games. To what degree does that allow you to vent? CL : During the playoffs, it really allows me to vent. Otherwise, I’d feel almost helpless. I love putting up #nostradacharles during games. I make predictions about the next goals, people get involved, and it makes it all very interesting. Do you keep statistics on your #nostradacharles predictions? CL : No, not really. It’s a bit of a legend. As long as I’m not tracking it, I’m always right. I have to start keeping track. I’ll try that this season. Do you think you could be a hockey analyst? CL : It’s a fantasy of mine. Would you make a better play-by-play guy or hockey analyst? CL : I’ve been up on the press box with Martin McGuire and Pierre Houde. They’re a lot like auctioneers. It’s crazy just how fast things happen. They do their jobs with such ease. Both of them explained to me that they’ve got some ways to make things easier. But, to be able to remember all of the players’ names, and do it from atop the rink without missing a single one, is very impressive. And, there’s a difference between television and radio. When McGuire is on air, every time the Canadiens take a shot, it sounds like they’ve almost scored. That’s cool. When pictures are involved, you have to be enthusiastic, but not too enthusiastic. I think I’d like to try play-by-play just for fun. Interview conducted by Vincent Cauchy. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
Posted on 22 May 2015 | Comments OffThe 2015 Memorial Cup will take place from May 22 to 31 in Quebec City. Two Canadiens prospects – forward Michael McCarron and goaltender Zachary Fucale – will take part in the annual tournament. Here’s a preview of what to expect. Quebec Remparts (40-25-1-2) – Tournament hosts This year’s hosts were also nearly the QMJHL champions after falling in double-overtime to the Rimouski Oceanic in Game 7 of the Quebec final. Led by Fucale, the Canadiens’ second-round draft pick in 2013 was the Remparts’ starting netminder for the remainder of the postseason after initially sitting out the first two games of the opening round in favor of teammate Callum Booth. Quebec went on to sweep their second- and third-round opponents before seeing their playoff run end to Rimouski in the final. Fucale will be vying for a second-career Memorial Cup, having previously won in 2013 with the Halifax Mooseheads. This will be the seventh Memorial Cup appearance for the Quebec, which won the tournament in 1971 and 2006. Oshawa Generals (51-11-2-4) – OHL Champions The Generals’ 12 Memorial Cup appearances are the most across Canada, but the OHL Champions have not won the tournament since 1990. A fifth title for Oshawa this year in Quebec City would be the most in CHL history. McCarron, the Canadiens’ first-round draft pick in 2013, was acquired from the London Knights near the halfway mark of the 2014-15 season, going on to finish the playoffs ranked fourth among his teammates with 18 points (9G, 9A) in 21 games, behind just Michael Dal Colle (31 PTS), Nick Ritchie (31 PTS) and Tobias Lindberg (19 PTS) Rimouski Oceanic (47-16-3-2) – QMJHL Champions The Oceanic have the least Memorial Cup appearances among the teams at this year’s tournament, with just four. After finishing the regular season first overall in the QMJHL, the Quebec champions lost just one game over the first three rounds of the playoffs before besting the Remparts in the final. Rimouski will be looking for a second Memorial Cup championship since first winning the tournament in 2000, with Brad Richards on the roster. Led by Sidney Crosby, the Oceanic also reached the 2005 final, but fell to Corey Perry, Brandon Prust, and the London Knights. Kelowna Rockets (53-13-5-1) – WHL Champions The 2015 WHL champions lost just three of 19 games on their road to this year’s Memorial Cup. The Rockets’ roster is made up of ten current NHL prospects, including Edmonton’s third-overall pick, Leon Draisaitl. The German center, who played 37 NHL games this season with the Oilers, finished the WHL playoffs ranked first among his teammates with 28 points (10G, 8A) in 19 games. Kelowna makes its fifth Memorial Cup appearance in 2015, after first winning the trophy in 2004.
Posted on 22 May 2015 | Comments OffMONTREAL – This past season, Nathan Beaulieu made it abundantly clear that he wouldn’t be returning to the AHL ranks anytime soon. Since making his professional debut two years ago after enjoying a stellar Junior career, Beaulieu’s road towards NHL stardom has included the natural highs and lows that typically come with the territory. After several stints with the big club over the last few seasons, including a call-up during the 2014 playoffs, the young defenseman earned a spot with the Canadiens following a solid showing at training camp last September. The fact that he’d started the season in Montreal, however, didn’t guarantee him a full-time spot with the CH. He found that out first hand during the first quarter of the year, when he was sent down to Hamilton on two separate occasions. That was particularly tough for Beaulieu to swallow. “When I went down [to the minors], I was miserable. I was angry. There was no one to blame but myself,” admitted Beaulieu, who played a career-high 64 games with the Canadiens in 2014-15 after playing just 17 games the year before. “I knew when I was coming back up that I was going to give them no option to send me back down.” Beaulieu’s renewed sense of confidence, coupled with his consistent play in the NHL ranks, coincided with the arrival of Sergei Gonchar in November. While the veteran rearguard was brought in to solidify the defense corps, it was Beaulieu who, with the help of the Russian blue-liner, became a key figure on the Canadiens’ back end. The Strathroy, ON native went on to surpass both Gonchar and Mike Weaver on the depth chart, benefitting from their presence in more ways than one. “They were huge. I had Weaves a little bit last year in the playoffs, and Gonch was so good for me this year and he taught me so much. I was very fortunate. It’s something I’ll definitely look back on as I get older that he definitely helped me out at the beginning of my career. It’s something I appreciate. He did a great job and he knows his hockey. He’s a smart man when it comes to the game,” mentioned Beaulieu, who scored his first career NHL goal on February 18 against the Ottawa Senators. “I thought I finally established myself as an NHLer. I feel like I’ve figured out the league now, and now it’s time for me to show more of my game and show what I can do now that I got my feet wet. It was a good year for me to break through. I’m happy with the way it went.” A restricted free-agent as of July 1, the Canadiens’ first-round selection in 2011 still isn’t sure what type of contract offer he’ll receive in the coming weeks. He is certain, however, that if he’d like to make Montreal his hockey home for the foreseeable future, he’ll have to spend more time in the gym over the summer to keep up with the rigors of NHL life. Having learned that lesson the hard way in the opening round of the playoffs when he suffered a fractured sternum on a hit by Ottawa Senators star Erik Karlsson, the 22-year-old is ready to do everything conceivably possible during the offseason to ensure he’ll be prepared to deliver the goods in 2015-16. “I want to get stronger. My body isn't big enough probably for the type of game I try to play,” concluded Beaulieu, who averaged 15:41 of ice time per game this past season, which ranked him seventh among Canadiens defensemen. “I want to be a guy who plays a lot of minutes, so strength is probably the biggest thing I want to work on.” Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.
Posted on 20 May 2015 | Comments OffMONTREAL – Much was expected of P.K. Subban this past season and he didn’t disappoint. When Subban signed the most lucrative contract ever given to a player in Canadiens history last August, he knew that people would be paying particularly close attention to his performance in 2014-15, even more so than they had in his four previous seasons in Montreal. The fact that he’d returned from Sochi with a gold medal around his neck or that he’d been the Canadiens’ top point-getter during the 2014 playoffs didn’t absolve him from his obligation to deliver on his new deal. Subban needed to produce and be among the team’s standouts night after night. And, in addition to all that, the Toronto native was selected as one of the squad’s troops who would sport an “A” on his jersey while awaiting the nomination of a new captain. The talented rearguard certainly wasn’t overwhelmed by all of his new responsibilities, seizing the opportunity to sign an eight-year deal to remain with the CH for the foreseeable future. Longing to become the kind of player his teammates could count on, Subban successfully achieved his objective, refusing to let anything get in his way during the most recent campaign. “I didn’t really feel pressure from signing the contract. I think I worked hard, just like everybody else who signs a deal. You work hard and if you’re rewarded for it, then you’re happy,” offered Subban, who finished the regular season ranked second on the team with 60 points before adding a team-leading eight points in 12 playoff games. “I’ve worked hard since I’ve been in the league and I was rewarded for it by the organization. The way I saw it was come September, I had to do my job. It’s going to be the same thing next September.” If the numbers Subban put up over the first few months of the regular season weren’t necessarily as strong as they’d been previous years, the former second-round pick demonstrated once again that betting against him was a big mistake. Finishing in the Top 10 among defensemen in several offensive categories come season’s end, Subban also proved to be a force on the defensive side of things, too, going from a minus-4 differential in 2013-14 to a plus-21 differential this year. It’s that ability to steadily become a complete player – not just a specialist on offense – that allowed him to become a part of the Norris Trophy conversation, earning his second career nomination for the prestigious award in late April. “At the beginning of the season, I think a lot of people said that I wasn’t scoring enough and I wasn’t picking up enough points. There are a lot of excellent defensemen in the league, and some of them who are considered as the best aren’t leading the league in goals and points. The way I was playing at the beginning of the year is the way I wanted to play, being solid at both ends of the ice. I could cheat to pick up more points, but I won’t do that to the detriment of my team and my goalie,” stressed Subban, who ranked sixth in the NHL by logging an average of 26:12 of ice time per game. “From an individual standpoint, I’m happy with the season I had. The two numbers I focus on are my production offensively – 60 points – and the fact that I registered a plus-21 differential. I don’t think that I could ask for better than that, being responsible all over the ice. I don’t know how they go about choosing the winner of the Norris Trophy, and I don’t know how they chose the winner the last time I won it, but I feel that I had a good year, whether I win it or not.” If it’s still early to know whether or not Subban will add another Norris Trophy to his collection, the Subban name will undoubtedly be a big part of the conversation when it comes to discussing the candidates to become the 29th captain in Canadiens history. The fact that Michel Therrien’s troops didn’t have a captain in 2014-15 didn’t hurt their cause, affording new voices to be heard while several veterans left the fold and moved on with their respective careers. While Subban would be honoured to be given the title, he believes that it’s every player’s responsibility to contribute on the leadership front if the team is going to win it all down the road. “Being selected as the captain of the Montreal Canadiens would be special and different than being named captain of any other team. Just the fact that I’m a part of the leadership group with other big players that have worn a letter on this jersey is something special. This type of situation isn’t something you take lightly. You’re just not given a letter like this in Montreal,” concluded Subban, who celebrated his 26th birthday in May. “This year, our biggest strength is the fact that we have many leaders who stepped up throughout the season. That’s how you become a first place team in our division and a top team in the league. It’s not a handful of players; it’s on the whole team. We have a lot of young leaders on our team, guys that we lean on, and it helps to have guys with experience to help out. They supported us very well. We’ve had a lot of leadership in our dressing room this year and it’s important to have going into next year, as well.” Hugo Fontaine is a writer for canadiens.com. Translated by Matt Cudzinowski.