A hard apprenticeship

A hard learning curve


The fascinating thing about training camp is that too often you quickly jump to conclusions. However, the schedule of preparatory matches sometimes holds surprises, but, in the end, when it comes time to draw up the list of 20 players who will take part in the first match of the season, there are very few newcomers.&nbsp ;

But this season is different.

Why ? There are several vacancies among defensemen.

On offense, there are always questions about whether Juraj Slafkovsky has what it takes to compete at the National League level.

< p>The answer is yes, but when?

Owen Beck was a nice surprise, but he will return to the junior ranks because there are already several centers with National League agreements within the training. Emil Heineman also caught the eye of the organization's decision-makers.

Filip Mesar had a good performance in Toronto. But clearly, in attack, there are very few positions to fill.

On the defensive side, it will be very interesting. Inevitably, important responsibilities will have to be entrusted to the young hopefuls of the organization. We can argue that Kaiden Guhle, barring an unexpected turnaround, will be there and there is Jordan Harris… as well as Arber Xhekaj, a surprise. 

Justin Barron has a position to lose and he is not taking the means to keep it.

The Harris case is attracting attention because he is being asked to play on the right flank of the defensive brigade , a new experience for the former college player. He occupied this position on Wednesday with, on his left, Xhekaj.

Some feel that he shouldn't be exposed to such a change, especially when he faces National League players. If we want to make him a right-handed defenseman, why not give him the opportunity to perfect his game at this position in the American League?


But why not the League national? If it is really the intentions of the organization's decision-makers to entrust him with this responsibility, isn't the schedule of preparatory matches an interesting forum? 

Teams are using junior-aged players and also giving some veterans with the American League tag the opportunity to show off more and leave a good impression.

So far, Harris was quick to stand out. Of course, there is an adjustment period. But he is gifted. He is well served by his calmness and his intelligence to read the game well and to make quick decisions. As we approach the opening of the season, he will have the opportunity to improve his game.

He has his place in the defensive squad.

Limited Veterans

The Canadian will rely on three veterans: David Savard, Mike Matheson and Joel Edmundson. Let's be realistic, there is nothing to worry about the opposing team. They are good veterans, but with limited talent.

The development program will have to provide Harris, Guhle, Barron and Xhekaj with the tools to familiarize themselves with the style of the National League.< /p>

Xhekaj is added to the list of candidates. You probably appreciated his style of play. He is imposing, robust, his vision of the game is amazing. Last year, he caught the attention of Marc Bergevin and his close guard and he was finally made to sign an agreement. A decision that could serve Kent Hughes well.

Ahead of Barron

Xhekaj, since the start of training camp, has been ahead of Barron in the evaluation of Martin St-Louis and coaches. And the absence of Edmundson, a not very reassuring situation, could change the plans. 

It fits well with the concept advocated by Martin St-Louis. The Canadian asks its defenders to be creative in terms of boosting the attack and those who try to fill the vacant positions all have qualities to succeed in this facet of the game. 

Xhekaj may not have the same skills as Harris and Guhle to give attackers the opportunity to move quickly into the offensive zone, however, in his territory, one does not venture into his range without suffer the consequences.

However, it is clear that learning will have to take place under very specific conditions. As Kent Hughes said last week, with Carey Price in perfect health, the Canadian's business model would be different. But that is not the case and now we have to turn the page.

Therefore, it is clear with the situation of the goalkeepers that the young defenders will be exposed to more difficult conditions.

But talent will serve the cause well…

And Slafkovsky…

About Slafkovsky, hard to judge for now.

The potential is there.

But he fails to demonstrate what he does best, which is to score goals while being a power forward.

We saw him well the other night in Toronto. Despite being on the power play, he was unable to worry the Maple Leafs goalies. He also shows signs of impatience because he does not score.  

We can understand him.

He knows that we selected him for his talent in attack.

So far, it hasn't worked.

But the Canadiens' decision-makers will be patient. Slafkovsky must be given time to demonstrate that the recruiters made the right decision. Patience and education are important factors.

Hard learning