Fans will get their first look at prospects Ryan Poehling and Joni Ikonen at the Canadiens’ development camp next week in Brossard, but it will be a while before the youngsters are in a position to plug the Canadiens’ holes at centre.
They are among 42 players who will attend the annual camp, which gets under way Sunday at the Bell Sports Complex. While the Canadiens will be looking for some players to fill the rosters of their AHL affiliate in Laval and the ECHL farm club in Brampton, Ont., the majority of the players are heading back to their former college or junior teams.
Poehling, the Canadiens’ first-round choice last week, is heading back to St. Cloud State University in Minnesota for his sophomore year. He was the youngest player in NCAA hockey last season and it’s likely he’ll spend at least two more years on campus.
Ikonen was drafted by the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL this week, but the Finn will continue his development in Europe. He played for Frolunda in the Swedish League last season, but is mulling a return to Finland. He appears to be following the path blazed by Artturi Lehkonen, which means he won’t land in Montreal for another two or three seasons.
Twenty-one of the players attending camp were drafted by the Canadiens and two of them, forwards Daniel Audette and Nikita Scherbak, spent last season with St. John’s. The two will probably start next season with the Laval Rocket.
The Rocket made some news Thursday when it confirmed that Sylvain Lefebvre has signed a two-year contract as head coach, while Larry Carrière will serve as general manager.
The most promising graduating juniors are forward Jeremiah Addison and goaltender Michael McNiven. Addison played in Windsor as an overage junior and helped the Spitfires win the Memorial Cup. McNiven, who was signed after a strong performance at the 2015 development camp, was the CHL goaltender of the year while playing for the Owen Sound Attack.
The Canadiens took some unjustified heat for not selecting any Quebec players in this year’s draft, but director of player personnel Trevor Timmins has invited two QMJHL players while a third, Antoine Waked, signed an AHL contract in April. The invited players are Alexandre Alain, who scored 29 goals for Blainville-Boisbriand, and Alexandre Goulet, who had 39 goals and 50 assists in 68 games with Victoriaville.
Two of Poehling’s St. Cloud teammates will be among the 15 U.S. college players attending the camp. Robby Jackson is a junior forward, while Jimmy Schuldt is a junior defencemen. Also included in this group is centre Jake Evans, a 2014 draft pick who has made steady progress in his three seasons at Notre Dame. Any of the college players with eligibility remaining are required to pay their own expenses to attend the camp.
There will be training sessions in the morning Sunday through Tuesday, with scrimmages each day at 4 p.m. There will be a final scrimmage Wednesday morning at 9:30.