Anyone leafing through The Gazette sports section this morning couldn't miss the massive photo of Scott Gomez running along the left side of a full-page ad for Canadiens ticket packages for the upcoming season.
On the bottom of the photo, the words "I am Gomez," as if he needed an introduction. The idea of the ad campaign is not horrible, considering all the new faces on the Habs this season, though I might have worded it a little differently.
But the point is that hockey season is definitely around the corner, starting with Habs rookie camp Monday morning in Brossard.
This camp is rarely a make-or-break experience for players, but it can get someone an invitation to the main training camp with a strong performance. But this season, the camp will be extra important for a few select players who will want to prove to Habs management that they are ready to make the jump to the big leagues this season.
That is especially true for Max Pacioretty, the darling of last year's pre-season who could probably grab a spot among the Habs top-12 forwards because of his tantalizing combination of speed, skill, and most importantly size. The speed quotient is what separates Pacioretty from someone like Guillaume Latendresse, and I was really impressed last season during his brief stay in Montreal with Pacioretty's hockey sense.
With Jacques Martin saying he may want some size to play with Gomez and Brian Gionta, that creates an opportunity for Pacioretty to either grab that spot, or grab Latendresse's spot with Maxim Lapierre.
Otherwise, guys like Ben Maxwell and Ryan White will want to show that they are ready to make the jump to the NHL, even if their chances are slim of doing so. Still, injuries happen, and there's no better time to make an impression than during this rookie camp because players like that should be able to dominate. If Maxwell and White do just that, and then have a strong performance at the main camp later next week, the Habs likely won't hesitate to call them up in a pinch even if they get off to slow starts in Hamilton.
On defence, the situation is pretty grim for guys like P.K. Subban and Yannick Weber, let alone someone like Mathieu Carle who is way down the depth chart. With the top-6 in Montreal essentially set in stone, and Ryan O'Byrne poised to fill the #7 spot, I don't see any scenario where either Subban or Weber will make the Habs, barring a trade.
Still, they can force the Canadiens hand by performing well next week, first at rookie camp and later in the main camp. Subban has been a pleasant surprise at camp each of the last two seasons, and pre-season hockey is made for someone like him because he can show off his flair with the puck in exhibition games where intensity is at its lowest.
If there is one player I would keep my eye on next week, it would be David Desharnais. Yes, the Habs are overloaded with small, darty forwards, but Desharnais had 58 points in 77 games as a rookie in Hamilton last year. By comparison, Maxwell had the same number of points in four fewer games. Desharnais is moving forward with his career through sheer will, an undrafted free agent pick-up who dominated in the ECHL with 106 points in 66 games before putting up a pretty respectable rookie year in Hamilton last year.
Sound like any other diminutive forwards you know?