09/11/2017 10:43 AM
Photo Courtesy Rocket Sports Media
This past weekend, the rookies and young players from the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs faced off for a three-game Rookie Tournament, hosted by the Leafs at Ricoh Coliseum, home of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies.
When I learned the Canadiens prospects would be coming to Toronto to play a few games ahead of the upcoming 2017-18 season, I found it difficult not to wonder to myself whether or not I would be witnessing future Beast skaters on the ice.
While the Canadiens rookie roster was dotted with early-round draft picks and blue chip prospects that seem destined for careers in the NHL, I thought it’s not impossible that we could be witnessing players that could don a Beast uniform as early as this season.
Upon scouring the roster and doing some research on the age and backgrounds of some of these players, I’ve been able to identify three skaters from the Rookie Tournament who could very well be playing their craft at the Powerade Centre in just a few weeks.
Before I reveal my list, I need to mention that I am not a scout and my list is not necessarily based on what I witnessed in terms of on-ice performances. My list is meant for entertainment purposes only and is based only on my observations and what I know of the organizational depth that exists inside the Montreal Canadiens organization as well as the club’s new AHL affiliate, the Laval Rocket.
This list is not meant to criticize the performances of any of these young players, but is merely intended to shed some light as to who could end up in Brampton based on depth on account of the bounty of high-end young players who have been recruited by the talented Canadiens staff.
That being said, here are two players who, based on my research, could see time with the Brampton Beast for the upcoming 2017-18 season.
Michael McNiven (G)
While it may seem lofty to think that the reigning Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Goaltender of the Year and bona fide blue-chipper Michael McNiven could start his professional career in Brampton, it may be possible due to a logjam in the Canadiens goaltending pipeline.
With McNiven seemingly ready to join the professional ranks, that leaves the Canadiens with five professional goaltenders ready to start the season, including Carey Price and Al Montoya in Montreal and an impressive trio behind them including Charlie Lindgren, 2016-17 Beast netminder and 2015 World Junior Champion Zach Fucale and the aforementioned Mr. McNiven.
Fucale was a star in Brampton last season and not only posted superlative postseason numbers (11GP, 2.13 GAA, .932 SV%), but also helped Team Canada to a Spengler Cup title over the holiday break.
It’s not impossible to surmise that Fucale has earned a spot in the AHL due to his stellar season, which would leave McNiven as the goaltender to start the season in Brampton.
Many a fantastic young goaltender has started his professional career in the ECHL and has gone on to accomplish fantastic things in the NHL, including Stanley Cup champion Tim Thomas and Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby, just to name a few.
While McNiven was arguably among the most impressive Canadiens prospects on the ice over the course of the Canadiens’ two games in the Rookie Tournament, depth alone could see him start his professional career with the Beast.
Thomas Ebbing (C)
Perhaps the most likely of this bunch to see time in Brampton this season, NCAA grad and Troy, Michigan native Thomas Ebbing was the only player on the Canadiens’ Rookie Tournament roster to have signed an AHL/ECHL contract with the Laval Rocket.
After a solid four-year college career at Michigan State University, Ebbing is set to turn pro this season after appearing in 143 NCAA contests, scoring 14 goals and adding 41 assists between the 2013-14 and 2016-17 seasons.
While a two-way AHL/ECHL contract would lead one to assume that a trip to Brampton isn’t impossible and even likely at some point this season for the 21-year-old, he was arguably the unsung hero for the Canadiens rookies during the tournament, scoring two goals in impressive fashion during the first game of the tournament against Toronto.
Based on his masterful and skilful performance this past weekend, he could very well be destined for bigger and better things sooner rather than later, but admits he has to adjust to the professional game first.
“It’s a longer season,” Ebbing admitted following his two-goal performance on Friday night.
“What I want to do is just stay in the works. I just want to come to the rink every day and learn from the best. Montreal is a great organization with a great coaching staff and I just want to get better every day.”
I did my best to dance around asking the question about playing in the ECHL instead of the AHL or beyond to start his professional career and he admitted that while his sights are set on sticking around as a full-timer AHLer this season, a stint in Brampton would only motivate him to work harder.
“I think everybody wants to play at the highest level they can,” he said.
“This is a big weekend for me and I just want to show my stuff. If I ever get sent down, then I’ll just work my way back up and keep working.”