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Screening: Montreal reality forces CH to focus on big games

It’s no surprise to anyone that the Montreal market is a special one in the NHL. Beyond the fact that it’s a French-speaking city and the winter season (two factors that put off some players from coming to the city), we’re talking about a place where the pressure is pretty high.

Toronto offers a similar reality, but we agree that in many other markets, the pressure has nothing to do with Montreal. In Florida, for example, it’s drastically different.

So, inevitably, the fact that the reality is different in Montreal means that the Habs have to adapt their ways of doing things accordingly, at every level.

Amateur scouting is no exception, and Martin Lapointe recently spoke to Recrutes on the subject. In a text published today, the co-director of amateur scouting asserted that the reality of the market forces the club to place great importance on big games played by young players.

Lapointe knows: players have to be able to take it to survive in the Montreal market. So, by looking at how the youngsters perform in the big games, the CH is able to identify the guys who can step up when the stakes are high.

And when we look at the club’s recent picks, we see that Lapointe’s words carry over to the selections. The most obvious case is probably Juraj Slafkovský, who was drafted first overall by the Tricolore in 2022.

Slaf didn’t necessarily dominate the regular season during his time in Finland (he amassed 10 points in 31 games in the Liiga in 2021-22), but when you look at his more important games, you notice that he showed up. Of course, his seven goals in seven games at the Olympic Games were the talk of the town, but his nine points in eight games at the 2022 World Championship are also a fine achievement.

And let’s not forget that he was a 17-year-old at the Olympic Games and had just turned 18 at the World Championship. He was playing against adults at the time.

But beyond Slafkovský, there are other guys for whom Lapointe’s words can be transposed. The case of Jacob Fowler, for example, is interesting: the young goaltender was a real wall during the last USHL playoffs, with an efficiency rate of .952 in nine starts.

He led his club to the Clark Cup, and was named MVP of the final.

David Reinbacher also performed well in bigger games (at the CMJ, the World Championship and in the playoffs with his team in Switzerland) last year, just as Filip Mesar had been dominant at U18 level in his draft year (12 points in seven games).

I could go on, but I think that makes four good cases.

Clearly, then, big games dictate a lot of amateur scouting in Montreal, and both Lapointe’s comments and the club’s recent picks seem to confirm this reality.

If a guy wants to be drafted in Montreal, then it’s up to him to perform in the big games. Because clearly, that’s an important factor.

In gusto

– I’d go with Elias Pettersson, personally.

– It was a formality.

– And despite everything, they went for it.

– The Western team wins the first ECHL Duel at the Centre Vidéotron, a sort of All-Star Game for the league. The Montreal Alliance was well represented among the Eastern squad.

– Can’t wait to see him in action.

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