Best place to be on a 30-plus degree scorcher in July?
A hockey rink. It was cucumber cool at the Centre Sportif Candiac – les 2 Glaces this afternoon as 29 Canadiens prospects (Thomas Beauregard is injured) took to the ice for skating and shooting drills.
Canadiens Development Camp runs through Saturday and on-ice sessions (which begin again on Wednesday) are open to the public. If you want to drive over the bridge (it’s west of the Champlain, east of the Mercier) to the south shore, you can catch Canadiens of the future (and score $6 packs of smokes at the stands that line Route 138 in Kahnawake).
Don’t count on too many thrills.
"It’s all about development," said Trevor Timmons. "It’s not entertainment for you (media) guys and the fans. It’s hard to watch some times."
Roland Melanson was the only Canadiens coach on the ice, but Guy Carbonneau was in the stands on crtcvhes, still recuperating from hip surgery to fix an old hockey injury.
And Canadiens director of player recruitment and development Trevor Timmins was on the ice, watching his recent draft choices – plus a few free agent signings – skate through their paces.
Timmins spoke glowingly of Max Pacioretty, telling journalists "as you can see out on the ice surface, he’s a big, strong, powerful athlete" who’s a strong skater and likes to hit and finish his checks. Timmins thinks Pacioretty is "physically ready" to turn pro but has to work on aspects of his game, either as a University of Michigan sophomore or a Hamilton Bulldogs rookie.
David Fischer, Timmins said, "is coming along just the way we had thought". Fischer is "heady with the puck, sees the ice well and is not afraid to go end-to-end." But at 6’5" and about 195, the 2006 first-round draft choice is not as filled out as Pacioretty and Ryan McDonagh.
"As I’ve stressed all along, you have to have patience with these young players, Timmins said. "(Fischer) is on the timeline we expected him to be."
Canadiens assume Ryan McDonagh will return to the University of Wisconsin for his sophomore season.
"Never say never," said Timmins, "but turning him pro is not in the plans at this time. Defencemen have a lot to learn and take a little bit longer developing. I expect him to be one of the better d-men in the NCAA this season."
Yannick Weber could play as an overage junior this season, but Timmins believes the Swiss-born defenceman "is ready to play pro." Look for the Canadiens to sign Webber and send him to Hamilton.
Timmins said David Desharnais has a "tremendous season" at Cincinnati and is ready for the AHL. The former Chicoutmi star is 5"5" and weighs 170 and could skate through the five-hole of 6’8" goaltender Jason Missiaen – physical shortcomings Timmins thinks Desharnais can overcome.
"He’s very powerful for his size and very, very skilled," Timmins added.
Pavel Valentenko is in Russia but will be coming back in August to work on his skating with Paul Lawson, who’s at this week’s camp.
Mathieu Carle "has some things to work on technically."
Second-round choice Danny Kristo is, Timmins admitted, "like a young buck in the headlights now, but watch his feet … he’s got really quick feet."
Canadiens wanted Maxim Trunev at the camp but the Russian forward, drafted last month, ran into passport problems. Timmins noted that Trunev, if he comes over, will play junior hockey in Portland, where management fell in love with him at a midget tournament last season, and "it would have been nicer to have him in this area."
The camp’s first two days are about evaluation, Timmins said, "not just on our part but on the players’ part."
"They’re out there with their peers seeing what they can and can’t do, their weaknesses and their strengths. Once we’ve evaluated we can move on to development the rest of the week."
At the opening session, each player’s skating and shooting was videoed. That will be broken dow in individual sessions to fid areas that have to be improved over the rest of the summer.
Players also will undergo conditioning tests that become part of a database that lets Timmins and his staff evaluate their progress from year to year "so we can see where they’re going and where they need to get to."
Ryan Walter had been booked for three nights of motivational talks with the kids, but he’s joined Vancouver’s front office. Instead, camp participants will be taken to a "bonding and leadership" evening on Friday in Rigaud, about 50 km west of Montreal on the way to Ottawa.
Players will also visit the Montreal Culinary Institute for a session on nutrition, buying and preparing food, etc.