Sunday, August 29, 2010


The Montreal Juniors beat the Shawinigan Cataractes 3-1 last night and improved their pre-season record to 4-0-0-0. The game was played at La Forum de Laplaine in front of a filled arena of about 1,500 fans.

This game marked the first for Louis Leblanc (seen in photo) wearing the Montreal Juniors' white and red uniform. He wore number 20 on his back, the same number he wore while playing at Harvard University last season.

Leblanc formed part of the Juniors starting lineup playing right wing, along-side centerman Jeremy Gouchie and left winger Philippe Lefebvre. Throughout the game Leblanc switched between playing right wing and center. While at center, Leblanc won 5/8 faceoffs.

You could feel the anticipation around the arena as the fans in attendance waited to see the Canadiens' prospect debut game in the QMJHL. Even Stephane Leroux showed up with a RDS camera man by his side. Every time Leblanc touched the puck I could sense everyone watching his every move. He had a few moments of brilliance and produced a number of scoring chances but was unable to close the deal. At the end of the game Leblanc set up Laflamme for an empty net insurance goal. Overall, his speed, release on his shot and stickhandling was most impressive.

But this game wasn't all about Leblanc. A few other new players looked impressive for Montreal;

Defenseman Charles Landry, who recently accepted an invitation to the Tampa Bay Lightning's training camp in September, looked very solid for the Juniors. He uses his size well has good mobility. Defensively, Landry looks capable of being a strong defenseman that can be relied upon in any situation.

Another defender, Francis Meilleur, displayed why he'll be valued as a 20 year old this season. Meilleur demonstrated a capability to run the power play and break the puck out of his defensive end.

Xavier Ouellet played his first pre-season game since returning from Team Canada's U18 gold medal performance. Since last season he looks as though he's gained some weight and showed that he's not afraid to throw it around. After a whistle in the first period, Ouellet came to the defense of Trevor Parkes and fought 20 year old Tommy Tremblay. They exchanged punches for about 10 seconds before Ouellet out muscled Tremblay and wrestled him to the ground. Ouellet is projected to be drafted in the top half of the 2011 NHL entry draft next June and will therefore be interesting to watch throughout the course of the season.

On forward, Philippe Lefebvre was paired with Louis Leblanc. He played well although you could see both players need to spend more time together in order to build further chemistry.

Jean-Christophe Laflamme played the best game out of the 6 forward hopefuls who are trying to crack the lineup (Laflamme, Clarke, Roy, Paquette, Aquin, Anderson). Laflamme was noticeable throughout the course of the game. He plays with speed, works hard and has a bit of a chippy side to his game. He played well enough to earns some time on Leblanc and Lefebvre's line during the third period where he scored the Juniors' empty net insurance goal.

Trevor Parkes was the game's 1st star. He earned 5 minutes for dropping the gloves in the first period. Then in the third, he broke the game's scoring silence with two goals in under 2 minutes of play.

Montreal's goaltender, Etienne Marcoux, played very well between the pipes for the Juniors. He stopped 26 of 27 shots before letting in a goal with under 3 seconds to go in the game.

Denis Kindl, one of the Juniors two EURO players, seems to be an effective player. Kindl looks as though he plays a steady positional game and was finishing most checks. He's listed at 5'11" and 180 lbs but looks bigger than that on the ice.

I had an opportunity to speak with Janos Hari, the Juniors other EURO player. Hari was diagnosed with Mononucleosis back in June and is still recovering from the sickness. Mononucleosis creates a swelling of the spleen and it's dangerous to play with such a condition. Hari says he's excited to play his first game in the Q and is hoping he has a chance to do so next Thursday so long as the doctors clear him to play. Hari is expected to be cleared to play in Montreal's September 10th season opener.

The Juniors play next this Thursday night against Val D'Or.

Photo Credit: Ron Lemish


Monday, August 23, 2010


The Montreal Juniors exploded offensively in the third period to defeat the Gatineau Olympiques in their first pre-season game.

The game was hosted in Greenfield park and arena was jam packed, holding more than 400 fans.

The Juniors dressed 8 regulars from last season's team, mainly depth players in forwards David Rose, Hugo Roux, Philippe Fontaine and Eliezer Sherbatov, defensemen Matt Provost, Jonathan Narbonne and Guillaume Belanger and goaltender Etienne Marcoux.

Rose played well. He earned two assist and hit the cross-bar one one of his trademark deflections in front of the net.

Sherbatov (seen in photo) was also noticeable out there. He scored a goal and added an assist and was involved in multiple scums after the whistle. He even dropped the gloves towards the end of the game with a much larger Samuel Normandeau who has 6 inches on Sherbatov. Much to the luck of one of these players, the refs broke up the fight before any punches were thrown.

Among the camp hopefuls trying to make the team, the following players stood out:

Marc-Olivier Roy:
The first player the Juniors selected in this year's entry draft (3rd round pick) is still only 15 years old but it doesn't show. Although listed at 5'11" and only 160 lbs, Roy has gained over 5 pounds since the draft. Although a bit of a lightweight, Roy isn't afraid to go into the corners or in front of the net. He's a very impressive puck handler and seems to have strong hockey sense. Will he make this team as a 16 year old junior player? Probably not, but not by the fault of his own. The Juniors organizational depth may be the biggest thing working against this young gun.

J-C Laflamme:
Laflamme scored 2 goals and demonstrated his best asset throughout the game, his speed. Wearing number 26, Laflamme reminded me of Mathew Brenton. He's a 17 year old Junior player and is listed at 5'8", 170 lbs. He plays low to the ice and is explosive. For his 1st goal of the game he split the Gatineau defense with a burst of speed to earn a breakaway opportunity.

Michael Clarke:
Clarke scored 2 goals and added an assist however, other than his first goal, I didn't get to see too much of him. His first goals was scored on a short handed breakaway where he pulled a nice deke on the Gatineau goaltender. Clarke is another 17 year old junior aged forward. He's listed at 6'1" 193 lbs.

Jr. Harris:
There's been a lot of hype around Jr. Harris coming to play in Montreal after he played for the Villanova Knights in the OJHL last season, scoring over 20 goals and 200 PIMs. Harris is an 18 year old junior aged player who was expected to bring a scoring touch and physical play to the Juniors this season, perhaps earning a spot on the 3rd or 4th line. Harris played alright but didn't play with the intensity I was expecting to see. He didn't throw any big hits and was floating more often than driving the net. He rang the puck off the post in the third period and I'd consider that his only highlight.

All that to say, earlier today the QMJHL announce the following trade:

To the Montreal Juniors:
- a 5th round pick in 2011 (Baie Comeau)
- a 5th round pick in 2012 (Rouyn Noranda)

To the Rouyn Noranda Huskies:
- JR. Harris

This move means the Juniors still lack a physical player who can skate on either the 3rd or 4th line. I'll keep watching potential candidates throughout training camp to see if anyone emerges, but as of now nobody stands out.


A couple weeks back I had the opportunity to catch up with three of the Montreal Juniors' newly acquired impact players;

20 year old defenseman Francis Meilleur (seen in photo) - acquired from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles as part of the Pierre-Antoine Dion trade.

19 year old centerman and Montreal Canadiens draft pick Louis Leblanc - acquired from the Chicoutimi Sagueneens as part of the Guillaume Asselin deal.

19 year old left winger and also property of the Montreal Canadiens Philippe Lefebvre (seen in photo on left) - acquired as part of the Jake Allen transaction.

Here is the third of the three Q&As - this time with newly acquired forward / Montreal Canadiens prospect Philippe Lefebvre.

Hockey Points: You’re coming from Drummondville, a team that was coached by the Tampa Bay Lightning’s new coach, Guy Boucher. What did you learn the most while playing for him?

Philippe Lefebvre: I would say work ethic. He’s a person that doesn’t accept people who don’t work. So that’s how I’ve enjoyed having success in the past, working hard in practice and in games. I would say that’s the biggest thing.

Hockey Points: After your 2nd year in the Q, you received a call from the Montreal Canadiens. How did that feel?

Philippe Lefebvre: It was an incredible feeling. First I went to the draft and didn’t get drafted. But then they invited me to their training camp and I did well there so they offered me a contract. It was a very nice feeling.

Hockey Points: What was your first thought when you learned were traded from the Drummondville Voltigeurs to the Montreal Juniors?

Philippe Lefebvre: I had a feeling before the draft I would be traded to the Montreal Juniors because of the trade that took place with Jake Allen last year. I was very happy to have a chance to play in Montreal and am looking forward to playing here.

Hockey Points: How do you expect playing in Montreal will compare to playing in Drummondville?

Philippe Lefebvre: I don’t know. I’ve only played in Montreal a couple of times. Those games had some great crowds and I’m excited to see what it’s going to be like in that building.

Hockey Points: Are you planning to wear number 94, the number you wore in Drummondville?

Philippe Lefebvre: (laughs) I hope so. I spoke to Pascal Vincent and he told me I can keep the number so I’m happy about that.

Hockey Points: Being a 19 year old this team you’re going to be one of the leaders. What have you learned about being a leader in this league?

Philippe Lefebvre: I’ve played with guys like Danny Masse, Yannik Riendeau, Mike Hoffman and Dimitri Kulikov. All of those guys were awesome leaders. They were there when we won the President’s Cup (in 2009). We’re trying to do the same thing here. So as a 19 year old I’ve learned from guys like that. I have to show an example, first on the ice and then on the ice. I need to perform on the ice and that’s the most important part.

Hockey Points: You played in the Memorial Cup as a 17 year old. Has that prepared you for this season in Montreal where the team is trying to achieve the same thing?

Philippe Lefebvre: You have to be very discipline, that’s the key. Throughout the year you have to do the simple things over and over again. You have to be a team that remains focused during success. When we won a series in the playoffs that year, we stayed calm. If we won the series in four games, we used our break to rest. If you want to go all the way, you have to use all the rest you have and be very discipline.

Hockey Points: What is your best asset that you bring to this team?

Philippe Lefebvre: I think I bring good speed. I can shoot the puck. With Guy Boucher I learned to play a strong defensive game so I believe I can bring a good two-way game to this team.

Hockey Points: How many players do you know on this team that you may have played with before?

Philippe Lefebvre: Well I’ve met these four new guys (at the press conference - Leblanc, Meilleur, Roussel, Landry). I participated in a preparation camp with Joel Bouchard last week where I met a few players like Rose, Fontaine, Gouchie, Narbonne. Also, my best friend is on the team, Louis-Marc Aubry, I know him very well. We played midget AAA together and throughout the years in summer hockey programs. We have good chemistry off the ice and I hope we get to have a chance to play together this the year.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Last week I had the opportunity to catch up with three of the Montreal Juniors' newly acquired impact players;

20 year old defenseman Francis Meilleur (seen in photo) - acquired from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles as part of the Pierre-Antoine Dion trade.

19 year old centerman and Montreal Canadiens draft pick Louis Leblanc - acquired from the Chicoutimi Sagueneens as part of the Guillaume Asselin deal.

19 year old left winger and also property of the Montreal Canadiens Philippe Lefebvre - acquired as part of the Jake Allen transaction.

Here is the second of three Q&As - this time with newly acquired forward / Montreal Canadiens prospect Louis Leblanc:

Hockey Points: Louis, you made the decision to play for the Montreal Juniors in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season. What are you most excited about?

Louis Leblanc: “Mainly playing in my hometown, playing in Montreal. We’re going to have an excellent team with an excellent coaching staff. I’m very excited about the overall package the Montreal Juniors were able to bring to me and bring to this city for the upcoming season.”

Hockey Points: What do you expect will be the biggest change for you as you play in the QMJHL vs. playing in the NCAA?

Louis Leblanc: “The biggest difference in going to be the amount of games I’ll play. I’ll play over 68 games here. Another thing is I’ll be one of the older guys in the league this year. Last year I was the young guy at college and obviously college guys are older. Now I’ll be one of the older guys in this league so I’m excited to see the difference.”

Hockey Points: Montreal coach Pascal Vincent is a well known coach in this league. Talk about the expectations you have to play for him.

Louis Leblanc: “I’m hoping he helps me improve my game that helps to bring me to the next level, the NHL. I know he has helped produce a few NHL players and he’s been in the league long enough to know what it takes. I’m hoping he leads us to be a winning team on the ice and, personally helps me become a better hockey player.”

Hockey Points: Have you had a chance to meet any of your new teammates? Have you played with any of them before?

Louis Leblanc: “Maybe 4 or 5 guys. I know Charles-Olivier Roussel. I’ve played with Eliezer Sherbatov back in the day. I know Philippe Lefebvre as well. So I know a few of the guys and am looking forward to meeting the rest of the group and get the season started.”

Hockey Points: Do you envision having any chemistry with any specific player?

Louis Leblanc: “Maybe a guy like Roussel. I play with him in summer hockey and we’re pretty close friends. I’m excited to play with him on this team and hopefully we can score some goals together. Hopefully we’ll be on the same power play unit and we’ll have the best power play in the league.”

Hockey Points: How would you describe your game to the fans?

Louis Leblanc: “I want to be a two-way player and bring intensity to the team. I want to score some goals and always be the hardest working guy out there. I like to make things happen offensively and also play well defensively.”

Hockey Points: What’s the most valuable skill in your game?

Louis Leblanc: “My speed. I think I’m a pretty fast skater going up and down the ice. So yeah, definitely my speed.”

Hockey Points: You just returned from St. John’s Newfoundland where you attended Team Canada’s Junior National Team summer evaluation camp. Talk a bit about your experience?

Louis Leblanc: “It was a great experience. It was my second camp. I felt a lot more comfortable out there because I knew what to expect from the coaches and the overall schedule. The top 44 U20 players were there and it was nice to be a part of that.”

Hockey Points: Playing for the Montreal Canadiens would be a dream come true for many young hockey players growing up in Montreal. How does it feel to have an opportunity to realize this dream?

Louis Leblanc: “Well I grew up playing hockey like most kids…to have fun. You never expect to one day get drafted. Now the sport has become a possibility to be my career. It’s nice. Everything really is a dream come true. It would be an honour and I’d be very lucky to be able to play hockey for a living.”


Last season Louis Leblanc attended Harvard University and played for their hockey team, the Harvard Crimson. In 31 games Leblanc scored 11 goals, 12 assists for 23 points and added 50 PIMS. Leblanc was selected 18th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2009 NHL entry draft. Leblanc is part of Team Canada's National Development program and hopes to represent Canada at the 2011 IIHF WJHC this December and January.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


This week I had the opportunity to catch up with three of the Montreal Juniors' newly acquired impact players;

20 year old defenseman Francis Meilleur (seen in photo) - acquired from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles as part of the Pierre-Antoine Dion trade.

  • 19 year old centerman and Montreal Canadiens draft pick Louis Leblanc - acquired from the Chicoutimi Sagueneens as part of the Guillaume Asselin deal.

  • 19 year old left winger and also property of the Montreal Canadiens Philippe Lefebvre - acquired as part of the Jake Allen transaction.

To kick off the first of our three Q&A sessions, here's what Francis Meilleur had to say:

Hockey Points: Francis, you're a now a member of the Montreal Juniors. What were your first thoughts when you learned that you were dealt to this team?

Francis Meilleur: "I went into my ex-coach's office, Mario Durocher, and he told me I was going to Montreal. I was very very excited because I knew Montreal was going to build for a huge year this season. My home town is Montreal so I was very excited to hear that I'd have a chance to play in front of my family and friends."

Hockey Points: So are you expecting to see a lot of signs in the crowd with your name on it?

Francis Meilleur: "(Laughs) Ya, I guess. I hope so!"

Hockey Points: You've played with Montreal coach Pascal Vincent before when he was with the Cap Breton Eagles organization. What can you say about that past experience?

Francis Meilleur: "When I met Pascal I was only 16 years old and it was my rookie year. He taught me a lot because at that time I was new to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He gave us many pointers on how to play better throughout a 60 game season, stay in shape. So coach Vincent helped me a lot to start my career. Now he trades for me as a 20 year old player which is very nice. I'm very happy. I'm coming to a new team in Montreal but having already known the Coach and GM is a big plus for me."

Hockey Points: Speaking of 20 year olds, we're expecting Montreal to select yourself, Nicolas Chouinard and Jeremy Gouchie, three players that all played under Pascal Vincent a few years ago in Cape Breton. Why did coach Vincent decided to re-unite the three of you?

Francis Meilleur: "Well it's great. Obviously he has a lot of trust in the three of us. The three of us are good friends. We started our Junior careers together in Cape Breton and I guess he saw that we had good chemistry together and that made him want to reunite us together again."

Hockey Points: How does it feel to have a chance to play in the Q as an overage player? And what have you learned from some of the 20 year old players that had an impact on you in the past?

Francis Meilleur: "It's great to play as a 20 year old player. Playing as an overager is pretty special. There's only three players like that on each team. I'm going to try to help the kids that are coming into the league. When I look back I remember guys like Robert Slaney, Chris Culligan, Dean Ouellet, Joey Haddad, they all taught me a lot, they were really friendly with the rookies. I want to do the same for the young guys on this team because I felt great around them and I felt more confident with them on my team. I want to do the same."

Hockey Points: How would you describe your game to the Montreal Juniors fans?

Francis Meilleur: "I guess I'd consider myself a two-way defenseman and maybe a little more offensive than defensive. I can play one the power play, penalty kill and 5 on 5 hockey. I try to push the attack in order to make something happen in the offensive zone, and in the defensive zone I make sure I can get the puck out."

Hockey Points: What do you consider your best asset, skill-wise?

Francis Meilleur: "I'd say my speed. When I use my speed I play a better game and am usually more successful."

Hockey Points: You're moving back to your home town. What are your living / accommodation plans?

Francis Meilleur: "(Laughs) I'm going to be back with my family. It's been four years since I spent a full year at home. I'll have a chance to be back with my family, my brothers. It's very exciting and I'm looking forward to enjoying it with them."

Hockey Points: How many of your new teammates have you had an opportunity to meet so far?

Francis Meilleur: "I'd say maybe 10 or 12 already. It's great because I'm coming to a new team but I already know half of the team and I've played with some of those guys. Everyone is very excited and we can't wait for it to start."

Hockey Points: Are there any players in particular who you're looking forward to play with for the first time.

Francis Meilleur: "Well, Louis Leblanc obviously (laughs). I don't know him too well but he's a very good player and I can't wait to see him on the ice and pass him the puck to see what happens."


Last season in 68 games played Meilleur scored 6 goals and added 36 assists for 42 points. He also registered 74 penalty minutes and finished with a plus minus of +26.

-----check back to to read our Q&A with Louis Leblanc-----

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


I was sitting in the Bell Center only 14 months ago watching Louis Leblanc climb onto the stage to shake Bob Gainey's hand after being selected by the Montreal Canadiens 18th overall during the 1st round of the 2009 NHL entry draft.

The fans taking part in the event roared as if the Canadiens had just traded for rights to Vincent LeCavalier. And maybe they had, only in the form of a talented young prospect named Louis Leblanc.

Born and raised on the Island of Montreal Leblanc is the first francophone to be selected in the first round by the Canadiens since Eric Choinard was picked back in 1998.

The hype around this player is more so than the Canadiens' 1st round draft picks from recent years, many of whom have been scouted out of the US high school and college ranks.

In a way Leblanc provides the city of Montreal and the province of Quebec with a chance to re-live part of the old-time Habs, the Flying Frenchmen.

The jury is still out on Leblanc's NHL potential which ranges from the possibility of being a 1st line player to a 3rd line player. It all depends on how Leblanc develops during the next 1-2 years.

For now Leblanc will be playing with the Montreal in the QMJHL, making the Juniors a serious challenger to win the Preseidents Cup and advance to the 2011 Memorial Cup.

On the ice Leblanc gives Juniors head coach Pascal Vincent a legitimate 1st line center, something they didn't have last season. From a production standpoint Leblanc should earn anywhere from 70 to 95 points assuming he remains healthy throughout the course of the year and doesn't miss too many games in connection with the Montreal Canadiens training camp in September and the World Junior Hockey Championships in December, assuming he makes the team.

But he brings more than just point production to the table. Leblanc is recognized as a player who competes hard every shift and each and every game. He plays with heart, determination and is a leader, one that leads by example on the ice.

Off the ice Leblanc has created a stir and will continue to do so as his name is bound to help the Montreal Juniors at the box office. Being a number 1 pick of the Montreal Canadiens will help attract new fans to the Juniors. Habs fans who claim to be hockey fans will have an opportunity to prove they're both by coming to watch Louis Leblanc at the Verdun Auditorium.

So who will play on Leblanc's wings?

Captain Nicolas Chouinard seems like a nice fit to play on the right side. Not only can Chouinard score 25-35 goals (he scored 29 goals and 59 points in 66 games played last season), he would also help create room for Leblanc who is bound to be a targeted man by the opposing teams defensive players. Although his size is below average, Chouinard plays with a fearless edge and won't be afraid to drop the gloves should anyone choose to take liberties with Leblanc.

On the left wing the Montreal Canadiens' other prospect owned by the Juniors, Philippe Lefebvre, seems like a nice fit. Lefebvre played for Drummondville during each of the last three seasons and last year he scored 26 goals and 55 points in 66 games played.

Adding Lefebvre to this line would provide the Juniors with a strong 1st line and leave enough offensive depth (ie: Gouchie, Parkes) to form a strong 2nd scoring line.

Here's an update on how I see the Juniors lineup shaping up:


1: Philippe Lefebvre (19) / Louis Leblanc (19) / Nicolas Choinard (20)

2: Jeremy Gouchie (20) / Louis-Marc Aubry (19) / Trevor Parkes (19)

3: Janos Hari (18) / Denis Kindl (18) / Eliezer Sherbatov (19)

4: Jr. Harris (18) / Philippe Fontaine (19) / David Rose (19)

Extras: Roux (18) / Lapostelle (19)


1: Roussel (19) / Ouellet (17)

2: Meilleur (20) / Landry (19)

3: Narbonne (18) / Provost (18)

Extras: Belanger


Starter: Jean-Francois Berube (19)

Back Up: Etienne Marcoux (17)