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