It’s been a long time since so many young Canadiens goaltenders sparked so much intrigue at a summer camp.
It starts with Jakub Dobes, the one who is currently closest to the NHL among the next generation. Drafted in the 5th round in 2020, the great Czech left the school benches last spring, and seeing his mask in the colors of the Rocket, we can expect to see him in action in Laval this season.
Jacob Fowler also caught the eye. Drafted 69th overall, he is the first goaltender the Habs have selected in the top 100 since Zachary Fucale. In addition to his interesting potential, Fowler exudes a certain charisma.
Quentin Miller was also added to the roster, as a 4th round pick last week. This Montrealer, member of the Quebec Remparts, will also be followed over the next few years.
Throughout this world, Emmett Croteau goes a bit unnoticed, despite a surname that will remind the most nostalgic of the ancestor of the Aubainerie stores.
“It comes from my father’s side. His father was French-speaking, and they moved to British Columbia when my father was little, “says the young goalkeeper.
The hope of the Canadian, however, does not speak French, despite the sound of his name. “I was enrolled in kindergarten in French, but I must have gotten mad or something. If I had known, I should have continued in French! Now, at school, I would like to learn another language. »
Drafted in the 6th round in 2022, Croteau will not be far from the French-speaking communities over the next few years. He will be admitted this summer to Clarkson University in upstate New York, an hour’s drive from Quebec but a long way from his native Bonnyville.
“It’s a village in northeastern Alberta where everyone knows each other,” he explains. I thought Clarkson’s kind of atmosphere, a small college, a smaller teacher-to-student ratio would help me in my studies. »
Croteau is coming off a good season with the Waterloo Black Hawks. His average of 2.46 was 4th in the USHL, and his efficiency of .917, 2nd in the league. He now sees himself spending “two or three years” in college before trying his luck in the professional ranks.
Preparation for post-Carey Price accelerated from 2017. That year, the Habs claimed Cayden Primeau, flamboyant in the NCAA, who is still looking for himself among the pros. From 2019 to 2022, Montreal demanded one goalkeeper per year, before choosing three last week.
How does a prospect in goal react when he sees such internal competition all of a sudden? “If the rulers deem they need three guardians, so be it. I met them, they are good guys. I hope they help us win a Stanley Cup one day,” Dobes said.
Cohabitation, at the very least, does not seem problematic. “We get to know each other slowly. We get on very well. We make jokes, we try to have fun together,” Miller summed up.
In the last decade, Zachary Fucale, Charlie Lindgren and Primeau have succeeded in the skates of the one who could potentially ensure the transition with Price. The first two have left the organization, and the third could do so in the coming months. If he does not dislodge Jake Allen or Samuel Montembeault and he is sold to Laval, Primeau will have to go on waivers. A team that still believes in its potential will be able to claim it, as CH did with Montembeault in October 2021.
Five goalies participate in this camp. Samuel Urban, an 18-year-old doorman present by invitation, completes the quintet. Sole absent among the next generation: Yevgeni Volokhin, 5th round pick last week, who plays in Russia.
The team has definitely given itself the means to evaluate all these beautiful people in this summer development camp. Monday morning, at 9 a.m., the five were invited to a session for their position only. They then took part in the sessions in separate groups (attackers on one rink, defenders on the other). The icing on the cake: saving the goals for the last session of the day, when all 37 players are grouped together.
Result of the races: three good hours of work, without a break to change.
“When I was younger, I did a few sessions like that. The ice is getting bad and you’re all wet, but that’s okay,” Croteau said.
“We did three hours on the ice. At the end, my skates were filled with water. I emptied them, it was disgusting! adds Miller.
For Croteau and Fowler, this week’s experience will be their only experience in the big club environment this season; NCAA rules prevent them from participating in the main camp in September.
Miller should meanwhile rush to the next camp, since he should theoretically play the next two seasons in the QMJHL.
Dobes will attend camp while waiting to join the Rocket. Above all, it remains to be seen who he will be paired with in Laval, and how the work will be shared between him and his assistant, whoever he is. “I spent a month in Laval at the end of the season, I was good friends with Cayden and he really helped me a lot. We’ll see what happens,” said the Czech.
If ever Primeau were to be claimed, the Canadian has an alternative solution by awarding a contract to Strauss Mann on Monday. The 24-year-old American spent the last season in the ECHL and the American League, with San Jose. So we’re not talking about an American League veteran either.
For Fowler, Croteau and the others, we will have to wait a few more years. But with the arrival of Dobes in Laval, the possible departure of Primeau and the addition of three goaltenders in the pipeline, this year 2023 looks like that of the restart in net.