With it being August, there are unfortunately no hockey games on TV that have any real ramifications. So, when some Florida Panthers prospects hit the ice for Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team Summer Showcase, you can bet I’ll be watching that. Lawson Crouse, Samuel Montembeault, and Jayce Hawryluk all donned the Maple Leaf last night as Canada took on Russia, and I decided to throw together a post outlining how they played and a bit more on what we can expect from each when they play for the Panthers.
Summer is the time when the countries that take part in the IIHF World Junior Championships and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup hold their development camps. They’re held by the countries to get their national junior teams back together after the seasons of each player has ended and just before the new seasons are about to begin. The managers and coaches of the teams also use the camps as a way to help determine potential starting lineups, get a look at their goalie situations, and find chemistry between players on different lines.
Lawson Crouse, Florida’s 2015 1st-round pick, Samuel Montembeault, our 2015 3rd-round pick, and Jayce Hawryluk, our 2013 2nd-round pick, were three of the 40 players invited to the U20 camp, also known as the Summer Showcase. While Crouse, who is serving as an assistant captain for Canada, played in Canada’s first game on Monday, all three didn’t play together until last night.
Crouse played most of the game on the top line with Dylan Strome and fellow Panthers prospect Jayce Hawryluk, although towards the end of the game, Connor Bleackley was centering them. A couple of minutes after Russia scored the first goal of the game, Crouse was a really nice deflection at the front of the net. The puck looked to be going wide, but he got his stick on it and deflected it back towards the net. Right after that, he was called for a tripping penalty at the offensive zone blue line. Crouse had a turnover deep in the defensive zone right in front of his own net in the 2nd period. He was coming out of the corner and it didn’t look like he had 100% possession of the puck or the best of footing. A Russian player was right on his tail and took the puck away from him, although they didn’t get a shot on goal afterwards. Crouse made up for that with a nice wrist shot that was stopped after coming off the halfboards and through the slot. Shortly after that, he skated back hard into the defensive zone to tie up the stick of 2015 1st-round Evgeny Svechnikov and stop an odd-man rush.
I liked how he always went to the front of the net when Canada was on the powerplay, and the only time he moved away was to give the holder of the puck a passing option. He made a noticeably physical check on a Russian player in the defensive zone corner during the 3rd period and nearly lost his helmet. He wasn’t overly physical throughout the game, but I was able to notice that part of his play-style here and there.
Samuel Montembeault was Canada’s starting goalie with the team’s other two goalies being Mason McDonald and Mackenzie Blackwood. Montembeault started off shaky; he allowed the first goal of the game off a faceoff when the puck came back to the defenseman who put a quick shot on net from the blue line. It wasn’t an overpowering shot, but Montembeault wasn’t far enough out of his crease to make the save and also wasn’t really ready for it. After Canada tied the game up at 1, he allowed another 1st period goal:
He was a bit late to respond to the pass that came from behind the net and when the shot was made, he was too deep in his crease which left an opening on the left side of the net. After that, he really tightened things up, though. He made a nice helmet save on an odd-man rush in the second period and went on to make a bunch of really key saves on breakaways in the late part of 2nd period and most of the 3rd period…
And another…(a strong save on 2015 1st-round right-wing sniper Denis Guryanov in overtime)
The game went into a shootout and Montembeault was very good then too. He stopped the first two attempts by Russia and on the third attempt, he got over in time, but the shooter banked the puck off his arm and into the net.
As I said, he looked really sharp after allowing the two 1st-period goals and ended up making 18 saves on 20 shots. Montembeault is just 18 years old and he’s still got lots of time to develop. Plus, this was the first time he’s played for Canada in his career so it’s very likely he was nervous to start the game and needed time to settle in. Last year in the QMJHL, he had the second-best goals-against average of all starting goaltenders in the QMJHL. He wasn’t the top-ranked goaltender in the 2015 Draft, but scouts seem to be high on him and his potential.
The third Panthers prospect to play against Canada last night was Jayce Hawryluk. As I said before, he started on the right wing of the top line with Lawson Crouse and Dylan Strome, and he later played with Connor Bleackley and Travis Konecny. Overall, I didn’t find Hawryluk to be very noticeable or at least not until the third period. He had a shot on goal in the 2nd period coming in off the right wing and played on the penalty kill a few times. In the third period, he had two grade-A chances at the front of the net but couldn’t convert on either of them. Hawryluk hasn’t played for Canada since 2013 so perhaps he also needed some time to settle in. He’s going into his fourth and final season with the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL so it’ll be interesting to see if he can take that next step as he could potentially be an effective middle-6 player with his grit, speed, and offensive ability.
Montembeault entered tonight’s game (8/6/15 vs. Czech Republic) at the halfway point of the 2nd period after Mackenzie Blackwood made 13 saves on 13 shots. Here’s how he looked:
Montembeault started off strong making a few saves with good positioning. In this save, he tracked the puck well and showed good reflexes after the puck had deflected before reaching him. The first goal of the night for Russia came shortly after when Russia got in a 2-on-1 and scored on a cross-ice pass. Montembeault was over in time, but the shot was put it right over his blocker. To be fair, cross-ice passes are difficult to stop. the Canada defense left him out to dry, and the pass wasn’t prevented very well.
After that, Montembeault didn’t see much action as Canada dominated much of 3rd period. He caught a shot going wide with his glove and then allowed another goal near the end of the period after a rebound was put in near the front of the crease.