I went to go see the Hamilton Bulldogs take on the Syracuse Crunch on Friday night – in other words, the Mini-Habs and the Mini-Lightning. With this game as a backdrop, I thought I’d look at how Bulldogs players are doing early in this AHL season. As for Friday night, they did not disappoint with 4-1 win in front of over 8000 people at the Bell Centre.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see Patrick Holland, Sven Andrighetto, Magnus Nygren or Darren Dietz due to the fact that they were out of the lineup with various injuries on Friday. This was particularly disappointing in the cases of Andrighetto and Nygren who have had particularly good starts in their first AHL seasons.
The first player I want to discuss is Morgan Ellis. This summer at Complex Bell, I was able to watch him practice with teammates in some informal pre-training camp sessions. When the Habs full training camp and pre-season games finally came I was quite disappointed to barely see him on the ice, especially when he sat out during all three scrimmages and was one of the first fourteen players released early in training camp.
He then went to the Bulldogs and was a healthy scratch in a number of early season games, before finally being inserted into the line-up when injuries hit the Dogs blueline. During Friday night’s game he recorded one goal and one assist. So far in the first twelve games he has played he has one goal and three assists as the 21-year-old appears to still be trying to find his legs in the AHL.
Ellis is still very young, and was quite a good player in the QMJHL. I believe he will continue to progress with more time. While he was great on Friday, I’m not basing this on one game, he seems to be finding his stride in recent weeks. While he may be behind players like Nathan Beaulieu, Greg Pateryn, Jarred Tinordi, and Magnus Nygren; Ellis is also a solid prospect. Add in another defenceman like Darren Dietz and you can see that the Bulldogs have plenty of blueline depth and that a few of these players will be knocking on the door for callups, or in future Montreal training camps.
Mike Blunden picked up two goals and an assist on Friday. He is one player who Habs fans should be familiar with as he’s been up and down between the Bulldogs and the Habs over the last three years. While I do not believe he’ll be a regular for the Habs, he’s a good depth piece who can be called up and play a reliable game when injuries occur on the bottom lines. Overall this season Blunden already has five goals and four assists in only eleven games.
Another young player I can see moving his way up to the Habs is Gabriel Dumont. During the game he had a good physical presence. He recorded one goal and one assist during the game. This season he has one goal and six assists in seventeen games played. He’s also been given a short call-up to the big club.
Christian Thomas who was sent to the Habs by the Rangers over the summer in a trade for Danny Kristo played in just his fourth game of the season. He had spent all his time in Montreal, working with trainers and rehab specialists, as he recovered from a sports hernia that he suffered during the pre-season. The twenty-one year old player is known for his goal scoring ability and it is believed that he can challenge to be a call-ups this season if there are any injuries in the Habs top lines. Thomas has pelenty of talent and is expected to be a top contender next season for a full-time spot on the club. He seems to be rounding into game shape and should be more dangerous in the coming weeks.
Watching the game I found Bulldogs defenseman Joel Chouinard got hit quite a few times by Syracuse Philippe Paradis. Those two players were at it all night long and even tried to start a few scrums after the whistle.
Dustin Tokarski got the start in goal, and he played a fabulous game. He made twenty-five saves on twenty-six shots in picking up the win. Though, it must be said that there were two disallowed goals. The first was for goalie interference and the other due to the fact the net was knocked out of place.
Needless to say the Bulldogs impressed me and I think as next season will roll around a few of them will be in the Habs line-up.
So far this season these players were called up sometime in the first twenty-one games;
Nathan Beaulieu- played five games (one assist)
Martin St-Pierre- played one game
Mike Blunden- played six games
Louis Leblanc- played five games
Gabriel Dumont- played two games
Jarred Tinordi- played six games
Patrick Holland- played five games
Greg Pateryn- Was called up but never had the opportunity to play.
On Saturday, the Bulldogs picked up a 3-0 win over Syracuse in the second game of the back-to-back series between the clubs. Christian Thomas and Nathan Beaulieu each had one goal and one assist, and Greg Pateryn picked up a goal, while Dustin Tokarski stopped over 40 shots and picked up the shutout. After a long battle with Robert Mayer, that began last season, it would appear that Tokarski has taken over as the Bulldogs clear number one goalie and he is making a case to get a shot in the NHL as a backup goalie at some point in the near future.
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