Totally in agreement too lads.
I just started hypin' this kid a couple of days ago because the poor guy hadn't got a post in his thread since May despite his presence at the recent dev-camp.
Obviously, everyone agrees that Gomez and Plekanecs are the top two centres, but with Metropolit and Moore gone and Lapierre possibly moving to wing, that leaves two open spots, three if you count the black aces, which always includes a centreman.
So with three potential spots open, who are the contenders and who are the pretenders?
While the recent re-signing of Lapierre guarantees Montreal another year of his patented shift-disturbing style of play, there is no guarantee that he will line up at centre as he did last season.
Laps would have to be the official front runner for one of the two remaining starting spots, but the Habs braintrust may move him to the wing if they feel they can inject a more offensively talented prospect down the middle. Lapierre's meager 14 points in 76 games last year, combined with a -14 rating, may precipitate just such a move.
If then, hypothetically, Laps was moved to wing and three spots were made available, who would fill those skates.
Pyatt, Pouliot and recently-acquired Dustin Boyd can and have played centre, but I'm talking prospects here.
Ben Maxwell would have to be considered top of the list, not only because of his pedigree ('06 2nd Rd.) and experience (2 full AHL seasons with call-ups) but also because management kept him with the big club during last year's playoff drive, a sure sign they have something in store for him.
If I was a gamblin' man, I'd have to put my money on Eller to snag the final starting spot, although he'll need to have a good camp to fend off the competition in what should be a hotly-contested battle at the faceoff circle.
With Maxy and the "EL" train playing most nights, the final spot comes down to a game of musical chairs between three talented but completely different players who will vie for the privilege of watching the game from the pressbox on a regular basis.
My number 1 candidate is Ryan White, who has paid his dues with two full years on the farm and looks like he's ready to make the jump.
Drafted right after Ben Maxwell ('06 3rd Rd.), White has limited offensive upside but makes up for it with a gritty, heads-up, high energy style of play that would fit his expected role and would help improve Montreal's lack of strength and size up front.
FYI: White and recently-acquired Ian Schultz both captained the Calgary Hitmen during their respective junior careers.
My number 2 candidate is Andreas Engqvist (you knew he was going to appear at some point), the lanky Swede and official darkhorse in the race.
Signed as a FA just over a year ago, AE played last season in the SEL, where he posted career highs in all regular season stats and then followed it up with an incredible playoff performance (13 pts in 16 gms). Montreal is so high on this kid that they allowed him to modify his original three year deal to play one final season at home, and then recently signed one of his Djurgardens teammates from last year (Kyle Klubertanz) to help in his transition to North America. If AE doesn't make the Habs right away, I guarantee they'll pair him with Kyle in Hamilton.
My number 3 candidate is tiny but talented David Desharnais, the local favourite who despite his small stature (5'7" on a good day) has proven he can score at any level in any league.
In his final two seasons in junior, he amassed 226 regular season points (124 gms) for Chicoutimi.
In his first full pro season, he set the ECHL all-time record for points in both the regular season (106) and playoffs (33).
Last year in Hamilton, he led the team in regular season and playoff scoring en route to setting the all-time franchise record for points in a season (78).
Simply put, this kid produces. But the question remains, can he do it at the next level?
And more importantly, can Montreal afford to dress another vertically challenged centreman in an already undersized group of forwards?
So, to make a short story long, that's my take on Engqvist.
He's flying under the radar still, but you can't count him out.
And besides, at least now the kid's got some press.
Nine posts in the last four days ain't bad considering he was persona non grata since May 19th.