BROSSARD, QC.– Joonas Nattinen, a 20-year old center, is attending his third development camp — his first while under contract to the Canadiens. In May, Pierre Gauthier signed the young man from Jamsa, Finland to a three-year deal. All signs point to Nattinen joining the Bulldogs in the Fall.
Last season started with an Achilles tendon injury which kept him off the ice for two months. Nattinen also had to deal with a couple of bouts of pnemonia. Yet he managed to play 21 games in the Finnish elite league SM-Liiga.
Nattinen was also a very important player for Team Finland at the World Junior Championships. He scored three goals in six games centering a line with Joel Armia on his right side. Armia, is a 6’3″ sniper, and could be available in a mid-teens slot at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in a few weeks (Canadiens pick 17th.)
Nattinen is a smooth-skating playmaker. He has good puck-handling skills, excellent hockey sense and is disciplined. Nattinen is very effective on faceoffs and on the penalty-kill.
At 6’2″, 186 lbs., he isn’t afraid to use his size and strength to battle for the puck but is not necessarily a physical player. Think of Lars Eller, with fewer hits.
After an injury-filled season it’s clear that Nattinen is not yet at 100%. In past camps, Nattinen has prided himself on his conditioning and endurance — that seems somewhat lacking this June. That said, there have been flashes of brilliance — his passing skills are superb — and he seems to be improving as the week progresses.
Expect Joonas to be competing for one of the center spots in Hamilton this September.
Closing out the afternoon drills on Wednesday, skaters were divided into three teams, Blue, White and Red for a 3-on-3 scrimmage. At the end of the mini-tournament Team Blue were declared the winners — including Morgan Ellis, Danny Kristo, Alain Berger, Cameron Schilling, Phillippe Lefebvre, Ian Schultz and Olivier Dame-Malka.
The player that caught my eye most was Brendan Gallagher. The best word to describe him is fearless — he seems to have no idea about his size. Gallagher is tenacious when battling for pucks.
Some have questioned his skating but through short, quick bursts and shiftiness, he is able to elude defenders. Gallagher is smart, physical and has a very quick release on his shot. This combination makes him a tough player to face and an offensive threat — he totalled 91 points in 66 games, 108 penalty minutes, plus-30 this past season in the WHL.
- Michael Bournival (LW) — Has been underwhelming so far. Still waiting to see signs of him being ultra competitive with a strong work ethic as advertised. Seems to play small.
- Ian Schultz (RW) — Has attracted attention for all the wrong reasons: telling jokes, stopping to tie his skates, and is often winded and bent over. Conditioning and work ethic appears to be an issue.
- Olivier Dame-Malka (D) — A four goal, one assist performance in a playoff game against the Montreal Juniors, likely triggered his invitation to camp. His team, Lewiston was disbanded and Malka went unselected in the dispersal draft. At the close of camp he will likely still be looking for work.
- Cameron Schilling (D) — Effective in one-on-one play. He is a stay-at-home defenseman with an edge. He sports a heavy shot.
- Gabriel Dumont (LW) — Could win the ‘Mr. Enthusiasm’ award. Has displayed competitveness through goal celebrations and chasing down loose pucks.
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