Engels Angle: Searching the farm for a capable call-up
By Eric Engels
Published Tuesday, August 30, 2011 7:16AM EDT
Just weeks from the opening of NHL training camps, the Montreal Canadiens have a rather complete roster. Though the competition is fierce at each position, there's little room for an emerging prospect to solidify his place with the big club before the season gets underway.
That said, injuries are a part of the game, even from the onset of training camp. For instance, Lars Eller isn't guaranteed to be fit to play come opening night of the regular season, and will likely skate through the majority of training camp wearing a non-contact jersey as he continues to rehab from off-season shoulder surgery.
Given Eller's role as a third or fourth line centre, chances are that if the Canadiens aim to start someone in his position should he be unfit to compete Oct. 6 in Toronto, they'll look to a defensively responsible player and not necessarily to the most NHL-ready prospect on the farm.
Looking through the Hamilton Bulldogs roster, Andreas Engqvist's name pops out as the most suitable replacement for Eller. While prospects Aaron Palushaj and Brock Trotter are expected to lead the Bulldogs' offensive charge, Engqvist's attention to detail on the defensive side of the puck might be more attractive to Jacques Martin and his staff.
Who is Andreas Engqvist?
A product of the Djurgarden hockey system in Sweden, Engqvist's build as a big, right-handed centreman made him an attractive commodity to the Montreal Canadiens, who inevitably signed him to a 3-year deal in 2009.
Though as a youngster he drew comparisons to Mats Sundin, Engqvist's offensive capacity doesn't really lend credence to those claims. Also, as a 6"4, 200+ lbs player, he's hasn't garnered the reputation of being a physical force to reckon with.
But enough about who he isn't. Engqvist is a defensive specialist with great awareness and a solid sense for the game. He was a successful faceoff player, not only in Hamilton last season, but throughout his maturation as a professional player in Sweden.
Three games don't make for a significant sample of Engqvist's NHL-potential, but in his limited experience with the Canadiens last season he certainly appeared competent.
His very first game was a 7-1 win over the Ottawa Senators, in which he skated 16 shifts over 12:31 of ice-time and recorded a 50% faceoff efficiency. He played the Anaheim Ducks the following night and didn't take a single draw, but he registered a shot, blocked three and made it through nearly nine minutes, finishing with an even rating in a loss for the Canadiens.
His final game with the Canadiens was a couple of months later, on March 22nd, against the Buffalo Sabres-- a game with playoff implications. Naturally, he wasn't subjected to much ice-time, nor did he fair too well in the faceoff dot, winning just one of the five he took.
He only registered two hits in those three games.
Whether he starts in Eller's place or not (Eller is confident he'll be ready for the start of the season), if Engqvist's likely to see more time in the NHL this season, he'll have to find a way to impose himself in a much more physical manner. If he manages to do that, he could be an excellent third line centre sooner rather than later.