Nicholas Champion (l) is one of two goaltenders invited on a tryout to this year’s Canadiens Rookie Camp – photo: Pierre Obendrauf Montreal Gazette
While most eyes at the Montreal Canadiens training camp focus on the likes of Louis LeBlanc, P.K. Subban, and Lars Eller, a pair of 20-year-old goalies may be getting their last shot at the pros.
Barring injury, or total collapse, Carey Price and Alex Auld have secured the two spots in Montreal ,while Curtis Sanford and Robert Mayer should hold the two Hamilton Bulldogs slots on the Canadiens depth chart.
Delmas and Champion will be looking for a potential opening on the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) now that Mayer has moved to the AHL.
Delmas was a former teammate of Los Angeles Kings prospect Jonathan Bernier, when the two played together for the Lewiston MAINEiacs (QMJHL). In light of playing in the shadow of Bernier, the Colorado Avalanche drafted him in the 2nd round (61st overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
Photo courtesy LHJMQ
He remained in the Q and despite playing for a partial season under former Canadiens and Avalanche Hall of Famer Patrick Roy, was left unsigned. Delmas became eligible again for the 2010 Draft, but was not picked up by another team.
Much of Delmas’ lack of a big year stems from a hip injury. He had his hip scoped in the off-season and is looking to impress this week at the Canadiens practice facility in Brossard.
Photo courtesy LHJMQ
He is currently playing for the Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL), and received his invitation to the Rookie Camp on the same day the Canadiens traded goaltending prospect Cedrick Desjardins to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
His last overall evaluation from HockeysFuture is as follows:
“A solid, positional goaltender, Delmas is unflappable between the pipes and plays a mature, steady game beyond his years.
Always square to the shooter, he never gives up on the puck and possesses a quick glove, but at times he struggles controlling rebounds.
Though he has settled down from his rookie year, Delmas is sometimes a bit too adventurous in and around the net and doesn’t have the quickness and agility to always make up for his aggressiveness.”
Champion, on the other hand, has stayed out of the spotlight. A native of Labrador City, Newfoundland, he is familiar with exceeding his own expectations.
Playing Midget hockey in his home town, the 5’10 netminder was accustomed to facing 50 to 60 shots a night for the Labrador Huskies.
Nicholas Champion makes one of 51 saves, for Team Newfoundland & Labrador, during the Midget tournament at the 2007 Canada Winter Games. Photo via hockeyscene.com
After stating the 2007-08 season in the Maritime Jr. A League, Champion surprised himself when he was called up by the Acadie-Bathurst Titan before Christmas. He finished the season with a 25-9-2 record and 2.98 GAA.
Photo courtesy LHJMQ/Lewiston MAINEiacs – Ron Morin
He was never drafted and coincidentally is now playing for Delmas’ former team in Lewiston.
Both goalies have clearly caught the eye of Canadiens’ GM Pierre Gauthier and his scouting staff. Are they just taking a free look at a one-time NHL prospect, or did a diminutive goaltender from Lab City remind them of a former Habs goaltender, from recent memory, who played well under fire.
The following days could be a real test, and pivotal time career-wise, for the two netminders. Not only will they be competing for a long shot to the pros, but also have to know that their Junior days are getting shorter, and being challenged by up and coming teenagers, while they are away.