Proving ground

Saturday, 12.01.2013 / 3:52 PM / News
Montreal Canadiens

BROSSARD – After spending the past four months in the minors, five Habs hopefuls will finally get their chance to skate with the big team.

Among the four Bulldogs invited to Canadiens training camp, which is set to open officially after the CBA is ratified, Gabriel Dumont is primed to bring his recently re-discovered scoring touch along with him.

“You don’t get invited to camp to come play tourist in Montreal. I’m not here just to go through the motions and then head right back to Hamilton,” divulged Dumont, who scored his Bulldogs-leading 12th goal of the season against the Americans on Friday night. “I’m here to earn a spot and force their hand to keep me here.”

Having missed 17 games due to injury last year, Dumont has made the most of his 36 games played so far this season, piling up a team-high 22 points while co-leading the ‘Dogs with a plus-six differential.

“It’s been nice. The last few years have been a little more difficult for me, especially last year with my injuries,” admitted the 22-year-old center, who is joined in Montreal by fellow Bulldogs Brendan Gallagher, Jarred Tinordi and Mike Commodore. “Nothing big has really changed. I was playing with great players in [Michael] Bournival and Gallagher [in Hamilton]. I was just doing my job. I just give them the puck and get in position in front of the net. Pucks just seem to be finding me there!”

With 10 goals and 20 points so far in his inaugural professional campaign, Dumont’s linemate is ready to take on an even bigger challenge when the team’s abbreviated camp gets underway.

“My approach will be the same as last year when I came here. I’m going to take it day by day and try to get better every time I get on the ice,” confirmed Gallagher. “I’m a year older and I’ve learned new things. Obviously, playing in Hamilton with coach [Sylvain] Lefebvre, he’s taught me quite a bit and I’ve been learning a lot as the season has gone on. I’ll try to use that the best I can this week.”

While his offensive production may have slowed slightly from the torrid pace that saw him rewrite the Vancouver Giants record books in 2011-12, the 20-year-old winger seems to be hitting his stride in Hamilton.

“The AHL is definitely a different league. Compared to Juniors, there are a lot less scoring chances and it’s a defensive minded hockey league,” he described. “The depth of the teams is also that much better. But you just have to learn new ways to be successful.

"There are a lot of guys in Hamilton who are deserving of [being invited to camp]. I’m grateful that they’ve given me the opportunity,” added Gallagher. “I’ve been giving my best all year to try to help my team down there. Getting recognized is cool and I’ll try to take advantage of it.”

Fresh off his gold medal win with Team USA at the World Juniors at the start of January, Sarnia Sting captain Alex Galchenyuk arrives at camp having dominated the OHL for the past four months. Currently sitting fourth in league scoring with 27 goals and 61 points in 33 games with the Sting, Galchenyuk may be secretly hoping he’s played his last game in Junior, but for now he’s just focusing on soaking in the experience of his first NHL training camp.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m just happy to be here and we’ll go day-by-day,” cautioned the 18-year-old when asked if he’s expecting to earn a full-time spot with the Habs this year. “I’m in better shape and I’ve played 30-plus games which is good for me.

“I just want to have fun and see how I can play and practice against NHLers. This will be a good test for me and it’s exciting to be here.”

Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.

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