The Canadiens AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs were defeated 5-3 by the Toronto Marlies last night, in a game which saw most of the players recently sent down from the NHL camp not dressed for the 'Dogs. Stefan Fournier and Erik Nystrom tallied goals, and Akim Aliu and Dalton Thrower each got two assists. For a team that will need to improve its offence from last season, it's notable that the powerplay went 0 for 4.
About Akim Aliu, you'd expect him to do well in early-season play in the AHL, while a lot of the talented players are out of the mix, still vying for NHL spots. He's an AHL veteran hitting his prime, some of the undrafted junior players are going to find that he's a load. So it's great that he got two assists, that's what we would have expected in a game like this, that he'd be one of the best players on the ice. But let's hope that some things fall into place for him during this tryout and he shows he deserves a contract from the Canadiens. Marc Bergevin and Rick Dudley must know what they're dealing with here, due to Mr. Aliu's time in the Chicago organization, maybe they have some insights into the situation. If he pans out, he'd be like found money, a big tough winger with decent hands, it's not like our system is overflowing with those.
Dalton Thrower's two assists aside, we could make the same general point about him, that a second-round draft pick from two summers ago facing off against a lot of free agents and undrafted juniors should shine. I don't want to root against the kid, but on paper it's hard to see him fitting in on the Bulldogs roster, stocked as it is with young defence prospects who need icetime. Even with Jarred Tinordi sticking with Le Grand Club and no longer hogging minutes, we still have Nathan Beaulieu, Morgan Ellis and Greg Pateryn coming back for their sophomore year, and Magnus Nygren and Darren Dietz who will play their first (North American) pro season. That's five kids who need a lot of icetime already, there won't be a lot left to go around. Also, Dalton is a rightie, and so is everyone of the prospects except Nathan. Plus, there are a few AHL veterans, guys like Drew Shiestel and Matt Lashoff who were brought in to help out, they need to be worked into the roster too.
Unless Dalton blows everyone away at camp, it's best that he go back to the Vancouver Giants, benefit from being the #1 defenceman in a strong organization, and from being coached by Don Hay. He'll get to work on his game and be played in all sorts of pressure situations and have special teams responsibilities. He wouldn't have that opportunity with the Bulldogs. So going back to junior is not optimal for a 20 year old normally, but in his specific case, since he had an uneven season last year, it's probably what will help him develop in the long run.