OPINION: 29 remain in Titan camp but six must still go

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bryanwillett

With the latest round of cuts going down today, the Acadie-Bathurst Titan’s preseason roster officially stands at 29.

Three goaltenders, 10 defencemen and 16 forwards are all that stands from the original list that hit the ice last Monday.

With Jacob Brennan once again expected to be the main man to patrol the crease, the battle for who will back him up is down to just two – Daniel Vautour and Alexandre Lagacé. Of all the positions, this has the most interest to me. I’ll explain why in a little bit.

Vautour, a native of Miramichi, N.B., served as an emergency call-up during the first-half of last season and even saw some playing time where he stopped all four shots he faced in 8:58 of play against the Rimouski Océanic. So far this preseason, he’s played 32:01 and stopped all 14 shots against the Moncton Wildcats this past Sunday. The undrafted 18-year-old recently wrapped up his stint in Major Midget with the Miramichi Rivermen where he was named a First Team All-Star for his 2.97 goals against average and .919 save percentage in 20 games played. His Junior A rights are owned by the Dieppe Commandos who drafted him in the seventh round of the 2013 MJAHL Draft.

Lagacé is 17-years-old and played last season with the QMAAA’s Trois-Rivières Estacades before being drafted by the Titan in the eighth round of this year’s QMJHL Entry Draft. The St-Basile-le-Grand, Qué. native made 17 appearances for the Estacades and posted a 2.58 goals against average to go with a .908 save percentage. In the 40 minutes Lagacé played this past Saturday against Charlottetown, he went a perfect 26-for-26 in saves in a very impressive performance.

As was the case two years ago when another drafted versus undrafted goaltender battle for the job of backing up Brennan ensued, could we see another instance where the drafted rookie beats out the undrafted invitee, or will we see the undrafted rookie who has seen regular season QMJHL time steal the spot? Whoever does will surely be looked to as the future between the pipes once the 20-year-old Brennan ages out following the end of this season.

On defence, the remaining players that were with the team last year include Guillaume Brisebois, Nicolas Dumulong, Anthony Gingras, Alexandre Gosselin, Nicolas Latulippe and Mark Trickett. Unless something were to change and a player from those six are either cut or decide to leave camp, the remaining defencemen on the roster, which includes draftees Félix Boivin and Francis Thibeault, the recently traded for Tucker White and the undrafted invitee Jacob Garon-Landry, are all battling for what looks to be the most difficult Titan blue-line to crack in years.

At forward, just four players from last year’s team remain in camp. Christophe Boivin, Nicholas Blanchard, Gabriel Gosselin and Aaron Kerr are all of what remains of last year’s forward corps. Added to the mix of those acquired through trades are Raphaël Corriveau, Andrew Ryan, Bronson Beaton, Jeffery Truchon-Viel and Mark Simpson. Also coming in through the European Import Draft this year are Slovakia’s Juraj Milý and Russia’s Egor Popov.

The remaining players, and likely the ones battling for a spot in the opening day roster, are those who were either drafted in the QMJHL Draft by the Titan or invited are Jeremy Germain, Jimmy Huntington, Jordan Maher, Yan Plourde and Nathan Medeiros.

With how wide-open some of the competition on the forward line has been over the past week, today saw a number of cuts that could be deemed surprising at the same time as unexpected. For the drafted and invited that remain, how many are expected to be in the opening night roster? How many will be sent back to either their Junior A or Major Midget/Midget AAA teams for seasoning?

It’s clear that those who were either not ready mentally or physically have been weeded out. The 29 players that remain on the roster are the 29 best at this point in time. Whether that changes over the course of the preseason and regular season remains to be seen. Those who follow the Titan with a fine tooth comb in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other know that the team is going to look vastly different from the one that was iced last year – new coaching staff, new philosophy, new mentality.

As we sit with just 24 more days before the puck is dropped on the 2014-15 season for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, it’s clear that while those behind the curtain may appear to be the same, those in front of it are different and that nothing is the same anymore.

29 remain in camp. Only 23 will be named for opening night. Any guess as to who the last six to go will be is beyond me. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.

To those who came and went, best wishes on a successful year with hopes of a call-up at some point. The true test ahead for you is how you deal with what transpired over the past seven days and how you can learn and grow from it. Remember, coaches have their eyes and ears everywhere thanks to the technology of today. How you react on cut day can determine your future much quicker than actions that come.

To those still here, best wishes on the remainder of the preseason. Your test remains that it’s up to you to show why you deserve to be on that opening night line-up sheet.

Final thought: Is it September 12, yet?

The thoughts and musings expressed in this entry are those of the author and he alone.

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