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Development coach Bouillon bullish on Canadiens' blue-line prospects


Francis Bouillon says patience is part of his job as a development coach with the Canadiens.

“There’s a process when these guys go from junior or college,” said the former Canadiens defenceman who works alongside Rob Ramage in monitoring the development of the team’s draft choices. “You have to give him time, see him play and even when we like someone, you have to make sure he’s ready.”

Bouillon said the addition of Alexander Romanov and NHL veteran Joel Edmundson during the off-season makes his job easier because there’s no urgency to rush the progress of players like defenceman Cale Fleury. The 22-year-old started last season in Montreal, but was sent back to Laval after he collected one goal and a minus-4 rating in 41 games. He’ll be fighting for a job in training camp, but Bouillon said it won’t be the end of the world if he doesn’t stick.

“I remember when I looked at him in junior and was pretty far from the NHL,” said Bouillon. “He wants to learn. He started his pro career in the AHL and he worked pretty hard there and got better defensively. He picked up some confidence.”

But Bouillon noted that confidence can come and go.

“(Cale) is kind of a shy guy, but he wants to learn and I saw that when I talked to him in junior,” said Bouillon. “When he got to Montreal, he played pretty well for the first half of the season, but he lost a lot of that confidence and he made mistakes. He was keeping the puck too long before making his play. It was a good thing they sent him to Laval. I like his size, he plays a physical game and he’s good defensively. I’m pretty sure he’s going to be a regular defenceman in the NHL one day.”

Bouillon has similar hopes for Josh Brook , a defenceman who collected 75 points in 59 games in his final junior season with Moose Jaw. Brook was given a chance to make the Canadiens last fall, but he had a disappointing camp and was sent to Laval, where he had a modest four goals and nine assists in 60 games.

“When I saw him in junior, he was really offensive-minded,” said Bouillon. “He took a step forward in the AHL, where he learned he had to be better defensively. He worked hard with (Laval Rocket head coach Joël Bouchard).”

Bouillon is also impressed with defencemen Jayden Struble and Jordan Harris who are teammates at Boston’s Northeastern University.

“I didn’t know him, but the first time I saw him play, the way he was moving for his size, I was pretty impressed,” Bouillon said of the 6-foot, 205-pound Struble. “He brings a little of everything to his game. He’s physical, but I didn’t know he was mobile.

“The other thing I like about him was his confidence. Even though it was his first year when I talked to him, I knew he was very mature for his age. He has four years to develop in college and I think he has a bright future. J ordan’s progression is also going very well. He’s the top defenceman on his team. He’s mature. He’s good defensively with a good stick, good reach.”

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