MONTREAL - There's no room for young guns like Max Pacioretty and Ben Maxwell on the Montreal Canadiens roster going into training camp, so if they want a spot on the NHL club, they'll have to make one.
So says coach Guy Carbonneau, a former Chicoutimi junior star who bulled his way onto the Canadiens roster and made Dan Daoust redundant in the early 1980s to launch his 19-year NHL playing career.
"You've got to steal a job from someone," Carbonneau said Monday as the Canadiens' four-day rookie camp opened at the Bell Centre. "That's what I did.
"It's a jungle."
The off-season acquisitions of veterans Robert Lang, Alex Tanguay and Georges Laraque gave Montreal what looks like a complete 23-man roster going into the 2008-09 season.
The 19 skaters and four goaltenders at the rookie camp are mostly there to make themselves familiar with a pro hockey environment and learn the Canadiens system. Only 15 of them will stick around for the main camp, which opens Saturday.
But if they can get a spot on the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL, Montreal's top farm club, there could be a chance to move up if there are injuries during the season.
"Last year, Sergei Kostitsyn had a good camp and didn't make the club, but it didn't take him long to get back up here," said Canadiens scouting director Trevor Timmins.
The player who likely has the best shot at causing a surprise is 19-year-old Pacioretty, a six-foot-two, 200-pound left-winger who left the University of Michigan to sign an entry-level deal with the Canadiens this summer.
The New Canaan, Conn., native was drafted 22nd overall by Montreal in 2007 and is tabbed as a future power forward. He had 15 goals and 24 assists for Michigan last season.
"We like his size and skating," Carbonneau said. "Now he's turning pro and we'll see how he looks with pro players."
Pacioretty is expected to start the season with Hamilton.
"They've got a lot of forwards in their system, so I'm not expecting anything like (making the NHL team) to happen," Pacioretty said. "This is another step in my development.
"This year is about improvement. If I'm in Hamilton this year, it will be just that much more motivation for next year."
Maxwell had a strong camp last year, but suffered a charleyhorse that calcified and kept him out of action for three months after he returned to his junior team, the Kootenay Ice. The six-foot 185 pound centre was drafted 49th overall in 2006 and is considered a strong NHL prospect.
"I feel ready to go here," said Maxwell, who will also likely play in Hamilton. "I feel sharper, stronger, faster."
Other highly regarded rookies in camp include defencemen Pavel Valentenko, Mathieu Carle, Yannick Weber and P.K. Subban, and forwards Brock Trotter and Olivier Fortier.
Subban of the Belleville Bulls, Fortier of the Rimouski Oceanic and six-foot-eight goalie Jason Missiaen of the Peterborough Petes are to be returned to their junior squads after the rookie camp.
Valentenko, a six-foot-two defenceman from Russia who played in Hamilton last season, is back looking for an NHL job after taking a power skating course in the off-season.
"Pavel has some development left, but I really think he'll see some (NHL) games this year," said Timmins. "It's up to him to have a good camp."
Weber brings a big shot from the point. The five-foot-10 defenceman from Switzerland had 20 goals and 35 assists for Kitchener last season.
He may be a future replacement for Mark Streit, another Swiss blue-liner who played the right point on the Montreal power play last season before signing this summer as a free agent with the New York Islanders.
"A lot of people say I'm the same type of player," said Weber, who skates with Streit in the summer. "If they give me that chance, I'll try to make the best of it."
Trotter, 21, left the University of Denver in mid-season last winter to turn pro. The five-foot-10 centre had three goals in 21 games with Hamilton.
The camp also has six players from the Cincinnati team that won the ECHL championship last season, including goalie Cedrick Desjardins, David Desharnais, a five-foot-six centre who had 106 points, and Olivier Latendresse, the older but smaller brother of Canadiens winger Guillaume Latendresse.
Not present was defenceman Ryan McDonough, the Canadiens top pick in 2007 who remains with the University of Wisconsin, or David Fischer, their 2006 first-rounder who is with the University of Minnesota.