The Montreal Canadiens are coming to a crossroads with their roster. The team is clearly in ‘win now’ mode. They just traded their top prospect, defensemen Mikhail Sergachev. The Habs have a very shallow prospect pool moving forward. Unfortunately this draft is considered one of the weaker drafts in recent memory. General manager Marc Bergevin has his work cut out for him.
I am going to take a look at the Habs picks in the first three rounds. The Canadiens have five picks to work with. Lets see which prospects might be on the Habs radar going into the 2017 NHL draft.
Montreal Canadiens Draft Preview
Canadiens vice-president of player personel Trevor Timmins has a very simple draft philosophy – draft the best player available, regardless of position. The team has had some decent success with this philosophy but it has failed to address the Canadiens biggest hole on their team. As a result, the The Habs (still) have a severe issue at the center position. Its been the same issue for almost 20 years now.
This year, Timmins might also want to shift off that philosophy because of recent trades made by the team. The team may want to look at defence with general manager Marc Bergevin trading away P.K. Subban, Mikhail Sergachev and Nathan Beaulieu in the last year.
Finally, the Canadiens suffer from an overall lack of high end scoring ability in their organization. While center and defence are their biggest needs by far, the Habs may consider adding a winger with high end production.
As a result of all these needs, it will be interesting to see which way the team goes.
Round 1 (Pick 25)
While we all know how difficult it is to draft and develop talent when drafting in the 20’s, the Habs find themselves picking 25th.
The Habs have a definite need at center. Still the team could also stand to add some scoring ability into their system regardless of position. Consequently there are several wingers with scoring ability the Habs could consider.
LW Maxime Comtois Victoriville Tigers QMJHL
Strengths: Good size (6’2″ 200 pounds), hard worker, 200 foot player, not afraid to use size, goes into corners, soft hands, good shot
Weakness: Decent skater – needs to improve first step quickness, saw production drop in second season, could stand to add some muscle
RW Nikita Popugayev Moose Jaw Warriors WHL
Strengths: Size (6’5″ 205 pounds), good puck skills and offensive awareness, uses reach well, great shot, good hands
Weakness: Needs to work on defensive game, does not initiate contact, needs to work on short area skating
C Robert Thomas London Knights OHL
Strengths: Hockey IQ, makes the right plays with and without the puck, good vision, great passer, hard on the forecheck, strong two-way center
Weakness: Does not possess high end offensive ability, needs to improve his skating, does not have high end speed, needs to add some muscle to his frame (6’0″ 184 pounds)
Other forwards to look out for
- C Shane Bowers Waterloo (USHL)
- C Ryan Poehling St. Cloud State (NCAA)
- LW Isaac Ratcliffe Guelph (OHL)
The Habs are defiantly in need of a puck moving defenceman. Here are a few defensive prospects that the Habs should consider:
D Pierre-Olivier Joseph Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
Strengths: Good skater, good vision, great passer, good patience, active stick, hard to beat one-on-one, quick in transition.
Weakness: Very raw, needs to add muscle mass (6’0″ 160 pounds) to improve his defensive game, needs to improve shot power
D Erik Brannstrom SV71 (SHL)
Strengths: Great skater, excellent playmaker, excellent vision, handles the puck well, strong offensive skill, excellent puck retrieval skill, great in transition
Weakness: Small (5’10” 197 pounds), can be over powered by bigger forwards down low, can improve defensive positioning, needs to add strength, can improve shot power
D Conor Timmins Sault Saint Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Strengths: Good skater, strong stick handler, good vision, high hockey IQ, physical, looks for big hits, good gap control, good in transition, great name
Weakness: Needs to refine positioning on defence, needs to get stronger to play as physical in the NHL, needs to spell his name properly
Other defencemen to consider
This is probably the hardest pick, for me. The need at center is obvious, but a Quebec born goal scorer Maxime Comtois is also very tempting. Even still, the need for a puck moving defenceman is also very great. It’s a pretty difficult decision but the pick is:
Robert Thomas, Center London Knights
Round 2 (Pick 56, Pick 58)
The Habs have two picks in the second round, with pick 58 acquired from the Washington Capitals in the Lars Eller trade.
C Aleksi Heponiemi Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
Strengths: Excellent skater, great speed, soft hands, excellent playmaker, hard worker, back checks.
Weakness: Size (5’10” 143 pounds), can be over powered in puck battles, needs to bulk up for NHL, can shy away from heavy traffic areas, Boom or bust prospect
LW Jason Robertson Kingston Frontenacs (OHL)
Strengths: Pure goal scorer, great vision, good passer and play maker, good speed, uses body well (6’2″ 196 pounds).
Weakness, Sluggish first step, could stand to be more physical, does not use body well without the puck, defensive game is a work in progress.
Other Forwards to consider:
Josh Brook, Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Strengths: Very good skater, good positioning and gap control, solid puck handler, excellent passer, great vision, aggressive.
Weakness: Needs to bulk up, can be over aggressive in looking for a big hi.
Other defensemen to consider:
With the Habs going center in round one, the need on defence cannot be ignored. Having two picks helps the Habs here as they can address a few needs at the same time. While the Habs might look to add some high end offence to the team, it might be a bit ambitious to expect Jason Robertson to last to pick 56. Regardless, the team can use its two second round picks to address their biggest areas of need.
The picks are:
Josh Brook D Moose Jaw
Stelio Mattheos C Brandon
Round 3 (Picks 68 and 87)
The Canadiens hold the 87th pick in the third round. Once you get out of the first two rounds, drafting becomes even more of a question. Only 30% of players drafted in the third round will develop into low end (or better) NHL talent. Still, there is always value to be found in the draft.
Players to consider
- LW Lukas Elvenes IK Okarshamn (Allsvenskan)
- C Zach Gallant Peterborogh (OHL)
- C Nate Schnarr Guelph (OHL)
- D Filip Westerlund Frölunda HC (SHL)
- D Jarret Tyszka Seattle (WHL)
- D Max Gildon (USA U-18/University of New Hampshire)
- G Stuart Skinner Lethbridge (WHL)
D Max Gildon USA U-18/University of New Hampshire
I has a difficult time making this pick here. Personally I think Filip Westerlund would make a great pick also, but the size and skill combination Max Gildon has would be difficult to pass on. Gildon is a project for sure, but if he develops properly he could be a top two defensemen for the Habs.
Lukas Elvenes is also in intriguing player here. His offensive ability is second to none, but he is a real of a boom or bust prospect.
Round 1: Robert Thomas, Center London Knights
Round 2: Josh Brook, Defence, Moose Jaw Warriors
Round 2 (From Was): Stelio Mattheos, Center Brandon Wheat Kings
Round 3 (From Buffalo): Lukas Elvenes Left Wing IK Okarshamn
Round 3: Max Gildon, Defence USA U-18/University of New Hampshire