2013 NHL Entry Draft Preview

Source Credit: montrealgazette.com

Photo: montrealgazette.com

Coming into this season, most did not expect the Montreal Canadiens to battle it out for a playoff berth, let alone win the Northeast Division title. Despite the quick first round exit, the season was incredibly successful for the Canadiens. P.K. Subban emerged as one of the NHL’s elite defenders and took home the Norris Trophy. Lars Eller evolved as player, engaging physically far more often and managed to put up 30 points, his highest total yet. A pair of rookies, Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk both made the team out of camp and finished second and sixth in Calder voting respectively. The Canadiens have also amassed one of the deeper prospect pools in the NHL, featuring talents like Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu, Sebastian Collberg, Danny Kristo, Charles Hudon, and Darren Dietz. The young talent on the Canadiens’ roster, combined with the strong prospect pool undoubtedly make the Canadiens’ future appear bright; however, the organization is not without it’s warts.

The Habs could certainly stand to add a powerforward to the roster to crash the net. The Habs also desperately need to add a crease clearing defenceman who forces the opposition to keep their heads up. Depth in every position is needed, but especially at goaltending as a top goaltending prospect would be a welcome addition to the organization. Finally, just like any team, the Habs would love to add more speed to the team. In the deepest draft in recent memory the Habs would certainly love to address these needs and luckily, they have four picks in the top two rounds. On top of 25th overall, 34th overall (from CGY), 36th overall (from NAS), and 55th overall selections, the Canadiens also have the 71st overall (from DAL), 86th overall, 116th overall, 176th overall, and 206th overall. While they might not be able to snag Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin, Aleksander Barkov, Elias Lindholm, or Sean Monahan, with so many picks in the draft, Trevor Timmins and his team will certainly be able to address the needs of the Canadiens.

 

Powerforwards

If you were to ask any Canadiens’ fan what the team’s biggest need would be, they would most likely say size. The embarrassing loss to Toronto on home ice on February 9th and the beatdown that the Senator’s laid upon the Canadiens during the playoffs certainly have something to do with it. The team doesn’t need to just add the pugilists though, they also  need to become harder to knock off the puck and punish opponents. Adding a powerforward type player or two, whether that be through the draft, through trade, or through free agency is a must this off-season. Finding a powerforward is easier said than done as they are arguably the hardest prospects to project. Sometimes you draft a goon who turns out to be 30 goal scorer in the NHL, like Milan Lucic, or you draft the next big powerforward prospect who turns out to be a career AHLer, like Hugh Jessiman. Headlining this year’s group of powerforwards is Valeri Nichushkin, a projected top 10 pick, and Curtis Lazar, a gritty centre for the Edmonton Oil Kings. London Knights centre, Bo Horvat, while  he might not be considered a powerforward at this point in time, could project as one at the next level.

Adam Erne is considered a safe prospect. There’s no doubt he had his struggles this year as he was suspended by his team, the Quebec Remparts, for a game (but was never forced to serve it). Erne only scored 6 goals in the 24 games that Buffalo Sabres top prospect Mikhail Grigorenko was with his NHL club. Erne provides lots of grit and a scoring touch that the Canadiens desperately need. There’s a good chance that he might be available with Canadiens’ first selection.

Another player from the QMJHL, 6’5″ center, Frédérik Gauthier also struggled in the second half of the season. As a rookie, Gauthier made his mark by showcasing his high hockey sense and terrific defensive acumen; however, there are many questions raised about his offensive upside and he possesses a virtually non-existent mean streak. He’s certainly a wildcard in the draft, some love his tools, others aren’t as nearly as enamoured with them.

Valentin Zykov buries the past the sprawling goaltender Photo: Yan Doublet, Le Soleil

Valentin Zykov buries the past the sprawling goaltender
Photo: Yan Doublet, Le Soleil

Continuing with the trend of successful rookies in the QMJHL, Russian winger Valentin Zykov of the Baie-Comeau Drakkar is a player who could be available when the Habs select at 25th. Zykov is one of the strongest players in the draft and and is an unstoppable force with the puck. He has a great wrist shot and thrives in traffic, with all these tools he could be a homerun pick.

Guelph Storm forward Jason Dickinson got off to a torrential start, but despite seemingly possessing every tool to be a dominant force, slowed down considerably. Dickinson didn’t fall completely off the map though, as he improved his defensive game to the point where he was voted third best in the West by OHL coaches. He loves to cut to the net and at times can play with an edge.

Son of Warren Rychel, Kerby Rychel, also lacked progression this season. He’s the only draft eligible back-to-back 40 goal seasons, but questions about his compete level, defensive game, and skating still remain. Make no doubt about Rychel’s ability though, he possesses one of the best wristers in the OHL and can take over games with his strength down low. He attended the Habs personal draft combine on June 5th.

Justin Bailey, a rookie for the Kitchener Rangers, struggled mightily with consistency, but there are times when he took over games with his 6’3″ frame and soft hands. He’s a character kid, who really started to round out his overall game as the year progressed. The Canadiens’ and Trevor Timmins seemed to quite keen on him, as they invited him to their annual combine.

On the flipside, a player who doesn’t lack consistency is Zach Nastasiuk. “Zach Nasty,” as he is known by Owen Sound fans, is simply put, a heart and soul player. He blocks shots, plays a sound two-way game, and gives it all every shift. He thrives in the corners and along the boards when he cycle the puck and take the puck straight to the net. He did attend the Habs combine (along with teammate Kurtis Gabriel).

Despite standing at only a meager 5’11”, Ryan Hartman, is every bit as much as powerforward as the others mentioned. He hits everything in sight, but more importantly he hits extremely hard. He has shown slick hands and creativity throughout his rookie season in the with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers, but his offensive upside remains limited. Invited to the Habs combine, but was unable to attend due to injury.

The biggest of this year’s top powerforwards, Michael McCarron, is a 6’5″ 224 lbs winger with good upside. He can be downright terrifying to play against and is a pretty smart player. He really heated up in the second half of the season, scoring 23 points in 27 (compared to 11 in his first 28) with the USNTDP and will more than likely be a first round pick.

Other notables: Nicholas Baptiste (late second-early third), Chance Braid (sixth-seventh), Matt Buckles (third-fourth), Peter Cehlárik (late second-early third), J.T. Compher (second), Liam Coughlin (Link), Jacob de la Rose (second), Remi Elie (third), John Hayden (late second-early third), Tyler Hill (fifth-sixth), Jackson Houck (third-fourth), Nick Moutrey (third), Zach Sanford (second), Adam Tambellini (late second-early third). 

 

Size on defence

The team could also stand to get meaner on the backend. Beyond Alexei Emelin, the team does not have a defenceman who regularly forces forwards to keep their heads up. In terms of prospects, Jarred Tinordi, Darren Dietz, Dalton Thrower, and Josiah Didier could all eventually be those guys, but there are no guarantees for them to pan out. In Bob Mckenzie’s annual rankings there was not a single defenceman below 6’0″ and only three defenceman who were 6’1″ or under in the top 60. Headlining the group of defenceman is Seth Jones followed by Darnell Nurse, Nikita Zadorov, and Rasmus Ristolainen. Barring a trade and/or miracle none of them will be available when the time comes for the Habs to select.

Some scouts would argue than 6’6″ defenceman Samuel Morin is right in the competition for the second best defenceman after Jones. He’s incredibly mobile for his size and, despite what his stats suggest, possesses lots of offensive upside. He’s downright nasty to play against as well and is a fantastic fighter. Like many players who are tools only players come draft day, he’s a wildcard and could be a top 10 pick, but could also be a late first rounder. 

Mirco Mueller skates the puck out of his zone. Photo: www.centerfieldsports.com

Mirco Mueller skates the puck out of his zone.
Photo: www.centerfieldsports.com

A tall, steady defenceman is a highly valued commodity in the NHL and Everett Silvertips defenceman Mirco Mueller, fits the bill. He will never be a “sexy” pick, but he could be one of the most effective. He’s a great skater and plays a rock solid defensive game. Not overly physical, but doesn’t shy away from the rough stuff.

Josh Morrissey also fits the description of a steady defenceman. He stands at only 6′, but can absolutely crush people with hits and plays a very chippy game. A terrific skater, he moves the puck out of his zone with ease and tends to make the smart, safe play more often than not. There’s a good chance the Prince Albert Raiders defenceman will be available come time for the Habs to pick in the first round.

Yet another WHL defenceman, Ryan Pulock, is a bit different from Mueller and Morrissey. He is a slightly sluggish skater and his defensive game is somewhat weak at times; however, both improved substantially over the course of the year. The Wheat Kings’ captain possesses the hardest slapshot in this year’s draft class, which has allowed him to score 14 goals this season, and terrific vision.

Madison Bowey could also be an attractive option for the Canadiens in the first or even second round. He’s got a big frame and is a great skater. His production this year won’t blow you away, but make no doubt his offensive upside. He’s a very toolsy player with loads of upside. He had a terrific U-18 tournament and second half of the season with the Kelowna Rockets.

Rounding out this year’s top WHL defenceman is Dillon Heatherington, who might be the most unheralded. He’s a got a great frame at 6’4″ and loves to use every inch of it. He plays with an edge and is also a terrific skater. While he might not have the most offensive upside, he certainly could be a top four defenceman in the NHL. Could be a terrific second round pick.

Arguably this year’s top defenceman from USA not named Seth Jones is Ian McCoshen. There’s lot of confliction of McCoshen, but one thing everybody agrees on is that he’s a big, smooth skating two-way defenceman. The offensive numbers might not be translatable to the NHL, but there’s a good chance his calmness and steadiness will be.

Other notables: Linus Arnesson (second), Chris Bigras (early second), Alexandre Coulumbe (third) Carl Dahlström (second-third), Jonathan-Ismael Diaby (late second-early third), Kayle Doetzel (fourth), Michael Downing (third), Anthony Florentino (third-fourth), Mason Geertson (third), Robert Hägg (late first-early second), Jared Hauf (fourth-fifth), Spenser Jensen (fourth), Amil Krupic (fifth-sixth), Tyler Lewington (third-fourth), Marc McNulty (fourth-fifth), Gustav Olofsson (third), Steven Santini (second), Tommy Vannelli (second-third), Mitchell Wheaton (third-fourth).

 

Goaltending

Another glaring need for the Canadiens would be in net. It was a disappointing year for netminder Carey Price, but don’t write him off yet. He’s still young and is the potential franchise goaltender. The Habs may already have Price in net, but goaltending depth is never a bad thing. Peter Budaj, while he had a fantastic season, is not capable of challenging Price for the starting job. High-end goaltending prospects are non-existent in the organization. Recently signed Mike Condon seems to have a good upside, but he’s very much an unknown commodity. Dustin Tokarski is an RFA and Robert Mayer, after threatening to head across the pond, decided to stay in North America. It could be a crowded crease in Hamilton, but not necessarily in Montreal in the not-so-distant future and a little competition never hurt anyone.

The top goaltending prospect in this year’s draft is Zachary Fucale of the Mastercard Memorial Cup winning Halifax Mooseheads. Fucale has been on the radar of NHL scouts for a long time now. He’s a composed, relaxed goalie, very similar to Carey Price. He has potential to the one of the best goaltenders in the NHL as his positioning is top notch and his mental composure is unrivaled for a player his age. At this point, he will most likely be the only goalie picked in the first round.

The only goalie this season that challenged Fucale for the ranking of best goaltender of the draft class was Spencer Martin. After getting off to a great start, Martin cooled off and, surprisingly, so did the Mississauga Steelheads. He battled injuries and teams began to pounce on all the juicy rebounds that he kicks out. There are lots of concerns about his mental strength and consistency, but when he’s on, he can take over a game.

Martin might have been the only goalie that gave Fucale a run for his money, but Eric Comrie of the Tri-City Americans was awfully close. Comrie was the starter for Tri-City, but unfortunately his season was cut short by mid-season hip surgery, which could cause his draft stock to plummet. He’s a very athletic goaltender with few holes in his game.

Tristan Jarry comes up with a big save Photo: Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal

Tristan Jarry comes up with a big save
Photo: Greg Southam, Edmonton Journal

All three of the previously mentioned goaltenders had their team’s number one job. Tristan Jarry of the Edmonton Oil Kings was stuck behind Flames’ prospect Laurent Brossoit, but when he got in the crease, he dominated. Jarry posted the WHL’s best GAA and save % while appearing in 27 games. Potentially, Jarry could be had in the third round due to his lack of icetime.

Other Notables:  Patrik Bartosak (fifth), Fredrik Bergvik (fourth), Antoine Bibeau (fifth-sixth), Brendan Burke (sixth), Philippe Desrosiers (late second-early third), Charlie Graham (sixth), Marcus Hogberg (third), Austin Lotz (fifth), Eamon McAdam (third-fourth), Calvin Petersen (fourth), Juuse Saros (third-fourth).

 

Speedy Forwards

Now one thing every team needs is more skill. The Canadiens have a plethora of skill in the organization. The Canadiens roster includes skilled players like Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec, and the list goes on. The prospect pool is also loaded with skill, which includes Sebastian Collberg, Danny Kristo, Charles Hudon, Tim Bozon, and Patrick Holland, but the prospect pool, apart from Collberg and Kristo, lacks top end speed. The Canadiens have (or had) an identity of being a fast team. In this year’s draft there are lots of players who stand out due to their speed, Nathan MacKinnon and Hunter Shinkaruk being the two biggest names.

On the surface, Anthony Mantha of the Val-d’Or Foreurs appears to be one of the most attractive options in the entire draft. He stands at 6’4″ and was the only draft eligible to score 50 goals and one of three CHLers to pot 50. He’s a terrific skater for his size and has a wicked wrist shot. The concerns around Mantha’s game stem around his lack of compete. He doesn’t engage physically and tends to avoid the dirty areas. His defensive game also needs some serious work. If his development goes well, he could be a grand slam pick in the first round.

Once thought to be a potential top ten pick, Swedish winger André Burakowsky, stumbled a bit down the rankings. He could be available when Habs are called up to the podium. He measured in at a hair over 6’2″ at the combine and is absolutely magnificent skater for his size. Burakowsky’s hands can keep up his feet, too, making him a tough task to handle for defenders. However, Burakowsky has shown that he’s a selfish player at times and his production in the Allsvenskan was less than stellar.

Emile Poirier celebrates a goal Photo: Étienne Ranger, Le Droit

Emile Poirier celebrates a goal
Photo: Étienne Ranger, Le Droit

Emile Poirier of the Gatineau Olympiques will never be accused of being selfish. He’s got a great frame and is arguably the fastest straight line skater in the draft. To go along with terrific speed, he’s also is a great puck distributor and loves to go hard to the net. Poirier also was huge for Gatineau down the stretch, including a terrific playoffs. There’s no doubt he’s risen up the rankings, it’s just a matter of if he’s going to be a late first or an early second at this point.

While Poirier was climbing the rankings at the end of the year, William Carrier was slipping down them. The Cape Breton Screaming Eagles forward got off to a terrific start, at one point was producing at almost a two PPG clip. Then he started to fall off, held pointless in eight of his last ten games before going down with injury. Carrier could still be available at pick #55, he would certainly be a great value pick at that point.

Morgan Klimchuk might not be as fast as the four players mentioned above, but he’s every bit as talented as them. He’s a very deceptively quick player, with exceptional shiftiness. He’s also a great wrist shot, that he uses every opportunity he gets. Klimchuk, however, is a bit of an enigma, as sometimes he’s quite involved away from the puck and others he’s not at all. Despite his lack of consistency, he has the tools to reliable goal scorer in the NHL, look for him to go in the early second.

Finnish forward, Artturi Lehkonen, possesses similar tools to Klimchuk, but what makes him different is, that despite his stature, he goes flying into the corners with all guns blazing. He’s an awkward skater, but has very good top end speed. Lehkonen sees the ice extremely well and possesses top notch hockey sense. What holds him back from being a sure-fire first round pick is concussions – he suffered two of them this season.

Other notables: Evan Allen (fourth), Oliver Bjorkstrand (late second-early third),  Andrew Copp (fifth), Marko Dano (second), Anthony Duclair (third), Brendan Harms (third-fourth), Yan-Pavel Laplante (third), Jimmy Lodge (late second), Nic Petan (second), Martin Reway (fifth-sixth), Filip Sandberg (fourth-fifth), Sergei Tolchinsky (fifth), Cole Ully (fourth-fifth)

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