2015 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #25-21

Welcome back to my second annual top 30 Habs prospects. This profiles prospects ranked #25 to #21, including two slightly undersized CHLers and three current/former NCAAers.

Series Navigation:
2015 Top 30 Habs Prospects: Ranking Methodology and Honourable Mentions
2015 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #30-26
2015 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #25-21
2015 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #20-16
2015 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #15-11
2015 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #10-6
2015 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #5-1
2015 Top 30 Habs Prospects: Prospect Awards & Final Thoughts

 

25) Matt Bradley
Last Year: N/R
Draft: 2015, 131st overall (5th round)
C/LW | 5’11” 187 | Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
Regular: 71GP 17G 23A 40P | Post: 10GP 0G 2A 2P

Despite being a second round selection in the 2012 Bantam Draft, it took until this year for Bradley to make his WHL regular season debut. | Photo: Medicine Hat Tigers

Despite being a second round selection in the 2012 Bantam Draft, it took until this year for Bradley to make his WHL regular season debut. | Photo: Medicine Hat Tigers

Bradley was called up to the Medicine Hat Tigers during their playoff run in 2013-2014, where he made his mark playing a fourth line role. He made his regular season debut this past season, demonstrating excellent versatility. The Surrey, BC native played a variety of roles, ranging from third line centre to a top-six winger. Although his 40 points don’t look impressive on paper, he performed quite well and has the talented to explode offensively next season.

Bradley’s best asset is most definitely his hockey sense. He’s a cerebral player who makes quick plays with the puck. He rarely makes mistakes, especially in his own zone. Although a WHL rookie, he’s already well-rounded and gone head-to-head with some of the league’s best. On the forecheck, Bradley disrupts plays and keeps his feet moving.

As mentioned, Bradley prefers quick touches with the puck, maximizing his skill set. He isn’t much of dangler and his one-on-one moves are merely average. Combining quick, short passes and heads up vision, Bradley efficiently distributes the puck. He has also shown the ability to connect with passes of high difficulty, especially off the rush. He possesses an above-average shot, which he uses most effectively in the slot and below the hashmarks.

Bradley plays a high tempo game, which is complimented with his quick feet. He’s smooth skater, with deceptively fast top-end speed and excellent edge work. Despite being merely average sized, he battles in the corners and plays fearlessly. However, it’s clear that he’s lacking in the strength department as he often struggles to win battles. Additionally, he doesn’t protect the puck well enough with his body.

Bradley has upside, most likely as a third-line centre at the NHL level. However, he still has a ways to go. Ideally, he needs to bulk and flesh out his offensive toolkit while maintaining his defensive awareness.

Ranking Explanation: If I were a gambling man, I’d put money on Bradley finishing his junior career as one of the WHL’s top scorers. He fits the typical description of a player who scores big in junior (above-average skill, slippery, intelligent for the CHL level), but can’t hack it at the professional level where the pace of the game is much faster. He has NHL upside, albeit in the lower part of the lineup. While he has more upside than Connor Crisp and Jeremiah Addison, he lacks a standout trait that most of the players above him feature.

 

24) Jake Evans
Last Year: #29
Draft: 2014, 207th overall (7th round)
RW/C | 6’ 187 | University of Notre Dame (NCAA)
Regular: 41GP 7G 10A 17P

Evans was a prolific scorer in the OJHL, posting 111 points in a 104 games in his 16 and 17-year-old seasons. | Photo: Notre Dame Athletics

Evans was a prolific scorer in the OJHL, posting 111 points in a 104 games in his 16 and 17-year-old seasons. | Photo: Notre Dame Athletics

Evans followed up a tremendous sophomore year in the OJHL with a respectable rookie campaign in the NCAA. For much of the season, Evans sat top-five in team scoring but struggled to produce down the stretch. Despite his lack of consistency, Evans is clearly on track for a solid NCAA career.

Evans is playmaking winger with a high level of hockey sense. He has the ability to consistently connect passes of high difficultly both off the rush and the cycle. At the NCAA level, he clearly prefers to quickly move the puck rather than lug it himself. He’s a decent long-range shooter, but he’s at his best below the hashmarks.

Unlike many players of his skill level, Evans is a capable three-zone player. He backchecks quite well and makes smart reads. He’s prone to moments of laziness and early zone exits, but there has been notable improvement in that regard.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of Evans’s game is that he lacks consistency. Too often he appears to be the passenger on the line, playing a quiet and insignificant game. Sometimes he’ll bring the puck to the net hard and others he won’t even get near the crease.

Ranking Explanation: Evans’s playmaking ability, scoring history, and respectable freshman year cause him to be the list’s first big riser. While he lacks true high-end NHL skill, his playmaking ability is excellent and the best featured on the list up to this point. That excellent tool places him above Matt Bradley, as well as Connor Crisp and Jeremiah Addison. Inconsistency is the major red flag at this point.

 

23) Mac Bennett
Last Year: #16
Draft: 2009, 79th overall (3rd round)
LD | 6’ 194 | Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)
Regular: 59GP 4G 8A 12P

Bennett is entering his seventh year in the Canadiens organization as he was drafted in 2009. | Photo: Vincent Ethier

Bennett is entering his seventh year in the Canadiens organization as he was drafted in 2009. | Photo: Vincent Ethier

It wasn’t a year to write home about for Bennett that’s for sure. He’s a gifted two-way defender, but his rookie season in the AHL certainly cast doubt on his offensive upside.

Bennett is a talented offensive defender, but for some reason he just hasn’t tallied the points he appears capable of—ever. Bennett is an elite skater, with an incredibly smooth stride. He gets around the ice rapidly and gracefully. Although he’s not much of a threat to score from the point, he can bury goals down low with a quick release and excellent offensive awareness. However, his vision is his best offensive tool. His outlet pass is among the best in the organization, and he displays craftiness and high-end vision on the powerplay.

While not a standout defensively, Bennett’s two-way game is quite good. His skating enables him to make up for his mistakes. His gap control is superb, as is his poke check. Although he won’t lay the body, he protects the puck fairly well and wins battles. A composure nature makes turnovers off his stick rare. However, he has a tendency to get cleanly beat off the wall as he simply doesn’t assert himself enough.

Expectations were high last season, and they will be again this upcoming season. He’s an older player with an excellent skill set. If he doesn’t make an impact this year, there’s very good chance he won’t remain in the organization.

Ranking Explanation: Bennett’s fall isn’t because of any regression (I’d argue it was a stagnant season), but rather because of the numbers game. His intelligence and skating are both the best out of any of the defenders listed so far. While he’s not a purely skilled as Dalton Thrower, he is much more intelligent, consistent, and better defensively. However, his inability to score while primarily being an offence-first player holds him back.

 

22) Mark MacMillan
Last Year: #21
Draft: 2010. 113th overall (4th round)
C/LW | 6′ 172 | University of North Dakota (NCAA)
Regular Season: 29GP 16G 9A 25P

The trademark MacMillan move: Power down the wing and drive the net with his tremendous skating ability. | Photo: Eric Classen, UNDsports.com

The trademark MacMillan move: Power down the wing and drive the net with his tremendous skating ability. | Photo: Eric Classen, UNDsports.com

It took until the final year, but MacMillan finally cemented himself atop of the UND depth chart. MacMillan’s tremendous year was cut short due to season-ending surgery, but he still won NCHC Best Defensive Forward and was named to the NCHC First All-Star Team. However, MacMillan was backed by an unsustainable 26.2 SH%.

MacMillan has mostly been the same player since joining UND back in 2011. Since his freshman year, he has been top penalty killer and defensive forward. He dramatically improved his faceoffs, winning at a 57.2% rate this year. The speedy forward plays a hard-nosed game, finishing his checks and aggressively puck hounding.

Thanks to a tremendous first step, MacMillan is able to blow past defenders. He loves to cut wide, wait for the defender to commit, and then explosively drive the net. He’s a dangerous player off the rush due to his playmaking ability. Although he’s not a long-range shooter, he’s a quality finisher around the cage. While he certainly has an above-average set of hands, rarely will he dangle around a defender.

Considering his intense style, MacMillan’s needs to get stronger. That has been a concern since draft day in 2010. MacMillan will not lead an offence, he’s a better suited to be a complementary player, but in that role he’s quite good.

Ranking Explanation: Although MacMillan’s sudden goalscoring ability doesn’t appear sustainable, he still brings plenty. His elite skating, excellent two-way game, and relentless work ethic make him a strong candidate to fill a fourth line role. While he lacks an offensive tool equivalent to Jake Evans’s playmaking, his is not all that far behind, and MacMillan is a better goalscorer, skating, and two-way player with more experience.

 

21) Daniel Audette
Last Year: #19
Draft: 2014, 147th overall (5th round)
C | 5’9” 187 | Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)
Regular: 60GP 29G 44A 73P | Post: 6GP 2G 4A 6P

For the second straight season Daniel Audette led the Sherbrooke Phoenix in scoring. | Photo: lhjmq.qc.ca

For the second straight season Daniel Audette led the Sherbrooke Phoenix in scoring. | Photo: lhjmq.qc.ca

Audette followed up a breakout campaign with one marred by inconsistency and regression. He posted 28 points in his first 16 games, but was just under a point-per-game for the remainder of the season. Well his goalscoring improved (and production at even-strength), his overall play did the opposite.

The speedy Audette has the ability to blow past defenders and create space for himself with an explosive first few steps. While his edge work doesn’t shine, he’s deceptively fast. He uses this speed to excel off the rush, particularly as a playmaker. His passing mechanics are exceptional and his head is always up. However, he has a tendency to over handle the puck.

It’s in sustained pressure scenarios where Audette scores most of his goals. Off the rush, he typically looks to get close to the net, rarely firing a long-range shot. However, with pressure applied, Audette sneaks away from defenders, enabling him to use his accurate shot with a quick release. While he possesses an excellent set of hands, he has a habit of trying to dangle through too many players.

Defensively, Audette regressed this year. He moved his feet on the ice less than last year, which resulted in one of the speediest players on the ice often trailing the play. He exits the zone far too early, which is a nasty habit for a centre. When he applies himself, he’s a fairly capable player, but he didn’t apply himself enough this year. Furthermore, Audette takes too many selfish penalties.

While Audette is a highly skilled player, he’s lacking in the mental department of the game. His playmaking ability is among the best in organization, and he is lethal on the powerplay, but he must improve his two-way game and consistency. In Audette’s final junior season he is expected to emerge as one of the league’s top offensive threats.

Ranking Explanation: Offensive skill alone, Audette is a top-10 prospect in the organization. However, like Bradley, he fits the description of the typical player who scores big in junior (without really “dominating,” which is very much Audette’s game right now), but can’t quite hack it in professional. Although he’s a speedy skater, with excellent vision and great hands, he doesn’t effectively utilize his tools. He’s by far the most skilled player on the list up to this point, putting him ahead of Jake Evans and MacMillan, but his red flags prevent him from climbing further up the list.

Check back soon for prospects ranked #25-21! 

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2 Responses to 2015 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #25-21

  1. Hi Mitch

    Great article as always. Do you have MacMillan’s height and weight? Looking to your further prospects rankings.

    Jay July 23, 2015 at 7:25 pm Reply
    • MacMillan was most recently listed at 6’0″ and 182lbs

      Michael Gomez July 31, 2015 at 11:19 pm Reply

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