2016 NHL Draft: Second Round Targets

A bright spot on the disastrous Flint Firebirds inangural season, Will Bitten's tenacity, speed, and skill won't last long if he makes it to Day Two. | Photo: Jake May, MLive.com

A bright spot on the disastrous Flint Firebirds inangural season, Will Bitten’s tenacity, speed, and skill won’t last long if he makes it to Day Two. | Photo: Jake May, MLive.com

With the 39th and 45th overall picks in the 2016 NHL Draft, the Montreal Canadiens are in a great spot in the second round. The two picks are high enough that they can trade into the late first, or stay and snag two quality prospects.

This article covers 26 prospects who could be potential candidates for the Canadiens in the second round.

For my draft board and potential first round targets: Click Here.

Prospect Profiles

OHL

Nathan Bastian
RW | 6’3″ 207 | Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Regular Season: 64GP 19G 40A 59P | Playoffs: 5GP 0G 4A 4P

Along with Alexander Nylander and Michael McLeod, Bastian formed a highly entertaining trio of draft eligible forwards on Mississauga’s top line. A unique powerforward in the sense that he’s typically disciplined and more of a playmaker than goalscorer. The quality off-the-rush playmaker often played the middle man between McLeod and Nylander. He has a knack for feathering pucks through tight areas. However, Bastian lacks finish, usually missing the opportunities given him.

Bastian is a physical force at times, displaying excellent puck protection ability and smart timing with his hits. However, he’s not a particularly good defensive player and seriously lacks speed.

Will Bitten
C/RW | 5’10” 168 | Flint Firebirds (OHL)
Regular Season: 67GP 30G 35A 65P

In the terrible inaugural season for the Flint Firebirds Will Bitten thrived. When Bitten steps on the ice, he immediately changes the pace of the game. His rapid acceleration and breakneck top speed allow him to be a constant threat for a breakaway. This same skating ability carries him across the ice, constantly forechecking hard and cleanly stripping players on the backcheck. Although not a flashy stickhandler, Bitten’s hands are quick and lethal when in alone.

Don’t be fooled by Bitten’s size, he wins more battles than he loses, and he’s incredibly hard to remove from the puck. He fights through checks with ease and loves to drive the net with passion. Although he’s not as purely skilled as other undersized forwards in the draft class, Bitten may very well turn out to be among the best.

Alex Debrincat
RW | 5’7″ 165 | Erie Otters (OHL)
Regular Season: 60GP 51G 50A 101P | Playoffs: 13GP 8A 11A 19P

Among the OHL’s very best for the second straight season, there’s a legitimate chance that Debrincat would be a top-10 pick if it weren’t for his height. Debrincat earned his elite scorer tag from his excellent finishing around the net and cannon of a shot from just outside the slot. With a superior understanding of how to get open, Debrincat always presents himself as a shooting option. Furthermore, he’s a slippery player who evades checks and will occasional walk right through a defender. He also plays an intense game and embraces his role as a pest.

Debrincat is a fairly average playmaker, and he is quite reliant on his teammates to get him the puck. Teams that didn’t fall into the trap of chasing Dylan Strome, instead going man-to-man with Debrincat, were often able to shut the sniper down. With that said, he’s a gritty, legitimately skilled goalscorer.

Jordan Kyrou
RW/C | 6’0″ 170 | Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Regular Season: 65GP 17G 34A 51P | Playoffs: 7GP 1G 6A 7P

Kyrou turned a slow start this season into a 50-point year. A staple in Sarnia’s top-six, Kyrou also saw extensive powerplay time. The flashy stickhandler has the ability to take over games with his skill level alone. Off the rush, few players are better at playmaking, as he’s able to find seams and lanes than most can’t. He’s also a decent (perhaps underrated) goalscorer, who can score in a variety of manners.

Unfortunately, Kyrou lacks consistency. He will always look great with the puck, but too often he’s killing chances before they happen. Defensively, he’s positionally-solid who won’t completely engage in battles. At his best with other skilled players, perhaps Kyrou is more of a highly-skilled complimentary player.

Adam Mascherin
LW/C | 5’9″ 192 | Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Regular Season: 65GP 35G 46A 81P | Playoffs: 9GP 6G 6A 12P

One of the OHL’s best players this year, Mascherin could be a good value pick in the second round. Although 5’9″, Mascherin is thick and strong. Mascherin is a true sniper, with a heavy shot and an explosive release. To complete the sniper’s package, he also has top-notch positioning, which allowed him to rack up a tad under 4 SOG/GP without looking like a selfish. He’s a sneaky good player who can make high-skill passes from time-to-time. A fast stickhandler, Mascherin is able to create lanes for himself.

Not a quality defensive player, although Mascherin’s offensive upside more than makes up for it. He has to glide less and move his feet more.

Victor Mete
LD | 5’10” 165 | London Knights (OHL)
Regular Season: 68GP 8G 30A 38P | Playoffs: 18G 4G 7A 11P

In the second half, Mete saw his defensive game improve dramatically, and was arguably London’s best defender in the playoffs. Don’t be fooled by his size, he’s a physical, competitive defender who causes troubles for forwards with his active stick. An elite skater, Mete makes controlled zone exits/entries look effortless. He displays no hesitation when activating off the point. A quality playmaker, Mete can find players across the offensive zone. However, he can make some baffling decisions with the puck that kill the play.

Mete will have to pack on the strength and add some power to his shot, but overall I think he’s one of the most underrated players in the draft class.

Markus Niemelainen
LD | 6’6″ 207 | Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Regular Season: 65GP 1G 26A 27P | 4GP 0G 0A 0P

One of the draft’s most interesting cases, Niemelainen received very little ice time until a mid-season coaching change. His shaky skating style will be improved with increased strength, but it’s encouraging that he already owns a quality top-end gear and decent agility. He will flash offensive smarts occasionally, and his ability to start the breakout is quite good. A soft touch allows him to beat forecheckers and activate into the rush. His defensive game improved throughout the year, and he does a great job using the full extent of his reach.

Niemelainen is a true project pick. He desperately needs to improve his foot work and decision-making, but physical tools are all there for an NHL defender.

Givani Smith
LW | 6’2″ 205 | Guelph Storm (OHL)
Regular Season: 65GP 23G 19A 42P

On the last place Guelph Storm, Givani Smith stood out. Scoring 15% of his team’s goals, there were games that Smith single-handedly won. A legitimately skilled scorer, Smith’s best asset is his quick release and overwhelming power behind his shot. Although accuracy is erratic, he manages to score in a variety of ways, including showing a knack for deflecting pucks. Smith combines his goalscoring with “ultra-physicality,” which takes the form of huge hits, powerful net drives, agitation, but also ill-advised penalties.

There are flashes of quality vision, perhaps once the team around him improves so will his distribution. He has an underrated set of hands, but he’s more of a puck pusher rather than dangler. He’s still quite raw, and his decision-making is inconsistent at best, but there’s quality upside.

QMJHL

Vitali Abramov
LW/RW | 5’9″ 174 | Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Regular Season: 63GP 38G 55A 93P | Playoffs: 10GP 7G 6A 13P

One of the QMJHL’s most dynamic players, Abramov burst onto the scene by leading all rookies with 93 points. Abramov’s skill level is among the best in the draft class. Blessed with great acceleration and strong edge work, Abramov is able to waltz across the ice and aggressively cut to the slot. He’s a quality shooter, but an even better playmaker, as he’s able to constantly find his teammates across the ice. He’s not a long range goalscoring threat, rather preferring to hover just outside the slot. If creativity is what you’re looking for, then look no further, Abramov has plenty.

Abramov is constantly moving his feet and scanning the ice for opportunities. He shows the ability to orchestrate the breakout with ease; however, his defensive zone positioning could use work.

Frédéric Allard
RD | 6’1″ 179 | Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
Regular Season: 64GP 14G 45A 59P | Playoffs: 6GP 1G 2A 3P

One of the most productive defenceman in the year’s draft class, Allard is a powerplay specialist through and through. A fairly hard shooter, Allard will flash the ability to beat goalies from the point. He’s also exceptional at sneaking off the blue line and creating a backdoor option. From the point, Allard is a tremendous puck distributor who methodically quarterbacks the powerplay. A decent defensive player, Allard is fairly good at boxing forwards out. However, his lack of acceleration can burn him.

Just three of Allard’s 14 goals and 22 of his 59 points came at even-strength, which is a big concern. It can be partially explained by the lack of scoring depth around him, but as a late-’97 a greater balance of production is expected.

Samuel Girard
LD | 5’9″ 161 | Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Regular Season: 67GP 10G 64A 74P | 21GP 2G 20A 22P

The highest scoring defenceman in the entire CHL this year was Samuel Girard. The highly skilled offensive defender was perfect fit in Shawinigan’s high-flying system. He’s an elite-level playmaker with tremendous vision and a fabulous saucer pass. Through tremendous edge work and soft hands, Girard is able to create passing lanes for himself. As a defensive player, Girard relies on his above-average positioning and active stick. However, he struggles tracking pucks and sometimes gets turned around.

An accurate shooter, but not overwhelming by any means. He’s a sneaky good hitter, but he does get outmuscled along the boards. He clearly has high offensive upside, and on talent alone he’s among the best defenders in the class.

Luke Green
RD | 6’1″ 185 | Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)
Regular Season: 61GP 10G 25A 35P | Playoffs: 13GP 1G 2A 3P

The first overall pick in the 2014 QMJHL Draft saw his production stagnate, but defensive game improve this season. Despite the average production, Green is a highly skilled offensive defender. He’s one of the best skaters in the QMJHL, showcasing high-end speed and acceleration. With such great feet, it’s no surprise that Green loves to lead the rush. If successful with his aggressive positioning, Green will quickly head up the ice and dangle and/or drive his way to the net like a forward. Furthermore, he thrives on the powerplay, even though he didn’t always get first unit time.

Where Green needs to improve is in defensive zone play and consistency. Green plays a risky game that could be improved if engaged more often. His decision-making, especially in regards to positioning and puck watching.

WHL

Tyler Benson
LW | 6’0″ 196 | Vancouver Giants (WHL)
Regular Season: 30GP 9G 19A 28P

If it weren’t for the injury problems, perhaps Benson is in top-15 discussion. Lack of skating fluidity aside, Benson generates a fair bit of power which he uses to deceptively beat defenders. A great, if not high-end playmaker, Benson showcases the talent to dish from both the forehand and backhand. He’s at his best distributing off the boards or behind the net. Benson is a volume shooter, who hovers around the puck constantly looking to create offence.

Benson plays a power-style game, using his strength and smarts to fend off checks and engage physically. He excels at winning battles and makes life miserable for defenders. Although not a crafty stickhandler, at least consistently, he’s able to beat defenders through this power style.

Kale Clague
LD | 6’0″ 183 | Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Regular Season: 71GP 6G 37A 43P | Playoffs: 21GP 6G 8A 14P

With just 11 points through the first 35 games, Clague’s draft season looked like a wasted year. However, when the Wheat Kings’s loaded offence took the next step, so did Clague, and he recorded 32 points in the final 36 games. An elite skating blue liner, Clague owns seamless acceleration and separation speed. Clague’s skating allows him to beat forecheckers with ease and create room for himself. He’s heavily reliant on his excellent vision, as noted by his breakouts and in-zone offence. Clague doesn’t always assert himself across the ice, sometimes playing too passively. Although a quality defender, his weaknesses lie in winning battles and relieving pressure.

Dillon Dube
C/LW/RW | 5’10” 183 | Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Regular Season: 65GP 26G 40A 66P | Playoffs: 18GP 2G 5A 7P

A versatile shoot-first player who has played all three forward positions throughout his two-year WHL career. Dube is a quality rush player, excelling in fast back-and-forth action. The explosive skater possesses a powerful shot that he utilizes at top speed. He’s also a quality playmaker, but can force plays. An aggressive and spirited player for most of the season, Dube’s energy level tailed off in the last portion of the season. Becoming more consistent and adding strength will be key going forward for Dube.

Noah Gregor
C | 5’11” 174 | Moose Jaw Warriors (WHL)
Regular Season: 72GP 28G 45A 73P | Playoffs: 10GP 3G 6A 9P

A well-balanced prospect who played second fiddle to the high-flying duo of Brayden Point and Dryden Hunt. Gregor owns fantastic skating, although not elite feet. He’s an intelligent forward who makes good decisions and positively impacts those around him. Neither his goalscoring nor playmaking are high-end, but he’s quite good at both. On the powerplay, his vision and quick release really stand out. However, he could stand to be more noticeable at even-strength. He’s good, but not great at almost every aspect of the game.

Lucas Johansen
LD | 6’2″ 176 | Kelowna Rockets (WHL)
Regular Season: 69GP 10G 39A 49P | Playoffs: 18GP 2G 6A 8P

Although a late-’97, Johansen is only in his second WHL season. As a primarily offensive defenceman, Johansen possesses a good amount of skill. He’s an excellent pincher, who rarely gets burned. He activates into the offensive zone better than most, which allows him to get his sneakily lethal snapshot on net. Not flashy, but still a highly intelligent and effective playmaker from the point, particularly on the powerplay.

While a good forwards skater, Johansen could really stand to improve his pivots and backwards movement. He’s a decent defensive player, who plays a relaxed game with an active stick, but will need to make better decisions.

Sam Steel
C | 5’11” 176 | Regina Pats (WHL)
Regular Season: 72GP 23G 47A 70P | Playoffs: 12GP 6G 10A 16P

Although Steel failed to significantly improve upon his rookie totals, his draft season was a tremendous success. One of the WHL’s best playmakers, Steel can complete passes of high-difficulty at full speed. He’s a creative playmaker who connects throughout the ice surface. Not a powerful shooter, but he does possess a good amount of accuracy. Although he can get pushed to the perimeter, he’s competitive player who will push back.

Steel might not be a truly dynamic player, but he can exploit the smallest amount of given to him. He’s also a solid defensive player and proactively shuts down lanes.

Jr. A (CAN & US)/USNTDP

Wade Allison
RW | 6’2″ 205 | Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Regular Season: 56GP 25A 22A 47P | Playoffs: 11GP 9G 7A 16P

This year’s Clark Cup MVP, Wade Allison, was one of the draft’s most dramatic risers. The late-’97 birthdate took over half the season to get comfortable, but once he did he emerged as one of the USHL’s top offensive players. With an explosive release, Allison is able to wire pucks past goaltenders in stride. Allison is also a capable net front presence, who loves to cut out wide and drive the net. He’s a quality stickhandler with a small, but nasty set of one-on-one moves that might get a tad predictable.

Allison is a high-energy player who wins battles across the ice, blocks shots, and loves to throw his weight around. However, he does have a tendency to force plays and doesn’t adequately utilize his teammates.

Dennis Cholowski
LD | 6’1″ 176 | Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL)
Regular Season: 50GP 12G 28A 40P | Playoffs: 20GP 4G 11A 15P

Cholowski was highly impressive at the WJAC, and carried that momentum into the second half of the BCHL season. The perfect “modern NHL” defender, Cholowski has the necessary skating, skill, and smarts. Not a burner, but a highly agile player who really shines with his ability to skate backwards and laterally. He’s a quality defensive player with an active stick and impressive gap control. However, behind the net and along the boards he doesn’t track the puck as well.

Offensively, Cholowski possesses a good variety of tools. The accurate shooter is a threat from the point and excels at creeping down low. He is at his best as a distributor. He’s still quite raw, but the tools are there for a successful NHL career.

Adam Fox
RD | 5’10” 185 | USNTDP
USHL: 26GP 5G 17A 22P | USNTDP Total: 64GP 9G 50A 59P

One of the all-time USNTDP greats, Fox’s 0.93 PPG is right on par with some of the very best talents the program has ever seen. Fox is an elite playmaker, thriving in the offensive where he has free reign to wheel and deal. His high-end edge work and first-line winger-esque hands are flashed when he activates off the point every shift. He excels at extending offensive zone time, often playing down low in the zone. Although not a big point shooter, he masks his lack of power with pinpoint accuracy.

Fox is yet another undersized player whose defensive game underrated. Although he’s not overly effective in board battles, his positioning, hand-eye coordination, and smarts are excellent. He has a knack for always getting his stick in the right places. A true high-end talent who could be available in the second round.

Cameron Morrison
LW/C | 6’2″ 207 | Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)
Regular Season: 60GP 34G 32A 66P

One of the draft class’s most unique cases, Morrison was a dominant even-strength producer with 31 of his 34 goals and 59 of his 66 points. However, he did score on a terrifyingly high 29% of his shots. He’s an average skater with awkwardly wide, hunched over stride. He’s a powerful shooter, but what really impresses is his absurd ability around the goal. Rarely is Morrison not in the right position to tap-home rebounds or deflect pucks. He reads rebounds incredibly well, and will never be moved out of the way.

Morrison is a decent playmaker in tight spaces; however, he’s mostly a grinder. A rugged board battler who thrives in the tough areas, Morrison can make life miserable for the opposition. Morrison is headed to Notre Dame next season.

Europe

Henrik Borgström
C | 6’3″ 176 | HIFK U20 (Jr. A. SM-liiga)
Regular Season: 40GP 29G 26A 55P | Playoffs: 4GP 4G 2A 6P

A second-time draft eligible, Borgström remained in the Jr. SM-liiga to preserve his NCAA commitment to Denver. He’s a lanky centreman with large reach and high-end stickhandling ability. Combining his soft hands, flow of creativity, and agility, Borgström walks through traffic with ease. He’s also an effortless skater, but lacks a bit in acceleration. An equally skilled playmaker and goalscorer, Borgström is good at both, but not high-end.

Borgström always leaves me wanting just a bit more. He reaches for too many pucks and his calm style gives the appearance that he isn’t always exerting himself.

Jonathan Dahlén
C/LW | 5’11” 176 | Timrå (Allsvenskan)
Regular Season: 51GP 15G 14A 29P | Playoffs: 5GP 6G 1A 7P

At the age of 18, Dahlén led his men’s professional team in scoring with 29 points. In fact, he had the second-most productive draft-year Allsvenskan season ever, only behind Alexander Wennberg. Known for his goalscoring prowess, Dahlén is a clinical finisher around the goal, but is also threatening from medium-range. A flashy, high-end stickhandler with rapid edge work, Dahlén walks around players with ease and then goes straight to the net. He’s also a quality playmaker who can really distribute even in the most competitive of areas.

I find concerns of Dahlén’s skating to be overblown. He’s not a pretty skater, but he’s extremely agile and has a quality top-end speed. He’s already quite good at winning battles despite his age, and that will only improve in time.

Carl Grundström
LW | 6’0″ 194 | MODO Hockey (SHL)
Regular Season: 49GP 7G 9A 16P | Playoffs: 7GP 1G 3A 4P

An unspectacular, yet efficient winger with quality upside. Grundstrom is a quality defensively player who demonstrates smarts and determination. He drives the net and fights through checks with spirit. He has decent hands, a quality shot, and underrated vision. He likes to drive the net hard, often times too recklessly. A physical player, Grundstrom will occasionally lay a bone crushing hit.

He won’t be a player that will lead a line, but he could become a quality complimentary player. What he lacks in flash, he makes up for with determination. However, his decision-making with the puck is a concern.

Janne Kuokkanen
C/LW | 6’1″ 179 | Kärpät U20 (Jr. A SM-liiga)
Regular Season: 47GP 22G 31A 53P | Playoffs: 3GP 0G 1A 1P

Playoffs aside, Kuokkanen has excelled at every level, from his fantastic U18s to his two-goal debut in the Liiga. Kuokkanen is a quick skater, but processes the game at an even faster rate. This makes him a difficult player to defend. He’s constantly moving across the ice, looking to fire a shot with his quick release or find a teammate with a deft pass. With a strong support game, the puck seemingly follows Kuokkanen around the ice.

Kuokkanen is a high-end skill player, but excels with his smarts and constant movement. He’s a quality defensive player and can cause havoc on the forecheck.

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