2016 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #20-#16

Welcome to the fourth installment of 2016 ranking of the Montreal Canadiens top 30 prospects. This segment begins a new tier of prospects. This grouping consists of more recognizable names, higher upside players, and those more likely to make the NHL.

The first goalie on the rankings begins this group of five, followed by one of the organization’s most confusing prospects. An NCAA free agent signing and a first year pro battle it out for rankings number #18 & #17. The list wraps up with a player I ranked in the top-10 last year.

Series Navigation:
2016 Top 30 Habs Prospects: Ranking Methodology
2016 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #30-#26
2016 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #25-#21
2016 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #20-#16
2016 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #15-#11
2016 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #10-#6
2016 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #5-#1
2016 Top 30 Habs Prospects: Prospect Awards and Parting Thoughts

CHL/AHL statistics courtesy of Prospect-stats.com. NCAA statistics courtesy of College Hockey Inc.


#20) Michael McNiven
Last Ranking: N/R
Draft: 2015 undrafted, free agent signing
Position: G | Catches: L
Birthdate: 1997-07-09 | Place of Birth: Georgetown, ON
Team: Owen Sound Attack | League: OHL
Height: 6’1” | Weight: 216

| Photo: Bob Tymczyszyn, QMI Agency

Michael McNiven has been a thorn in the side of the London Knights for these past two seasons. In this year’s playoffs, he proved why as he carried Owen Sound to six games with the Knights. | Photo: Bob Tymczyszyn, QMI Agency

The show-stopping Michael McNiven went from undrafted in 2015 to getting an NHL-contract before the majority of draft picks. McNiven was gifted the starter’s role after Owen Sound traded Jack Flinn, and he never looked back. In the playoffs, McNiven found another level, carrying Owen Sound the distances with the London Knights.

A 0.902 SV% isn’t special, but he was recognized as one of six finalists for OHL Goaltender of the Year (and the second-youngest nominee). The Attack play in a division with the London Knights, Kitchener Rangers, and Erie Otters. Their rigid system stymied outside shots, but they were highly prone to giving up high-danger areas.

Overview: A raw, yet unique and thrilling goaltender…Projects nicely with 60 lateral movement, 55+ glove hand…Reads, angles, and positioning have seen improvement, but all need significant refining.

With minor tweaking, McNiven took his biggest weakness, glove side, and turned into arguably his best asset. Not only is he incredibly quick with his glove, he’s confident, too. His unique catching style only makes his game flashier.

From post-to-post, McNiven is arguably the quickest in the OHL. He explodes across his crease, sometimes too quickly. Thanks to his reactions and quickness, he leaves the five-hole open for longer than most goalies, protecting the top of net better. However, once he drops into the butterfly, he has a tendency to flail around the net instead of playing his angles.

McNiven is a sneakily good puck handler. His hand-eye coordination allows him to whack pucks out the air from dump-ins, but even better is how he can use his stick in desperate times.

At the very least McNiven is always enjoyable to watch. His game isn’t as economical or efficient as will be required in the NHL. He gives up too many second and third chances. With that said, there’s clearly lots to work with here.

Ranking Explanation: There’s always concern with projecting goaltenders. Perhaps on talent-alone, McNiven would be higher. I find goaltenders difficult to project as there’s so much variance in their development, which leads me taking a cautiously optimistic ranking with them. McNiven’s talent puts him in a tier above Johnston and Bourque, but ultimately his position and inconsistency keep him at #20, for now.


#19) Daniel Audette
Last Ranking: 21st
Draft: 2014, 147th, 5th round
Position: C | Shoots: L
Birthdate: 1996-05-06 | Place of Birth: Buffalo, NY
Team: Sherbrooke Phoenix | League: QMJHL
Height: 5’8” | Weight: 176

Photo Credit: Vincent Lévesque-Rousseau, Sherbrooke Phoenix

For the second straight season, Audette failed to lead Sherbrooke is points or PPG, but make no mistake, he is still a high-skill prospect. | Photo: Vincent Lévesque-Rousseau, Sherbrooke Phoenix

The first overall pick in the 2012 QMJHL Entry Draft will finish his junior career a tad underwhelming. For the past two seasons, every time Audette appeared to improve, he regressed. With that said, he was still among Sherbrooke’s best players and had an excellent four-game stint with the IceCaps.

Audette was a positive GF%-Rel player, but fell considerably short of +9.0% and +8.9% that his teammates Kay Schweri and Guillaume Gauthier posted. His production has stagnated, with his percentage of points on his team’s goals has stuck at 40% and PPG a tad under 1.2 for the past three seasons. Impressive numbers, but the lack of progression is a tad concerning.

Daniel Audette pic

Overview: The tool-aspect of skating, stickhandling, and playmaking all project around 55+…Shooting falls around 45+…But execution (as in ability to utilize this skill) not only falls short, but is wildly inconsistent.

A playmaker first and foremost, Audette has the ability to connect with high-skill passes with ease. Using slippery edge work and hands, Audette creates passes lanes, particularly on the powerplay. He has a good saucer pass which he loves to throw into high-danger areas. However, he can hang onto the puck for too long waiting for the perfect lane, which limits his options.

Last season, Audette appeared to becoming a more diversified scorer, adding in a decent medium-range shot. However, this season his SOG/GP only improved slightly (3.26 -> 3.56). Furthermore, he takes too many low-percentage shots, often at the expense of his playmaking ability.

Audette’s without the puck play varies wildly. He can be physical, aggressive, and smart one game, undisciplined the next, and conclude without being engaged at all. He’s a high-pressure defensive player, which makes him deadly on the penalty kill (along with his skill), but hit-or-miss at even-strength. One area that’s improved consistently has been his strength and awareness in puck battles.

Audette will more than likely play for the St. John’s IceCaps next season. His high skill level is limited by inconsistency, inability to execute, and baffling decision-making. With a new challenge and higher stakes, perhaps Audette can finally get on and stay on the right track.

Ranking Explanation: I value skill and upside more than other elements on this list; however, Audette’s three year’s of stagnation along his lack of execution, make me question his ultimate upside. Yes, he’s one of the most skilled players (in terms of stickhandling, skating, and playmaking), but he doesn’t always make skillful plays. His skill, at this point, does not make up for the actual results. Audette’s superior skill level of Bourque and Johnston lands him higher than them, while his position (forward) places him above McNiven.


#18) Tom Parisi
Last Ranking: N/R
Draft: 2011 undrafted, free agent signing
Position: D | Shoots: L
Birthdate: 1993-07-15 | Place of Birth: Commack, NY
Team: Providence College | League: NCAA (Hockey East)
Height: 6’0” | Weight: 194

Photo: Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

Although not much of a point producer, Parisi has been an integral part of Providence College’s ascension to a top-flight NCAA program. | Photo: Richard T Gagnon, Getty Images

Tom Parisi’s numbers are from outstanding. In fact, they’re pretty average, despite being a minute-eater on Providence College these past two seasons. The numbers don’t jump out, but he’s a prototypical “modern NHL defender.”

Overview: A near-mistake-free defender with 55+ skating…Absurdly proficient at winning battles…At best in transition, where his controlled zone exit ability shines…In-zone offensive play is severely lacking.

A powerful, explosive skater with a variety of speeds to get up and down the ice in a hurry. Parisi’s four-way mobility (fast pivots, explosive backwards skating) allows him to take aggressive gap control without getting burned. He’s a bit of a puck watcher at times, but does a great job shutting down passing lanes.

A strong player who makes this attribute known with a knack for an easily dispossessing forwards and protecting the slot with ease. He’s also very strong on the puck, which is a nice tool considering his slightly below-average hands.

Once in possession, Parisi can utilize his crisp breakout pass or solid puck-rushing ability. He makes controlled zone exit and entrances look easy. In the offensive zone, Parisi is not much of a scoring threat. With only a mediocre shot, limited creativity, and a level of indecisiveness not found elsewhere in his game, his production is constrained. However, he does have a knack for holding the blue line.

There’s value in having Tom Parisi types. Perhaps he’s more of a solid #6 or depth defender, but he could have a positive impact on possession. While his skating, strength, and poise, Parisi could be a top-four defender on the IceCaps next season and challenge for an NHL roster spot in 2017-2018.

Ranking Explanation: My first instinct was to have Parisi higher, but I couldn’t quite justify it. Mete is a better skater, while Lernout’s shot makes his potential point production higher. My biggest concern is definitely his in-zone offensive game, because all other elements are NHL-worthy. As ’93, Parisi most likely doesn’t have much time to develop, but as he progresses with the IceCaps this season his upside and readiness will become clearer.


#17) Brett Lernout
Last Ranking: 19th
Draft: 2014, 73rd, 3rd round
Position: D | Shoots: R
Birthdate: 1995-09-24 | Place of Birth: Winnipeg, MB
Team: St. John’s IceCaps | League: AHL
Height: 6’4” | Weight: 205

| Photo: Colin Peddle, St. John's IceCaps

While he remains a long-term project, a strong second half cemented Brett Lernout’s value to the Canadiens organization. | Photo: Colin Peddle, St. John’s IceCaps

Likely the IceCaps most improved defenceman from start to finish, Lernout really shined at times this season. His point totals are below-average, but his raw tools are among the best in the pool, perhaps right up there with Noah Juulsen.

Overview: A high-octane defender with 55 lateral movement and flashes of separation speed…Acceleration and the occasional misstep probably pin his skating projection at 50+ for now…A booming, albeit improperly used shot…Rangy with mean streak.

Some of Lernout’s physical tools are good, and have the potential to be very good (55+). By any standard, Lernout’s lateral movement is highly impressive. He aggressive cuts across the ice to close the gap and antagonize the carrier. Flashes of separation speed are otherwise interrupted with stiff acceleration.

In the defensive zone, Lernout ranges from great-to-second-rate. The aforementioned gap control will sometimes be followed up with indecisiveness with his stick, or a terrible decision with the puck under pressure. He typically runs into trouble when moving the puck along the boards. These decisions have been his Achilles heel for as long as I’ve watched him, but because his head is always up, I believe there’s a chance he could become more proactive.

What Lernout did so well in 14-goal WHL season was getting pucks on net. His heavy snap/slap combo with quick releases make him a legitimate point threat; however, this season he fired too many pucks that didn’t reach goal. He’s not a distributor by any means, but he has shown some flashes of effective passing.

Sometimes, Lernout will pick up the puck, dangle through a forechecker and then go coast-to-coast. But that’s the problem with Lernout—it’s always just “sometimes.” The physical tools are all there, now comes the tweaking.

Ranking Explanation: NHL-quality tools are in place, but the mental aspect is not. Lernout’s combination of size, skating, and shot is rare, but he must undergo a significant development curve before he can be an NHL player. As the season wore on, it became clear that Lernout has made improvement. His tools give him the edge over Bourque and Johnston. I feel more comfortable projecting Lernout than Parisi and McNiven, which led to me giving him the slight edge.


#16) Jérémy Grégoire
Last Ranking: 10th
Draft: 2013, 176th, 6th round
Position: RW | Shoots: R
Birthdate: 1995-09-05 | Place of Birth: Sherbrooke, QC
Team: St. John’s IceCaps | League: QMJHL
Height: 6’0” | Weight: 194

Photo: Colin Peddle, St. Johns

While it’s Grégoire’s leadship and tenacity that garner plenty of attention, he has upside as a goalscorer. | Photo: Colin Peddle, St. John’s IceCaps

11 points in 62 games largely looks like a disappointment, but there were a variety of encouraging signs in Grégoire’s first AHL season. His skating took another step forward, which made him one of the team’s top penalty killers. He was also quite noticeable for a depth player.

Overview: An intense grinder with a proactive approach and improving skating…Projects as a 45 skater and 45+ playmaker…40 stickhandler…50+ shot and scoring instincts…50+ defensive player.

What Grégoire lacks in flash he makes up in substance. A relentless forechecker who has learned to adapt to his deficiency in foot speed and agility. He doesn’t fall victim to the silly “finish your checks” mantra that often leaves players behind the play. He’s a proactive defensive player, as noted by his constant pass interception and possession-removing plays.

Grégoire’s approach to offence is “get the puck to the net.” Although this causes him to miss easier passing options, he was still a valuable possession player in the IceCaps bottom-six. He drives to the net hard, refuses to leave the crease unless on his own accord, and owns a slightly above-average shot (NHL standards).

Sometimes, Grégoire will flash decent hands or vision, but even at the QMJHL level they were few and far between. However, he can distribute fairly well, but not a player who will complete high-skill passes.

Although primarily a grinder, Grégoire’s approach to the game could make him valuable in his role. He understands how to locate scoring opportunities, but his feet hinder his ability to exploit them.

Ranking Explanation: Grégoire’s fall from #10th to #16th is combination of his lack of production this season and the interesting development of more skilled prospects. He is still a legitimate prospect, with an intriguing amount of upside for a player’s whose technical skills are lacking. Ultimately, I felt that a significant drop wasn’t necessary after a disappointing first pro year, all things considered.


Check back Sunday for prospects ranked #15-#11!


  1. This list, just like every other installment, is for entertainment purposes only. The information in each prospect profile is far more valuable than the actual ranking.
  2. The information is always “in my opinion.”
  3. I am neither a professional scout nor an amateur scout. In fact, I hesitate to use the word scout at all. (I’m an amateur amateur scout, I guess). Watching the future of the NHL is my passion, not my job.
  4. Feel free to send me your questions, comments, concerns, or complaints in the comments, on twitter (@MitchLBrown) or email (mitchbrown31@gmail.com). Or just tell me I suck. I don’t care.
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One Response to 2016 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #20-#16

  1. So far there seems to be a continuing thread on Ice Caps players. Lacking in development especially defensemen. I can’t think of the St. John’s Head Coach or his assistants. But the defensemen are being trained in Therriens system. Which is a no think strategy. Basically the DMen are being instructed once they recover the puck to fire it around the boards and out of our defensive end. If the puck can be controlled great! If not and the puck gets out of our end and down the ice = success. Then regroup as a unit. There is no carrying the puck out, looking for an outlet man. It’s repeat the same system again and again and no deviation is acceptable. Bottom line this is not developing defensemen unless you are looking for 4th pairing additions.
    With Muller to be taking greater control of the HABS Offense in Montreal. it will be key that the new systems introduced there are implemented in St. John’s as well. A mobile Defense corps has to be thinking all the time. They need to react in different ways, think faster, make use of their vision skills even more to spot outlet opportunities. Under the current system there is no thinking. It’s just reacting – get control of the puck and get it out of the zone with one touch…..even if you ice it or end up turning the puck over Outside our defensive zone you have achieved success. Even if you are a hockey purist you have to know it’s a ridiculously ineffective way of playing hockey. We will continue to fail to properly develop our young defensemen if no changes are made.

    Ned Stark July 22, 2016 at 10:47 pm Reply

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