2016 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #25-#21

Welcome to the third installment of my Top-30 Habs Prospects, featuring prospects ranked #25-#21. Keep in mind, these rankings are just for fun, and the most valuable information is found in the profiles themselves.

This group of five features a couple of candidates for breakout seasons next year. This segment begins with Matt Bradley and finishes with Ryan Johnston, two of the least-talked about prospects the Canadiens have. In between is one four-time 30 goalscorer, a mid-season acquisition, and one of the best point-producing defenders in the QMJHL.

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

 

#25) Matt Bradley
Last Ranking: 25th
Draft: 2015, 131st, 5th round
Position: C/RW | Shoots: R
Birthdate: 1997-01-22 | Place of Birth: Vancouver, BC
Team: Medicine Hat Tigers | League: WHL
Height: 5’11” | Weight: 187

GPGAPPrim. PP/GPPrim. P/GP
68232750350.7350.515
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

An increase from 0.56 PPG to 0.75 might not be staggering, but it could be very important step for Matt Bradley’s development. | Photo: Medicine Hat Tigers

A mere 11-point improvement doesn’t look like much, but Bradley did more with significantly less. The Medicine Hat Tigers were run out of building many nights, particularly in the second half. Bradley managed to have two extended scoring runs (14P in 11GP, 14P in 12GP), but was wildly inconsistent in between. As the third-best forward on his team by GF%, Bradley clearly had a solid season.

Matt Bradley 10 Game

Overview: Quick forward in all ways…Projects as 45+ or 50 in skating, defensive play, playmaking, and stickhandling…Mediocre finisher with wild swings across the skill spectrum.

With quick feet and a quick brain, Bradley makes smart across the ice. Not a truly dynamic player, but isn’t limited as a pure opportunist either. In the WHL, he’s an above-average stickhandler at top speed, but it’s his puck protection and ability to keep moving his feet that make him effective.

A fairly vanilla offensive player, Bradley’s playmaking is slightly more noteworthy than his goalscoring ability. A quick release and determination to shoot from high-danger areas get him goals; sneaky fakes and curls let him find passing targets through traffic. He doesn’t convert at a high enough rate, but perhaps that will change as his surroundings do.

Don’t be fooled by Bradley’s average stature, he’s a quality puck protector and battler. He fully extends himself to utilize to fend off defenders, but does so without putting himself in vulnerable positions. With determination and smart body positioning, Bradley is able to win battles a solid rate.

Bradley strikes me as the type who could shred junior, but struggle to find a role at the professional level. He has the quickness and diversified skill set to grab points, but isn’t a standout in any category, which holds him back. However, he could be top-20 in WHL scoring next season.

Ranking Explanation: Admittedly, a ranking based on a “gut feeling” more than anything. Perhaps not as a projectable as Addison or MacMillan, but watching him play points to a big season in the WHL next year. However, it’s all potential, so he falls behind the more proven scorers, like Tim Bozon. A big season next year (in terms of scoring and development) could rocket him up this list.

 

#24) Tim Bozon
Last Ranking: 17th
Draft: 2012, 64th, 3rd round
Position: LW | Shoots: L
Birthdate: 1994-03-24 | Place of Birth: St. Louis, MO
Team: St. John’s IceCaps | League: AHL
Height: 6’1” | Weight: 201

GPGAPPrim. PP/GPPrim. P/GPSOGSH%SOG/GP
4153860.1950.146647.813%1.561
Once among the most promising of prospects in the organization, Tim Bozon has slipped down the rankings. With that said, there's still time for Bozon to get back on track. | Photo: Colin Peddle, St. John's IceCaps

Once among the most promising of prospects in the organization, Tim Bozon has slipped down the rankings. With that said, there’s still time for Bozon to get back on track. | Photo: Colin Peddle, St. John’s IceCaps

Tim Bozon bounced between the AHL and ECHL until February, when the string of injuries and subsequent call-ups made him an AHL regular. While Bozon wasn’t impressive, there were flashes of excellence that showcased the more multi-faceted style Bozon has come to play in recent seasons.

Overview: An efficient opportunistic scorer…Projects as a fairly average player across the board…50+ shooting and stickhandling, 45 playmaking…45 defensive play…50+ skating.

Primarily an in-tight finisher who lacks the hand-eye and strength of most net front presences. Bozon has slowly become a better medium-range finisher, but is still at best sneaking away from defenders and getting open. His shot accuracy and quick release are his best assets, but his shot power varies wildly.

Playmaking has been an area of consistent growth for Bozon. While he will likely never complete mind-blowing passes, he’s a smart distributor through tight spaces. Not a particularly flashy stickhandler, but he has a knack for always being just that little bit too far for defenders to dispossess him.

Without the puck, Bozon is a slightly below-average. His board play has improved, but it remains a bit of a concern. He’s a solid backchecker with good awareness, but becomes too stagnant during in-zone pressure.

Bozon could be a fairly average third line forward in the NHL, although I definitely have concerns about his ability to reach that. First, he will need take an important step forward with his scoring prowess in the AHL. His contract expires at the end of this upcoming season.

Ranking Explanation: A proven scorer as a four time 30-goal scorer in the WHL, which gives him the edge over lesser scoring prospects such as Addison, MacMillan, and Bradley. This season was fruitless for Bozon, but with a few minor tweaks I believe he could make himself a legitimate prospect again.

 

#23) Stefan Matteau
Last Ranking: N/R
Draft: 2012, 29th, 1st round (Acquired via trade)
Position: LW | Shoots: L
Birthdate: 1994-02-23 | Place of Birth: Chicago, IL
Team: New Jersey Devils/Montréal Canadiens | League: NHL
Height: 6’2” | Weight: 220

GPGAPPrim. PP/GPPrim. P/GPSOGSH%SOG/GP
New Jersey2010110.050.05224.5%1.1
Montréal1201100.080.050.0%0.42
An uninspiring 12-game stint with the Montreal Canadiens certainly tempered any expectations that fans had. | Photo: Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images

An uninspiring 12-game stint with the Montreal Canadiens certainly tempered any expectations that fans had. | Photo: Sean M. Haffey, Getty Images

Stefan Matteau was a mid-season addition by the Montreal Canadiens. Back in 2012, Matteau made the Devils out of training camp, but was sent down to the QMJHL, where controversy surrounded him. In every extended NHL look, Matteau has under-produced and posted poor CF%-Rel or GF%-Rel.

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 12.49.57 PM

Overview: A heavy, powerful winger with surprisingly fast 50-level skating…40 stickhandling, 45 shooting, 35 playmaking…Highly inconsistent, occasional flashes of 50 tools.

Matteau is a thick, athletic player with deceptive speed. He moves quite well, but often his movement has little meaning. His speed and strength allow him to be quite the force on the forecheck and around the net—when he wants to be.

In possession, Matteau can dominate possession down low. Sometimes, he will flash a quick move or sneaky pass that makes you wonder if he has more upside. He can finish from the hashmarks-and-in, but perhaps doesn’t have the natural smarts to do so at the NHL level. He has a medium-range shot that could generate chances, but hesitates to use it and struggles to get it on target.

There isn’t much value in Matteau’s defensive game. He’s a stagnant defender who doesn’t have much positional awareness. He’s a below-average possession player and has shown no progression in his 3.5 professional seasons.

As noted, Matteau flashes skill from time-to-time; however, he’s highly inconsistent. Perhaps he’s not competing hard enough in instances, but I believe decision-making is his downfall.

Ranking Explanation: Matteau will most likely never reach the third line powerforward type that many expected him to be, but he could still be a fourth liner. The physical tools would make Matteau a top-15 prospect, but lack of execution is poor. Matteau has done more in the NHL than the majority of prospects will on this list; however, as every season passes the few tweaks that his game needs become more monumental.

 

#22) Simon Bourque
Last Ranking: 28th
Draft: 2015, 177th, 6th round
Position: LD/RD | Shoots: L
Birthdate: 1997-01-12 | Place of Birth: Longueuil, QC
Team: Rimouski Océanic | League: QMJHL
Height: 6’0” | Weight: 183

GPGAPPrim. PP/GPPrim. P/GPSOGSH%SOG/GP
66123446210.6970.3181597.547%2.409
Simon Bourque has emerged as Rimouski's go-to defender in all situations, and he has thrived in that role. | Photo: Francois Laplante, Freestyle Photo, Getty Images

The Rimouski Océanic’s top defender had a season to remember, tallying 32 powerplay points. | Photo: Francois Laplante, Freestyle Photo, Getty Images

At face value, there’s a lot to like about Simon Bourque. This past season, he named their captain, finished fifth in team scoring, and was ninth in QMJHL scoring among defenders. However, with just six even-strength primary points, the sustainability behind Bourque’s production is questionable.

Bourque fell considerably behind the other top 18-year-old scoring defenders in even-strength points and primary points. It’s clear that his production was carried by the powerplay.

Simon Bourque

Overview: Projects as an average NHL defender in all areas, 50 skating, 45 passing, 40 shooting, 50+ defensive zone play…Offensive skills get bumped up a bit on the powerplay…Reactionary defender with good smarts.

The Océanic’s de facto number one defender played his off-side for much of the season. While I initially thought Bourque was an instinctual defender, second half viewings painted him as more of a reactionary player. He’s not a true proactive defender, instead he has a robot-like approach that can be exposed once the game changes pace.

He scans the ice, identifies assignments and adequately closes down lanes. Too often he is forced into desperation defensive plays, which presents a problem at the professional level. An average possession player, but could be a product of below-average surroundings.

Bourque’s outlet pass is his best transitional tool, but at even-strength in the offensive zone he’s only slightly above average. However, on the powerplay he’s legitimate threat thanks to a very good balance of shooting and distribution.

Even though Bourque can be bland at times, his smarts and all-around ability to make him a bottom-pairing or depth defender in the NHL. He will have to weed out the indecisiveness and make quicker decisions going forward.

Ranking Explanation: Bourque’s lack of even-strength (primary) production presents a major problem and indecisiveness give me concerns about his NHL upside. I gave Bourque the edge over Bradley because I believe there’s a greater chance that Bourque will be an impactful professional-level (AHL) player. If he could transfer his offensive awareness from the powerplay to even-strength then he could easily be in the discussion for the third best defensive prospect after Sergachev and Juulsen.

 

#21) Ryan Johnston
Last Ranking: N/R
Draft: 2010 undrafted, free agent signing
Position: D | Shoots: R
Birthdate: 1992-02-14 | Place of Birth: Sudbury, ON
Team: St. John’s IceCaps | League: AHL
Height: 5’10” | Weight: 176

GPGAPPrim. PP/GPPrim. P/GPSOGSH%SOG/GP
370121250.2970.108340.0%0.919
A three-game NHL stint set the stage for arguably the best single-game performance from an IceCap this season: Ryan Johnston grabbed three assists and was instrumental in six of the IceCaps seven goals. | Photo: Montréal Canadiens

A three-game NHL stint set the stage for arguably the best single-game performance from an IceCap this season: Ryan Johnston grabbed three assists and was instrumental in six of the IceCaps seven goals. | Photo: Montréal Canadiens

After missing the first half of the season following surgery for a hernia, Johnston made his AHL debut. While initially struggled with the speed of the game, he soon became an integral piece for the IceCaps. He even earned a three-game debut with the Canadiens, and his 54.7 CF% was the best of the Habs many blue line call-ups (SSS!).

Overview: A 55 skater, with 50+ acceleration and speed, but 55+ lateral movement and evasive moves…50+ stickhandling and breakout pass, but in-zone vision falls around 45, shooting around 40.

Not your prototypical sub-6’ defenceman, Johnston lacks high-end skating and offensive ability. He’s a capable off-the-rush defender who takes extremely aggressive positioning. The desire to limit defensive zone time typically has good results, but when he gets burned, he’s completely out of the play. While he struggles in board battles, he’s good at shutting down lanes and protecting the slot with his awareness.

In possession, Johnston looks very comfortable. Johnston is a controlled zone exit/entry machine. He was the IceCaps top possession defender in the games I tracked. His ability to stickhandle through traffic gives him space to either lead the rush or find a quality passing option. Calm demeanor gives the impression of slowing the game down, but he moves the puck so fast it speeds the game up.

In the offensive zone, Johnston isn’t quite as impressive. He makes smart pinches, but doesn’t create a whole lot of offence when it’s not an on-the-rush situation. His shot is accurate, but a tad underwhelming in the AHL.

Johnston’s value stems from his transitional ability. As sub-6’ defender without high-end offensive ability, the odds seem immediately stacked against him. However, he strikes me as a player who could one day get called up and never sent back down because of his quiet effectiveness.

Ranking Explanation: A ’92 who had just 12 points in 37 games–how is he even a legitimate prospect? Hear me out. First, Johnston was recovering from a hernia in his first professional season, in which he consistently stood out to me. Second, after returning from the NHL, he was far and away the IceCaps best defender (however, it was only three games). Finally, he’s a transitional machine who excels at what I believe modern NHL defenders should. These three factors give Johnston the edge over the better-known Simon Bourque, but I am willing to admit there’s great risk in this projection.

 

Check back on Friday for the prospects ranked #20-#16!

NOTES:

  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: #25-#21

  1. Excellent and interesting analysis. Looking forward to the next batch. Tons of work in there.

    Bruce Jessop July 22, 2016 at 1:41 am Reply

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Canadiens Welcome Seven New Prospects

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