Draft Recap: Habs Stock Up On Defense

The Canadiens selected Cole Caufield with the 15th overall pick. (Photo: Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This year’s NHL draft has come and gone in a blink of an eye. Scouts and their organizations prepare for so long for a two-day event, hoping to walk away with the future of their teams in their quest for the ultimate goal, the Stanley Cup. The Canadiens came into Vancouver with a goal to address their organizational needs and they were able to do so on the second day by adding an abundance of blue liners. They used half of their draft picks on defensemen.

In this recap, we will share where these players were ranked as well as what some of these scouting services had to say about the prospects.

Without further ado, here are the newly acquired prospects in the Canadiens system:

1st round, 15th Overall: Cole Caufield, RW
Ranked 5th by The Athletic
Ranked 11th by HockeyProspect.com
Ranked 12th by Future Considerations
Ranked 9th by ISS Hockey
Ranked 13th by McKeen’s Hockey
Ranked 8th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)
Ranked 9th by Eliteprospects.com
Ranked 9th by TSN/Bob McKenzie

Corey Pronman, the Athletic: “Every touch he makes is smooth. He can make the 1-on-1 plays versus defenders, but he has such quick, crisp touches that it allows him to get so many clean shots. His offensive timing is excellent, and he reads how plays develop very well.”

HockeyProspect: “He theoretically shouldn’t be able to generate nearly as much velocity as he does, yet has one of the hardest shots in this class which speaks volumes to his coordination behind his body rotation. This extends to his slapshot as well.”

Future Considerations: “He reads the play well and thinks the game quickly. He has an incredibly dangerous shot that is not only precise, but powerful, with an incredible release and he can get a dangerous shot on net from anywhere in the offensive zone.”

McKeen’s Hockey: “He is short, but not exactly small. His squat figure is stocky and well-built. He has a very fast top speed and an explosive first few steps. He has extremely fast, soft hands.”

EliteProspects: “Caufield possesses a quick-release wrist shot that he can fire with laser-like precision, at lightning speed… Even if one wants to try and dismiss Caufield as one-dimensional, his one dimension is the most important one in hockey — scoring goals.”

2nd round, 46th Overall: Jayden Struble, D
Ranked 70th by The Athletic
Ranked 56th by HockeyProspect.com
Ranked 124th by Future Considerations
Ranked 111th by McKeen’s Hockey
Ranked 48th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)
Ranked 63rd by TSN/Bob McKenzie

Corey Pronman, the Athletic: “He’s a very good skater who projects as a push-rushing defenseman. He joins the rush easily and can push the pace. Struble closes on checks very well, and combined with the fact he loves to play the body, he’s often a force with his body checks. He’s a skilled puck handler who can make plays to gain the zone and can saucer pucks well.”

HockeyProspect: “Struble isn’t overly big but is a very quick and agile defenseman that brings a good amount of strength and physicality. Jayden plays an agitating style that has shown to be highly effective in getting his opponents off of their games.”

Future Considerations: “A puck-moving offensive defenseman, Struble has an explosive stride and great acceleration. He possesses slick edges and a tremendous top speed.”

3rd round, 64th overall: Mattias Norlinder, D
Ranked 50th by The Athletic
Ranked 51st by HockeyProspect.com
Ranked 81st by Future Considerations
Ranked 50th by McKeen’s Hockey
Ranked 25th by NHL Central Scouting (EU Skaters)
Ranked 55th by TSN/Bob McKenzie

Corey Pronman, the Athletic: “Norlinder so often showed the ability to use his skating to spin off pressure, lead rushes and gain the offensive zone with possession. His edge work is high-end. He has great mobility, but also has skill in his game. Norlinder often makes plays through defenders and has the vision to execute tough passes.”

HockeyProspect: “He’s an excellent skater and he has a beautiful stride which allows him to gain a lot of speed. His great edgework allows him to maintain the speed in most situations.”

Future Considerations: “He distributes the puck well in the offensive zone and he can be a quarterback on the powerplay. He is very calm in possession of the puck and his decision-making is excellent.”

McKeen’s Hockey: “He is both quick and fast. He can win races to loose pucks and he can skate well over long distances to help create zone entries and even scoring chances. He is just as smooth skating backwards, shutting down the rush.”

EliteProspects: “Uses his skating ability and good hands to get the puck into the offensive zone. Not that physical in the defensive zone but uses his positioning and stick work to solve defensive situations.”

3rd round, 77th Overall: Gianni Fairbrother, D
Ranked 79th by Future Considerations
Ranked 77th by McKeen’s Hockey
Ranked 50th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)
Ranked 51st by Eliteprospects.com

Corey Pronman, the Athletic: “I think Fairbrother is a smart two-way D who plays bigger than he is, but he doesn’t have a ton of puck skill and his skating is also just average.”

HockeyProspect: “Gianni gets low and has a strong stride, and the ability to easily move laterally. His speed often allowed him to jump up in the rush where he provided a great option for teammates, scoring multiple times on drives to the net or hanging back.”

Future Considerations: “Defensively, he is a smart player who manages risk and reward and is an effective shut-down guy at his foundation…Strong on gap control, governing the net front and breaking out play as this is the area of his game that he prides himself on.”

McKeen’s Hockey: “He plays a solid two-way game with a fairly low band of possible outcomes in his possible development path. He looks like a pretty surefire NHLer, but quite likely that he will top out as a #5.”

5th round, 126th Overall: Jacob LeGuerrier, D
Ranked 156th by McKeen’s Hockey
Ranked 92nd by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

Corey Pronman, the Athletic: “He’s big and skates well for his size, defends well with his body and stick and has good IQ but his offensive upside leaves me wanting.”

HockeyProspect: “What Jacob does do pretty well is move the puck. He’s plays a decisive game. If he feels there’s an opportunity to impose himself physically by closing his gap on a player, he’ll do it.”

5th round, 131st Overall: Rhett Pitlick, LW
Ranked 61st by The Athletic
Ranked 43rd by HockeyProspect.com
Ranked 223rd by Future Considerations
Ranked 152nd by McKeen’s Hockey
Ranked 98th by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)

Corey Pronman, the Athletic: “Pitlick’s game is full of energy and speed. He’s a great skater with a very efficient and powerful stride. His play style takes an already quick player and adds a few extra miles per hour. Pitlick has a ton of pace in his game due to how hard he competes and how fast he thinks.”

HockeyProspect: “Pitlick has high end skill and playmaking ability that allows him to create time and space on the wing… He proved to be elusive with the puck and difficult for defenseman to lock down along the wall and rarely absorbed direct hits with the puck.”

McKeen’s Hockey: “Rhett is a fantastic skater with plus puck skills. On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to have his brother’s high-end shot. Plays a heavier game than his size.”

5th round, 138th Overall: Frederik Nissen Dichow, G

Corey Pronman, the Athletic: “Dichow is a tall goalie who was excellent at the IIHF U18 B pool, carrying Denmark at times in games and being named the best goalie in the tournament.”

6th round, 170th Overall: Arsen Khisamutdinov, C

Steven Ellis, the Hockey News: “Had a really strong year in the MHL and had five points in nine KHL games. A late bloomer, but he’s big at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds. Low risk, the potential for a nice reward.”

7th round, 201st Overall: Rafael Harvey-Pinard, LW
Ranked 276th by Future Considerations

Corey Pronman, the Athletic: “I don’t know Harvey-Pinard that well, but scouts I trust were banging the drum for him through the Q playoffs and Memorial Cup.”

HockeyProspect: “Harvey-Pinard is not the biggest or fastest guy, but he plays with a big heart and doesn’t play on the perimeter at all. He’s a smart player who thinks the game quickly, and he’s as good as a scorer as he is a playmaker.”

7th round, 206th Overall: Kieran Ruscheinski, D

Brayden Sullivan, DraftGeek: “An athletic two-way defenseman that skates very well at the Midget level. Lots of good physical qualities but never jumped off the page for me before this season. Lots of rawness, lots of upside, lots of work to do.”

The Canadiens may have went off the board to some, however, they did hold their own private combines in Montreal and overseas which allowed them to gather more information heading into the draft. Timmins indicated that a number of players they selected were in attendance for these private combines; including Arsen Khisamutdinov and Rafael Harvey-Pinard. Timmins noted that if Khisamutdinov had gone undrafted, he would have been available for all teams in free agency while drafting Harvey-Pinard gives the player another year in junior if needed rather than signing a contract out of camp.

Many of these players we will not see for a number of years, but here’s hoping that some actually stick and pan out to make a difference in the organization down the road.


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