2014 Draft: Potential First Round Targets (Part 2)

Pictured (from left to right_: Brendan Lemieux, David Pastrnak, Travis Sanheim, Nikita Scherbak

Pictured (from left to right): Brendan Lemieux, David Pastrnak, Travis Sanheim, Nikita Scherbak

The Montreal Canadiens hold the 26th overall pick in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, which is under a week away. Even though this draft isn’t held in the regard as last year’s, there are many interesting late first-round players. This is part two of the potential first round targets. I’d recommend checking out Part 1, if you haven’t done so already.  It will cover Brendan Lemieux, Ryan MacInnis, Dominik Masin, Jared McCann, Roland McKeown, David Pastrnak, Marcus Pettersson, Travis Sanheim, Nikita Scherbak, Nick Schmaltz, and Jakub Vrana. Just like Part 1, I will evaluate every player, based on what I’ve seen, heard, and read. Additionally, each player will have multiple quotes with a focus on differentiating thoughts and interesting background information. Following the player analysis, there’s a section dedicated to my personal thoughts on the prospects and who I like the best out of the group.

RELATED: Part 1 – 2014 Draft: Potential First Round Targets 

 

Brendan Lemieux
RW | 6’01” 210 lbs | Barrie Colts (OHL)
Regular Season: 65GP 27G 26A 53P | Playoffs: 11GP 7G 3A 10P

I’ve seen a lot comments about Lemieux being a “safe” pick and being a “low risk/low reward” prospect and I can’t help but disagree. However, I will agree with the sentiments that he is his father’s son. He is a super pest. He drives other team’s absolutely nuts with his constant aggressive play. He loves to run his mouth and takes pride in rustling some feathers. However, he often crosses the line. He takes many stupid penalties and  spends too much of his time focusing on annoying the opposition rather than playing hockey.

However, when he is playing hockey, he’s quite the player. Lemieux’s skating has gone from below-average to above-average in just one season. He’s evolved from a pure garbage goalscorer into a quality sniper. He’s an aggressive forechecker and loves to play a “heavy” style of game. In front of the net, he’s immovable. He’s strong and has mastered the art of the redirection. He’s also dangerous outside the crease, where he uses his pro-calibre shot to score from long range. He also has good offensive instincts and hands. Not a fancy player, but his hands have improved so much and he’s starting to add some moves to his repertoire. He’s also a sneaky good playmaker, particularly off the wall. He’s a one-man cycle, possessing fantastic positioning, balance, and good hands in tight.

Lemieux is a decent defensive player. He’s prone to poor reads and slow reactions, but he has a great grasp of positional hockey and attacks the points both aggressively and smartly. He will also dive in front of every shot if need be.

Lemieux’s poor decision-making goes beyond discipline. Too often he takes selfish shots and carries the puck for too long. Sometimes he blindly throws the puck into traffic and doesn’t get back into the play quick enough. He could also stand to improve his stride and work on his acceleration.

I don’t think Lemieux realizes how good of a hockey player he is. When he balances hockey and antics he plays his best. However, he doesn’t always do that. I think he has the ability to score 30 goals in the NHL, but he has to smarten up.

Quotes:

“Pain in the ass for both teams, plays balls out, more skill than most think, strong, physical machine, choppy feet, goes to EVERY dirty area, is a winner.” – Mark Seidel (Quote on ohlprospects.blogspot.com)

“He’ll be a north-south winger. He’ll play with energy. He’s going to score gritty, hard goals and be hard to play against. When we had him, he was still learning how to channel his emotions correctly. He was getting better at it, but it’s something he will battle with. A guy that plays with that type of emotion, that high care level, is the guy you want.” – Derek Lalonde (Green Bay Gamblers Head Coach)

 

Ryan MacInnis
C | 6’04” 185 lbs | Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Regular Season: 66GP 16G 21A 37P

Al’s son, Ryan, enjoyed a fairly solid rookie season in the OHL this past year. MacInnis is a huge centre with a strong defensive game. He thinks the game at a high level, which he applies to his own zone. He’s a smart positional player and excels at clogging passing and shooting lanes. He’s good at intercepting passes and clearing the zone. He’s a solid neutral zone player, as he gets back into position quickly and makes smart plays. Overall, he’s a great two-way player, who has continually improved.

MacInnis’ best offensive tool is his shot (surprise!). He certainly doesn’t shoot like his father, but his wrist shot has plenty of power and accuracy behind it. He’s prefers to shoot rather than pass, but he can distribute the puck effectively if needed. He’s a smart passer, preferring short or simple passes. Once he gets going, he’s got a solid top gear, but he rarely gets the space to do so because of his clumsy first few steps.

Additionally, MacInnis doesn’t use his frame the way he should. He rarely throws his weight around and sometimes avoids contact all together. He also looks disengaged, but that became less and less of a problem as the season wore on.

MacInnis has an intriguing skill set. He’s a great two-way player with a hard shot, but he doesn’t use his frame the way he should. There’s been notable improvement in his game, but he still lacks consistency and has a tendency to be invisible.

Quotes:

“I saw MacInnis play a handful of times this year. The majority of those times he wasn’t much of a factor. But the other couple of times, he was the best player on the ice and that’s what has scouts talking. The potential for him to develop into an elite player is legitimate.” – Brock Otten (OHL Prospects)

“He improved over the second half of the season with his mobility and speed to position himself to create more offensively, be on the attack and shoot really well. I think Ryan has handled himself very well considering who his dad is. I give him credit for playing under that spotlight and continuing to work on his game. I think he’s got a bright future and I like his upside.” – David Gregory (NHL Central Scouting)

“He’s a very smart player. He’s able to distribute the puck very well. I think he’s going to be a good two-way centre. He’s a guy who can put up points and also play in the last minute [of tight games].” – Troy Smith (Kitchener Rangers’ Head Coach)

 

Dominik Masin
6’02” 194 lbs | HC Slavia Praha U20 (Czech U20)
Regular Season: 39GP 2G 19A 21P Playoffs: 5GP 1G 1A 2P

A big defenceman who has sky-rocketed up the rankings. Masin plays hard and aggressive. He loves to throw his weight around, especially along the boards. He challenges forwards aggressively, but also shows excellent gap control. He’s a smart player, who positions himself well. Rarely loses board battles. He can get too overzealous with stick work and certainly has to do a better job at staying out of the box.

Masin is an alright skater. He looks a little awkward at times, but his acceleration, top-end speed, and agility are all about average. Still needs works in that area. From the point, Masin shows some offensive smarts. He possesses a hard shot and makes quick decisions. He certainly doesn’t have too much in the way of puck skills.

However, with the puck in his own zone Masin struggles. He doesn’t handle forecheckers and well struggles to make decisions under pressure. He’s prone to giveaways and often times blindly clears the puck. With that said, he’s just starting to figure things out with the puck; it’s entirely possible that he’s just beginning to scratch the surface of his offensive upside.

Masin could sneak into the late-first, early-second because of his physical game, size, and leadership qualities. Like most players, plenty of work has to be done, but he brings a unique package.

Quotes:

“Masin is a versatile defenseman with leadership abilities who has been steadily moving up the ranks of the 2014 prospects. The versatile defenseman profits from his size (6’2″) which allows him to stand tall in his own end, but also be a threat on the blue line. He’s not much of a physical force when it comes to hitting, but he does his job back in the defensive zone. Masin has also displayed consistency throughout the season, steadily improving his game as the season has progressed.” – Hockey’s Future

A defensively staunch blueliner who can also put up some numbers at the other end, Masin has two goals and 18 points through 32 games in the Czech junior league. The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder has been a captain internationally and plays a responsible game.” – Ryan Kennedy (The Hockey News)

 

Jared McCann
| 6’01” 175 lbs | Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Stats: 64GP 27G 35A 62P | Playoffs: 9GP 2G 5A 7P

McCann is a tricky player to evaluate because he does so much well, but there’s something lacking. This past season, McCann played behind Tyler Gaudet (one of the OHL’s top shutdown centres), but still received plenty of tough match ups in the rather insane Western Conference.

First and foremost, McCann’s a two-way player. Even in his bad games you’re reminded how good of a two-way player he is. He’s a great faceoff man, who uses a variety of techniques in order to win the puck. He’s very intelligent, especially on the backcheck where he seems to always be engaged. He’s fantastic at cutting out passing and shooting lanes. He’s blessed with incredible situational and positional awareness.

McCann also has a tremendous shot–a cannon, a laser, a bomb; they all work well. His release is absolutely pro-calibre and it has tremendous power behind it. McCann also has a good hands. He’ll occasionally flash a highlight reel deke, but he prefers simple, effective moves. He’s got solid vision; however, the technical element of his passing game doesn’t match up. He typically throws the puck away when attempting passes of high difficulty. He also doesn’t seem completely aware of his tools, as he rarely uses his shot, even in high-scoring areas.

Now why is McCann on this list? Simply put, I think his weak second half, inconsistent game, and lack of grit probably will cause him to slip down the rankings. Just a gut feeling. He’s talented player, but there’s many elements that need improving and I don’t think he’s as highly touted as he once was.

Quotes:

“There are very few guys who are as good at backchecking as he is. A lot of people will equate that with effort and not skill. But the routes that he takes and the reads that he makes coming back and causing disruptions has been pretty fun to watch.” – Kyle Dubas (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds General Manager)

“Jared is a highly skilled and creative playmaker, he has excellent hands and puckhandling ability. He sees the ice very well and can get the puck through traffic with great saucer passes. He is not a guy who will always bring you out of your seat but is dangerous every shift and at the end of the game he will quietly have a goal and three assists. Jared is an excellent penalty killer, smart and reads the play very well.” – Chris Edwards (NHL Central Scouting)

 

Roland McKeown
D | 6’01” 194 lbs | Kingston Frotenacs (OHL)
Regular Season: 62GP 11G 32A 43P | Playoffs: 7GP 1G 3A 4P

McKeown was hyped coming into the OHL for his tremendous hockey sense and skating. At this point, only the skating has been on display. He’s an exceptionally smooth skater, with great agility, pivots, and acceleration. He can rush the puck effectively and can create chances offensively. He’s excels quarterbacking the powerplay, where the puck seemingly runs through him. He makes smart passes and gives himself options. He owns a hard shot, which he typically uses to create chances rather than score. He shows flashes of being an aggressive puck rusher, but he seems to lack the extra gear and desire to do so.

McKeown is certainly a solid positional player with an active stick. He doesn’t get beat wide often and plays smart in one-on-one situations. However, I just haven’t seen the level of elite hockey sense that everyone talks about. He consistently makes poor decisions; and the same poor decisions at that. He’s not an aggressive pincher, but when he does it always seem to go bad. He also throws the puck away far too often, particularly with his outlet pass. His shot–although powerful–hits shin pads more than it should. Additionally, McKeown has little-to-no physical game and seems to avoid it.

There’s no denying that he has upside. He’s a great skater, with a good frame and fantastic offensive tools, but his brain just isn’t there. Improving his decision making and reactions are extremely important.

Quotes:

“McKeown is a strong, do-it-all defenseman whose biggest asset is his ability to think the game and know his position. He makes strong, simple plays, has a good shot and distributes the puck effectively.” – Aaron Vickers (Future Considerations – Quote on thehockeywriters.com)

“Liked his potential entering the season. I saw him early in the season and he struggled and I saw him a ton late, including in Finland at the U18. I didn’t see him play a smart game all season. I saw a lack of hockey sense.” – Mark Edwards (Hockey Prospect – Quote in the Black Book)

“He’s terrific with the puck, but he’s almost not an aggressive offensive player and the type of guy I see putting up large numbers in the NHL. that leaves us with the question of, ‘what type of role will he play at the next level?’ If draft/scouting history has taught us anything, it’s that junior defensemen who don’t have a clearly definite role or…a dominant skill set (in one area) tend to struggle to find a permanent place in the NHL.” – Brock Otten (ohlprospects.blogspot.ca)

 

David Pastrnak
RW | 6’00” 168 lbs | Södertälje (Allsvenskan)
Regular Season: 36GP 8G 16A 24P

Pastrnak is a flashy, electrifying offensive talent with excellent skills. He plays with boatloads of energy, especially in the offensive zone, where he loves to make things happen. He’s a tremendous stickhandler and an extremely slippery player. He’s got supreme hands and is always creating chances. He’s got fantastic edge work and always seems to have another gear. Top-end speed and acceleration are both fantastic. He’s also a great passer. He possesses tremendous vision and a fantastic saucer pass. Sometimes, he’s too unselfish. Additionally, he’s a great goalscorer. He owns a hard shot, with a lightning quick release and tremendous accuracy. He’s also excellent on the powerplay. He likes to hover around the left circle, where he’s equally as likely to unload a hard one-timer as he is to set-up a quality scoring chance.

As expected with his slender frame, Pastrnak struggles in battles. He gets outmuscled easily and needs to add strength and mass. He can play a bit timid, sometimes avoiding the tough areas altogether, but for the most part he does a good job engaging.

Defensively, he’s a non-factor too often, so competing harder is of the essence. He’s a fairly smart positional player, but he can get caught standing around, not providing anything.

Pastrnak has a lot of upside, but there’s also a lot of risk. Despite his lack of size, he still managed an incredible amount of success against men. If he adds mass and fixes the issues in his game, he will really take off as a player.

Quotes:

“David is an offensive-minded player with smooth hands, great instincts and a very quick shot. He’s an excellent skater with speed and acceleration. He’s very smart on the ice but will need more weight and strength to excel at the next level. He’s creative and dangerous on 1-on-1 situations.” – Goran Stubb (NHL Central Scouting)

“While it was Jakub Vrana who entered the season as top prospect from the Czech Republic, David Pastrnak is slowly overtaking the lead. It all started in August at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic, where Pastrnak appears to be more dangerous than Vrana. The native of Havirov continued his pace among pros, leading Sodertalje’s first team in points after roughly 20 games of Swedish Allsvenskan. with 14 ponits, Pastrnak means business and looks to settle in the draft rankings in the first round.” – Radoslav Vavrina (Pacific4Sports – Quote via eurohockey.com)

 

Marcus Pettersson
D | 6’04” 168 lbs | Skelleftea J20 (SuperElit)/Skelleftea (SHL)
SuperElit: 38GP 4G 14A 18P SHL: 10G 0G 0A 0P

This forward turned defenceman has really risen the up the rankings lately. He’s a massive defenceman with tons of physical potential as he weighs just 167 lbs. For a player of his stature, he skates extremely well. His agility, especially pivots, really shine. He’s very poised with the puck and has the ability to skate it out of trouble with ease. He reads the play at a terrific rate; although he’s prone to brain cramps.

Pettersson isn’t always noticeable in games, he tends to fall into the background. He makes quick, smart decisions with the puck and seems to have quality instincts. He’s got a heavy shot from the point and good hands. He knows how to use his reach to protect the puck and makes very good passes.

As expected, Pettersson is still learning the ins-and-outs of playing defence. He makes poor decisions without the puck. He gets a little overzealous with his pinches and gap control, allowing forwards to walk right around him. He can chase the puck too often as well. Additionally, he rarely plays with any sort of sandpaper.

Pettersson’s newness to the position makes his long-term upside incredibly intriguing. Understandably, he’s got a long way to go, but his upside makes him an unique prospect.

Quotes:

“He is used in all game situations and has grown up to become a leader on the team. He’s tall and uses a long stick and has a very good reach. He’s difficult to pass against and his passing game is very good. He has good size, but needs more weight and physical strength. His dad [Daniel] played in the Swedish league with Skelleftea.” – Goran Stubb (NHL Central Scouting)

“One scout said Pettersson has the most upside of any European in the draft. A big kid who covers a lot of ground, Pettersson has an edge to his game and can move the puck pretty decently. He has a ways to go, but he’s already playing up with the men in Skelleftea after a successful start to the campaign in junior.” – Ryan Kennedy (The Hockey News)

“His hockey IQ and instincts are decent. He’s very tall, lanky and shy at times, yet typically makes the right play and has a lot of room for growth. You don’t notice him a lot, but when you pay attention you realize his hockey sense is pretty good. Like many Swedish defenders, he has very good skills and is very good on his skates.” – Trent Klatt (New York Islanders Player Development)

 

Travis Sanheim
D | 6’04” 205 lbs | Calgary Hitmen (WHL)
Regular Season: 67GP 5G 24A 29P Playoffs: 6GP 1G 1A 2P

Samheim is among this year’s biggest risers, and rightfully so considering that he looked like a brand new player in the second half of the season. Sanheim is a huge defender with tremendous upside. He’s a smooth skater, with a quick stops and starts. Top-end speed and acceleration both really stand out for a player his size. He can be a little awkward once he gets going, but it doesn’t hamper his ability.

On top of his size and skating ability, Sanheim consistently makes good decisions. He rarely leads the rush, but he does join it, where he rarely seems to get caught up ice. He makes things happen from the point using his skating, smarts, and an improving set of hands. His shot is accurate, but he needs to add more velocity to it and improve his release. He’s also a very good passer. He makes a great outlet pass and owns terrific vision.

Sanheim is also a strong defensive player. He makes good reads and he’s not afraid to mix it up. He uses his reach well, but he could stand to be more active. He wins most of his puck battles and clears the puck out of the zone effectively. However, he does have a tendency to lose track of his man and has momentary lapses of focus.

The incredible development curve is very intriguing. There’s still so much room for Sanheim to grow, as both an offensive and defensive player. He’s truly a complete package with tons of room to grow.

Quotes:

“Sanheim seems to be the total package.  He’s got the size, the skating ability, the hands, the shot, the hockey smarts and the willingness to engage physically and defensively.  There’s a lot to like.  He steadily rose on my board as the season went on, really opening my eyes when I finally got to see him live a few times in February where he was aggressive, making great pinches and creating all over the ice.  He might be the player in this draft who has shown the strongest development in the second half of the season.” – Cody Nickolet (WHL From Above)

“He was a complete non-entity as recently as December, but his game and confidence shot through the roof in the season’s second half, and we became big believers. Sanheim has great footwork, speed, and agility for a 6-3, 190-pounder, and he uses his wheels to push the attack aggressively, moving up on the rush and joining the play regularly. For a kid who rarely handled the puck in the first half, the transformation has been startling, and we watched him go end-to-end a few times at the World U-18 Championships in April.” – Kyle Woodlief (Red Line Report – quote via USA Today)

 

Nikita Scherbak
RW/LW | 6’02” 174 lbs | Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
Regular Season: 65GP 28G 50A 78P

An unknown last season, Scherbak really made his name known following a tremendous rookie season in the WHL. Scherbak owns a tremendous package of skills and versatility. He has the ability to play all three forward positions and has a strong desire to improve his game.

Scherbak is a tremendous puck possession player, combining his frame and hands effectively. He loves to use his reach and body to push defenders to the brink, only to find an open player with a slick pass. His vision is outstanding and he can create something out of nothing. He protects the puck exceptionally well, due to tremendous body positioning and balance. He’s also a pretty good skater; although improvement in his technique and acceleration are needed. Agility-wise, he’s well above-average for a player his size and is extremely evasive. Additionally, Scherbak owns a hard wrist shot, with good accuracy and a quick release. He’s blessed with a very slick set of hands and plays a tremendously smart offensive game. Simply put, he’s the total package offensively.

Scherbak also isn’t afraid to muck it up. He can be an aggressive player, laying big hits from time to time. He also drives the net with a purpose and isn’t afraid to run over the opposition. He’s great at working the cycle and really loves to challenge defenders along the boards. When going, he’s a great forechecker, combining excellent anticipation, an active stick, and a desire to hit.

Defensively, Scherbak can look quite disengaged. He doesn’t show enough urgency outside of the opposition’s blue line. It’s not that he’s a bad defensive player–when he comes to play he fairs quite well–but he doesn’t play bring the effort often enough.

Scherbak’s skill level indicates a much higher pick than 26th. However, a wavering compete level and his nationality are concerning to many. He brings a unique skill set, a desire to learn, and dynamic offensive ability.

Quotes:

“He comes from an athletic background as his father is a former soccer player, his mother a basketball player, while his sister plays tennis.  Throughout the year I heard many rumblings that NHL teams liked him more than Draisaitl, but that was before Leon turned things up in a big way in the second half of the year.  There’s still many things to like about this player and my jaw wouldn’t hit the floor if a team took a shot at him in the top 15 selections.” – Cody Nickolet (WHL From Above)

“The best thing about him is that he’s very coachable and teachable. Because he can skate he can get on the puck. But when he’s not on it right away he’s not afraid to make or take a hit. When you’ve got that part of a game from a Russian player it’s exciting.” – David Struch (Saskatoon Blades Head Coach)

 

Nick Schmaltz
C/RW | 6’00” 172 lbs | Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
Regular Season: 55GP 18G 45A 63P | Playoffs: 4GP 1G 2A 3P

Schmaltz possesses an elite offensive skill set. His best asset is his vision. He distributes the puck exceptionally well and always finds a way to link up with a teammate. His saucer pass is simply incredible–it always finds its target. He’s a master at drawing multiple defenders towards him, only to fire a perfect tape-to-tape pass to a wide open teammate. He’s always calm and has the ability to slow the game down at will.

Additionally, Schmaltz is also a tremendous skater and stickhandler. He has terrific top speed and changes directions extremely quickly. He darts all over the ice, constantly avoiding checks and weaving his way through defenders. His hands are every bit as good as his skating, as he appears to have an infinite amount of puck control. He’s a great dangler, but sometimes he has to learn to make the simple play. He’s a pretty good finisher, but he needs to add more velocity to his shot.

Without the puck, Schmaltz is typically a non-factor. He’s completely disengaged and wanders without purpose. He positions himself well–when he gets back in his own zone. He’s quite lazy and doesn’t so much interest in working to get the puck back. Despite this, he’s not afraid to lay a hit every now and then.

Schmaltz is supremely talented; his skill level is sublime. However, his compete level is frustratingly inconsistent.

Quotes:

“Nick has elite skill. His skating is excellent and it appears as if he’s gliding past opponents. Exceptional agility and he’s capable of beating opponents quickly in tight areas. Excellent puck skills and he can make plays that create outstanding offensive opportunities. Good shot and combined with his playmaking, keeps defenders off balance. Very smart and poised and can hold puck to allow plays to develop. Top line type.” – Craig Button (TSN Director of Scouting)

“Nick has that knack of elevating his game when it’s on the line. He’s able to elevate at the most opportune time and that’s a special ability.” – Derek Lalonde (Green Bay Gamblers Head Coach)

“He’s got special hands, skill and vision and that makes him one of the top offensive players.” – Derek Lalonde (Green Bay Gamblers Head Coach)

 

Jakub Vrana
LW/RW | 5’11” 185 lbs | Linköping (SHL)
Stats: 24GP 2G 1A 3P | Playoffs: 14GP 1G 1A 2P

Vrana has been on the draft radar forever. Once thought to be a top-10 pick, Vrana slipped after a year marred with inconsistency.

Vrana is a highlight reel-type player, who combines terrific skating ability, as well as a hard shot and terrific hands. Vrana moves extremely well. His top-end speed is fantastic, but explosive first step is what really makes his skating so special. He has the ability to blow past defenders with a quick step and can stickhandle at top speed. His hands are fantastic and he owns a bomb of a shot. His one-timer is dynamite, as is his wrist shot; both of which have tremendous accuracy and a lightning quick release. He feeds off the opposition’s mistakes. He excels on the counter-attack, as his excellent skating and stickhandling ability are given room to shine. His playmaking ability is really hit and miss. Sometimes he looks like an above-average playmaker and others he cannot connect simple passes. Also, I haven’t seen a high level of finish around the crease; he seems to be more of a sniper from long range.

Vrana is a smart player overall, but there’s quite a bit lacking in his own end. He doesn’t battle hard enough and he makes many poor decisions. Despite being a good forechecker, it just doesn’t translate to his backchecking.

Overall, Vrana brings an intriguing skill set. He’s an explosive, goal-scoring winger, but is quite rough around the edges.

Quotes:

“Pastrňák might be already among pros, but that doesn’t make Vrána much less of a threat. Unlike Pastrňák, Vrána would play in the SHL as he’s a part of the Linköping organization. Currently, he has ten games in the SHL this year, with no points recorded. His stats look much better in the U20 Super Elit where he has 14 points in 12 games. Vrána has been considered a first-round prospect for a long time and it looks like he’s going to stay in that category. However, that might be decided in another Swedish town – Malmö, where the U20 World Championships will be played.” – Radoslav Vavrina (Pacific4Sports – Quote via eurohockey.com)

“A very creative and fast forward from the Czech Republic who has taken great strides since arriving in Sweden. He hasn’t had a lot of success when playing with Linköping against men in the SHL, but you can smell the potential in his game for miles. He’s got a great shot, but can also distribute the puck. Is probably more of a goal-scorer than a passer. Could have a breakout season anytime soon.” – Uffe Bodin (hockeysverige.se – quote via thehockeywriters.com)

“He plays with determination and drive, has an excellent work ethic and is a very fast skater with excellent all-around skills. He is able to control the game and create a lot of scoring opportunities with his quick moves.” – Goran Stubb (NHL Central Scouting)

 

Thoughts:

Of course, the obvious are excluded, such as Ekblad, Bennett, Nylander, Dal Colle, etc. Additionally, players with very little chance of being in the Habs range like Kapanen, Larkin, Milano, Tuch, etc. are excluded as well.

Not only is Scherbak my number one target from this group, but from both groups. I understand that Barbashev and McCann, as well as others, could very well be taken before him, but I believe Scherbak’s high-end skill, hockey sense, and (albeit wavering) aggressive game will put him in front in the long run. I suspect that Scherbak is on the Habs radar, considering his size, skill, and the fact that they’ve shown no issues taking Europeans from the CHL (Bozon, Andrighetto, Reway, etc.).

Following Scherbak are Sanheim and McCann. I’m a big fan of Sanheim’s skill set. The sky’s the limit for him and he fills a huge need for the Habs as a massive, two-way defenceman. McCann is similar in the sense that his upside is really high, but he’s far away from achieving it. The first half or so of McCann’s season was fantastic, but the second half could very well cause him to slip (which is why I included him). He’s a great two-way player, with a big shot, but there’s too many games where he’s not noticeable. Once again though, he’d be a solid fit for the Habs.

Pastrnak–one of the most entertaining players in the draft class–is on a bit of an island to me. I think his upside is fantastic, but there’s a lot of risk. However, I’m confident he can put it all together, considering his hockey sense and energetic style of game. He very well could end up being the best player out of this group, and when compared to the first group, he’s superior to everyone save for Barbashev, in my opinion. When compared two similarly skilled players in Goldobin and Ho-Sang, I think he’s a better prospect because not only of his performance versus men, but because he competes harder than either of them and plays a much more selfless game.

After Pastrnak, I’d look at Kempe, Dougherty, and Honka. All three of them have upside, with Dougherty filling as huge need as right-handed, two-way defenceman. Dougherty’s development curve and hockey sense are enticing. Kempe’s a hard-shooting, hard-hitting, and hard-working forward who had a solid year in the SHL as one of the youngest players in the draft class. Upside very well could be questioned, but he brings great tools the table. Honka could a great player, regardless of his size. I believe that because of his upside, he’d be an excellent value pick at 26.

Goldobin, Ho-Sang, Schmaltz, and Vrana all could be grouped together. As I mentioned in the last article, I think Ho-Sang’s issues are more easily fixed than Goldobin’s, and I also like his skating ability more. However, there’s a strong argument to be made either way. Schmaltz and Vrana are tricky to compare to the two OHLers as they play in different leagues. Regardless, they are both high upside picks. Schmaltz is a tremendous playmaker who controls centre ice. He constantly creates scoring chances and always seems to have complete control of the puck. Vrana, meanwhile, is an explosive sniper who can single-handedly make any counter-attack extremely dangerous. He doesn’t really fill a need per say, but you can never have too many goalscorers. However, I’m not sure that any of them would be targeted by the Habs.

Lemieux’s just a little bit behind those four, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him turn out just as good if not better than them. As mentioned, I don’t see a “safe” or “low upside” pick. Lots of goalscoring upside, but decision making needs some serious work. Definitely a player I can see the Habs targeting, due to his determination, skill, and, of course, bloodlines. He fills a massive need and I honestly think that if the choice came down to Goldobin, Ho-Sang, Schmaltz, Vrana, or Lemieux, they’d go with Lemieux. And I don’t see that as a bad thing at all.

Masin and Pettersson are two huge defencemen who really intrigue me. Masin’s leadership and physicality probably make him the more interesting package to the Habs, but I wouldn’t ignore Pettersson either. Both players have experienced tremendous development curves. The Habs have selected a handful of big, smooth-skating defencemen early on (McDonagh, Tinordi, Beaulieu) in recent years, so he could be a possible target. McKeown is also another smooth-skating defenceman. He brings upside, but I question how much.

Bleackley seems to fill the role of a “safe” pick. Not sure how much upside I see and I think there’s lots of high upside players to be had at 26. Not that I would be necessarily against selecting him though.

Additionally, Cornel and MacInnis are two players I could see the Habs being interested in. Two big bodies, and while I don’t think either are first round picks, I can understand why. They have skill and smarts, but I don’t know if I see a whole lot of upside, especially in Cornel. He skates well, but he lacks identity and plays timid. MacInnis is huge, owns a great two-way game, and a hard shot, but I’m just a not huge fan of his. Both of them are clearly projects and I think/hope there will be better plays on the board.

Assuming DeAngelo, Donato, and Kamenev are be available, I’d rather take them over Cornel and MacInnis. As mentioned in Part 1, they have tons of upside. Can’t see DeAngelo being a Habs selection due to his definite lack of character, slight frame, and lackadaisical defensive play. Additionally, I have a tough time seeing Kamenev selected by the Habs, even if it’s for nothing more than his nationality. Donato’s a total wildcard, but his upside appears sky high.

 

Check back soon for mid-and-later round targets!

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2017 Top 30 Habs Prospects: #2 Noah Juulsen

While the raw production never took off, Noah Juulsen ends his junior career as a terrific player on both sides of the puck. The fourth-year blue liner took both his offensive and defensive games to new heights this season. Juulsen’s 0.31 5v5 P1/GP was among the WHL’s best blue liners, and he took home WHL […]

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