Montreal with Seven Prospects at 2018 World Junior Championship

Ryan Poehling

(Ryan Poehling, St. Cloud State)

It’s Boxing Day! For some, this means lots of shopping, but for true Canadians, it means something bigger; the start of one of the most exciting tournaments of the year with many future NHL stars. For the first time in recent years, after fans thought the cupboards were bare, the Montreal Canadiens have seven of their prospects representing their respective countries in this tournament. While this is an exciting number, it’s also worth noting where these players are playing in the line-up and how much of an effect they’ll have on their teams.

Canada

Nick Suzuki (C-Owen Sound Attack-OHL)

One of GM Marc Bergevin’s recent moves and arguably one of his best transactions to date, occurred this past September when Captain Max Pacioretty was shipped off to Vegas in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki and a 2nd round pick in 2019. Following this trade, Marc Bergevin made it clear that Suzuki was the key piece in this deal.

“Vegas selected him 13th overall and we had him at 11 on our list,”

– Marc Bergevin

While Suzuki didn’t make the roster this season, he has been producing at an elite level for Owen Sound. In 2016, he netted 42 goals, added 58 assists for 100 points in only 64 games. This year, he has 20 goals, 23 assists for 43 points in only 28 games. Suzuki is not only an offensive force, but he adds some flexibility to Canada’s lineup as the majority of his point totals in 2016 came from the wing.

“I think I have the ability to play with a lot of different people,” he said. “I can play with skill, I can cycle the puck. Center or wing, I think I can help any line.”

Head coach Tim Hunter emphasized how much skill Suzuki had while also remaining a versatile player.

Suffice to say, Nick Suzuki is aware of the pressure on him but doesn’t seem too concerned and wants to do his best to prove to Marc Bergevin that he is an offensive player.

“To hear Marc Bergevin say I was a centre-piece of the trade was pretty cool. It gives you a lot of confidence. You know you are going to a place they want you pretty bad. I’m really excited to be there now. I want to prove the Canadiens right for wanting me.”

It’s still somewhat unclear where Suzuki will officially play for team Canada be it on the wing or at center but this much is clear; Nick Suzuki will play a pivotal role in Canada’s top-six and in their overall success. As of right now, he is on the right wing with Anderson-Dolan in the middle and Lafrenière on the left side.

Josh Brook (D-Moose Jaw Warriors-WHL)

Josh Brook is the other Canadiens’ prospect expected to play a significant role for Canada this year. Much like Suzuki, he is another flexible piece who Canada has the privilege of moving up and down the lineup to play in any situation.

Josh Brook has made tremendous strides offensively this season. Last year, tallying 32 points in 45 games was a pleasant surprise for fans and analysts alike, but Brook was pressed to produce even more and be a factor night in and night out and managed to do that. This year, he has exceeded those expectations even more managing 35 points in only 25 games. He is one of the most productive defencemen playing out of the WHL and is currently sitting at third behind Ty Smith (39), Dawson Davidson (34), and Calen Addison (34). Brook, another right-handed shot on the blue line behind Weber, Petry and Juulsen, is playing on the left side which is a positive sight for Habs’ fans, who are well aware at how thin the left side is. Assuming he performs well on his off side, it wouldn’t be unusual for Claude Julien or Marc Bergevin to test him in hopes of solidifying the left side.

Tim Hunter is putting a lot of trust in his defencemen:

“Phillips-Bouchard and Brook-Mitchell, those guys will be our top four for now and we’ll give those guys the heavy assignments.” 

USA

Ryan Poehling (C-St.Cloud State-NCAA)

A first round pick in 2017, Ryan Poehling is another solid prospect in the Montreal Canadiens’ system. He’s not an offensive force by any means but is expected to be a solid piece for Montreal within the next few years. At best he’s a defensive second line center with some offensive capability or a dominant third line center. Perhaps he’d be the closest thing to Lars Eller, one of the more defensively sound centers the Canadiens have had in recent memory. He only has three goals so far this year but has added 14 helpers throughout this season for 17 points in 17 games. He is expected to be a strong defensive piece on the USA’s top line this year but this time, it will come playing on the left wing with Josh Norris in the middle and Jason Robertson on the right side.

Cayden Primeau (G-Northeastern Univ-NCAA)

He isn’t starting in game one for the U.S.; however, he is another solid goalie in Montreal’s system. Some scouts are already calling this pick a 7th round steal. What’s confusing is how Primeau was expected to be somewhere between the fourth and fifth round but kept getting overlooked by scouts. Timmins expressed that year how they weren’t going to pick him that high especially with the team committed to Carey Price and then Charlie Lindgren and Michael McNiven in the system. Luckily for Timmins, no one noticed his value as much as Timmins and that pick fell into place perfectly for Montreal. Primeau is established as a solid goaltender, and in 2017, he proved it by posting a 2.40 GAA as well as a .931 SVS%. Primeau may not be starting for team USA, but he will certainly be contending or pushing for the starter’s position.

Finland

Jesse Ylönen (RW-Pelicans/Liigä)

A second round pick (35 overall) in 2018, Jesse Ylönen is expected to be another one of Timmins’ second round steals. He’s a quick, agile, skilled player who, while not the biggest, isn’t afraid to go into the dirty areas. His numbers in Finland don’t necessarily do him justice as he only has 13 points in 31 games, but he’s a skilled player who should fit somewhere in Montreal’s top-nine in the years to come.

(NHL via Getty Images)

Ylönen may not be as prolific as Suzuki or Brook but he’ll have an impact playing on an already stacked Finnish team on their third line with Aarne Talvitie and Santeri Virtanen.

Sweden

Jacob Olofsson (C-Timrå IK/SHL)

Another late pick from Timmins, Jacob Olofsson is a player who could surprise skeptics during this tournament. Consistency was an issue for Olofsson, but he’s not expected to be a consistent driving force for his team’s offense. That being said, he’s a complete package for a team craving a third line center without too much risk. Olofsson, 6’2, has good speed, a solid shot and plays a physical game. He, much like Poehling, is expected to be a solid third line center for the club in the near future. This year, Olofsson finds himself higher up in the lineup playing on the first line with Fabian Zetterlund and Isac Lundestrom, so we should have a better chance to see his offensive ability.

Russia

Alexander Romanov (D-CSKA Moskva-KHL)

Finally, Alexander Romanov. He was somewhat of a controversial pick in the 2018 draft as scouts aren’t sure exactly what type of player he will become. He was likened to hard hitting defencemen and former Hab Alexei Emelin *before* his knee injury, which would be a positive for Montreal. The difference between these two, however, is that Emelin would play irresponsibly to make the big hit. Romanov plays a very safe game, however, and doesn’t always push himself to make more creative plays even though his skillset allows him to do so. Alexander Romanov will be playing on Russia’s top pairing during this tournament. He’s an intriguing player who could surprise fans with some flashes although he is best known for his solid defensive game and physical ability.

Habs fans should be excited

This is expected to be an exciting tournament for Canadiens’ fans. While Nick Suzuki, Josh Brook and Ryan Poehling are at the forefront and the most talked about (rightfully so), it’s crucial to not rule out how the other Canadiens’ recruits will play for their team and the impact they will have. The record for the most prospects representing their team in one tournament is Chicago with eight in 2006. Montreal has the most this year with seven, tied with Chicago and Philadelphia. In theory, they could have tied this record with Chicago had Joni Ikonen not been injured earlier this year.

They could have set the record themselves had they loaned Finnish center Jesperi Kotkaniemi to Finland. There was a little bit of confusion and frustration from fans as Kotkaniemi wasn’t loaned because Marc Bergevin wasn’t too keen on the idea. Kotkaniemi has developed extremely well under Claude Julien and is already playing tremendous hockey. He is a big reason for Montreal’s recent success. It’s not worth the risk to send a player the World Juniors in case they get injured. Losing Kotkaniemi would have a negative effect on Montreal as well.

What prospects should we keep an eye on?

Let me know in the comment section below.

For All About The Habs,

-Patrick Tallon

Twitter: @PatrickTallon81

 

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One Response to Montreal with Seven Prospects at 2018 World Junior Championship

  1. Very well done. Have kept an eye on all of the prospects that I have had a chance to see thus-far. The future looks bright!

    Ken McLean December 31, 2018 at 1:26 pm Reply

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