Potential 2017 Draft Targets

The Montreal Canadiens 2017 offseason is still young and many are feeling the effects of no Canadiens hockey until the pre-season. However, like every offseason, there is a lot to look forward to in the summer months coming ahead. The 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Free Agent Frenzy, training camps and rookie camps, etc.

Based on the entry draft rules, it is still unclear where the Habs will draft at the United Center in Chicago on June 23rd-24th, 2017. Since Montreal won their division, they can still pick lower than teams who were eliminated in the second round.

Barring a trade, the Habs will have a first round pick to use for the ninth consecutive year. The last time they did not, the pick was traded to the Calgary Flames with a second round pick (2009) in exchange for Alex Tanguay and a fifth round pick (2008). The Flames selected Greg Nemisz with that pick while Tyler Ennis, Jacob Markstrom, Jake Allen, Roman Josi were on the board and taken not long later.

First Round Picks Since 2007
2007: Ryan McDonagh & Max Pacioretty
2008: Traded to Calgary Flames in Alex Tanguay trade
2009: Louis Leblanc
2010: Jarred Tinordi
2011: Nathan Beaulieu
2012: Alex Galchenyuk
2013: Michael McCarron
2014: Nikita Scherbak
2015: Noah Juulsen
2016: Mikhail Sergachev

2017 Draft Top Prospects

The 2017 NHL Entry Draft is a difficult one to judge. Experts believe it to be weaker than drafts in recent years and much weaker than next year’s in 2018.

That’s not to take away from the hard work and talent shown in some players in this draft. It would not be surprising if several develop later than most and go on to have great careers.

A year ago, many figured this would be a “big three” draft with Nolan Patrick, Timothy Liljegren and Maxime Comtois leading the way. This hasn’t been the case. Nolan Patrick has stayed as a sure fire top two pick all year despite injuries. Timothy Liljegren, once seen as for sure the best defenceman in the draft, is now ranked #6 among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting. There has also been chatter that some other defenceman are challenging the Swede for that top blue liner spot. Maxime Comtois, the 3rd overall pick in the 2015 QMJHL draft, has fallen to a projected late first round, early second round pick. A name that a year ago that was not known by many, Nico Hischier, is now seriously challenging Nolan Patrick for that first overall spot.

Potential Draft Targets

Most of the names listed above, assuming Montreal does not trade up that far, will not be called by the Canadiens on draft day. The exception here could be Comtois, who should still be available when Bergevin goes up to the podium.

Now, we are going to look at potential draft targets by position.

Goaltending

Draft

Let us get one thing out of the way, it is not crazy to think the Canadiens draft a goaltender as a long-term contingency plan but it is very unlikely. For that reason, this will be short and sweet.

In the positions following this one, the names will be more realistic draft targets and most will be chosen around where the Habs picks. It is difficult to project where goalies go, but these four are thought of pretty highly. Michael DiPietro, who will be playing in the Memorial Cup, many believe would be the first one off the board. However, Jake Oettinger out of Boston University has really shot his way up the board with some impressive play in his freshman year of college.

More difficult to scout from here, Olle Eriksson-Ek and Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen lead the way in Europe for now. Both played for their respective homelands at the 2017 IIHF U18 World Championship.

Defence

Draft

Fans of the Montreal Canadiens know all about taking a defenceman with the teams’ first round pick. With Mikhail Sergachev and Noah Juulsen, the last non-blue liner to be taken in the first round by the Habs is Nikita Scherbak in 2014.

Wherever the Habs will be picking, you can expect the top defencemen to be crossed off the list already. This includes Timothy Liljegren, Cale Makar, Miro Heiskanen. When you look at our potential draft targets, keep in mind that some players fall in the draft every year. Every single draft, there are players who unexpectedly slip a few picks. Looking at the chart above, if I were a betting man, I would expect Callan Foote and Nicolas Hague to be gone. But you never know.

Andrei Markov is not far from retirement, and there are many questions surrounding Nathan Beaulieu and Alexei Emelin’s future with the team. Nikita Nesterov is a free agent and Brandon Davidson is a year away from free agency. All five of the names have one thing in common – they are left shot defencemen. This will leave a big hole on the left side of the blue line, which was a large motivating factor for Mikhail Sergachev and Victor Mete last year.

Not to cancel out the chance of selecting a right shot defenceman, but that side is pretty set for now with Shea Weber, Jeff Petry, Jordie Benn, and the development of Noah Juulsen.

Nicolas Hague would probably be the most ideal pick in this case due to two factors. He is a towering 6’6″ and 214lbs, and among the left handed defencemen in the chart he has the greatest offensive presence. The issue here is it is doubtful he will be on the board. He is projected to be picked in the late teens, early twenties. Unless he slips or the Canadiens trade up, he probably would not be available.

Ranked between 25 and 29 by organizations such as HockeyProspect, Future Considerations and McKeen’s Hockey – comes Finnish defenceman Urho Vaakanainen. Before you look at his 6 points in 41 games and scream no, just consider something. Vaakanainen is a now-18 year old (began the season at 17) playing on one of the best professional teams in Finland’s top league, competing for ice time with some of the best that the country has to offer. It is beyond laughable to even think of trying to compare professional hockey statistics to those playing in major junior or college at the same age. He is said to be a complete two-way defenceman with a high hockey intelligence with a strong defensive game. He is regularly praised for his accurate passes, skating ability and reliable team player.

Somebody else to look at includes Pierre-Olivier Joseph of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Some expect he could be a very late first round pick, but the Canadiens could probably trade down and still grab him. He had a fairly strong second half of the season and continued to earn more ice time throughout the year. Pretty good skating and with some concerns about his shot, he is young and has a long time to work on it.

Centre

Draft

If you have gotten this far, this is probably what you are waiting for. With so many questions on whether Alex Galchenyuk is a centre or winger and the decline of Tomas Plekanec, Habs fans are desperate for the teams’ first truly #1 centre in years. With yet another late pick, it is hard to make the assumption that you will find a career #1 centre here. You will have to cut management some slack here, there are even questions around if the top two centres in the draft can develop into franchise centres.

But there are still some good quality centres with a bright road of development ahead of them that could be available by the time the Habs pick, or taken just a few picks before. Obviously two of the standouts here are Spokane Chiefs teammates Kailer Yamamoto and Jaret Anderson-Dolan. They come small in size at 5’8″ and 5’11” respectively, but have a nice offensive presence with over a point per game in the WHL this season.

If size is that important to you and you are hoping for a bigger centre that scores a lot of goals, you might want to rally for the team to trade up or down because that is not likely where they will be drafting. There are eight names in the chart above and the tallest is Joshua Norris at 6’1″.

There are no lack of goals on the chart though, as Yamamoto and Suzuki both had over 40 goals and Anderson-Dolan was one short of 40. Even if you look at Marcus Davidsson of the Stockholm-based team in Sweden’s highest professional hockey league in the country, the 18-year old scored five goals with limited professional hockey minutes.

There are many quality options here, but among the names presented, Nicholas Suzuki should probably be tempting for Habs fans. Fair size at 5’11” and 183lbs. A goal scorer with 45 goals in 65 Ontario Hockey League regular season games and 8 goals (so far) in 14 playoff games. He’s also a very smart forward that is increasingly difficult to knock off of the puck.

On March 8th, Jeff Marek of Sportsnet had this to say about Suzuki: “A high hockey IQ and very little panic in his game. Versatile player: They use him on both the first unit PP and PK in Owen Sound”.

If you want somebody who has a good back checking game and gives a lot of energy on the ice, he might be somebody that the Habs could consider.

Wingers

Draft

Among this list, there are some very quality wingers available that are thought of highly. Kole Lind obviously stands out, having at least 25 more points than anybody on this list. Matthew Strome, the younger brother of Ryan (NYI) and Dylan (ARI) with a 34 goal season. Isaac Ratcliffe had four times as many points and nearly six times as many goals this year than he did in his rookie season. All of this done on a very weak Guelph Storm team this season. Maxime Comtois may have fallen out of the top-5 talk, but there is a long road for development still and he is still a pretty good hockey player.

Looking over at Europe, Kristian Vesalainen and Klim Kostin are still available. After splitting time in Sweden’s top league, Sweden’s J20 league, and Finland’s top league looking for draft year success, there has been lots of chatter about Vesalainen all year. After a 13 points in 7 game performance for the silver medalists at the U18 World Championship, the big Finnish winner earned the tournament MVP award.

Klim Kostin is interesting and do not let those zeroes on the chart turn you away. He played 8 games in the KHL, 9 in the VHL (1 goal), and 1 in the MHL in Russia (1 assist). He played so few games due to an unfortunate injury-ridden season and shoulder surgery coming in his draft year. Regardless, NHL Central Scouting still has him ranked #1 among European skaters.

This is for a good reason. His shot is regularly praised, along with his ability to get to the net, his skating, and the ability to use his size to his advantage.

Among those listed, if the Habs went with picking a winger in the first round, it would be so challenging to choose that I can just say that I am glad I don’t have to make the decision.

Conclusion

All About The Habs will produce more content related to the 2017 NHL Entry Draft as we get closer to the draft. Player rankings will change between now and then but at this point, the hockey world has a pretty good idea of who will be where.

Assuming the Habs pick in the early-mid twenties barring a trade, whose name would you like to see management call at the podium on June 23rd?

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2 Responses to Potential 2017 Draft Targets

  1. Suzuki is the sleeper in the lists, Strome would be the safe pick. No need for Dmen or goaltenders, but in Bergevin’s words; “You can never have too many dmen”. Actually, when scoring is an issue, you can. They have failed year after year after year at the draft. Lousy picks like Connor Crisp, just a bunch of total wastes, and then you waste two 2nd round picks for Shaw. I’m not impressed. This is the worst group of prospects in a long time, a bunch of 3rd or 4th line prospects, and the goaltenders look okay, but it takes forever to get anything decent for a goaltending or defense prospect. This team is in bad shape with nothing positive offensively coming to the big club. Their stagnant picks never get a chance at the big league level and the chances they do get are for 7 minutes of ice time for 2 games, on average. So to see something like this and missing David Fischer on the list, this is one of the worst teams for draft history. Sorry for being a downer, but this is not a team that has the future that most of the teams in the east have. Why don’t you do an article comparing Montreal’s prospects to teams like Florida, Tampa, Boston, Toronto, Carolina, just to name a few teams. This defense first philosophy is getting old and isn’t working because they can’t score enough to win games. It’s be decades now that it’s been this bad. I’m fed up, simply because Bergevin’s mouth spewing BS claimed he had a 5 year plan, and we’re at year number 5 with no improvement, actually a regression from 3 years ago. PK Subban had 3 points tonight, he’s still playing hockey, and this is going to be a trade they will eventually, not Bergevin because he hopefully won’t be here, regret. Drafting prospects is one thing, developing them is something completely different. The brutal coaching from the AHL to the pro team is what has cost them, so why even do an article like this? I liked it, you have some insight, but it won’t matter if they don’t take what really needs to be addressed, skill down the middle. Actually, a better idea, sign Plekanec to a long term contract for the excellent playoff he had! McDonagh would look pretty good here, wouldn’t he? Or would they screw him up like every other player they pretend they’re developing. With so many failures, when will this team look in the mirror instead of blaming every player they seem to have a failure with. Maybe this teams 1970’s style of doing things doesn’t work almost 50 years later. Anyhow, I give up, I don’t see them even competing with a lot of the teams that finished behind them, because talent eventually wins out, and they don’t have it.

    Maxman April 27, 2017 at 1:50 am Reply
  2. Trevor Timmons draft record is horrendous. Why is he still director of scouting? He’s a foxhole guy. Entrenched in MB’s foxhole.Why is Sylvain Lefevre still coach of their AHL team? He’s a foxhole guy.Why is MB also VP of hockey Ops. Who is he accountable to. Molson needs to have someone other than MB to go over the season. MB the VP is not going to fire MB the GM.

    habbernack April 27, 2017 at 3:21 pm Reply

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