Rabid Habs

2015 Draft Recap – Montreal Canadiens

Noah Juulsen

The 2015 draft was definitely one of the most action packed one in recent years. We saw big names like Ryan O’Reilly & Dougie Hamilton get traded for draft picks and a ton of names dropped (Ryan Pilon & Nikita Korostelev come to mind) and we saw many prospects get their names called a lot earlier than expected (see Zachary Senyshyn & Mitchell Stephens). Hell we even witnessed the first Chinese born player ever selected!

Unfortunately for those who expected exciting things from the Habs camp, it was a bland day. The Canadiens didn’t make any ‘sexy’ picks or acquire/trade away any and at the end of the day, it might be what’s best for business.

26th overall: NOAH JUULSEN – RD – Everett Silvertips, WHL

LAST SEASON: 68 GP, 9 Goals & 43 Assists (52 PTS)

Yes, I know Montreal has scoring problems and selecting a defenseman doesn’t fix that but the reality is that it’s rare that a prospect at this spot can step in right away (since we need help NOW and not three or four years from now, let alone produce. Our prospect pool on defense before this selection was rather weak which makes this pick perfectly justifiable. Nick Merkley would have been nice (had him 15th in my mock draft) but Trevor Timmins and company stuck to their guns and went with that appears to be their guy since the beginning in Juulsen.

Although he’s a right handed shooter and we already have PK Subban & Jeff Petry within the organization. This pick makes a lot of sense, considering that we should realistically expect him to be an NHL regular at the age of 23, so five years from now, Petry will be 32 and his contract will have one year remaining. Montreal also doesn’t really have anybody with huge upside on the right side (or the left side either) with guys like Darren Dietz, Greg Pateryn, Brett Lernout and Magnus Nygren so Juulsen gives a huge boost to our prospect pool on the back-end.

Juulsen with his package becomes our best prospect on defense easily. He’s a strong skater with a smooth and fluid stride. While he’s not the fastest guy out there, he’s got good acceleration and speed. He can pivot quickly which allows him to cover a ton of space on the ice. His ability to change directions quickly makes him a hard defender to beat one on one and he’s not afraid to throw huge hits when the opportunity is there.

He’s got a good frame at six foot two and has plenty room to grow considering he’s only 174 pounds, he could get to around 200 pounds by the time he’s NHL-ready without a problem. Right now, due to his lack of mass, he loses some battles he shouldn’t lose but I expect him to fix that once he gains strength and adds muscle to his lower body.

The British Colombian has good offensive skills too. He chooses when to pinch or join the rush wisely and possesses a hard slap shot and a good one timer. His mobility makes him a threat for joining the rush and making him an additional threat offensively for his team. He has great poise and makes a good first pass out of his zone.

Juulsen will need to learn to control his aggressiveness and take himself out of position a lot less to go for that big hit. He also needs to work on his ability to read the action when his team is defending down low since he has difficulty sticking to his man. Juulsen has all the tools to become a top four defenseman and has top pairing upside if he develops nicely.

Here are some interesting facts or tidbits about the defender taken by the Canadiens:

  • Was ranked by some as the fourth best defender in the draft.
  • Went from 10 pts in 59 GP last year to 52 in 68 GP this year.
  • Lead the WHL in primary assists, ahead of Provorov (whose team had 100 more goals for than Everett).
  • Teammate of Nikita Scherbak, last year’s first round selection by the Habs, with the Silvertips.
  • Compares himself to Kevin Bieksa.
  • Was invited to the U20 Canada summer camp which is nice to see for an 18 year old.
  • Outscored highly ranked players like Josh Morrisey, Madison Bowey, Shea Theodore, Darnell Nurse, Haydn Fleury and Travis Sanheim in their draft year on a team not know for their offense.
  • Comes from a team with a good track record for developing NHL defensemen (Radko Gudas, Mirco Mueller, Ryan Murray in recent years).
  • According to Grant McCagg, Juulsen was the 5th defender on Montreal’s list.
  • His dad has an awesome mustache (https://twitter.com/Baslerfm/status/614614502118551552)

87th overall: LUKAS VEJDEMO – C – Djurgarden J20, SuperElit

LAST SEASON: 34 GP, 23 Goals & 25 Assists (48 PTS)

This selection was definitely one that you could consider a reach as most people following the draft didn’t have a clue of who this Vejdemo guy was. He was expected to go in the fifth round but Timmins decided to not take any chances on him being there for their next pick (Montreal didn’t have a fourth round pick either because of the Jeff Petry trade). This prospect could be what makes this draft go from good to great for the Canadiens if he works out.

The Swedish center went under the radar for a couple of reasons. He missed most of his draft eligible season due to a broken leg. He didn’t take part to any international tournaments, although Timmins believes he has a shot at making the Swedish team at the next World Juniors. He also didn’t play a whole lot in the SHL (he played three games in the SHL but his ice time was limited based on what I’ve read) which made him lack exposure for most teams. He was named the playoffs MVP this year and led the league in point per game during the regular season.

Here’s a scouting report from Future Considerations on him:

Vejdemo has grown a lot over the last one to two years, from being average-sized at best to now a strong and hardworking two-way pivot. He’s got above average speed but lacks power and extension in his stride. Has the balance that allows him to be effective when playing in traffic when contact is involved. He can also create a little separation based on his top speed at this level. Speed is solid overall, maybe his agility could be a little better and he could certainly improve his first step. He’s got decent hands, passing and playmaking skills. His two-way play is a strength as well. He is able to read the play around him and adapt at both ends of the rink. Good hockey sense. Covers for teammates and drives deep into his own zone to stymie opponents’ offensive chances. Both wrist shot and slapshot seem quite heavy, but he does not have the positional instincts of a natural goal scorer. Strong along the boards. Can be pretty physical, battling for pucks and space, even though he is not a tough guy. His wrist shot seems hard, but unfortunately, not always accurate. Has NHL upside as a potential top nine forward, or at worst case, a bottom line two-way threat.

Timmins and Christian Rockstrom (the scout responsible for Europe) were excited that the Swedish center was still available at their pick and they believe in his abilities. The Habs Head Scout compared his style of play to Alex Wennberg from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Rockstrom has a good track record with lesser known prospects from Sweden (see Nick Lidstrom, Henrik Lundqvist, Mattias Norstrom, Niklas Sundstrom , Cark Hagelin, Jesper Fast) so if he’s excited, it’s a pretty good sign to be excited too. I’ve also read that some journalists from Sweden were hearing that he might go as high as the second round if a team really liked him so it explains why we ‘reached’ for him.

But since I’m a glass half-empty type of guy, this is not the first time we take a player whose potential is high and just becomes an obscure bit of trivia for Habs nerds like me. Anybody remember Alex Avtsin? Or Maxim Trunev? Those players had some decent hype when we selected them and they turned out to be mediocre players at the pro level. Only time will tell with this pick but he’s the biggest wild card BY FAR.

131st overall: MATTHEW BRADLEY – C – Medicine Hat, WHL

LAST SEASON: 71 GP, 17 Goals & 23 Assists (40 PTS)

Here’s a scouting report from poster R S on HFBoards:

Player Analysis: Matt Bradley is a cerebral and versatile forward for the Medicine Hat Tigers…gets around the ice with above average speed and quickness…doesn’t possess a massive amount of power in his legs but his skating mechanics are at a good place…should gain a healthy amount of speed, acceleration and agility with added muscle in his lower body…sees the ice extremely well…displays a mature understanding of offensive timing and pace…isn’t afraid to drive lanes with the puck but is also comfortable slowing down in order to open up lanes in the offensive zone…has versatility in his passing game…can pass on the backhand or the forehand…really fires the puck around but can also slow it down and take something off to make it easier to handle…consistently impressed me with smart little passes that aided the Tigers breakout game…makes good use of unique area passes when faced with clogged passing lanes…makes tough passes look easy regularly…isn’t afraid to take a hit in order to make a play offensively…possesses an above-average shot with a good release…has a good one-timer…his spatial awareness comes across in his shooting game, too, knowing how to find open ice to get shots away…displays good hands around the net and in traffic…goes to the net and displays decent hand-eye co-ordination in front…slight frame doesn’t help him much away from the puck…doesn’t win a massive amount of battles for loose pucks but that’s not due to a lack of effort…could learn to position his body a bit better to get more leverage during board battles because at the next level he will ultimately be an undersized player…isn’t a punishing physical player by any stretch…will need to get bigger and stronger and faster but does display good hockey sense regarding stick positioning defensively…his smarts also come across while he’s on the forecheck…rarely caught out of position defensively…didn’t see him used on the penalty kill but I suspect we’ll see him used there in the future due to his hockey sense and mobility….was a fixture on the powerplay, even centering the top unit during a rash of mid-season injuries…saw him used in the high slot on the PP in some viewings and he appeared comfortable in that area of the ice…was a regular in the Tigers top 9 forward group all year but his position and minutes varied frequently…saw time most often at centre but also saw time on the left-wing…scored more than a goal per game for his midget team in 2013-14 while averaging nearly two points per game…as a WHL rookie his point totals were very consistent from the first half of the season to the second with 21 in his first 37 games and 17 in his next 29 (0.57 PPG vs. 0.58 PPG)…won the Tigers Top Rookie Award this season…his game has some similarities to a player like Jakob Silfverberg style-wise…both are guys who aren’t overly big but they compete, have smarts, will have the ability to play in any situation and use their above-average vision to make plays…was a 2nd round selection by the Tigers in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft…overall, I think at his peak Bradley projects as a top 9 NHL player who can play in any situation and could even translate to the wing full-time if necessary… I feel that he is smart enough to round out his game if his scoring doesn’t fully translate as a pro, making him a good potential fit as a bottom 6 guy…I think he will also be a guy that scores a lot over his junior career, not shocking me if he nearly doubles his production next year…I think he will come off the board sometime after the 5th round is over at the NHL Draft but based on my analysis he has done enough to be drafted well before that and rates more as a late 4th or early 5th round pick for me…

Bradley doesn’t have the most impressive stats for a draft eligible forward but there are couple things that favor him. This was his first WHL season so he’s not your typical prospect who’s had two or three seasons to learn things under the coaching staff or get used to the pace of the game/his environment. He also played for a good team which meant that he played most of the season on the third line without Power Play time. Timmins also mentioned that he’s been a good producer everywhere he’s been prior to the WHL so he might be a late bloomer. He’ll get a chance to turn heads next season when he gets more ice time for Medicine Hat, he might turn into another Jeremy Gregoire.

177th overall: SIMON BOURQUE – LD – Rimouski Oceanic, QMHJL

LAST SEASON: 68 GP, 10 Goals & 28 Assists (38 PTS)

Scouting report from Future Considerations:

A solid, mature-minded, two-way blueliner who plays a solid game at both ends of the ice. He has a good, powerful stride with good speed and acceleration. He uses his skating power to join the rush and get involved offensively. Pivots well and has fluid all-direction mobility. He handles the puck well, using his strength on the puck and hand-speed to gain space to rush up ice or make a strong pass up ice. He distributes the puck effectively and has an accurate good wristshot from the point. His vision is high-end. His slap shot is relatively weak and will need some work. He is strong defensively, playing aggressively and physical, but will need to continue to add strength to be more effective in that role. Keeps attackers to the outside and can keep up to the speedy opponents because of his strong skating ability. He makes good step-ups and aggressive plays to force guys wide and take them off the puck in the corners and along the boards. He is aggressive and tough down-low on defense. A guy who makes good decisions all over the ice and can play heavy minutes when called upon. This kid’s game is on a steep trajectory and only getting better.

Bourque late in the sixth round is solid value for the Habs. He might never be more than a bottom pairing defenseman à la Josh Gorges (who he compares himself to) but he has a pretty damn good shot at reaching his potential. The Greenfield Park native will see his role grow next season when Samuel Morin and Jan Kostalek both graduate to the pros. It will be nice to see how Bourque will handle being leaned on as the guy on defense for Rimouski.

Bourque was ranked 75th by Future Considerations and 95th by Hockeyprospect.com so some people definitely see potential in him. Marc Bergevin described him as having Francis Bouillon type of character. If he even comes close to the career Bouillon had, this is an amazing pick for the Canadiens.

207th overall: JEREMIAH ADDISON – LW – Ottawa 67s, OHL

LAST SEASON: 63 GP, 19 Goals & 28 Assists (47 PTS)

Here’s the scouting report from Future Considerations:

Addison is a hard-working character guy who creates pressure on the forecheck and finishes his checks. He possesses explosive speed, is balanced on his feet and plays the power game despite his modest size. Sees the ice well and distributes the puck to open teammates off the rush before going to the net. Possesses a one-timer that is so lethal it surprises goalies with how quickly it is on them every time he releases it. Has had some accuracy problems with his shooting this season. Makes good decisions with the puck at top speed and can be dangerous offensively. Addison has shown versatility this season in all three zones. The determination and work ethic in this kid is very noticeable and something that could really make him a strong prospect down the line. He is a good net front presence and uses his wiry frame to disrupt around the net. Plays his man hard as he lays the body and engages on the wall. Isn’t afraid of the gritty areas or to wreak havoc in front of the net by tipping pucks, banging at loose pucks, pushing and shoving with defenders and trying to bury some garbage goals. Has a bad tendency to look down at the puck when carrying it up ice and into the zone. He is a player who can provide depth at the next level and can develop into a strong power forward if he works hard towards that goal.

Addison is another great pick based on where he was selected. He had excellent playoffs with the 67s with 10 PTS in 6 GP. Could become a bottom six player for the Canadiens if he develops properly. Since he’s a late birthday, he will be able to play for St. John/Wheeling after next season if that’s what management wants.

The Habs also invited to their development camp the following prospects: Loik Leveille, Dryden Hunt and Bailey Webster.

Conclusion: Unless Vejdemo reaches his potential, this won’t be a memorable draft for the Canadiens and considering how many picks the team had (five and only two in the top 90), we shouldn’t expect that. Juulsen in my opinion is a guaranteed NHLer barring a major setback and we went the safe route with prospects that are expected to be bottom six players or bottom pairing defensemen. Hopefully this draft turns out better than another draft where we also had only five picks: 2008 (0 NHL games).

Follow Antoine on Twitter @HabsoluteTruth.