Rabid Habs

The Habs’ 2016 Prospect Pyramid

Sometimes the way the human brain decides to organize information is flawed. Lists can organize information in order of descending importance or value. At the same time, lists can be arbitrary combinations of information (Think about a grocery list).

Somewhere in the middle of those two concepts is the way we rank NHL prospects. Noticeably, this concept is flawed. When you rank a player on a list, that player is immediately compared to the players directly above him and directly below him, despite the three of them being nearly equal prospects. There’s no room for similarities between prospects, as the list is built on the premise that all prospects have an unequal chance of reaching the NHL.

Steve Dangle, blogger and podcaster extraordinaire, found the prospect ranking system to be flawed, and took it into his own hands to devise a new system for ranking prospects. Before reading the remainder of this article, go watch Steve’s video. The concept of the prospect pyramid isn’t terribly complex, but the Leafs’ prospect pool is ideal for the construction of the pyramid (also, the guy came up with the idea, so just watch it, ok?)

I like this format much better, as it doesn’t rank prospects so much as it categorizes them. For example, Auston Matthews is in a category all by himself, as he is the franchise centerpiece that every team looks for. The second tier is home to William Nylander and Mitch Marner, both of whom “look like they’re going to be pretty sick,” right Steve? Until they reach the NHL, we just don’t know what their careers will look like, but at the moment, they both have an equal potential to great things with the Leafs. Barf.

So what about the Canadiens? What does their pyramid look like? I constructed a pyramid with the main concept of categorization being the player’s potential of reaching the NHL. Here’s what I came up with:

Habs 2016 Prospect Pyramid FINAL

Disclaimer: Sven Andrighetto, Daniel Carr and Greg Pateryn are not prospects anymore. Why? Because this is my pyramid, that’s why.

First Tier:

Artturi Lehkonen has the greatest chance of any Habs’ prospect to make the team out of camp for several reasons. First and foremost, Lehkonen was a point producer in a men’s league as a 20 year-old (he turned 21 in July). The Finnish winger played for Frolunda of the SHL last season, winning the league championship while tearing up the scoresheet. In 16 playoff games, Lehkonen scored 11 goals, adding to the 16 he scored in the regular season. Lehkonen fits an organizational need for scoring wingers, and should be in the starting lineup when the puck drops in October.

Second Tier:

This is where matters start to get a bit sticky. Michael McCarron might be able to chip in on the fourth line for the Habs, but it would probably be best for his development to get first line shifts in St. John’s before joining the Habs full time. There’s a log jam of NHL forwards keeping McCarron from taking an NHL role, and that means St. John’s is the only place for him to improve his game. Mikhail Sergachev, the Habs’ most recent 1st rounder, might have the skill to play in the NHL next season, but there are several factors working against this happening. First, like the situation keeping McCarron from the NHL, there’s a log jam on defense with too many bodies and not enough spots. Second, there’s no rush to get Sergachev into the NHL. The Habs will give the Windsor Spitfire another year before he sees regular NHL minutes. Finally, Martin Reway (pronounced Reeveye) is considered to be in the same boat as Lehkonen, as the two signed their entry level deals after monster seasons overseas. Putting Reway in the second tier was tough, but I feel Lehkonen is just a step above Reway. Also, due to the return clauses in Reway’s contract, the Slovakian winger can return to Europe if he does not make the Canadiens’ starting roster in late September.

Third Tier:

Habs fans should be excited, as there are still several fantastic prospects in the third tier. Charles Hudon, for example, has played some great hockey in the AHL. This last season, Hudon tallied 28 goals in 67 games. Hudon was called up for three games last season, but will most likely start in St. John’s again next year. It’s hard to figure out why Hudon hasn’t made the full jump to the NHL yet, but it’s only a matter of time before he cracks the NHL roster. Similarly, Nikita Scherbak has shown flashes of brilliance in between injuries. If the former 26th overall selection can remain healthy, I would expect a breakout AHL season and an NHL call up in the near future. Noah Juulsen, the Habs’s top selection in the 2015 draft, had a decent season with the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. With Juulsen, expect a slow road to the NHL that may pay off with a solid top four defenseman. To me, Will Bitten is the most intriguing prospect in the Habs’ system due entirely to the fact that he played with the Flint Firebirds of the OHL last season. Bitten led Flint in points last year despite the team surrounding itself with distraction and controversy. Interestingly, Bitten has requested a trade out of Flint, and I am interested in seeing what the young man can do in a more stable environment. Finally, Victor Mete is a speedy, offensively gifted defenseman and is what the future of the NHL looks like. Mete is arguably the best skating defenseman the Habs have in their prospect pool. Another year with the London Knights should do him wonders, and if he polishes up the defensive side of his game, he can be a solid Shayne Gostisbehere-type defenseman.

Fourth Tier (The Highlights):

Daniel Audette, son of Habs scout Donald Audette, is an explosive Brendan Gallagher-type player who put up points with Sherbrooke of the QMJHL. The fifth round pick also shares Gallagher’s smaller stature making his path to the NHL a little less direct than most. Simon Bourque, a puck moving defenseman with Rimouski, projects as a potential middle pairing defenseman with high offensive upside without the wow factor of Mete. Lukas Vejdemo, a third round pick, was sort of an unknown before this past season. The Swede had a breakout year in the SHL and is an interesting prospect to keep an eye on. For now I placed Vejdemo in the fourth tier, but he is certainly moving up faster than I expected. Jeremiah Addison of the Ottawa 67s is another prospect on the rise. Scoring 27 goals in 66 games in the OHL is an impressive feat, and his playoff scoring is equally impressive. Addison will need to clean up his all-around game to have a shot at the NHL.

Fifth Tier (The Highlights):

Tom Parisi, a 23 year-old defenseman out of Union College, is a bit of a project signing, but has leadership potential. The Habs seem to be high on Parisi, as they signed him before the end of the 2015-16 campaign. Tim Bozon has had a rough few years as his bout with meningitis has severely delayed his development. Now healthy, the French-American skater looks to climb the Habs depth chart. Brett Lernout and Joel Hanley both had small call ups with the Habs this year, but both project as lower pairing defensemen. They both may receive call ups in the near future, but the inclusion of Sergachev, Mete and Juulsen to the Habs defensive prospects makes their road to the NHL a bit more challenging.

Sixth Tier: The Rest

Just as Steve ended his pyramid, the last tier of the Habs’ prospect pyramid ends with the rest of the group. Guys like Dalton Thrower, Connor Crisp, Micheal Pezzetta, and Casey Staum fit here. Frankly, I just don’t know enough about these guys to accurately place them in the pyramid, so they’ll stay at the bottom for now.

Like Steve said, these are all just predictions. We won’t know what happens with any of these guys until it actually happens. Maybe Sergachev surprises everyone and makes it out of camp. Maybe Reway dethrones Lehkonen and takes his roster spot. Maybe Bitten gets traded and moves up a tier. We just don’t know.

What do you think? Should teams, fans and writers use the pyramid concept for grading prospects? Is my pyramid accurate? Who is too low? Who is too high?

I know I’m wrong. This is my list, not the list. What does yours look like?

Follow Ian on Twitter @BoisvertIan