Rabid Habs

Habs Sign Michael McNiven To Entry-Level Contract

Michael McNiven Photo - canadiens.nhl.com

The Montreal Canadiens have announced the signing of prospect Michael McNiven to an entry level contract. The 18-year-old was one of several prospects invited to the rookie & development camps this summer. Based on various reports from the fans who were attending those camps, the Georgetown-native was one of the best goalies there and many felt that he deserved a more serious look based on his performance.

Fans shouldn’t dismiss McNiven’s potential as a prospect just because he was passed over by every team at last year’s draft. One of the reasons he wasn’t selected was because this was his first season in the OHL and he only played 24 games. The six-foot-one goaltender was ranked #119 by Hockeyprospect.com and #169 by Future Considerations. That shows that he was not unknown by the scouting world, he was simply too unproven for an organization to risk a pick on him.

According to certain OHL fans, McNiven was neck and neck with Sheldon Blackwood (who was drafted 42nd by the New Jersey Devils), but his season took a nosedive following the CHL prospects game where he was absolutely lit up. It took him a while to get his confidence back, and by the time it was back to what it was previously the starter position was occupied by somebody else. You can read more about him as a prospect here.

That being said, there is a strong possibility that McNiven proves his worth and becomes the starter for Owen Sound this season. He’s competing with Jack Flinn, who – other than being big (six-foot-eight!), doesn’t look too good based on his stats. Especially for a player who just completed his third season in the CHL.

(Editor’s note: After publication of this article, Jack Finn was traded to Mississauga, which means McNiven becomes the likely starter in Owen Sound this coming season)

But that’s the beauty of this signing for the Habs, it’s absolutely risk free. It’s practically an additional pick from the 2015 draft for fans and management to keep track of. It’s also worth noting that his contract will slide since he will play in the OHL next season, so it has no impact whatsoever on the Canadiens’ ability to add contracts in the upcoming season. As we’ve seen with the recent Michael Grabner trade (a five-for-one swap), the 50 contract limit is something a lot of GMs have in mind when making moves.

The current regime has done a tremendous job at turning goaltending depth into a clear strength for this team. Before Marc Bergevin became GM, the team’s prospects in net were Peter Delmas and Robert Mayer, two players obtained via free agency who were long shots at best to make it to the NHL, even in a back-up role. Since taking over in 2012, Montreal has added Dustin Tokarski, Mike Condon, Zachary Fucale, Hayden Hawkey, and now McNiven to their list of prospects between the pipes. It’s also interesting to note that they’ve added at least one new goaltending prospect to their ranks every summer under MB, either via the draft or free agency.

Obviously, it’s next to impossible to predict if this signing will mean anything down the road. This could be Robert Mayer 2.0 for all we know, but considering the quasi non-existent risk in this deal, it’s worth a shot. Even if the most likely scenario is that McNiven never even comes close to sniffing the NHL, he could become a trading chip or an excellent minor league goaltender.

Marc Bergevin has stated time and time again how important depth is and this is just another move that confirms his philosophy. The general manager is entering his third season with the Habs organization and is slowly transforming Montreal into a team with the assets and the core to compete for years to come.

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Editor’s note: A paragraph was added to this post following publication to provide more insight into McNiven’s time in the OHL.