Rabid Habs

Ranking The Habs’ Top 15 Prospects

Nikita Scherbak Photo Credit - RDS.ca

With the development camp just ending, I thought it would be the perfect timing to make my own rankings on the organization’s top 15 best prospects. My rankings are based on potential, likelihood to reach that potential and NHL readiness. I excluded players like Jacob De La Rose and Greg Pateryn because they will most likely be on the roster and I also excluded players like Christian Thomas, Gabriel Dumont, Magnus Nygren and Michael Bournival because they’re unlikely to be more than fringe NHLers at this point.

Note: For my comparisons, I’m not saying that all of these guys will be as good as the names mentioned but in terms of impact, style of play and role, I think these are the types of players to expect for these prospects. Some could surpass my expectations (see Charles Hudon) and others could fall into obscurity (see Martin Reway). Enjoy the read!

[Honorable Mention] TIM BOZON | 21 YEARS OLD | LW | Kootenay Ice, WHL

LAST SEASON: 57 GP, 35 Goals & 28 Assists (63 PTS)

Tim Bozon has been flying under the radar and seems to be an afterthought for most Habs fans after having a near-death experience following his contraction with meningitis. The French forward missed some crucial time for his development but he had a nice bounce back season in the WHL. His comeback story shows his character and his perseverance as an individual.

The left winger has some good tools like a knack for the net, a solid wrist shot and decent skating. He’s also willing to get involved physically by finishing his checks. He’s probably the biggest longshot at being a top six forward in our prospect pool but I believe if the stars align, he can be a complimentary winger whose main asset will be to finish plays.

Bozon will turn pro this season after spending a year as an overager in the WHL. I think the best move for him would be to start in the ECHL considering the log jam in the top 9 with players like Daniel Carr, Michael Bournival, Andrighetto and Hudon potentially holding spots on the first three lines. The ECHL is seen as a much inferior league to the AHL but players like David Desharnais, Michael Ryder and Alexandre Burrows had to spend time in that league and it wasn’t detrimental to their development. First and foremost, Bozon should go to the team that offers him the more minutes, chances are that Brampton will be that team a lot more than St. John. If he ever becomes NHL ready, it won’t be until he’s around 24 in my opinion.

NHL comparable: Michael Ryder, odds of reaching potential: Very Low

[Honorable Mention] SIMON BOURQUE | 18 YEARS OLD | D | Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL

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

Bourque is practically the Jacob De La Rose of our prospect pool on defense. Won’t wow you but he’s almost a sure bet at being an NHLer. Like the player he molds his game after (Josh Gorges), Bourque knows his limits and utilizes his smarts and positioning to neutralize the other team. He’s a no nonsense player that always goes for the safe play. He did very well with the Oceanic this year and his game is easily translatable to the pros. Given the fact that Samuel Morin and Jan Kostalek will both begin their professional careers, it will be interesting to see how he fares with top pairing duties.

I expect Bourque to finish his career in the QMHJL and spend at least two seasons in the AHL before potentially solidifying himself a spot on the Canadiens’ roster. A lot can change in four years, Andrei Markov will be gone, I don’t see Alexei Emelin still being on the team, Nathan Beaulieu or Jarred Tinordi might be playing for another organization and Montreal doesn’t have many prospects on defense that are left handed. Obviously the Habs could in the meantime trade for defensemen or draft but Bourque should have a decent shot at cracking the roster four years from now.

NHL comparable: Josh Gorges, odds of reaching potential: High

15) LUKAS VEJDEMO | 19 YEARS OLD | C | Djurgarden J20, SuperElit

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

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 points per game during the regular season.

Vejdemo brings an interesting package that has the potential of making a potential top six forward in the NHL. He has good vision, good speed and good hands. One thing that’s important with him is that the Habs have to be patient with him. They can’t repeat the same mistake they did with Alex Avtsin and rush him to the AHL. Avtsin should have played in the CHL or stayed in Russia instead of playing in Hamilton as a 19 year old.

Vejdemo should play two more seasons in Sweden in my opinion. One year to get used to playing against men and become a more complete player. Plus another season where hopefully he can have a bigger role and show decent production as a 20 year old (something along the lines of 0.5 point per game). After his two seasons in the SHL, he can play a full season with the AHL’s team affiliate and look at making the team in 2018-19. A very similar path to the one Lars Eller had to go through.

NHL comparable: Alex Wennberg, odds of reaching potential: Medium

14) DARREN DIETZ | 21 YEARS OLD | D | Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL

LAST SEASON: 71 GP, 4 Goals & 13 Assists (17 PTS)

Dietz is coming off his second season in the AHL and he’s making decent progress. He surprised many fans and members of the management team with his impressive play at the training camp and was one of the last cuts in September. You could say this was his ‘first’ professional season since last year he was hampered by injuries which limited him to only 34 GP in 2013-14. The defenseman was a late bloomer in the WHL (his first full season was also his draft eligible year) and I expect him to follow that trend in the professionals.

The Medicine Hat native does bring some interesting things to the table. He’s feisty and not afraid to drop the gloves (288 PIM in his WHL career & 113 PIM thus far in the AHL). He’s a very mobile defenseman who possesses a very hard wrist shot which makes a legit threat from the point. That shot of his allowed him in his final season with the Saskatoon Blades to score 24 goals and finish first among defensemen in goals. He’s got great mobility which makes him hard to beat on the rush.

With Greg Pateryn graduating and Magnus Nygren going back to Sweden, a spot on the PP might have opened itself at the blue line. With his credentials, Dietz might become a new option for the IceCaps coaching staff. That should help him improve his numbers from this year. I think the 2011 draftee should spend at least one more season in the AHL before playing in the NHL. Problem is, due to the abundance of right handed defensemen on the roster, I don’t think there’s a future for Dietz in Montreal. Could make for a decent throw-in in a package for a player.

NHL comparable: Barret Jackman, odds of reaching potential: Low

13) DANIEL CARR | 23 YEARS OLD | LW | Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL

LAST SEASON: 76 GP, 24 Goals & 15 Assists (39 PTS)

Daniel Carr, a prospect who only the hardcore fans know about, has some interesting tools that could make him a potential NHLer for the Canadiens. One of the main reasons why Carr has flown under the radar as a prospect is because he went the College route instead of the CHL one which seems to be the consensus among Canadian prospects. He also doesn’t have any specific weaknesses or strengths; he’s just a well-rounded player who knows where to be on the ice.

The winger led the Bulldogs in scoring this season with 24 goals and was particularly hot in the month of March where he scored 10 of his 24 goals. Carr was signed as a Free Agent in 2013 after concluding his college career with Union College with a championship. In his final season there, he led the team in scoring with 50 PTS in just 39 GP.

The Albertan is a scorer, pure and simple. He scored 78 goals throughout his college career and was almost a point per game in the NCAA (157 PTS in 160 GP). He’s made an impression everywhere he’s been and it didn’t take him a long time to make one at the pro level, he led all AHL rookies in scoring this year. It’s hard to know whether or not he has the skills to become an NHLer or if he’s just a career AHLer.

For now, unless Carr has a spectacular camp, I believe he will start the season in the AHL. My expectations for him with the IceCaps are remotely high, I expect him to reach the 30 goal mark and to finish with around 55 PTS. One thing is certain, considering he’ll already be 24 next year, the clock is ticking for him and he’ll have to make an impression on management very fast. If he doesn’t get a cup of coffee in the next two seasons, I’d write him off as a prospect.

NHL comparable: Jiri Tlusty, odds of reaching potential: Low

12) ARTTURI LEHKONEN | 20 YEARS OLD | LW/RW | Frölunda, SHL

LAST SEASON: 47 GP, 8 Goals & 8 Assists (16 PTS)

Lehkonen has all the makings to be another Brendan Gallagher for the Canadiens! They both share the same tenacity and fearless style of play. The Finnish forward has dealt with injury problems in recent years (mononucleosis & concussions) which have made it hard to evaluate his progression since being taken 55th overall in 2013.

He decided last season to make the switch from the Ligaa to the SHL, which remains to be seen if it was the right decision. He started off the year hot (10 PTS in his first 13 GP) but went through a scoring slump that lasted over four months! After not scoring any points during the months of December and January, Lehkonen concluded his season with 6 PTS in 11 GP.

But where the Finnish forward shined the most was during the most important games. He had 6 PTS in 13 playoffs games and 7 PTS in 12 Champions Hockey league games. Considering that his minutes went up by more than two minutes on average a game during the playoffs (from 13:30 during the regular season to 15:41 in the PO), hopefully it’s signs of things to come for Lehkonen as his role in Frölunda grows. For those who don’t remember, former Habs prospect, Sebastian Collberg, had a hard time getting ice time from his coach there.

One thing is certain though, it was something that was a knock on him when he was drafted (163 pounds) but he will have to keep adding mass because even if he’s fast, players will easily push him off the puck if he doesn’t get to a respectable weight, something around the 180 pounds range.

The Piikkiö native’s contract with his SHL team expires in 2016 so I expect him to come over to North America next season. I expect Lehkonen to need only one season in the AHL since he already plays a North American brand of hockey. Given his small stature, it could hurt his chances of making the team but a lot could change in two years (which is how long I project him to take before being NHL ready): Tomas Plekanec, David Desharnais could be gone and Charles Hudon or Sven Andrighetto could be on the team. So a lot depends on the management’s take on having small players on the team.

NHL comparable: Brendan Gallagher, odds of reaching potential: Low

11) ZACHARY FUCALE | 20 YEARS OLD | G | Quebec Remparts & Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL

LAST SEASON: 41 GP, 3.21 GAA & .885 save percentage

The local kid who was taken 36th in the 2013 draft is an interesting prospect. He’s broken the following records: youngest goalie to record 100 wins in the QMJHL, lowest amount of games to reach the 100 wins milestone, second of all-time for wins in the Q and tied for most wins by a Canadian goalie at the WJC 20 tournament with 8 wins. He also has the following championships: a Memorical Cup, a coupe du Président and a WJC Gold medal.

The 20 year old is definitely raw though, he has a reputation for rebounding after giving a bad goal and shutting the door. But I’m not sure if that’s a good thing, considering that it means he’s done it enough times for people to notice it. His rebound control is nothing to write home about and his position is average. He’s also not the biggest goalie at six foot two.

Now his stats are hard to interpret, the Mooseheads were known for playing a run and gun style of play so you can’t take his stats during his time there as gospel. His stats during the regular season are very average when you look at them though: below .900 for save percentage and a GAA almost closer to 3 than 2.5. Looking at his numbers, he looks like a dime a dozen CHL goalie. It’s hard to evaluate if his stats have become stagnant because he no longer feels a challenge at that level and unconsciously, there’s a ‘relachement’ because the games aren’t as important, which would explain why his numbers are so much better in the playoffs.

But the most interesting element about Fucale is that when the higher the pressure is, the better his stats become. This year with the Remparts, his save percentage went from .872 in the regular season to .913 in the playoffs. He was also without a doubt their MVP during the QMJHL finals and the Memorial Cup tournament.

One thing that Fucale has going for him is that with Carey Price as Montreal’s current goalie, there’s absolutely ZERO PRESSURE on his shoulders for him to be the next one in net. Considering Price’s age, he can take his time and pay his dues in the minors.

Ideally, I’d let Fucale spend the entire season in the ECHL as the starter there. The next season, I would replace Dustin Tokarski with Mike Condon which would open a spot in St. John for Fucale as the goaltender there. I’d let him split the games with a seasoned veteran like Joey MacDonald did this season with the Bulldogs. After that season, I’d have him be the clear starter and look at the possibility of having him be Carey Price’s back-up the following season. So we’re talking about him being NHL ready in three years.

I am one of the people that think we should use the Laval native in part of a package for a player but the reality is that goalie prospects don’t hold a lot of value because goaltending is the hardest position to predict, which is why we see late picks become elite goalies while some drafted in the first round bust. I’d let him build up his value by proving himself with the professionals and I’m curious on what Stephane Waite could do with him. He has the potential to be an NHL starter but he’s very raw at this point and needs a lot of polishing.

NHL comparable: Corey Crawford, odds of reaching potential: Low

10) BRETT LERNOUT | 19 YEARS OLD | D | Swift Current Broncos, WHL

LAST SEASON: 14 Goals & 28 Assists (42 PTS)

The Winnipeg native is your prototypical mean defenseman who loves to hurt people. But he’s shown this year that he’s more than a stay at home defenseman after nearly doubling his point totals from the previous year (went from 22 PTS to 42 PTS this season). Also, half of his goals scored this season came from the man advantage. Considering how powerful his shot is, it’s not a surprise that he was able to find the back of the net so often.

The six foot four defenseman will most likely compete for a top four spot with Morgan Ellis considering both of them are right-handed players. Lernout still needs some polishing but he possesses some interesting tools: he has a hard shot, he can make a good outlet pass, he’s pretty mobile for his size and he’s strong like an ox.

I expect Lernout to spend at least one season in the AHL, maybe two. At this point, him and Noah Juulsen are probably the team’s best shots at becoming top four defenseman in the NHL. Lernout will have to surpass players like Dietz and Pateryn in order to build himself a niche in a bottom pairing role.

NHL comparable: Kyle Quincey, odds of reaching potential: Medium

9) MIKE CONDON | 25 YEARS OLD | G | Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL

LAST SEASON: 48 GP, 2.44 GAA & .921 save percentage

Condon was relatively unknown when the Canadiens signed him (hell people cared more about making jokes about his last name than what he could possibly bring to the Habs organization) but after the season he just had in Hamilton, he’s the one having the last laugh. The American goalie was the team’s MVP by far! He was also Wheeling Nailers’ team MVP during the 2013-14 season when he led the league in save percentage.

Condon is not a spectacular goalie, he will never be the goalie to make the highlights on a nightly basis on SportsCenter, he just relies on his reflexes and his positioning. If he keeps progressing like he has, I don’t have a problem giving him Tokarski’s job. Considering that he’s already 25 years old, I think this year will be crucial for him to determine his future in the NHL.

NHL comparable: Devan Dubnyk, odds of reaching potential: Low

8) JEREMY GREGOIRE | 19 YEARS OLD | C/RW | Baie-Comeau Drakkar, QMJHL

LAST SEASON: 32 GP, 20 Goals & 21 Assists (41 PTS)

Jeremy Gregoire seems to be one hell of a steal at the moment given the spot he was selected (176th overall). The Sherbrooke native has everything you want in a hockey player: leadership, amazing work ethic, complete game, physicality, does the little things right, etc. The forward really blossomed and turned his career around after being traded from Chicoutimi to Baie-Comeau. During his time with the Drakkar, he was a PPG player.

The former sixth overall pick at the CHL draft appears to be a late bloomer though. Some people were ready to drop the towel on him after his underwhelming QMJHL debut with the Saguenéens but he really turned it around in his draft year, especially during the playoffs where he recorded 16 PTS in 18 GP. The most exciting aspect of Gregoire as a prospect is that he is a beast in the playoffs! He has 60 PTS in his last 52 playoffs games.

I believe that this guy will be an NHLer for sure, in what capacity or role, that’s up to him. He doesn’t really have any weaknesses although he could make his skating better. He has fan favorite and playoff warrior written all over him and I don’t think it will take long for fans to see the Gregoire name in a bleu blanc rouge uniform. I think after two seasons at most in the AHL, he’ll be ready for a role on the bottom six.

NHL comparable: Patrice Bergeron-lite, odds of reaching potential: High

7) SVEN ANDRIGHETTO | 22 YEARS OLD | RW/LW | Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL

LAST SEASON: 60 GP, 14 Goals & 26 Assists (40 PTS)

The Swiss prospect had a promising NHL debut when he recorded a point in three consecutive games. But that success didn’t last forever, he was held pointless for the next nine games which led to his demotion to Hamilton. One can argue that Andrighetto was dealt the short end of a stick during his stint with Montreal considering that his ice time was less than 10 minutes in 7 of the 9 games that followed his scoring streak.

The former Huskies’ player has some good tools offensively but he still has things to work on like his defensive game which is one thing that the coaching staff wasn’t a fan of during his time with the Habs. I’ll admit that I’m not too high on Andrighetto, I don’t think he has the tools to become a top six player in the NHL and I don’t see a future for him in Montreal given how crowded our organization is becoming on the wing. I believe every organization has a guy just like him in their organization, those types of guys rarely pay off.

That being said, I think Andrighetto could make the team, especially with Pacioretty’s injury that could make him miss the start of the season. He showed decent chemistry with Tomas Plekanec and does have some nice tools offensively: speed, shooting skills and vision. It could be a good way for him to build himself a name in the NHL and I would consider trading him if you get something valuable for him.

NHL comparable: Kris Versteeg, odds of reaching potential: Low

6) JARRED TINORDI | 23 YEARS OLD | D | Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL

LAST SEASON: 44 GP, 1 Goal & 6 Assists (7 PTS)

Tinordi was drafted five years ago and the things that needed polishing still do. Defensemen always take longer to develop than forwards and with a player of Tinordi’s size I think it applies even more. I think he has the tools to be an NHL player but I’ve given up on him ever being a top four defenseman. His puck skills are too limited to be a reliable option for any coach to give him 18 to 22 minutes a night.

But that doesn’t mean that the six foot six defenseman can’t contribute in his own way at the NHL level. I believe he has a good grasp of how to utilize his reach and has solid stick checking. I’d like him to be more physical but it doesn’t seem to be part of his game, just like it wasn’t in Hal Gill’s case. I think Gill is a player Tinordi should mold his game after. Obviously when you’re a kid you don’t dream of becoming the next Hal Gill but he did play over 1100 games in the NHL which is a feat that not a lot of players can brag about.

He’s a lot more mobile than Gill was and he’s tougher than the now retired defenseman. Tinordi has to keep his game simple, listen to his coaches rather than his own father and utilize his size to his advantage. It can be by lying on the ground and blocking passing lanes on the PK like Gill famously did in Montreal, or it can be by just closing the gap on the players coming in. A more mobile Hal Gill is still a serviceable player to have in your line-up.

But I hope management has learnt their lesson with this pick, you don’t draft a player with super limited puck skills in the first round even if they’re humongous. Tinordi is not the only one that’s struggling to make the NHL, Jamie Oleksiak, Keaton Ellerby, Alex Plante, Nick Petrecki, Mark Mitera, Colten Teubert, Dylan McIlrath all come to mind.

Given the fact that Tinordi is waiver eligible, he will be on the roster this season. I hope that the coaching staff plans on playing him and not letting him rot in the press box. Luckily for him, I think the departure of Brandon Prust will give him the chance to become the token ‘enforcer’ for the Habs since he’s probably their best fighter now.

His future in Montreal is up to him, he needs to become confident in his abilities (and a little encouragement from Therrien wouldn’t hurt…) and he’s shown at times that he has the tools to be a good NHLer. He could make Alexei Emelin expendable if he shows that he can handle bottom pairing minutes relatively well, that would give Marc Bergevin a lot of margen of maneuver if he can get rid of Emelin’s expensive contract and get cheap depth out of Tinordi and his low cap hit.

NHL comparable: Hal Gill, odds of reaching potential: Medium

5) MARTIN REWAY | 20 YEARS OLD | C/LW | HC Sparta Praha, Czech

LAST SEASON: 34 GP, 9 Goals & 28 Assists (37 PTS)

Reway is the biggest wild card in our prospect pool in my opinion. He probably has the best vision and the best hands out of all of our prospects. But obviously, having amazing hands is nice and all (see Rob Schremp or Linus Omark) but the game is being played on the ice, not in shootout drills and what not. He could be the next Mikhail Grabovski or Jozef Balej depending on his development.

It’s a lot harder to pull off these low percentage plays/dekes against NHL competition than the competition he’s facing at the World Juniors or in Europe. He wouldn’t be the first player to hit a wall once he makes the jump to the NHL but some of his tools are too promising to not see the potential within him.

The Praha native had a wonderful season in the Czech league and led his team in PPG despite being the youngest player on the team by far. Reway is a wizard on the puck and knows how to utilize extra space perfectly. I believe he’s good enough in that facet of the game that he would immediately help our PP if he was on the team.

The 20 year old has shown that he can be a complete player at tournaments like the WJC and the World Championships but he has yet to show that complete game on a consistent basis. He was Slovakia’s best player at the World Juniors and was practically the main reason that they got a bronze medal. The 2013 draftee has shown game breaking talent at all levels so far in his young career.

One of the biggest question mark about Reway is whether or not he’s committed to do what it takes to reach the NHL. Some question his motives on leaving the QMJHL and signing for HC Sparta Praha for two seasons. He doesn’t appear to be too interested in playing in the AHL and would presumably prefer staying in Europe until he believes he’s NHL-ready. The fact that he was on vacation rather than at the Habs development camp also rubbed people the wrong way.

I expect Reway to have another great season with his team in the Czech league and I would be happy to see him join the IceCaps next season. One year in the AHL should be enough to let him make changes to his game and adapt to the style that teams play in the NHL. One thing that’s important with a player like Reway is that you have to give him some liberty offensively, you can’t cripple his creativity. You have to let him take chances even if it leads to goals against, you live and die by the sword. The former fourth round pick has the potential to become a Nikita Kucherov if he pans out.

NHL comparable: Patrick Kane, odds of reaching potential: Very low

4) NOAH JUULSEN | 18 YEARS OLD | D | Everett Silvertips, WHL

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

Montreal’s first round pick this year has all the makings to be a good one. 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 make him a hard defender to beat one on one and he’s not afraid to throw huge hits when the opportunity is there.

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 definitely helps legitimize our prospect pool on the back-end since before the draft it was pretty mediocre. He has the tools to become a top four defenseman and there will be no pressure on him to be rushed into a top four role considering that Jeff Petry and PK Subban are the two defensemen playing on the right side of the Habs defense.

He will finish his WHL career next season and I believe after that he will need at least one season in the minors, the same way Nathan Beaulieu did. Considering that Pateryn, Subban and Petry shouldn’t be going anywhere, there’s no rush for Juulsen to play in the NHL and it would be best to let him work on his two way game in the AHL.

NHL comparable: Kevin Bieksa, odds of reaching potential: Medium

3) CHARLES HUDON | LW/C | 21 YEARS OLD | Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL

LAST SEASON: 75 GP, 19 Goals & 38 Assists (57 PTS)

Hudon surprised many fans with his season in Hamilton this year. The Alma native was good enough to warrant an invite to the AHL All Star game and led the league in scoring for rookies for a good portion of the season. The 2012 draftee’s best tools are without a doubt his vision and his passing skills. He showed great chemistry with forward Daniel Carr this season.

It’s hard to determine if Hudon will be a top six forward or a third liner. I think a lot of it depends on how much trusts he will get from the coaching staff. I’m saying that because the player I compare Hudon to, Mathieu Perreault, was never given a fair chance by Bruce Boudreau in Washington. If management believes in him, they’ll give a solid look in an offensive role. Hudon has the vision and the offensive awareness to be a very good NHLer if his injury problems stop.

I think the former Saguenéens will make the team this season. He’s a clear upgrade on a washed up player like Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau and will bring some much needed creativity up front. I think Hudon could produce 15 goals and 35 PTS with the right circumstances: decent teammates and some PP time.

NHL comparable: Mathieu Perreault, odds of reaching potential: High

2) MIKE MCCARRON | C/RW | 20 YEARS OLD | Oshawa Generals, OHL

LAST SEASON: 56 GP, 28 Goals & 40 Assists (68 PTS)

McCarron sure made a lot of people eat crow this season. After a very underwhelming season for a first round pick in his first OHL season, the six foot six forward did a complete 180 and showed an entirely different player than the one we had seen for most of the 2013-14 season with the London Knights.

It was a move to center that seemed to do it for the Michigan native, after that move his production really started to go up and he finished that abysmal season on an encouraging note with 17 PTS in 23 GP. McCarron continued that success this season and showed his offensive upside as a prospect by playing a lot with Max Domi in London. The 2013 draftee knew his role and play it to a t, he would go to the net, win battles down low and get himself open for his teammate. That simple but effective style of play led to 40 PTS in just 25 GP for the 20 year old.

In January, McCarron was traded to the Oshawa Generals, the eventual Memorial Cup winner. And the big forward wasn’t a passenger during that success! He had 18 PTS in 21 GP during the playoffs and 3 PTS in 4 GP during the Memorial Cup tournament. For those who watched those games, McCarron did a lot of the things that will make him successful at the next level: being cautious on when to forecheck when protecting a lead, back-checking and stealing pucks from the opposition, winning battles down low or killing time, winning faceoffs, killing penalties, parking himself in front of the net and crashing the net & taking a shot when there are no options.

He’s already shown in his first two training camps that he has the frame and the speed to have an impact at the NHL level and be at the worst a good third liner. With his tools, I believe he can be a good top six forward or a solid complimentary forward on your first line who can create space for his teammates.

I think McCarron will start the season with IceCaps but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the team full time by February like De La Rose did this season. We are desperate for size, especially down the middle, and his game can easily suit our bottom six. The only problem is that if management does decide to keep him on the roster, they will have to evaluate whether or not it’s a good idea for his development. He could work on his offensive game in the AHL and he’d have a lot more chances of becoming a top six forward if he spent additional time in the minors. It’s quite the dilemma and I don’t know which approach is better for a player like McCarron.

NHL comparable: Keith Primeau, odds of reaching potential: Medium

1) NIKITA SCHERBAK | RW | 19 YEARS OLD | Everett Silvertips, WHL

LAST SEASON: 65 GP, 27 Goals & 55 Assists (82 PTS)

Montreal’s 2014 first round pick had an excellent season in the WHL this year. Under a new team and a new coaching staff, Nikita Scherbak worked on his game without the puck and learned to be a more complete player. He also posted career highs in points and was once again the most dangerous and productive player on his team.

The Russian forward is the Habs’ prospect with the best shot at becoming a first liner. He doesn’t really have any weaknesses offensively: his skating is explosive, he’s decently big, he’s got amazing hands and isn’t one dimensional offensively (he can score and create plays). The fact that he played under a more ‘defensive’ system under Kevin Constantine with the Silvertips will help his transition to the pros.

That being said, I think Scherbak should play one full season in the AHL unless he’s absolutely tearing it up (performing at a close to PPG pace) and Bergevin still hasn’t done anything to fix our scoring problems. The Canadiens already have Brendan Gallagher and Zack Kassian in the top nine but there’s essentially an open spot on one of the lines for a RW and Montreal has been relatively lucky in the health department, so if a player gets injured, Scherbak could get a taste of NHL action as soon as this season.

The 19 year old is probably the offensive prospect with the most offensive upside since Andrei Kostitsyn in 2003. One thing is certain though, if teams were to do a re-draft, Scherbak would not be available at 26 like he was in 2014.

NHL comparable: Jakub Voracek, odds of reaching potential: Medium

Feel free to give me feedback on my player evaluations or my rankings in the comment section or on Twitter @HabsoluteTruth.

3 Comments

  1. Joe Schmo

    July 11, 2015 at 4:50 pm

    Good article Matt!

  2. Hurc49

    July 12, 2015 at 9:45 pm

    Daniel Carr deserves a much higher ranking than you’ve given him. He and Hudon were the top forwards in Hamilton last year and I expect both will get a good look this fall, especially with Pacioretty injured. They’re not big but both possess badly needed offensive flair. Expect to be pleasantly surprised.

  3. Antoine Mathieu

    July 13, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    Considering Carr’s age, I could see making a case for Carr over Lehkonen and Fucale but beyond that I think it’s hard to make a case in his favor. He’s 23 years old and although he was the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, he only got 39 pts at the end of the day which is nothing special. Dumont is practically the same age and recorded more pts than him but most fans have written him off. At this point in time, it’s hard to rank Carr higher than most guys in my top 10 who have more potential or have proven more at the pro level thus far.