Thanks for joining us for our July 31-in-31 series! Every day this month we will be taking a look at how each team fared in the NHL Entry Draft, as well as checking in on incoming/outgoing prospects and Development Camp notes. Check back every day for a new team profile, and next month when we begin the August 31-in-31 series diving more into prospect depth charts.
We knew it might happen, but we couldn’t help but stare as the Habs made the first big statement of the draft, taking Jesperi Kotkaniemi with the 3rd overall pick. We can debate the pick all we want, and we wont know for certain how the pick looks for another 2-3 years are he continues to develop, but the move was a turning point of the day and will be what most people remember from this draft when they look back on it. What should also be remembered is the Habs’ general bounty of total picks made – multiple in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th rounds – so as much as anyone loves or hates specific picks, it will be pretty damn hard for the Canadiens to come out of this without some value added down the road.
1st Round, 3rd overall – Jesperi Kotkaniemi, C
The Canadiens went a bit off the board when they selected the big (6-2.25, 181) Finnish center third overall. This selection has drawn a lot of comparisons to the Pierre-Luc Dubois selection by Columbus two years ago. Both times, the consensus third overall ranked player was a winger but the team drafting third had a big need for a center. Both Dubois and Kotkaniemi had question marks about their actual ability to play center, though – Dubois because he had been just recently switched from wing to center, and Kotkaniemi because he spent this past season playing wing in the Finnish Liiga. But the Canadiens are obviously confident in their scouts who believe Kotkaniemi will be a number one center in the NHL and they’re hoping things turn out as well as they have for Columbus. Even if Kotkaniemi becomes that number one center he’s expected to become, that doesn’t mean huge offensive upside. He has enough talent to be a good two-way center on the top line but don’t expect more than 65-70 points which means you can slide him down a few spots in fantasy hockey drafts. Kotkaniemi is expected to return to the Finnish Liiga for another year, and this time he should play center the entire season. His team just wanted to break him into the league at wing but every indication has them switching him over to center now. Jokke Nevalainen
While the Hockey world was expecting Filip Zadina to be drafted at this rank, the Canadiens opted for the 6-2 190 lbs center from Finland. If there was still anyone on planet earth who didn’t know the Habs needed help at center, there was then no remaining doubt at that specific moment. That’s being said, The Finnish isn’t a bad option either. Kotkaniemi possesses great offensive skills which he showed all year in the Liiga’s Ässät Pori, scoring 29 points in 57 games among men. He was also one of the masterpieces of the gold-medal-Finland at the U18 WJC. Offensively, Kotkaniemi has a great shot; he has the size but most importantly the attitude to compete every single game and is also very reliable defensively. As opposed to fellow 2018 top draftees, it would be a bit of a shock to see Jesperi in the Habs uniform this upcoming fall and 2019-20 is more likely but not guaranteed what so ever either. The Habs went for the potential and are willing to wait for Kotkaniemi to fully develop before hopefully become that big, skilled 1st line center Montreal has been waiting for since Vincent Damphousse Fantasy talking, it wouldn’t a mistake to try and stash the big Finnish who’s been compared to Aleksander Barkov in your dynasty roster. Carl Sinclair
2nd Round, 35th overall – Jesse Ylönen, RW
Ylonen is a natural when it comes to the offensive part if the game. He’s a fast and fluid skater who can use either his shooting or playmaking abilities to hu