Welcome to our annual 31-in-31 Summer Series here at DobberProspects! Every day in July we will be bringing you a complete breakdown of a team’s draft, notes from their development camp, and insights into their off-season moves so far. Following this up, the August 31-in-31 Series will dive into every team’s prospect depth charts with fantasy insights and implications for the upcoming seasons. Check in often, because we plan on filling your hockey withdrawal needs all summer long!
Goals, left-handed defenseman and pick swaps were the theme of this year’s draft for the storied franchise. They addressed two significant organizational needs while adding 10 new faces to the franchise; five of which were those coveted left-handed blueliners. Mark Bergevin, Trevor Timmins and the Canadiens’ scouting staff kept everyone guessing as they did a year ago when going off the board and selecting Jesperi Kotkaniemi at third. However, when Cole Caufield slipped out of the top-10, fans waited with anticipation hoping the 72-goal-scorer would be there at 15. Four trades were made involving picks on the draft floor. The Canadiens traded the 50th-overall selection to the Los Angeles Kings in order to move down to the third round at 64th while adding another fifth-rounder at 126th. In trade number two the team swapped their 108th pick for a fourth in 2020 from the San Jose Sharks. The third exchange was the 136th-overall pick for another 2020 selection from the Florida Panthers. Lastly, the Canadiens acquired the 201st pick from the Philadelphia Flyers for a seventh-rounder in 2020 facilitating them to take a hometown talent in Rafaël Harvey-Pinard.
It’s not everyday a prospect draws comparisons for his goal scoring ability from the NHL’s best over the last decade in Alex Ovechkin. Caufield is a goal scoring machine; he tied Ovi’s single tournament scoring record of 14 goals this year at the IIHF U18 World Championship. It’s been debated as to why the prolific scorer fell to 15 after widely being considered a top-10 pick. The question marks abound are due to his small size, just over 5’7” and 163 lbs, and thoughts of his success being the product of playing with the first overall selection, Jack Hughes. On the latter, Cauflied told the media “[Hughes] wouldn’t have had the number of assists if wasn’t for me, too.” It’s hard to argue with his statement as Caulfield smashed the previous USA Hockey National Team Development Programs U-18 team record with 72 goals in 64 games. The previous record of 55 goals was set by former first overall selection Austin Matthews. His expected arrival time with the big club aligns perfectly with the direction of the team. The Canadiens’ future is a bright one and it’s easy to be excited over the prospect of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Ryan Poehling or Nick Suzuki centering Caufield at some point in the next few years.
Here are final rankings of where Caulfield was projected to be drafted relative to his landing spot at 15th:
Dobber Prospects: 12th
Elite Prospects: 9th
Future Considerations: 12th
Hockey Prospect: 11th
NHL Central Scouting: 8th (NA Skaters)
Pronman/The Athletic: 5th
Round 2 – Jayden Struble – 46th Overall, D
We won’t be seeing any photos of Jayden Struble wearing Canadiens’ pajamas as a child and that’s ok. “I liked (Patrice) Bergeron and the Bruins, so that’s kind of awkward,… but, I mean, now Montreal is definitely my new favourite team.” At 6’0”, 205 lbs. Struble already has NHL size. Described as an offensive, very physical player with high compete level; he has the potential of being a top four defenseman for the Canadiens. Placing first or in the top tier on nearly every combine trial is a testament to his elite work ethic. As a left-handed puck-moving D-man he certainly fills an organizational need. He has a mean streak which can get him into trouble and he needs to improve defensively. These aspects of his game need to be honed and he is at least a few years away from making his splash.
Round 3 – Mattias Norlinder – 64th Overall, D
The Canadiens continued to fill an organizational need by drafting another left-handed defenseman. Norlinder had a fantastic finish to his 2019 campaign playing for both Modo’s U20 team and the men’s team in HockeyAllsvenskan. He was also the Swedish U20 playoff MVP. After being moved to the senior team, Norlinder was paired almost exclusively with NHL veteran Tobias Enstrom and has stated “you learn from him by watching him every day, on the ice, in the gym, and you see what it takes to succeed.” Considered to be a great skater with vision and a high hockey IQ, there is potential for the blueliner to end up in the top four for the Habs down the road. Unable to attend the Canadiens’ development camp due to a broken hand, Norlinder has his sights set on playing for team Sweden in the upcoming WJC where he hopes to carry the momentum that saw his stock rise at the end of the year.
Round 3 – Gianni Fairbrother – 77th Overall, D
Another left-handed defenseman, like Norlinder, Fairbrother saw his stock rise towards the end of his campaign. It was a breakout year for the young D-man with 10 goals and 36 points in 64 games. This improvement on his two goals and five points in 33 games from the previous year is even more impressive because it came after his being sidelined with a shoulder injury for three months. Fairbrother found himself being counted on in all situations playing for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL. He played both on the penalty kill and the team’s second power play line-up. Lacking explosiveness and creativity, his trajectory is that of a bottom pairing defenseman.
Round 5 – Jacob LeGuerrier – 126th Overall, D
LeGuerrier in French translates as “the warrior,” and that is what the Canadiens hope they drafted in Jacob. As he was not ranked by a few notable outlets such as McKeens, Future Considerations and Hockey Prospect, the kid has earned the boom or bust label. Another left-handed defenseman; his potential is reminiscent of former NHLer Hal Gill. His offensive ceiling is almost non-existent but it is his defensive play that put him on the Habs radar. He has good reach and plays a strong physical game. The Canadiens hope they have found a reliable shutdown defenseman who can be paired with a more offensive oriented partner.
Round 5 – Rhett Pitlick – 131st Overall, LW
Potentially a diamond in the rough, Pitlick is a standout skater with the ability to think the game at high speeds. At 5’9”, and 161 lbs, the Canadiens continue to show they are not concerned about having small players. He is slated to gain more seasoning in junior hockey before starting college, where he is already committed to the University of Minnesota. Pitlick’s skill set translates into creativity, playmaking ability and strong puck control, all of which are tools that could help him find his way into the big club’s top six. Although he is years away from attempting the transition to the AHL/NHL, he may certainly shine bright for the Montreal Canadiens.
Round 5 – Frederik Dichow – 138th Overall, G
The third drafted Danish goalie in the NHL, Dichow is relatively unknown. Nicknamed “The Gnome,” at 6’5” and 192 lbs, he is stands tall for his position. His recorded achievements are at the international level, playing for Division 1A World Under-18 Championships for Denmark where he had a .922 save-percentage and a 2.37 goals-against average in five games played and was named top goalie at the tournament. The Habs are quite deep in goalie prospects and this selection only solidifies their stock.
Round 6 – Arsen Khisamutdinov – 170th Overall, LW
Low risk and high reward is what comes to mind with this selection. This was the third and final draft that the 21-year-old was eligible for and the Canadiens saw potential in the late bloomer. Khisamutdinov’s main weapon is his shot release. He scored 26 goals in 41 games for the Reaktor Nizhnekamsk of the MHL; 11 more than anyone else on his team. He then scored two goals and five points in a nine game stint in the KHL. With a year remaining on his KHL contract it is safe to expect the over-ager to come over from Russia for the 20-21 season. The largest flaw in his game is his skating, and as he has already developed into his frame, only vigorous training in this area will give him a shot of making the AHL/NHL.
Another over-ager, the Canadiens traded a seventh round pick in 2020 to make this selection; this was also his third and final draft eligible year. Harvey-Pinard set career high totals in the QMJHL with 40 goals and 85 points for second most on his team. He was a significant force for the Huskies on route to their Memorial Cup championship tallying 13 goals and 27 points in 20 games. Harvey-Pinard may end up being a depth forward for the Canadiens’ farm team, the Laval Rocket of the AHL. His biggest flaw is a lack of speed which will most likely hinder any NHL fantasy value. Selecting him allowed the big club to gain his rights without using a contract. As he has tenacity and strong hockey IQ, with the Canadiens’ tutelage, improved skating would go a long way at giving him an outside shot at turning pro.
Round 7 – Kieran Ruscheinski – 206th Overall, D
With their final pick of the draft, the Canadiens elected to choose their fifth left-handed defenseman. At 6’6” and 201 lbs, Ruscheinski towers over his peers. A product of Calgary Midget AAA, the blueliner will have a long road of development to work towards the NCAA.
The Montreal Canadiens held their development camp at their Brossard Bell Sports Complex from June 26th to June 28th. The main attractions were forwards Cole Caufield, Ryan Poehling, and Nick Suzuki, defensemen Cale Fleury and Josh Brook, and netminder Cayden Primeau.
Connor Lacouvee, AHL free agent signing, Laval Rocket (AHL) / Maine Mariners (ECHL)
Gabriel Mollot-Hill, undrafted tryout, University of Providence (NCAA)
Frederik Nissen Dichow, 2019 fifth-round draft pick, Vojens (Denmark)
Cayden Primeau, 2017 seventh-round draft pick, Laval Rocket (AHL)
Vincent Purpura, undrafted tryout, Boston University (NCAA)