Prospect Ramblings – The Next Generation of the Bleu Blanc Rouge

Aaron Itovitch

2023-04-03

Prospect Ramblings – The Next Generation of the Bleu Blanc Rouge

It’s no secret that I’m a big Habs fan. While I’m relatively new to the hockey world, only really becoming a fan when I was 16 watching the Canadiens go to the cup final, growing up in Montreal, it’s hard not to have an appreciation.

It’s for this reason that I teared up on the metro when PK Subban retired, and also why I spend way too much money on tickets whenever I can. This team has a great young core, and we have the opportunity to add more important pieces at this years’ draft.

It’s no secret how myself and others in the Habs community see the upcoming draft; this could very well make or break the franchise.

Who’s the right fit in Montreal?

Pick #5:

While a lottery win would be wonderful, in all likelihood, the Canadiens will be picking 5th overall. At this point, Bedard and Fantilli will certainly be gone, as will Leo Carlsson. It’s a tossup on who will go after these three, so I will include all available players.

Ideal Scenario: Matvei Michkov

I love Matvei Michkov. He could be the next generational goalscorer in the league, and I personally find his playmaking to be exceptional as well. It’s not often a nearly surefire superstar falls out of the top-three in any draft, but the Russian factor and his contract status with SKA will make him slip. I don’t think the Habs would be wise to pass up on him at fifth overall, but they most likely will.

More likely possibilities: Zach Benson or Will Smith

I would be thrilled if the Habs add a centre at the draft. They passed on Shane Wright and Logan Cooley in 2022, despite the fact that a 1A/1B was/is still a pressing team need (partially resolved by the Kirby Dach acquisition). I think it would be a coup if we added the supremely intelligent Zach Benson into the mix, but it is entirely possible that GM Kent Hughes goes after a player that he once coached in Will Smith. While I do project Smith as a winger long-term, the two are both likely top-six forwards, with comfortable third line ceilings. Can’t ask for much more at fifth overall.

Nightmare Scenario: David Reinbacher or Dalibor Dvorsky.

Let me preface this by saying that I don’t dislike either of these prospects. They would have both been ranked top-15 for me in 2022, and there is a serious comfort in the safety they bring. If I had a job on the line, I would be a lot more likely to go after one of these guys, but as a guy that scouts from home with no NHL affiliation, I think it would be leaving a lot of potential on the table.

Reinbacher fills the team need of an RD, but I have trouble seeing first-pairing potential with him. He could play in the NHL next year, but that shouldn’t factor in too much considering the Canadiens aren’t set to be contenders for another few years (Michkov fits the timeline pretty well!). Because he’s an RD, he will likely go very early, and if two teams win the lottery and the Canadiens fall to seventh overall, it’s entirely possible he won’t even be on the board.

As for Dvorsky, he’s almost certainly going to be a middle-six C in the NHL. This is an incredibly valuable piece that every team wants, but with much more exciting names on the table, I would be disappointed if the Canadiens spent the fifth overall pick on him. I see Zach Benson having a similar floor to Dvorsky, with much higher upside. The team does love its Slovak’s, however.

Pick ~#15:

The real ideal scenario is that the Panthers fall to 11th and win the lottery, securing the Canadiens a generational talent in exchange for a month and a half of Ben Chiarot, but I’m at least somewhat of a realist. The Panthers could very well make the playoffs, but it seems most likely that they will finish seventeenth or eighteenth in the league, and outside of a playoff spot. This would leave the Canadiens in the range of the fifteenth overall pick, and there aren’t many better drafts to have a mid-first in.

Top-10 talents will certainly fall into the teens, and the Canadiens will have the opportunity to capitalize on this draft asset and get a possible game-changer.

Ideal Scenario: Dmitri Simashev or Axel Sandin Pelikka

It’s no secret that I love Dmitri Simashev. He’s my favourite defenseman in the draft by a pretty big margin at this point, only followed by Axel Sandin Pelikka one tier behind. Simashev is a leftie, however, which could sway the Habs in a different direction. I would however take Simashev on his offside over Reinbacher any day. ASP is a rightie, but he plays an offensive game that the Canadiens have a surplus of. I love him anyways though, and I think he would be a great pick in the teens.

More likely possibilities: A CHLer

I wouldn’t be shocked if the Canadiens go after a skilled winger in the mid-teens. The two that come to mind for me immediately are Samuel Honzek and Quentin Musty. Honzek is a big boy, and plays way too professional of a game for the WHL. He could be in the AHL next season for sure, and maybe even the NHL (he’s Slovakian, so the CHL/NHL agreement doesn’t apply). He’s responsible defensively and fits the identity it seems the Canadiens are going after. Musty has some of the best tools in the draft, and if he can put everything together, he could be a terrifyingly good player.

There aren’t any real nightmare scenarios for this part of the draft, unless the Canadiens pull a ‘Tyler Boucher’ style pick and go with a player like Etienne Morin or Ethan Gauthier. Even these two are still competent prospects, and would be perfectly good adds for the Canadiens. If any of the USNDTP guys (Moore, Smith or Leonard) are still around, I would hope the Canadiens go after one of them.

This draft will be a game changer for the Canadiens, and if they don’t play it safe, we could add some genuine superstars to the team. That’s a very exciting prospect for a Habs fan that likes prospects!

Thanks for reading! You can catch me on Twitter with bi-weekly personal rankings updates @itovitch , and at the Puck and Roll Podcast!

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