July 31-in-31: Montreal Canadiens

by Mike Barrett on July 18, 2017

courtesy of kstp tv

In what has been a roller coaster off-season for Montreal, the draft was a bright point as the Canadiens put together what looks like a very strong haul. Aside from locking down two skilled centerman in the first couple of rounds, the Habs nabbed four defenseman who can make plays at both ends of the ice and a netminder. Restocking the defensive depth chart was clearly a priority as the cupboard was bare, notably due to the trading of Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

 

Draft Pick Summary:

Ryan Poehling (C, St. Cloud State NCAA): 1st round, 25th overall

The Canadiens finally selected the big centerman they've been searching for in the first-round when they selected Ryan Poehling with the 25th overall selection. As described when I mocked him to the Habs in the DobberProspects March mock draft Poehling has all the skills necessary to succeed as a center in today's NHL. His numbers from this season don't jump off the board at you, but consider that he was the youngest player in the NCAA and excelled against his peers at the International level. Some label him as a third-liner, but I believe he has top-six potential due to his physical attributes, and complementary style of play.

 

Josh Brook (D, Moose Jaw Warriors WHL): 2nd round, 56th overall

One of the drafts most talked about defenseman, Brook was widely considered the best player available at 56. Producing 40 points in his first WHL season, he is confident and creative inside the opposing blueline, but he will need to improve his skating and decision-making in order to reach his potential as a top-four defenseman and powerplay contributor.

 

Joni Ikonen (C, Frolunda Indians SHL): 2nd round, 58th overall

Supremely skilled, Ikonen is one heck of a shooter who strikes fear into opponents with his fast and accurate shot. If left with an inch too much space he will make you pay, especially on his off-wing where he does so much damage. Having that kind of shot is one thing, but the fact that he knows how to eat up that space in a hurry to create the opportunity for a shot is what makes him so special. He has the skating, agility, puck-handling and slickness to physically execute once he thinks it. On the downside, Ikonen can be inconsistent and doesn't have ideal size. He has the potential to be a star scorer in the NHL.

 

Scott Walford (D, Victoria Royals WHL): 3rd round, 68th overall

Considered their first reach, Walford was the second of four defenseman taken off the board by Montreal in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The no-frills D-man stands at 6-2 and excels using his length, skating and awareness to take room away from opponents. He does have some ability with the puck on his stick, registering 30 points for the Royals over the  2016-17 season. Walford projects as a trustworthy fourth to sixth defenseman.

 

Cale Fleury (D, Kootenay Ice WHL): 3rd round, 87th overall

If Walford was considered a reach, Trevor Timmins and co. balanced it out with the selection of Kootenay defenseman Cale Fleury. Having already completed three years of WHL hockey, Fleury wears the “A” and is a major leader for the Ice. Though finishing third on his team in points, he has a defense-first mentality and has a bit of an edge as well. If Fleury became a second-pairing defenseman the team would be thrilled.

 

Jarret Tyszka (D, Seattle Thunderbirds WHL): 5th round, 149th overall

An impressive physical package; the 6-3 Tyszka combines the size and mobility to be an effective defenseman down the line. He is quite responsible defensively, has some strength and has a quick release on his shot. He could have top-four potential, but likely a fifth or sixth defenseman steady if he does make it.

 

Cayden Primeau (G, Lincoln Stars USHL): 7th round, 199th overall

Trading into the seventh-round to snatch up the son of Keith, Primeau has the athletic ability to develop into a starting goaltender down the line. His first season in the USHL wasn't stellar, but his lifetime portfolio is. The Canadiens felt strong enough about his long-term potential to execute the trade and pick, so Primeau will be one to keep an eye on in the coming years as a potential major steal of the draft. He is a project, but one worth waiting on.

 

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Notable Moves

Aside from trading Sergachev for Jonathan Drouin, Marc Bergevin signed former Washington Capital Karl Alzner to a five-year $23.125 million contract.

Montreal also added Peter Holland, Byron Froese, Joe Morrow and offensive defenseman Jakub Jerabek, formerly of the KHL as free agents.

Alex Radulov left the Habs for the Dallas Stars, while Andrei Markov remains unsigned.

 

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Development Camp

The Montreal Canadiens development camp ran from July 2 to 5 at their usual Brossard practice facility. For a list of all players invited click here.

– Joni Ikonen was the star of camp. He shows well in drills but is a gamer too. He has the potential to be a real offensive star.

– Third-year pro Nikita Scherbak left much to be desired until the final scrimmage where he netted two goals. Scherbak improved a lot from his rookie to sophomore season, but still has a ways to go before becoming an NHL regular. He is only 21-years-old so patience is a must.

– Victor Mete and Simon Bourque were notable standouts on the blueline, and Jake Evans skated hard up front playing with Scherbak.

Hayden Hawkey, Michael McNiven and Primeau all looked solid in goal.

 

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