When Charlie Lindgren joined the team out of college near season's end, it was just viewed as a logical move for a club that had a serious lack of depth in goal. But, when General Manager Marc Bergevin managed to sign both Artturi Lehkonen and Martin Reway in a 10 day span in May, it became abundantly clear; he was in no way satisfied with the organization's overall depth. He was going to inject a new wave of talent into the system.
Director of Amateur Scouting Trevor Timmins nearly ran to the podium when it came to Montreal's pick and Mikhail Sergachev was still on the board. It was a bit of a surprise pick at the time, as the general assumption was that the team would select one of the many talented forwards available at ninth overall. Timmins and co. chose the Windsor Spitfires defenseman over the 6'6 Spitfires' center Logan Brown (OTT).
The pick made all the sense in the world, as long-time top left-handed defenseman Andrei Markov is nearing the end of the road, and as Bergevin loves to remind us “you can never have enough defensemen”.
That sentiment was echoed over, and over, and over…and over…as the Habs drafted four D-men and two forwards in the draft. Maybe it would've been five had they not felt Will Bitten was such a value in round three.
Overall, the team is in a much better place than a year ago. Key prospects are a year older, and a plethora of talent has been added. While it may create a log-jam along the road to the NHL, competition breeds excellence and that's what this sport's about.
Casey Staum (LH)
Top 10 Rankings (Fantasy)
- Mikhail Sergachev – Sergachev debuts at the top of the chart, and it's not really close. The 2016 ninth overall pick has everything you're looking for in a defenseman, and his arrival in Montreal was memorable to say the least (read more below). It seems he can do it all, and he'll compete for a spot with the big club this September. With the departure of P.K. Subban, the team could use an influx of enthusiasm, something the 18-year-old has in spades.
- Sven Andrighetto – Some of you may be surprised to see Andrighetto's name here as opposed to some more popular names, but he's practically already an NHL regular, has a legitimate chance of playing on the top-six. His proven chemistry with Alex Galchenyuk only helps matters. It really shouldn't be much of a surprise as the Swiss product is the most accomplished junior scorer in the Habs' prospect pool.
- Nikita Scherbak – Highly touted, but has much to prove this season as he didn't have an ideal rookie season with the Ice Caps. He has all the physical tools, but needs to start using them on every shift and bring the game to him. His ceiling is that of a first line winger, so while his development has been a tad rocky his long-term potential is worth the wait.
- Martin Reway – A pure offensive threat, Reway could out-produce every player on this list in the not so distant future. But, he has to prove capable of playing professionally in North America first. Though he scored over a point a game last season, he was among the least used skaters at even-strength and the majority of his points came with the man-advantage. Once (if), he starts dominating the AHL (emphasis on five-on-five), his likelihood of NHL success will rise meteorically.
- Artturi Lehkonen – The biggest riser of Habs prospects, the former second-round pick had himself a season to remember (read more below). He has a shot at a second, or third-line job on the left wing, but it's the NHL or back to Sweden for Lehkonen. He's a dynamic skater who has the work ethic to match, so the Canadiens may opt to keep him out of camp and bring him along slowly over the course of the season.
- Charles Hudon – A major sleeper, Hudon is no doubt the most NHL ready of the bunch (Andrighetto exception). He has done nothing but impress since being drafted in the fifth round of 2012, but team management has stayed the course with his development plan. He had two points in his first two NHL games this year even though he was on the fourth line, showing yet again he will find a way to get the job done no matter what the circumstance. Though he is an exciting player with the puck, he doesn't have that elite scoring potential and excels at the smallest details of the game. Unfortunately, fantasy hockey doesn't reward that as much as goals and assists, so Hudon sits just outside the top five.
- Daniel Carr – A little older as a former college free agent signing, but that just means he's further advanced in his development. If not for an unfortunate long-term knee injury, Carr would've likely played the majority of the Canadiens games last season. He's not flashy, but he's shown a knack for burying the biscuit. If Carr can lock down a third line spot out of training camp, a near 20-goal campaign isn't out of the question.
- Michael McCarron – Will definitely see some NHL ice this season; because he is almost ready, is versatile, and the Habs have a big size concern with their bottom-six. I's doubtful the team will risk stunting his offensive development to fill a need on the third line, as evidenced by last season's late demotion if they feel he hasn't taken that ext step yet. If your league rewards things like hits, PIMs, or shots his value increases.
- Will Bitten – A steal in the third round this summer, Bitten may be undersized but he is one heck of a hockey player. His great wheels and a strong motor will eventually land him an NHL job, but he'll spend the next two year's filling nets in the OHL.
- Noah Juulsen – A 24 point decrease cannot be ignored, although Juulsen didn't necessarily regress in in terms of development. If his offense needs to suffer that much to become a more dependable all-around defenseman in the WHL, what is going to happen when he starts his NHL career? With that being said, well rounded potential top-four defenseman don't grow on trees.
Mikhail Sergachev – We knew he was good, but Sergachev was in full beast mode at Habs Development Camp. He already has the size at 6'2 221 lbs, but his skill level was on full display as he consistently made his competition look like pylons in scrimmage play. He's put in a lot of work this summer and is primed for a big season, no matter what league he plays in.
Artturi Lehkonen – Good season, amazing playoff. Lehkonen not only broke Daniel Alfredsson's SHL scoring record en route to a league championship, but Frolunda hoisted the Champions Cup during tournament play. Two team trophy's and the team's leading scorer? Not bad for a (then) 20-year-old playing in one of the world's most prestigious leagues. Lehkonen improved in all areas of his game, especially his strength which was something he worked hard on heading into last season. He has great acceleration and a formidable shot, so he has a real chance of earning a spot with the Habs.
Jacob De La Rose – I fear Therrien playing him as a 19-year-old checker may have halted his offensive development. He's played in the NHL, though has little AHL success to fall back on. One assist in 22 games last season with the big club leaves much to be desired for this once promising prospect. Playing in the AHL may be in the best interest of De La Rose, as it will allow him to work on his game rather than struggle to stay afloat.
Charlie Lindgren – Expectations of being Carey Price's backup quickly dissipated when Bergevin signed veteran netminder Al Montoya to a one-year contract on July 1st. With Price, Mike Condon, and now Montoya on the books for 2016-17, Lindgren is destined to split time in St-John's with Zachary Fucale. Not to mention Fucale was the better of the two at development camp.
Follow me @MikeBarrett_ for regular updates on Habs prospects and all things hockey
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