Montreal Canadiens – Offseason Prospect System Review

by Carl Sinclair on August 15, 2018

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Thanks for joining us for our August 31-in-31 series! Every day this month we will be taking a look at each team and diving into their prospect depth charts, risers and fallers, graduating prospects, and top ten prospects in the system.

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Offseason moves

 

The Montreal Canadiens needed to do something in order to shake that miserable 2017-18 season they had. While most of the hockey world was expecting the Habs’ captain Max Pacioretty to be traded, it was rather Alex Galchenyuk who was dealt with Arizona in exchange for Max Domi. Earlier this summer, Joel Armia and Steve Mason also arrived in Montreal, but Mason was waived for purposes of being released soon after. Some free agents signing were made by Marc Bergevin, but none really had the desired impact from the fan base. Thomas Plekanec, Kenny Agostino and Xavier Ouellet, made their way to La Belle Province with one-year contracts while Matthew Peca signed a two-year, one-way deal.

The organization also re-signed Phillip Danault and Jacob De La Rose to respective three-year and two-year deals as well as retaining backup goaltender Antti Niemi for another year after a much needed bounce-back campaign with Carey Price’s injuries issues. Another goalie, Charlie Lindgren, signed a three-year, one-way contract extension over the summer.

All in all, no major move was made except for the Galchenyuk-Domi swap and the Habs’ defence is still as weak as it was 365 days ago and the team will enter another season without the much needed big top-line centre they never had since Vincent Damphousse in the 1990s. That being said, the help should take some time as most of the key prospects in the system are forwards, except maybe for Victor Mette, Noah Juulsen and Cale Fleury. A healthier Shaw Weber would for sure bring back some hope, but a knee surgery will keep him at bay until at least mid-December.

Entering 2018-19, the very few hopes rely on highly talented centres Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling, fast and furious winger Nikita Scherbak and undisputed number one pick at the 2019 NHL entry draft Jack Hughes. Because yes, Montreal is a serious contender in this shameful race for the lottery-winning ticket.

 

Graduating Players

 

Victor Mete will be among leaders for a roster spot entering training camp. The 5-9, 183 lbs played 49 games with the parent club last year as well as being a key contributor to Canada’s gold medal at the U-20 2018 World Juniors. Nikita Scherbak already played 26 games with Montreal last year and will look to make the ultimate step this fall as he could be among the Canadiens’ top nine forwards when the season starts. Michael McCarron could also make the team this year, but that remains more and more unlikely as the big centre had another disappointing season with both the NHL and AHL affiliate last year scoring one point in 18 NHL games and 24 points in 54 AHL games in Laval. Charlie Lindgren could make a push and become Carey Price’s backup despite Antti Niemi’s presence. Price’s health issues also make Lingren an interesting candidate for mid-to-deep fantasy rosters.

Matthew Peca has a strong shot at making the cut this year as he signed a two-year, one-way contract over the summer, the speedy centre could make some waves but still has a bottom-six tag for the moment. Jacob De La Rose played 55 games with Montreal last season and while it would be surprising not to see him in the NHL next year, his fantasy impact would remain very thin as he’s primarily used as a defending forward. Finally, Noah Juulsen had a very honest 2017-18 campaign in both the NHL and AHL and would be a logical choice to make it into a crowded but not-so-talented defensive squad this upcoming season. His abilities are more in the defensive end though and his fantasy value isn’t quite high.

For those waiting on Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling, they should indeed both become impact players with the Habs, but just not this year.

 

 

Risers

  1. Nikita Scherbak. While we’re waiting for Kotkaniemi and Poehling to make it to the NHL, he will definitely be the forward to look at in this year’s training camp. He made the jump last year and is hungry for more NHL games for sure. Displays the speed and offensive touch the Montreal Canadiens could surely use as soon as October.
  2. Charlie Lindgren. The Montreal management was pleased with what they saw from Lingren since they acquired him and signed him to a three-year, one-way extension in the spring of 2018. His numbers in the AHL last season are no indication what so ever of his talent, he just didn’t have the team to support him.
  3. Ryan Poehling. This last season showed the hockey world what Poehling was capable of. He might never be the leading scorer of his team in the NHL, but he should become a cornerstone at centre in the next two to four years.

 

Fallers

  1. Michael McCarron. It looks more and more like it is McCarron’s last chance at being a Montreal Canadiens. Bergevin’s patience should be very very thin now with the huge but also disappointing centre.
  2. Jacob De La Rose. He should be part of the Canadiens, but his fantasy upside isn’t too high. It’s not like he was seen as the next Vincent Damphousse, but the organization transformed him even more into a defense-oriented forward over the last three years.

 

Prospects depth chart

 

Left Wing:

Kenny Agostino, AHL-NHL

Kerby Rychel, AHL-NHL

Jack Gorniak, NCAA

Jeremiah Addison, AHL

Michael Pezzetta, AHL

 

Center:

Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Liiga

Ryan Poehling, NCAA

Jacob De La Rose, AHL-NHL

Jacob Olofsson, SHL

Michael McCarron, AHL

Matthew Peca, AHL-NHL

Jake Evans, AHL

Allan McShane, OHL

Cameron Hills, OHL

Samuel Houde, QMJHL

Michael Chaput, AHL

Hayden Verbeek, AHL

Alexandre Alain, AHL

Lukas Vejdemo, AHL

Cole Fonstad, WHL

Daniel Audette, AHL

Joni Ikonen, Liiga

Brett Stapley, NCAA

 

Right Wing:

Nikita Scherbak, AHL-NHL

Jesse Ylonen, Liiga

William Bitten, AHL

Antoine Waked, AHL

Max Friberg, SHL

 

Left Defense:

Victor Mete, AHL-NHL

Alexander Romanov, MHL-KHL

Jarrett Tyszka, WHL

Jordan Harris, NCAA

Rinat Valiev, AHL

Xavier Ouellet, AHL

David Sklenicka, AHL

Scott Walford, WHL

Michal Moravik, AHL

Ryan Culkin, AHL

 

Right Defense:

Cale Fleury, AHL

Noah Juulsen, AHL-NHL

Brett Lernout, AHL

Josh Brook, WHL

Nikolas Koberstein, NCAA

 

Goalie:

Charlie Lindgren, AHL-NHL

Cayden Primeau, NCAA

Michael McNiven, AHL

 

 

Top Ten Fantasy Prospects 

 

1) C. Jesperi Kotkaniemi – The best centre of the 2018 draft, displays great vision, smooth skating and great Hockey IQ. Can shoot as good as he can pass. Top-line centre potential here.

 

2) C. Ryan Poehling – Very Intelligent and skilled centre. Plays a strong defensive game while being a threat offensively as well. A big and strong high-potential centre for Montreal, Finally!

 

3) RW. Nikita Scherbak – Very fast and dangerous winger. Has all the tools to become an effective top-six forward. Developed very well since his arrival in North America.

 

4) D. Victor Mete – Small but very mobile and smart defenseman. Already has NHL experience with 49 games at 19 years old. Can carry the puck and see plays at a high-speed level.

 

5) G. Cayden Primeau – Had a tremendous year with Northwestern University in the NCAA last year. The development process should be long-but-rewarding for him.

 

6) RW. Jesse Ylonen – Very good skater and highly offensive-minded winger. His first year playing with men in the Liiga next season should tell us a bit more about his upside, but it should be high.

 

7) G. Charlie Lindgren – Already knocking on the NHL’s door, he will have to make the best of his recent three-year, one way-contract signing with the big club.

 

8) D. Cale Fleury – Great offensive reading, but also improved a lot defensively since being drafted in the third round in 2017. His progression needs to be monitored quite closely.

 

9) C. Jacob Olofsson – Seen as a bottom-six player in the NHL one day. Has good skills but needs to take his skating and play reading to the next levels in order to have fantasy value if he reaches the NHL.

 

10) D. Noah Juulsen – Not the most offensive defenseman out there but has good enough defensive talent to make it as a reliable second-pair D one day.