Habs: Finally a young core to build around!

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Every season for many years now, fans and Habs’ management think that they have an excellent young prospects pool. But it seems that for whatever reason, whether it’s due to poor drafting, bad development and/or poor management by not surrounding them by good veterans, those young players don’t develop as expected.

Only as an example, since the 2000 draft, of the 92 players selected by the Canadiens, 22 are playing in the NHL and only Plekanec, Kostitsyn, Price, Weber, Subban and Pacioretty currently play for the Habs, while it looks like Yemelin will finally attempt to take his first strides in Montreal next season. That being said, it’s not necessarily better elsewhere in the NHL.

However, the goal of this blog isn’t to put down the Canadiens and their picks, an exercise overdone in my humble opinion. It is more to highlight the change of direction taken by the organization under the Gainey, Gauthier and Timmins regime. Especially since Bob Gainey’s major clean-up following the centennial fiasco, it looks like the emphasis has been placed on the development of those young players and it seems to be working.

Many questioned Bob Gainey’s decision to pick a goaltender, Carey Price, fifth overall at the 2005 draft, especially considering that he had just inked Jose Theodore. Price, who has gone through more than his fair share of criticism (deserved or not) for all kinds of off-ice allegations, really seems to have taken his career into his own hands after Gauthier continued in Gainey’s line by making him his goalie of the future, trading fans favourite, Jaroslav Halak.

On defense, we find two excellent young players in young sensation PK Subban as well as young Swiss player Yannick Weber. Subban is at times mentioned amongst the future star defensemen in the NHL and some believe that he will be representing Canada at international events in a not too distant future. Weber dominated in the AHL before being called up and he has since shown some good attributes in the second half of the season.

At forward, the Canadiens can count on a good young core. Max Pacioretty, the first round pick acquired with Josh Gorges from the Sharks in exchange for Craig Rivet, seemed to have found his groove in the NHL before being the victim of Chara’s vicious hit. Everyone is hoping that he doesn’t suffer any effects when he comes back.

In return for Jaroslav Halak, the Habs received young Lars Eller and Ian Schultz. Eller, at his first steps in the NHL, isn’t without reminding us of a young Plekanec, only a bit grittier and definitely bigger. Here’s hoping that he continues his development but he is in a good situation, playing behind Plekanec and Gomez, taking some of the pressure away.

It looks as though Guy Carbonneau was right when he convinced Habs’ management to give diminutive David Desharnais a shot. The Canadiens’ young center had to fight at every level to get to where he is today, and he had success at every level, including with the Hamilton Bulldogs. He performed well after being called up, and was rewarded this summer with a one-way contract.

If the Canadiens continue to focus on developing its young players, to surround them well, we could also expect good careers out of a few more top prospects in the organization. Diaz, Palushaij, Kristo, Leblanc, Tinordi, Avtsin, Bournival, Nash, Beaulieu and Gallagher have all shown some great things at their respective level.

In conclusion, the Canadiens’ future seems to be in good shape and in the new NHL, with a salary cap and where players reach the UFA status at such a young age, it is that much more crucial for an organization to draft well and to develop its own prospects in order to remain competitive.

En français: Canadiens: Enfin un noyau autour duquel on peut bâtir!