Habs’ Prospects: When Quality Meets Quantity

The NHL draft process is not a pure science, we all know that, but nobody knows it better than the people having to scout and make those tough but crucial decisions. You see, it’s one thing to compare players at the same age and their current on-ice performances, but then you add the different competition they’re facing, the leagues they play in, the teams they play for and the support they’re getting and it’s a different story. Every player will eventually reach his development plateau but with the exception of a few gifted ones, few are certainties to play hockey at the NHL level and even fewer will have an impact. Choosing amongst a bunch of 17-18 year-old teenagers, trying to predict when they will reach their own plateau is almost impossible.

As a head scout and a General Manager, you can dot the “i” and cross the “t” all you want, there are too many factors out of your own control that can or will affect the young men they’re selecting. Some will be in a positive way, but others will be affected negatively. Injuries, coaching, life events, mental toughness as a teenager and young adult, reaction to early “fame”, maturity level, dedication to put in the necessary effort on and off the ice, all play a key role in a kid’s future.

When Marc Bergevin took over the Montreal Canadiens in May 2012, he soon realised that while he had some promising young players on the team (Carey Price, Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban). But he also rapidly found out that the prospect cupboards were almost empty and that, for a GM, is not good news in a cap era.

Here’s a list of the Top 15 prospects of 2012, when Bergevin took over the team:

  • Alex Galchenyuk (drafted under Bergevin)
  • Jarred Tinordi
  • Nathan Beaulieu
  • Danny Kristo
  • Sebastian Collberg
  • Brendan Gallagher
  • Morgan Ellis
  • Dalton Thrower
  • Michael Bournival
  • Steve Quailer
  • Patrick Holland
  • Tim Bozon
  • Darren Dietz
  • Daniel Pribyl
  • Joonas Nattinen

Off this group, only Brendan Gallagher (a former 5th round pick) has turned into an impact player. We all know the story behind Alex Galchenyuk, which led to his departure for Arizona in return for Max Domi. And Nate the not-so great, who once was one of the Habs’ top prospects and seen as a potential partner for Shea Weber, is struggling to keep a spot on the bottom defense pairing in Buffalo.

A complete turnaround

It soon became obvious that Bergevin understood the need to keep his high draft picks and his game plan was to build through the draft. Oh he did trade some of them, but always ensured to get some back in return. For example, he did trade two picks to get his hands on Andrew Shaw, but he also got similar two picks in return for Lars Eller.

Jesperi Kotkaniemi could have many reasons to smile in the future with the Canadiens

Trevor Timmins has a bad reputation with some Habs’ fans but as shown in a previous article on this blog, his record is not as bad as they seem. The issue, up until recently, has been the results from his top two rounds and something tells me that this cycle is about to change.

Without further ado, let’s move to today, shall we? In no particular order, here’s the list of the Canadiens’ top prospects:

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Jake Evans

Lukas Vejdemo

Nick Suzuki

Ryan Poehling

Jacob Olofsson

Cam Hillis

Joni Ikonen

Allan McShane

Cole Fonstad 

Jesse Ylönen 

Victor Mete

Cale Fleury

Alexander Romanov 

Josh Brook 

Cayden Primeau 

I don’t know about you folks but when I look at that list, I’m more excited about the prospects in this organisation than I’ve felt in a long, long time. As a matter of fact, the last time I was this optimistic about the Habs’ future, many of you weren’t born or old enough to be aware of the team’s prospects.

If my 50+ years on this planet have taught me anything, it’s that there’s no certainty that all of those prospects will pan out. But when you have that many quality prospects, the odds are that the Canadiens’ future is very bright and, whether some want to believe it or not, they are in good hands. Yes, Bergevin knows what he’s doing folks.

Many talk about his so-called 5-year plan, a made-up story by reporters and fans. When hired, he answered the famous 5-year plan question by turning it around, saying instead that his plan was to build a team that will contend year in and year out. And that’s exactly what he’s doing folks. With a young core with Jonathan Drouin, Max Domi and company in their early 20’s, with the addition of the new prospects, this team will be exciting to watch for years to come. And like most of you, I’m planning on enjoying every minute of it. Go Habs Go!

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