Montreal Canadiens: Realistic Expectations for Habs' Top 10 Prospects
The future is now for the Montreal Canadiens.
Coming off a dismal 2011-12 season, the Habs are hoping to turn things around this year. Many of the players on last year's team will be gone, so spots will be open for those who want it the most. The Habs are full of young talent and the future looks bright. They have a number of young players who are already making a name for themselves in the NHL, and they have a whole new group ready to do the same thing.
There are many prospects who are playing or have played with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League and maybe a few games with the big club. But there are also many prospects who haven't turned pro. These are players who are hoping to make the next step and become part of the most storied franchise in NHL history.
The expectations are high for these junior and college prospects, so let's take a look at the top 10 and what to expect from them.
Nathan Beaulieu is the most recent Habs prospect to sign with the big club, as he recently signed a three-year deal.
Beaulieu, 19, has played the last four seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and has enjoyed great success. He is a great power-play quarterback and can rush the puck five-on-five.
Beaulieu retires from junior and will likely head to Hamilton, where he will suit up with the Bulldogs to open the season. He will be looking to impress the coaches at the Habs' training camp this fall as well, but a starting roster spot is doubtful.
The young prospect could definitely get called up at some point in the year, but the Habs are high on Beaulieu. The Canadiens are known for developing their defensemen until they are ready, so look for Beaulieu to go through the same process.
He will play a few games with the Habs this year while having a very strong season in Hamilton. If injury bugs riddle the Habs this year, he could be playing a more important role before we know it.
Jarred Tinordi, the towering 6'7" defenseman, is also quite high on the Habs' watch list.
Tinordi, 20, has had a strong two seasons with the London Knights and has impressed many. It seems he could almost be ready for the NHL already.
He is strong defensively and can overpower many. But like Beaulieu, the Habs will let Tinordi develop in the minors until he is absolutely ready. Rushing him into the NHL now wouldn't make sense, as the Habs have a large group of blueliners who are already capable.
Look for Tinordi to play in Hamilton next year and also get the chance to be called up a few times to Montreal and make his NHL debut. He needs to play big and impress in the AHL if he wants to keep making a good impression. And he has all the tools to do that.
Danny Kristo is one of the forward prospects that the Habs are high on.
Kristo, 21, played the previous three seasons at the University of North Dakota. He is a solid two-way forward and will be likely looking for a spot in Hamilton next year.
Expect Kristo to come into Hamilton and put up decent numbers in a third or possibly second-line role.
He should put his time in with the Bulldogs and then eventually find a spot on the Habs roster in two or three years.
Brendan Gallagher is one forward the Habs definitely have their eyes on.
After putting up huge point totals in junior with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, the Habs expect Gallagher to continue that onwards.
Gallagher, 20, is 5'8" but never takes a shift off. He plays bigger than his size and can definitely be a sniper, as he had more than 40 goals in his previous three seasons.
Look for Gallagher in Hamilton next year, but if he impresses the coaches at camp, he might crack the Habs' opening day roster.
This guy will be a solid prospect to keep an eye out for.
The 2012 Draft Pick
Whoever Marc Bergevin picks with the third-overall pick (if he doesn't trade up or down) will be a top prospect yet to turn pro in the Habs system.
This player will have high expectations placed upon him. He will be asked to come into camp and be prepared to light it up. The Habs will expect big things, whether it be Alex Galchenyuk, Mikhail Grigorenko, Filip Forsberg or Player X.
Whether this prospect will make the opening day roster for the Canadiens is undetermined. If he has a strong camp, it is quite possible. If not, then Hamilton is the likely spot for him to go, as opposed to back to his junior club.
Michael Bournival just celebrated winning a Canadian Hockey league Memorial Cup.
Now the Habs prospect will have the summer to train and get ready for rookie camp.
Bournival, 20, has the work ethic that scouts crave, which makes him a bright prospect for the Habs. He may not be ready for the NHL just yet, but quite possibly could see some time this year, getting his feet wet.
Look for Bournival in Hamilton this year and maybe a game or two in Montreal. Expect big things from this kid down the road.
Morgan Ellis is another bright spot in the pool of young defensemen with the Habs.
Ellis, 20, played the last five seasons in the Quebec junior league and showed he could play in that league. Now the next step is turning pro and showing people he can play in that league as well.
Ellis is 6'1" and not overly imposing, but he possesses composure and is strong on his skates.
He will suit up for Hamilton next season and likely play there for a few seasons before becoming a mainstay on the Habs blueline. He will need to improve his game if he wants to stick around, and he definitely won't be rushed.
Darren Dietz is yet another defenseman in the Hab's system.
Dietz, 18, is currently with the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League, where he will likely remain for next season.
When he makes his way to Hamilton in a couple of years, Dietz will be a very steady defenseman who is reliable in his own zone. Not too flashy, yet he can get the job done.
Dietz will likely enjoy another successful season in Saskatoon before making the move to Hamilton next year and will not be on the Habs roster for a few years.
Patrick Holland was given to Montreal in the Mike Cammalleri trade.
He didn't prove to be much of a factor at the time, but after a great season with Tri-City of the Western Hockey League, Holland could prove to be a great acquisition in a few years.
He scored 109 points in the WHL last season, and the 20-year-old looks promising.
Although it is unlikely he will make the Habs roster next year, fans are hoping he can join Hamilton and put up strong numbers there.
It's guys like this that give people hope and optimism that one day, the Habs can possess a highly-skilled forward with decent size.
Look out for Holland in Hamilton, with maybe a few spot appearances in Montreal.
Mark MacMillan is a relatively unknown Habs prospect who could turn out to be good in just a few years.
The 20-year-old is a solid two-way player, and with a 6'0" frame, he can be a good checking forward.
He played last season with the University of North Dakota, joining fellow prospect Danny Kristo. MacMillan needs to bulk up, as he is only 160 lbs., and also work on both sides of his game before he comes a legitimate prospect.
But if he does those things, he could become a strong third line winger on the Habs roster in about four or five years.