This is one of the most important drafts in Montreal Canadiens history.
With the third-overall pick, the Habs are hoping to get a player who can help turn their franchise around. They also have two second-round picks that can provide much added depth and two more solid prospects. Then they have four late-round picks for a total of seven in this year's draft, barring any trades.
After finishing in the basement of the Eastern Conference, the Canadiens were "rewarded" with the third-overall selection. Not wanting to finish there again, the Habs are hoping this selection can be the big, scoring forward that they have longed for.
Let's take a look where the General manager Marc Bergevin and the Canadiens are picking, and who they could take. On Friday, we will update the list with the actual selections and break it down.
First-round pick, third overall:
Obviously if Nail Yakupov is still available, the Habs must take him. But this is unlikely, so Alex Galchenyuk seems to be the most intriguing prospect. Galchenyuk was supposed to challenge Yakupov for the No. 1 spot, but an injury limited his playing time last year and ultimately, his draft-ranking status. Galchenyuk is a big centreman at 6'2", and that is exactly what the Habs need. He can put up big numbers and he is accustomed to the North American game already. Scouts say he needs to work on the physical side of his game if he wants to keep improving.
Since the Habs are trying to find a big, first-line centreman, there is another good prospect in Mikhail Grigorenko who will be available. The Russian forward has the size and skill that the Habs crave, but scouts say sometimes he doesn't play with heart. The Habs have seen players like this come through the franchise, so they might shy away.
Prediction: Alex Galchenyuk
Actual: Alex Galchneyuk, A+
The Habs get a solid, big centreman who can skate, make plays and score goals. Galchenyuk was born in the United States and moved to Russia at age nine. He eventually came back to North America and played junior with the Sarnia Sting, as a teammate to first-overall pick Nail Yakupov. A great selection if you are a Habs fan and plenty of reasons to be optimistic going forward.
Analysis: Although the Habs might have preferred Nail Yakupov, they got their guy they had their eyes on in Galchenyuk.
Second-round pick, 33rd overall:
With an early second-round pick, the Canadiens might try to find another big forward who can help their team. With a plethora of defensemen in the Habs' system, this is likely. It's hard to say which prospects could be available, but there are a few out there that the Habs would like to land.
Brendan Gaunce is a 6'2" centreman who played in the Ontario Hockey League last year with the Belleville Bulls. He was a point-per-game player in the OHL and could provide some depth at the centre position for the Habs. Henrik Samuelsson, a 6'2" winger who played with Edmonton in the Western Hockey League might also be available. Another possible selection could be Nikolay Prokhorkin, a 6'3" Russian winger who could fit in well with the third-overall pick whether it be Galchenyuk or Grigorenko. Prokhorkin played in the KHL in Russia last season, but the power forward would like to play in the NHL. Tanner Pearson, a left winger with the Barrie Colts of the OHL, put up big numbers last year and could also be a strong selection.
Prediction: Brendan Gaunce
Actual: Sebastian Collberg, B+
Collberg is a very skilled Swedish winger with great speed. He is 5'11" and 175 lbs, but he isn't afraid of the high-traffic areas. He has a great wrist shot and can beat defenseman one-on-one. Collberg needs to bulk up before getting a chance to play his game at the NHL level and scouts say his defensive play needs to improve.
Analysis: Gaunce, Samuelsson, and Pearson were all selected late in the first round so those players were not not available when it came time for the Habs to choose. Montreal gets another skilled forward in Collberg, but his size might be an issue down the line. Decent pick for the Habs.
Second round pick, 51st overall (from Nashville):
Another second-round pick, 51st overall, is going to provide the Habs with some added depth yet again. Having two picks in the second round means the team can get a big forward with the first pick, and then maybe go after an intriguing defenseman with the later pick. If one of the three prospects from the 33rd overall selection is still available, the Habs might choose him, whoever it might be, but it would be good to take a defenseman at this pick.
Esa Lindell is a big 6'3" Finnish defenseman whose size is appealing. He also put up good numbers in the Finnish junior league, with 51 points in 48 games. If the Habs choose to go with another forward, Daniil Zharkov will likely be available. The 6'3" left winger played in the OHL last year with the Belleville Bulls and could go well along with Gaunce from the previous pick. Another forward, Stefan Matteau from the United States National Team Development Program is a 6'2" centreman that the Habs could also take. A very intruiging prospect and possibly the Habs' first North American selection of the 2012 draft.
Prediction: Daniil Zharkov
Actual: Dalton Thrower, A
Thrower is a defenseman from the Western Hockey League. He stands at 5'11" and 189 lbs. Thrower is your prototypical ‘does-it-all’ defenseman. Even thought he is under six-feet, he plays a very physical role and he can fight. He is also skilled offensively. He can play at both ends of the ice and can lead the rush.
Analysis: The Habs got a tough defenseman with speed. He won't be on the blueline for a few years with the big club, but after getting seasoned in Hamilton, Thrower could become an important piece of the Montreal Canadiens in a few years. Selecting a defenseman after taking two forwards in the first two picks was a good idea.
Third-round pick, 64th overall:
The Canadiens are prone to drafting French players, so their third-round pick could be exactly that. Francis Beauvillier, a 6'1" left winger, played with the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec junior league last year and could be a solid prospect for the Habs. Beauviller is a skilled play-maker and could be ready for the NHL in just a few years.
Prediction: Francis Beauvillier
Actual: Tim Bozon, B+
Bozon is a 6'1", 175 lbs winger who was a point-per-game player in the Western Hockey League last year. He is the son of former NHLer Phillipe Bozon. He is a natural goal scorer with a quick release and also a talented passer. He can get physical too. Bozon is a very solid player, although he is more of a finesse player than a power forward. The Habs get a great guy in the third round with a French background.
Analysis: Similar to Beauvillier, who was predicted to be chosen, Bozon is also a skilled, big winger with good point totals. Bozon is arguably the better of the two, so the Habs should be happy here.
Fourth-round pick, 94th overall:
As we get later in the draft, the prospect talent pool thins. It's hard to say who will be available at this time, but the Habs do have needs to address. They can never have enough big forwards, but they could also choose a smaller forward who can put up numbers. Since they will have likely drafted some big forwards in the previous picks, the Habs might choose to pick a smaller forward who puts up good numbers.
Prediction: 5'11'' forward with good point totals
Actual: Brady Vail, A-
Vail is a 6'1", 190 lbs centreman from the Ontario Hockey League. The American-born forward is a great fourth-round selection for the Habs. They get a big, solid centreman who played a shutdown role with his junior team. However, he also chipped in a few goals along the way. It might take some time before Vail cracks the Habs roster. He is a solid prospect, good in all areas, but doesn't excel in any particular area. He could be a good third-line centre for the Habs a few years down the road.
Analysis: Basically what was predicted, the Habs got a good, big, checking centreman in the fourth round. A very good pick since Vail could become a go-to shutdown guy in years to come.
Fifth-round pick, 122 overall:
With Carey Price filling the Habs' goaltending needs for the foreseeable future, it is not likely the Habs will take a goalie in this year's draft, unless they need to fill a void in Hamilton, or possibly choose a backup five years down the road. A defenseman is a likely selection for this pick. Many stay-at-home, solid defenseman will still be around at this time in the draft, so look for the Habs to select one of them.
Prediction: 6'3" defenseman who can play a shut down role
Actual: Charles Hudon, B-
Hudon is a 5'10" left winger who is from Quebec. He is mainly a scoring forward in the Quebec junior league, but can also play defensively. He has very quick hands and great hockey sense. He will need to bulk up a little bit so he doesn't get beat easily by the big NHL defenseman, and he also needs to work on his speed. Hudon fits right in with some of the Habs' current wingers: small and skilled. Not a bad pick, but it will be a few years before Hudon has an impact.
Analysis: Although it was predicted the Habs would get a big shut down defenseman, they got a skilled winger in Hudon. The Habs don't need an excess of big defenseman anyway, so they chose to go with skill instead.
Sixth-round pick, 154th overall:
With their last selection in the draft, the Habs might choose to select a grinding forward, or possibly a goalie. A gritty player who could turn into a Ryan White-type of player could be available and the Habs will have to rely on their scouting to find a guy like that. These late picks never have too much pressure put on them, but once in a while, there is a steal-of-a-deal and the sixth-round pick turns into a superstar. There are also many overseas goalies who sometimes don't get a good look throughout the year but if the Habs had some good scouting over there, they could be sitting on this pick, waiting to give one of those goalies a chance. It has happened before and the Habs might hope it happens again. You can never have too many solid goalies in the system.
Prediction: 6'0'' gritty forward or a European goalie
Actual: Erik Nystrom, A
Nystrom is a 5'11" Swedish winger who is a hard-working forward who is a good skater and has good skill. Nystrom could turn out to be a great late-round steal in a few years. It was rumored Habs' scout Trevor Timmins went to watch Henrik Samuelsson, who was drafted in the first round, and then Nystrom caught his eye instead. The Habs had their eye on Nystrom all season long and definitely got the man they wanted in the sixth round. Timmins calls Nystrom his "sleeper pick."
Analysis: Great pick by the Habs who watched this guy all year. They got the guy they wanted and got him late.
The Habs got several of the players they targeted throughout the year. Galchenyuk adds that elite talent they need in the middle of the ice. Collberg, Bozon, Nystrom and Hudon are all capable wingers. Vail is going to be a good checking centre down the road. Thrower was the lone defenseman the Habs took this year, and he was a great selection.
The Habs selected two centreman, four wingers and one defenseman. They addressed their needs up front with the six selections and as their next few years of defenseman are already solidified, they only needed to grab one in this draft. They did not spend a pick on a goalie and rightly so. The Habs are not in need of a goalie as Carey Price is going to be the man for the foreseeable future. The Habs can always get veterans to be capable back-ups for Price and don't need to develop draft-project goalies until at least a couple years down the road.
The Habs, as well as fans, should be very, very happy with this years' draft. They got who they wanted.