It has been a grim year for Canadiens fans. While this offseason has been dominated by talk of last season’s failure and the oncoming rebuilding period, Montreal should remain hopeful that success is right around the corner. With a plethora of young and talented prospects, a return to the Eastern Conference playoffs could be on the horizon.
Things can only get better for the team that finished with a 31-35-16 record and a conference-low 78 points. The Canadiens were one of only two teams in 2011-12 to finish the season with less than 32 wins. For a franchise that has become accustomed to winning, last season was unacceptable and clearly changes in leadership needed to be made in 2012-13.
Montreal did not hesitate to make early offseason moves. In early May, the Canadiens replaced former general manager Pierre Gauthier with Chicago Blackhawks assistant GM Marc Bergevin, who quickly hired Michel Therrien to relieve interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth of his duties. Shortly after hiring Therrien, Bergevin and his aspiring Canadiens had a fully revamped coaching staff.
Montreal will undergo plenty of on-ice changes in 2012-13 to go along with their new-look coaching staff. It will be a classic case of “out with the old, in with the new” for the Canadiens until they find the perfect formula to achieve every team’s goal of winning the Stanley Cup Finals.
This article will highlight the Canadiens’ seven most promising young prospects. They will be listed in order of their age (youngest to oldest), so the players in the beginning of the slideshow may take a few years to develop into NHL stars, while the players towards the end of the slideshow should have a more immediate impact.
The Canadiens had their sights set on the future of the franchise when they used their second round pick of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft on 16-year-old Swedish right winger Sebastian Collberg.
Collberg, who currently plays for Frolunda HC of the Swedish Elite League, has also represented his country well in international play. As a member of the Swedish squad in both the U-18 and U-20 World Juniors Championship, Collberg has been solid and has led his team to success. His U-18 team won silver in 2011-12, and his U-20 team took gold.
Collberg has also been recognized as one of the top players in the Swedish Elite League. According to Hockey'sFuture.com, he was named Allsvenskan Best Forward for his play with Florunda’s U-18 team.
Collberg could take a couple years to ready himself for NHL-level play, but for Montreal fans, it should be well worth the wait. Collberg has the potential to develop into one of the Canadiens’ top scoring threats.
Bergevin spent his first draft pick as the Canadiens GM on center Alex Galchenyuk. It’s a risky pick, but Bergevin is hopeful that it will ultimately pay off big time.
The pick is risky because the Canadiens are not sure what exactly they’ll be getting out of Galchenyuk. After his 80-point rookie campaign in the Ontario Hockey League, Galchenyuk spent more time on the Sarnia Sting’s injured list than the active roster. In 2011-12, Galchenyuk’s second year with the Sting, he only appeared in two regular season games. However, he reminded everyone of his potential with two goals and two assists in six playoff games.
While injuries paint a huge question mark on Galchenyuk’s future, his talent remains undeniable. Bergevin knew when he selected Galchenyuk that he had exceptional skill and the ability to make a difference right away, which is why he earned the third overall pick of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
Galchenyuk has already shown his devotion to his new team and city by picking up the native language, French (h/t NHL.com's Arpon Basu). If Galchenyuk can show the same commitment to getting back on the ice, we could be hearing his name a lot sooner rather than later.
The Canadiens had three picks in the first two rounds of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Bergevin spent the team’s third pick (51 overall) on American defenseman Dalton Thrower.
Thrower spent the last three seasons in the Western Hockey League as a member of the Saskatoon Blades, and in 2011-12, he emerged as one of the team’s top defenders. In 66 games, Thrower showcased his offensive value, scoring 18 goals and 54 total points. According to NHL.com, the Blades’ top-scoring defenseman was the 26th-ranked North American prospect heading into the draft.
Thrower is a bit undersized (5’11”/189 lb) by NHL defenseman standards, so his transition to the Canadiens may go slowly. He makes up for his lack of size with a gritty playing style. Last season, Thrower logged 103 penalty minutes to go along with his impressive scoring totals.
Like Thrower, defenseman Nathan Beaulieu also has exceptional scoring ability. Eventually, we may see these two competing for time on Montreal’s power play unit. But for now, they’ll remain among the Canadiens’ minor league ranks.
Beaulieu has skated with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League since 2007-08. During the 2010-11 season, his Sea Dogs won the Memorial Cup, and Beaulieu was pivotal to the team’s success. Beaulieu was the team’s highest-scoring defender with 12 goals and 45 points.
Beaulieu has been able to make an impact on the biggest stages of his short career. During his team’s Memorial Cup run, Beaulieu totaled 21 points, and in the 2011 CHL Home Hardware Top Prospects Game, he scored one of his team’s seven goals.
Beaulieu, who has a year of experience on Thrower, also has a slightly larger frame (6’3”, 191 lbs.) If Montreal is looking to bring up a defenseman sometime during the 2012-13 season, Beaulieu is likely to get the nod over Thrower.
And don’t forget about first round choice in the 2010 NHL Draft Jarred Tinordi. He rounds out the Canadiens’ three-man crew of promising defensive prospects.
Unlike Thrower and Beaulieu, Tinordi is not a big scoring threat. In his past two seasons with the London Knights of the OHL, Tinordi has only scored three goals. However, at 6’7” and 212 pounds, Tinordi is a physically imposing defender. He has notched over 200 penalty minutes during his time with the Knights.
Tinordi, who won a gold medal in 2009 while representing the United States in the IIHF World U-18 Championship, could be called up to the Canadiens at any time, and will likely step into an enforcer role right away. According to Hockey'sFuture.com, Tinordi has leadership capability and the talent to be a top-four defenseman at the NHL level. While he has already seen some playing time with Montreal, Tinordi will try to establish himself as one of the team's top defenders in 2012-13.
Michael Bournival is a 20-year-old Canadian prospect who could be a legitimate scoring threat and a great leader for the Montreal Canadiens for years to come.
Bournival has been a consistent producer for the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL, scoring at least 55 points in each of the past three seasons. If that scoring capability can transfer over into the NHL, Montreal should be salivating over the offensive potential Bournival brings to the table.
Bournival was originally drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in the third round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but was ultimately traded to the Canadiens for defenseman Ryan O’Byrne. With Montreal’s surplus of young and talented defenders, O’Byrne was expendable, and the Canadiens appear to have gotten the better end of that deal.
Bournival’s game is not one-dimensional. According to his scouting report on Hockey'sFuture.com, Bournival’s “tireless work ethic” and “intense competitive drive” sets him apart from other prospects. His aggressive play allows him to excel in every aspect of his game. A player with that type of hustle is the ideal candidate for a rebuilding team. Don’t be surprised if you see Bournival wearing an “A” or a “C” sometime in the future.
Right-winger Danny Kristo is one of the best skaters at the college level. After only two seasons at the University of North Dakota, Kristo became the school’s active leading point scorer (64).
While many prospects who are coined future superstars are imported from foreign U-18 teams, Kristo is one of the few prospects getting a lot of recognition while working his way through the NCAA ranks. He is 22 years old and could make an impact with the Canadiens right after he graduates.
Montreal has been waiting for Kristo for quite some time. They drafted him with the 56th overall selection of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft and have been watching him play with the North Dakota Fighting Sioux ever since.
According to Hockey'sFuture.com, Kristo has “two-way sensibility” and “good speed and grit,” which makes up for his slightly undersized frame (5’11”, 180 lbs.). The Canadiens could use a player like Kristo for both his scoring capability as well as his hard work between the blue lines.