Following the 2013 NHL entry draft, the Montreal Canadiens’ newest prospects might be a few years away from joining the team, but there are definitely some past picks that fans will be seeing very shortly.
The Habs undoubtedly addressed several predominant needs this past Sunday. For example, goalie Zach Fucale (36th overall) finally gives the Habs significant organizational goaltending depth. He will, however, find himself firmly behind starter Carey Price on the team’s depth chart for at least the next few years.
Meanwhile, by drafting first-round pick Michael McCarron (25th overall, actually ranked lower than Fucale by many analysts), the Habs’ future got significantly bigger—and arguably brighter. However, he is committed to going to Western Michigan University next season.
McCarron is intriguing for a number of reasons. For one thing, he’s huge (6’5”, 228 lbs). He was also drafted by the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights and could potentially follow a similar path as Jarred Tinordi, who is perhaps the best bet among Montreal prospects to not just make the Habs this coming season, but stick with them as well.
Tinordi, Montreal’s 2010 first-round pick (22nd overall), was committed to going to the University of Notre Dame that same summer, but ended up joining the London Knights, who had drafted him as well. After two seasons in the OHL, Tinordi turned professional, joining the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs last year and eventually the Habs this past March.
Playing in a total of eight regular-season games, including two after defenseman Alexei Emelin suffered a serious knee injury, Tinordi (6’6”, 205 lbs) is the most likely defensive prospect to at the very least temporarily replace Emelin and the physicality that has become the latter’s trademark.
In 67 games in 2011-12, Emelin led all rookies with 236 hits. In eight games last year, Tinordi had 14. It’s a small sample size, no doubt, but there is nothing small about Tinordi, who has a built-in ironic nickname of “Tiny.”
Should Tinordi falter, 2011 first-round pick Nathan Beaulieu is also a possible call-up to fill in the hole on the blue line for the first two months Emelin will be out. His puck-moving game is definitely different than Tinordi’s, but he has greater potential to become a star in the NHL. Beaulieu also didn’t look terribly out of place in six Canadiens games last year, with two assists and a plus/minus rating of five.
Up front, the picture is less clear. Aside from the usual suspects in current restricted free agents Gabriel Dumont and Michael Blunden (who were previously signed to two-way contracts, making them cost-effective choices to easily promote and demote), there isn’t exactly one clear prospect that stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Logic dictates that 2009 first-round pick Louis Leblanc, who played 42 games with Montreal in 2011-12 (five goals, five assists), will at the very least get a good look from Habs management. He will be judged on whether he’s taken a step forward after falling behind somewhat during a forgettable season in Hamilton. It’s at the very least a season he probably wishes he could forget.
Eleven games missed due to injury and a 17-game scoring drought were the highlights during a year in which he first fell behind fellow-center Alex Galchenyuk on the team’s depth chart and then got switched to the wing where then-teammate and eventual Calder Memorial Trophy-nominee Brendan Gallagher played.
Nevertheless, Leblanc is a Montreal native, projects as solid two-way forward and would fit in a bottom-six role, giving the team’s coaching staff the perfect call-up candidate in case of injury.
Beyond Leblanc, Montreal’s forward crop is far from bare. Prospects like Charles Hudon, Patrick Holland and Michael Bournival all made their Hamilton debuts last year.
Despite initially being projected as only making the jump to North America as early as 2013-14, Swede Sebastian Collberg also made his debut with Hamilton this past season (two games played, no points). A 2012 second-round pick, he has enough offensive upside to warrant attention from fans.
Fellow Swede Jacob De La Rose, whom the Habs selected 34th overall on Sunday, similarly isn’t expected to make the jump immediately, with an estimated time of arrival of two to three years. His name may capture the attention of Habs fans (he is a very small part French), but his game is as far from Guy Lafleur’s as possible.
The seventh-ranked European skater by Central Scouting entering the draft, he lacks a polished offensive game, but his work ethic and defensive play make him a standout prospect.
Like the others drafted by the Habs on Sunday (Artturi Lehkonen, Connor Crisp, Sven Andrighetto, Martin Reway and Jeremy Gregoire), he is admittedly hard to get excited about immediately, but his name is representative of the team that drafted him in at least one other, very key way.
It’s very easy to wear a pair of rose-colored glasses looking at the prospects in the Habs system and the team’s future overall.