Projecting Top-End Potential for Montreal Canadiens' Best Prospects
The Montreal Canadiens have done a much better job in drafting over the past few years, and their current pool of prospects reflects that.
Even after seeing Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Michael Bournival graduate to the NHL level, there is still a lot to like about the future of the Habs.
Here's a look at the Montreal Canadiens' best prospects and a projection for their top-end potential.
The Canadiens made Mike McCarron their first-round pick at the 2013 NHL entry draft, selecting the big man 25th overall. He is currently playing for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.
Leading up to the draft, scouts were divided with their reports on McCarron.
Some, such as Chris Peters of TheUnitedStatesofHockey.com, rave about McCarron’s elite skill set for a man of his stature. Peters believes McCarron will indeed be a very good NHL player some day.
Others, like Ben Kerr at LastWordonSports.com, believe he is a bit overrated and is a very long way from the NHL. He thinks McCarron particularly needs big improvements in his shot release and stick-handling before he turns pro.
After scoring in his first game in London, McCarron went goalless in his next 18 before finding the back of the net twice November 16. He now has just three goals and five assists in 20 games.
The 6’5”, 236-pound native of Michigan isn’t silencing his critics, as he seems to be having a hard time adapting to the best junior league in the world. Perhaps his recent two-goal outing will help kick-start his season.
McCarron will likely represent Team USA at the 2014 World Junior Championships in Sweden.
Projecting top-end talent is tough for McCarron, especially since opinions are so divided on him. Most scouts do agree, however, that McCarron’s ceiling does reach as high as a top-six forward at the NHL level.
The Montreal Canadiens selected Sebastian Collberg 33rd overall in the 2012 draft. The Swedish right-winger is currently playing for the Frolunda Indians of the Swedish Hockey League.
Collberg is a sniper.
Eliteprospects.com calls his wrist shot "elite," explaining that it can be "released in a hurry with great accuracy and velocity."
Hockeysfuture.com likes his skating ability and also raves about his one-on-one moves. He is especially slick when he gets in alone against a goaltender.
Collberg will need to develop more strength if he hopes to make it in the NHL. He's currently just 181 pounds.
The 19-year-old is in his third full season with Frolunda in Sweden's top hockey league. Through 17 games, Collberg has a goal and three assists. He is averaging just 11:00 of ice time per game.
Look for him to represent Sweden at the upcoming World Juniors.
Collberg has the talent to project into a top-six forward who can be relied on to score goals, especially on the power play. Collberg also has the potential to be a shootout specialist.
The Habs nabbed Lehkonen with one of their three second-round choices (55th overall) at the 2013 draft. He is currently playing for KalPa in the SM-Liiga (Finland).
Lehkonen has the offensive skills that scouts salivate over. His skating is elite and his agility and puck control make him hard to check. Corey Pronmon at HockeyProspectus.com says his "best offensive skill may be his shot, as scouts regularly describe him as a 'goal scorer' who can finish from anywhere."
The knock on Lehkonen is his size. He's not overly short at 5'11", but he's going to need to bulk up if he plans to make it in the NHL—he's currently listed at just 159 pounds.
After 20 games in the SM-Liiga, Lehkonen has four goals (13 points) in 22 games. While his scoring is down from last season (when he scored 14 times in 45 games), he's still playing good hockey as a small 18-year-old playing in a men's pro league.
Andrew Berkshire of HabsEyesonthePrize.com points out that Lehkonen is playing on the worst team in the league and is its leading scorer. He's also getting more shots per 60 minutes than any other KalPa forward. It seems he has also been a bit unlucky this season, as his shooting percentage sits at just 3.6 percent.
Look for Lehkonen to represent Finland at the World Juniors.
Assuming he is able to add 20 or 30 pounds of muscle over the next couple of years, Lehkonen projects to be a very good goal scorer in the NHL. His top-end projection is as high as a first-line winger who gets plenty of power-play minutes as well.
Charles Hudon was taken in the fifth round (122nd overall) by the Canadiens back in 2012. He currently plays for Chicoutimi of the QMJHL.
Scouts tend to like Hudon's hockey sense and vision on the ice. He plays smart with the puck, and his passing is above average.
Hockeysfuture.com notes that he is known mostly for his offensive game, but he also excels in his own end of the rink.
Like Collberg and Lehkonen, Hudon will need to bulk up if he hopes of making it as a pro. He stands 5'11" and weighs just 170 pounds.
Hudon is on a point-per-game pace in the QMJHL this season. Through 24 games, the 19-year-old has recorded nine goals and 15 assists.
He is currently representing Team QMJHL in the Subway Super Series against Russia. Hudon is playing on the team's top line with Jonathan Drouin and Anthony Mantha.
Hudon had two goals and an assist November 18 as Team QMJHL took the opener by a score of 3-2. Game 2 is scheduled for November 19.
Look for Hudon to be given every opportunity to make Team Canada's World Junior Championship squad. He made the team last year before an injury forced him to withdraw.
Hudon is another Canadiens prospect who could very well turn into a top-six forward at the NHL level. His ability to play at both ends of the rink will increase his chances of making it as a pro.
Nathan Beaulieu was drafted in the first round (17th overall) by the Habs back in 2011. He is currently playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL.
Beaulieu is the consensus top prospect in the Habs organization.
He is a tremendous puck-handler and can make things happen offensively from the back end. Corey Pronman at HockeyProspectus.com notes that Beaulieu has good speed but also "has the four-way mobility to stay with even the fastest forwards."
Beaulieu still needs to develop a bit defensively, while his off-ice issues are also a weakness.
Beaulieu played a few games with the Canadiens early in 2013-14 (5 GP, 1 A, +1) but has spent the past month or so with Hamilton of the AHL.
He has a goal and three assists in 10 games but is a minus-eight with the Bulldogs.
Beaulieu was bounced around like a yo-yo between Montreal and Hamilton early this season, and his hectic travel schedule has likely affected his early-season play. Look for him to bounce back and play better hockey as he settles into a role in Hamilton.
Being Montreal's top prospect, Beaulieu is expected to at least become a top-three defenseman within the next couple of years. His top-end projection sits as a power-play quarterback who can also play the heavy minutes that come with a team's top pairing.
Montreal drafted Jarred Tinordi at No. 22 in the first round of the 2010 NHL entry draft. He is currently playing with Hamilton in the AHL.
Tinordi is a beast of a man at 6'6", 220 pounds. As expected from someone of his size, he plays a physical game and is at his best when he is engaging his opponents with the body.
Hockeysfuture.com points out that he is a good skater for someone of his size and that he possesses leadership skills that can't be taught.
Tinordi's weakness is in the attacking end, where he possesses little offensive skill.
Tinordi spent most of the first month of this season in and out of the Canadiens lineup. In six games with the Habs, he recorded nine penalty minutes. He didn't record a point and was even in the plus/minus department.
Like Beaulieu, Tinordi has struggled a bit since his demotion to Hamilton. The 21-year-old has a minus-three rating in 11 games with the Bulldogs. He also has one assist.
Because of his lack of offensive talent, it's difficult to project Tinordi as a top-pair defender. He does have the size and defensive abilities to be a solid stay-at-home defenseman and could round out a top-four group nicely.
Zachary Fucale was the second of Montreal's three second-round picks in the 2013 NHL entry draft (36th overall). He was the first goalie selected in 2013. He is currently playing with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL.
Fucale is a calm goaltender between the pipes who is developing a reputation as a winner after helping the Mooseheads win the 2013 Memorial Cup.
Patrick King of Sportsnet.ca calls Fucale "a big-game goalie who doesn't panic and plays with the mental resolve and maturity that belies his age." King also likes Fucale's positioning in the crease.
Hockeysfuture.com echoes King but adds that rebound control is something Fucale must improve in the coming years.
Fucale has been a workhorse so far in 2013-14 for Halifax, appearing in 21 of the team's 28 games. The 18-year-old has a 15-5 record while posting a 2.78 goals-against average and a .891 save percentage.
He was also chosen to start Game 1 of the Subway Super Series for Team QMJHL, where he was credited with the win in a 19-save performance.
Fucale has an excellent chance of being named to Team Canada's 2014 World Junior squad that will compete in Sweden.
Fucale is an extremely skilled goaltender who deserved to be taken as the first goalie off the board in 2013. Because of that, his top-end projection is a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL. He will be brought along very slowly, however, as Carey Price should be the Canadiens goaltender for the foreseeable future.