It's fair to say that Bob Gainey, Trevor Timmins, and the rest of the amateur scouting staff have done a good job re-stocking the Canadiens' talent pool that had been depleted prior to their arrival.
The Bob Gainey/Trevor Timmins draft selections have not always been predictable nor followed popular opinion (which is probably a good thing), but have received high praise from experts.
HockeyFutures.com rates the Montreal Canadiens prospect talent pool as the second best in the NHL.
The buzz in Montreal this draft season is for Louis Leblanc, which may have as much to do with his hometown (Pointe-Claire, QC) as his talent. The hype is reminiscent to 2005, when media and fans alike were advocating that Gainey take Gilbert Brule with the fifth selection overall.
We now know that would have been a huge mistake.
Brule is a smallish, very inconsistent forward, who has struggled with injuries and to maintain a roster spot at the NHL level.
So, what will Gainey do with the 18th pick in this year's draft?
Reviewing mock draft opinions from various hockey experts, you find the following players being mentioned as potential choices for the Canadiens: Carter Ashton, Jordan Caron, Landon Ferraro, Peter Holland, Chris Kreider, Louis Leblanc, and Drew Shore.
All of the above players are forwards. While some believe in choosing the best player on the draft board at the time, it's unlikely that Gainey would choose a defenseman given the talent at that position already in the system.
All Habs ranks the following seven players, in order, not only for their talent, but their suitability in filling the Canadiens' needs.
Chris Kreider LW, Andover, USHS 6'2", 200 lbs.
Kreider is one of the best skaters in the draft, possessing explosive speed. He is a great playmaker, has a good shot, and could be the big-bodied offensive forward that the Canadiens have been searching for.
The only knock on Kreider is that he last played at the high school level.
Carter Ashton LW, Lethbridge, WHL 6'3", 210 lbs.
Ashton is a true power-forward. He goes to the net strong, skates well, and is tough to knock off the puck. He also possesses a terrific shot; very accurate and delivered with a quick release.
He needs to improve his play without the puck.
Louis Leblanc C, Omaha, USHL 6'0", 175 lbs.
Leblanc has good hands and hockey sense. He plays well with elite linemates. He has a good work ethic and is very competitive.
He needs to improve his skating and is slight in size. He hasn't played against tougher talent.
The following four players could probably be obtained by trading down in the draft from the 18th pick.
Peter Holland C, Guelph, OHL 6'2", 190 lbs.
Holland seems to have all the qualities to succeed: size, speed, and scoring touch. His midterm rankings put him in the top 10.
But, there are questions about his consistency, taking shifts off, and commitment to defensive responsibilities. With the right coach and development program, his career could be back on track.
Landon Ferarro RW, Red Deer, WHL 5'11", 165 lbs.
Ferraro is competitive, fearless, and a hard worker. His skating is good, and he is a solid two-way player. Ferraro will be a good character player, but lacks the size and skill to be a top six forward.
Jordan Caron RW, Rimouski, QMJHL 6'2", 200 lbs.
Caron has size, toughness, and isn't afraid to go to the net. He can be an agitator at times. Caron lacks hockey sense, his skating is below par, and his defensive game needs work.
His ceiling is probably as a third-line forward.
Drew Shore C, U18, NTDP 6'3", 190 lbs.
Shore has size and scoring touch around the net. He plays physical and is relentless in his pursuit of the puck. He needs some work on his skating, his defensive game, and a commitment to consistency.