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Who should the Habs draft next season?

by Theo Kyres March 22, 2016
Who should the Habs draft next season?

Looking at Marc Bergevin’s draft record and what he can do to improve

The NHL draft is the single most important date on any general manager’s calendar. It’s where teams build their foundation for the future, the moments which begin a player’s journey to the best hockey league in the world and the event where championships are won. It’s also where we learn about the team’s philosophy and if there’s any shifting trends amongst its future plans. This year’s draft takes place in Buffalo, NY June 24 and 25 and it’s set to be Marc Bergevin’s most important moment as GM of the Canadiens.

Graphic by Thom Bell.

Graphic by Thom Bell.

Bergevin’s draft philosophy is that size and character dominates actual skill. It’s why Connor Crisp (who will never play a game in the NHL) was chosen before Anthony Duclair; a Montrealer playing extremely well in Arizona. When analyzing Bergevin’s tenure, it’s more than fair to say the Canadiens have largely failed at having top-tier amateur scouting.

Noah Juulsen who was last year’s pick has had a terrible season with a drop from 0.76 to 0.45 points per game. Nikita Scherbak, the team’s 2014 first-round pick has been awful in the AHL with only 15 points in 35 games. Bergevin’s only impact pick was with Alex Galchenyuk who was drafted third overall in 2012 and with Michael McCarron who was drafted 25th overall in 2013. However, McCarron is projected to only be a third-line forward.

This year the Canadiens will likely draft anywhere from eighth to 11th overall. The Canadiens are a team that desperately need a skill-upgrade at the centre, wing and defense positions. Aside from my delusional dream of a lottery win for Auston Matthews, let’s look at who the Canadiens can and should realistically draft.

In the Quebec player category, Pierre-Luc Dubois is someone that, if available, the team has to draft. He’s intelligent, skilled and has tremendous size, a perfect complement for Galchenyuk. TSN Draft analyst Craig Button and Sportsnet lead CHL analyst Sam Cosentino both believe he has top-5 potential but he’s currently ranked eighth in Bob McKenzie’s mid-season draft rankings. Ranked in the 10th spot is Julien Gauthier, who has put up 56 points this season, but lacked in the assist category which has hurt his reputation with scouts.

Ranked right after Dubois is Mike McLeod, who is compared favorably to Ryan Kesler with the speed of Dylan Larkin. One player who might drop is Alex Nylander, brother of Toronto Maple Leafs future star forward William Nylander. Alex is an offensive beast with some size but is a pure winger who can have some inconsistent streaks.

In the defensemen category, there are a few notable players. Button is impressed by  two guys in particular: Olli Juolevi and Jake Bean. Juolevi, ranked seventh, is a smooth-skating, puck-moving defenseman who made a name for himself at the World Juniors and just might be the best defenseman available. Bean, ranked 11th, is a great offensive defenseman who currently leads his junior team, the Calgary Hitmen, in goals with 24.

One potential late first or early second-round player Bergevin should look to acquire is Alex DeBrincat of the Erie Otters. He’s a small player but he’s an elite offensive talent who’s scoring at a higher pace than he did while playing alongside Connor McDavid; the first overall pick from 2015.

Personally, if the Habs are looking for a forward, they should draft Dubois, while if they are looking for a defensemen, they should draft Bean. We’ll just have to wait and see what Bergevin decides to do on draft day.

 

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