The Habs have the sixteenth overall selection in this year’s NHL Draft
As COVID-19 delayed the National Hockey League (NHL) 2019–20 playoffs, this year’s NHL Entry Draft will be presented on Oct. 6 and 7. It will be conducted online, while players and fans alike will watch from home.
The Montreal Canadiens have 13 draft picks this year, including the sixteenth overall selection. The team’s last two first-round picks were Cole Caufield and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, fifteenth overall pick in 2019 and third overall pick in 2018, respectively. As the team begins to see the impact of its young talented players, this year’s draft should only add to what the Canadiens are heading towards: youth.
The question is, who should the Montreal Canadiens select? Here are some players who might interest the Habs.
Besides Alexis Lafrenière, projected first overall selection in the draft, Lapierre is the next best French-Canadian player the Canadiens could select.
Unfortunately, Lapierre has suffered multiple concussions, which led him to miss over half of the 2019–20 season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). During his short season, Lapierre produced two goals and 15 assists for 17 points in 19 games with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens.
His playmaking and ability to control the puck is something that could definitely help the Canadiens at the centre position. He isn’t the best offensive player in the draft, but he is definitely one of the best defensive centremen available. His hockey sense is impressive and he can easily find players on the ice. Lapierre could be the first French-Canadian drafted by the Habs in the first round since Louis Leblanc in 2009.
Ranked at number 16 on Bob McKenzie’s list on TSN, Holloway is another player that could interest the Habs. Although Holloway had an average season with the University of Wisconsin, scoring eight goals and nine assists in 35 games, the forward who can play centre and left-wing has a great potential.
His speed and physicality could help a team like the Habs, which mainly consists of small players. Finding players with the speed and size of Holloway is rare. He would help his teammates to free up space on the ice. The fact he played with Caufield in Wisconsin could also convince the Canadiens to draft him.
The Habs desperately need offensive power and if their General Manager Marc Bergevin does not trade for a goal scorer, Mercer could at least be a solution for the future. Last year, Mercer registered 24 goals and 36 assists for 60 points in 42 games, playing for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and the Drummondville Voltigeurs.
His stickhandling skills help him get great opportunities for his powerful shot. While not the fastest, he is capable of outskating players and taking the puck from his opponents. He has a great mentality and works really hard on both sides of the ice, which is important for the Habs organization.
This Swedish offensive player could add offensive power to the Canadiens. Playing in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) and the J20 SuperElit League, Gunler got 29 goals and 22 assists for 51 points in 46 games during the 2018–19 season. Gunler has an ease in finding the space and time to shoot the puck.
Being very tall, he doesn’t have any difficulty driving the net and blocking the goalie’s view, which could be a great addition to the Habs’ power play. Although he might need another year to be ready for the NHL, Gunler could potentially be a top-two player playing alongside the team’s great centres like Kotkaniemi.
Ranked as one of the best prospects for the Canadiens by RDS journalist Stéphane Leroux, Amirov is a tall, Russian left-winger. He has played in Russia in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), the Molodiojnaïa Hokkeïnaïa Liga (MHL) and the Vyschaïa Hokkeïnaïa Liga (VHL).
In 2019–20, Amirov counted 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points in 43 games. Amirov has amazing skills, and can easily score goals on a penalty shot or a breakaway. His shot is also extremely good, as he has a powerful release. However, he might not be the heaviest player, which may deter the Habs.
He definitely has the potential to become a great goal scorer in the NHL, and he, just like Gunler, could help the Canadiens on the power play. He still has amazing potential and he is very entertaining to watch.
With all the great players available in this year’s draft, it will be interesting to see which one the Canadiens will pick. No matter who it is, it’s almost guaranteed they’ll have something to solve the team’s needs. However, after recently signing defencemen Alexander Romanov and Joel Edmundson, the Habs might look into drafting a forward for the fourth straight year.
Graphic by Rose-Marie Dion