Montreal Canadiens have quality mix of prospects in the NCAA and Europe

By David Thicke

Magnus Nygren - Montreal Canadiens

Photo: Though defenseman Magnus Nygren began the 2013-14 regular season in the AHL, he finished it with Farjestad of the SHL. (courtesy of Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

The Montreal Canadiens have a good mix of talent amongst their prospects playing in Europe and the NCAA. The organization has six forwards and three defensemen in this group that possesses varying degrees of speed, skill, and grit. These young prospects have shown improvement in their development this year and add good overall depth to the Canadiens' farm system.

Europe

Jacob de la Rose, C/W, Leksand (SHL)
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2013

In his first full season in SHL, de la Rose played mostly on the wing and was a bottom-six forward for Leksand. The big, physical forward managed to score seven goals along with six assists and an okay minus-five rating in 49 games. He had a successful 2014 WJC tournament collecting a silver medal with team Sweden and scoring three goals along with three assists in seven games.

His Leksand team was not amongst the best and bowed out of the playoffs after losing in three games against HV71. With his Leksand contract up, it is possible for de la Rose to come to North America as early as this spring or maybe for the start of next season.

Artturi Lehkonen, LW, KalPa (Liiga)
Drafted 2th round, 55th overall, 2013

Unfortunately Lehkonen gave everything he had for Team Finland to win the Gold medal at the WJC tournament. The young talent played on torn ligaments in his ankle and hurt the other one blocking shots. Despite being out with the ankle injury, he finished the season as KalPa's top scorer with seven goals and 13 assists in 33 games. The 18-year-old needs to strengthen his ankle and gain more size over the summer.

Lehkonen recently signed a two-year deal with Frolunda and will play the next two years in the SHL.

Magnus Nygren, D, Farjestad (SHL)
Drafted 4th round, 113th overall, 2011

After leaving the Hamilton Bulldogs, Nygren returned to Färjestad of the SHL for the remainder of the season. Wearing an 'A' for Farjestad, Nygren showed even more offensive prowess, scoring 12 goals along with eight assists and a solid plus-six rating in 25 games.

His Swedish team played against the AHL all-star team at the 2014 AHL all-star game. In the skills competition, the hard shooting defenseman shattered the Hardest Shot record with a rocket of 104.6 miles per hours. He also tied for first place in the shooting accuracy event, hitting four targets on six shots.

Nygren is still under contract for one more year under his ELC contract with the Montreal Canadiens and could return to North America this spring or at the start of next season.

Erik Nystrom, LW, Medvescak Zagreb (KHL)
Drafted 6th round, 154th overall, 2012

Nystrom left the AHL and signed with the Medvescak Zagreb of the KHL. He struggled this season only managing one assist and a minus-one rating in 20 games. His limited ice time on the team's fourth line did not help his overall game or development. In three playoff games in the KHL, the hard work winger failed to register any points. It is highly unlikely that the Canadiens choose to retain his rights come the summer deadline.

Maxim Trunev, RW, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL)
Drafted 5th round, 138th overall, 2008

Trunev bounced around the KHL for the early part of the season before Lokomotiv Yaroslavl finally chose to trade him to Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk on November 2nd, 2013 in a three-way deal. Veteran defenseman, Nikita Shchitov was traded to Salavat Yulaev Ufa while the big physical left winger, Igor Musatov was sent to Lokomotiv in exchange for Trunev.

Trunev is still struggling to find his offensive game, scoring just two goals along five assists and a minus-nine rating in 27 KHL games. His team fail to make the playoffs and his season is done. It is still very unlikely that the 23-old-year ever comes to North America.

NCAA

Mac Bennett, D, Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten)
Drafted 3rd round, 79th overall, 2009

In his final season at the NCAA level with Michigan, Bennett put solid all-round numbers, scoring two goals along with 12 assists and an excellent plus-12 rating in 31 NCAA games. The captain led his team to a winning record but was unable to get them to the big ten semi-finals for a 25th straight year. The Wolverines suffered a heart breaking double overtime loss to Penn State 2-1 which ended their season. Bennett recently signed an entry-level deal with the Canadiens.

Michael Cichy, C, Western Michigan Broncos (NCHC)
Drafted 7th round, 199th overall, 2009

Cichy struggled to find his offensive game in his senior year with Western Michigan. He scored just two goals along with five assists in 30 NCAA games. His team bowed out of the playoffs after losing to Denver University and North Dakota. This is the end of the centerman's NCAA career. It is not very likely that the Canadiens will offer him an entry-level contract or an AHL contract before the summer deadline of August 15th and Cichy's rights will be released.

Josiah Didier, D, Denver Pioneers (NCHC)
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall, 2011

In his junior year with the University of Denver, Didier was named junior captain and drew the tough assignment of shutting down the top offensive units for the opposition all year. Despite missing a few weeks early in the season with a knee injury, the big, physical defender leads his team in hits and blocked shots. He played his usual pounding defensive style but contributed offensively by scoring one goals adding seven assists and a solid plus-three ratings in 35 games.

University of Denver will meet Boston College in one of the Northeast Regional Semi-final games on March 29th, 2014 in Worcester. Didier's hockey season is still alive but he will face a tough challenge against the number one seed, Boston College Eagles.

Mark MacMillan, LW, North Dakota (NCHC)
Drafted 4th round, 113th overall, 2010

In his junior season with North Dakota, MacMillan was slow out of the gate offensively but finished the regular season strong. After 35 games, he has potted nine goals along with 14 assists and a minus-six rating. His team beat Western Michigan 5-0 at the NCHC Frozen Faceoff in order to secure a berth in the NCAA Men's hockey Tournament. MacMillan and North Dakota will face off with Ferris State in the NCAA Midwest Regional on March 29th.

Other Notes:

Prospect Tim Bozon came out of a medical induced coma which was to help treat Neisseria Meningitis and was recently released from a Saskatoon hospital. Bozon is scheduled to drop the puck at a ceremonial faceoff for a game between the Kootenay Ice and the Calgary Hitmen on March 29th.