Canadiens 2008-09 NCAA prospects

By Jason Menard

If it wasn’t for the phenomenal play of Max Pacioretty — who would have been in his sophomore season — the number of Canadiens NCAA prospects would be in double digits.

As it stands, the Canadiens have three forwards and six blueliners — including two blue-chip prospects — in the collegiate ranks. And for some, due to depth of promising young talent in the Habs’ professional affiliates, the additional developmental time in the NCAA may be a blessing in disguise.

Andrew Conboy, LW (5th round, 142nd overall, 2007) — Michigan State University

The 6’4, 200-pound left winger proved that he could use his hands both in a hard and a soft fashion over the past two years in the USHL. In his first season with Michigan State University, he’s already proven the former and has shown glimpses of the latter.

In 17 games to date, the freshman forward has scored three goals and added two assists. His name has found the score sheet far more often as a result of penalties. Conboy, to date, has already accounted for 66 PIMs. Of course, the attributes have been well established in the rugged winger’s repertoire to date.

Last year, he scored 17 goals in 58 games with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers. Along with 21 assists, Conboy accounted for 38 points. Those numbers represented a drop in the 25-goal, 25-assist performance he turned in during his first season with the Lancers, but he was able to put it into another gear come playoff time last season. In just 14 post-season contests, Conboy paced the Lancers with nine goals and one assists.

Those numbers show he can score. The number 188 shows he’s not afraid to get his nose dirty during the course of the game. It’s how many PIMs he earned in his 58 regular-season games last year.

Conboy’s scoring challenges have been representative of Michigan State’s overall challenges this season. Due to several key graduations and departures, the 2007 national champions have fallen on hard times. Sure, their 6-13-3 record has them poised to make the playoffs in the CCHA — but that’s because all 12 teams make the post season. The team is currently in second-last place in CCHA with a 3-9-2-2 conference record, only one point up on Bowling Green. Conboy’s also been hampered in his play by a lingering shoulder injury, which caused him to miss games in Novemeber.

Patrick Johnson, F (7th round, 206th overall, 2008) — University of Wisconsin

The sophomore winger has played a solid role for the Badgers to date, although a knee injury suffered during the team’s first game back following a three-week holiday break may prove to be a setback for the young forward.

The slight winger, who measures just 5’9 and 155 pounds, has scored two goals and three assists in his second season with the club. These numbers represent a drop in production from his 2007-08 totals of eight goals and 13 assists in 40 games. However, he has helped the club earn a 16th overall ranking behind a 12-9-3 overall record so far. Their 9-5-2 record finds them in second place, three points behind WCHA-leading Denver.

Steve Quailer, RW (3rd round, 86th overall, 2008) — Northeastern University 

The big right winger has made an impression to match his size during his freshman season with the powerhouse Northeastern University squad. At 6’3, 184 pounds, Quailer has appeared in all 20 of the club’s games, accounting for five goals and eight assists. His production has helped Northeastern earn a 14-4-2 record overall this year, including a 10-2-1 conference mark.

Quailer has made a smooth transition from the USHL, where he scored 19 goals en route to 49 points in 60 games with the Sioux City franchise. He’s helped Northeastern remain four points up on New Hampshire for top spot in the Hockey East conference. They are ranked third in nation according to the latest USCHO.com/CBS College Sports Division I poll, which was released Jan. 12. 

David Fischer, D (1st round, 20th overall, 2006) — University of Minnesota

After a rookie season in which he saw little action with a powerhouse Golden Gopher squad, last year Fischer announced that he was ready to deliver upon the promise that had made him a former Mr. Hockey in the state. This year, he’s well on pace to obliterate his previous season totals as the junior blueliner is living up to his lofty draft status.

At 6’3, 180 pounds, Fischer still has room to grow into his size, but his offensive production is beginning to rival his stature on the ice. In 18 games so far, the blueliner has one goal and 11 assists. Those numbers already match up favorably with his totals from last season, when he scored two goals and added a dozen assists in 45 games. They’re also miles away from the limited impact of five assists he had in 42 games during his freshman campaign.

Fischer has been an integral part of a blueline corps that has anchored Minnesota to a 10-5-5 overall record, 7-4-3 in conference. The club is currently tied with North Dakota for fourth in the WCHA — although the Golden Gophers have four games in hand. And although they recently fell four spots in the rankings, they remain seventh overall in the national poll. 

Unfortunately, Fischer’s impressive campaign has been derailed by a recent torn tendon injury, which will see the lanky blueliner miss between three and six weeks.

Scott Kishel, D (7th round, 192nd overall, 2007) — University of Minnesota-Duluth

Kishel has seen limited action on a veteran-laden Duluth blueline (featuring two seniors and one junior). He and Brady Lamb were expected to see spot duty on this edition of the Bulldogs and that’s exactly what’s happened. Kishel, a 5’11, 170-pound blueliner, has appeared in six games to date. He’s still waiting to crack a scoresheet in the collegiate ranks.

Last year, with Sioux Falls of the WCHL, Kishel accounted for three goals and 11 assists in 57 games. He’ll have to bide his time and work his way up the collegiate ranks. In the meantime, his Bulldogs are in fifth place in the WCHA, courtesy of a 9-7-6 overall record and a 5-6-5 conference mark, which leaves them just two points behind both Minnesota and North Dakota for fourth.

Ryan McDonagh, D (1st round, 12th overall, 2007) — University of Wisconsin

McDonagh has rapidly played his way to the top of the Canadiens’ prospect pool. He’s been a rock on the Badgers’ blueline and was a physical force during the U.S.’ fifth-place performance at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

The 6’1, 203-pound blueliner has logged major minutes as a sophomore with the 17th ranked Badgers, and has scored four goals and added five assists from the back end. These numbers are comparable to his 2007-08 totals of five goals and 12 points in 40 games. McDonagh’s also played more of a physical presence in his 20 games at the collegiate level this season, earning 37 minutes.

The two-way blueliner was a presence at the World Juniors, adding three assists to the cause, while finishing with a team-leading plus-five rating in Team USA’s six games. The fact that he only registered two shots in those games was more of a reflection of the defensive role he was asked to play at the tournament.

Philippe Paquet, D (7th round, 229th overall, 2005) — Clarkson University

Paquet’s senior season with the Golden Knights hasn’t been one to remember so far. An ankle injury has limited him to just 11 games and Clarkson is dead last in the ECAC with a 3-13-4 overall record, with only one win in conference play (along with six losses and a tie).

The 6’3, 185-pound blueliner is a stay-at-home defenseman on a team for which defense has been less than stellar. The team has the second-worst goals against totals in the league. Paquet, never an offensive juggernaut by any stretch of the imagination, has accounted for one goal and two assists in his 11 games, adding 42 minutes in penalties. Of course, that’s to be expected as the Quebec city native has career collegiate totals of seven, seven, and four points over the course of his career (along with 91, 116, 63, and — so far — 42 PIMs).

Greg Pateryn, D (5th round, 128th overall, 2008 — selected by Toronto) — University of Michigan

Last year, the Canadiens made a rare trade with their historical rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, in which the mercurial Mikhail Grabovski was shipped to Ontario in return for a 2010 second-round selection and Pateryn, the Leafs’ 2008 fifth-round selection. Considering that the John Kordic for Russ Courtnall trade was one of the most lopsided in NHL history, the Habs should hope that lightning strikes twice.

The Canadiens plucked one promising player off the Wolverines’ roster by signing Max Pacioretty to a pro contract in the off-season — Pateryn can only hope to enjoy as much success with the maize and gold. To date, the 18-year-old freshman blueliner has four assists with the club. At 6’2, 212 pounds, Pateryn combines solid defensive awareness with good size and the potential for above-average offensive production.

Last year, with the Ohio Jr. Blue Jackets of the USHL, he scored three goals and added 24 assists in 60 games, along with amassing 147 PIMs. This season he’s helped the Wolverines to a 15-7-0 record, 9-5-0-0 in conference. They are currently tied with Ohio State for fifth in the CCHA and have jumped four spots in the latest poll to sixth overall.

Joe Stejskal, D (5th round, 133rd overall, 2007) — Dartmouth College

The 6’2, 186-pound defenseman has made a quantum leap from his freshman campaign. After scoring only five points last year, with only one goal, in 32 games, Stejskal leads the club in goal-scoring with six — and has added five assists in 16 games for good measure. He has been the club’s anchor on the power play (five of those goals have been scored with the man advantage) and he’s played a major role in Dartmouth’s success.

The Big Green is in a three-way tie for second behind Princeton in the ECAC, with Quinnipiac and Cornell. They’ve accumulated a 10-6-0 record overall, 7-4-0 in conference, and they’ve reached 18th overall in the national rankings.