Canadiens 2009 draft preview

By Jason Menard

Top 10 Prospects

1. Ryan McDonagh, D
2. Max Pacioretty, LW
3. Ben Maxwell, C
4. P.K. Subban, D
5. Kyle Chipchura, C
6. David Fischer, D
7. Matt D’Agostini, RW
8. Yannick Weber, D
9. Mathieu Carle, D
10. Danny Kristo, RW

With all the off-season turmoil (new coach, GM on the hot seat, rumors of an organizational sale), one thing hasn’t changed — the club’s commitment to building through the draft. The organization is stocked with quality NHL prospects, spread throughout all levels of developmental hockey (AHL, ECHL, collegiate ranks, Europe, and junior).

The Canadiens have seven selections in the 2009 NHL entry draft. They have the 18th overall pick in the first round, but are currently without a second-round selection, thanks to the 2008 draft-day trade which saw Alex Tanguay come to Montreal (Calgary later traded that pick to Colorado in the Jordan Leopold acquisition). Montreal also had the rights to another second-round selection (obtained from Washington, and originally Anaheim’s, in the Cristobal Huet trade), but that was sent to Atlanta to obtain the services of Mathieu Schneider. In that same trade, the Canadiens received a conditional draft pick from Atlanta, which ended up a third rounder after the Habs failed to escape the first round of this year’s NHL playoffs. They have retained the rights to their own selections in rounds three through seven.

Team Needs — Scoring talent, size up front

The Canadiens are entering an off-season filled with question marks. Marquee players like Saku Koivu, Alexei Kovalev, and Mike Komisarek lead the list of unrestricted free agents, and it’s safe to say that the team that takes to the ice in 2009-10 will have a much different look than the centennial edition. New scoring talent may need to be added. Add to the fact that new head coach Jacques Martin is known for his defensive-minded philosophy, and there likely will be changes in Montreal.

The Canadiens have yet to find the power forward who has eluded them for years. As it stands, the NHL club is filled with players who have plenty of skill, but they’re still missing those big bruisers who can contribute in multiple ways, both with their stick and with their body.

One of the criticisms levied against the Canadiens was that they entrusted their NHL club to two young netminders who didn’t have a mentor at-hand to help guide them through the trials of NHL life. Journeyman Marc Denis was brought in for organizational depth, but languishing in Hamilton, he was unable to be on hand to impart wisdom to the two young netminders.

Organizational Strengths — Depth, goaltending, defensive prospects, skill forwards

The club has very good depth, consistently fielding strong teams at the AHL and ECHL level.

On the blueline, the Canadiens have amassed an impressive and diverse collection of defensemen. While Ryan McDonagh may be the cream of the crop — and a solid two-way player, the club has been pleased with the development of Weber (a potential power-play quarterback), P.K. Subban (a star at the WJC), and other prospects like former first-rounder David Fischer and Mathieu Carle.

It appears that several of the club’s prospects are ready to assume marquee roles on the big club. Players like Max Pacioretty, Ben Maxwell, Kyle Chipchura, Matt D’Agostini, and Yannick Weber are all well positioned to make a permanent jump to the NHL, which means that the team will need to restock the cupboards.

Organizational Weaknesses — goaltenders, forwards with size

While the Canadiens appear to be well serviced in net at the NHL level, their goaltending prospects leave something to be desired. At the moment, Cedrick Desjardins, originally signed as a free agent, is their top man in the minor leagues, while their other prospects are still a question mark (Robert Mayer) or have been a disappointment (Jason Missiaen).

The forwards with size issue continues at the prospect level. The Canadiens are severely lacking in skilled forwards 6’2 and greater. They need to find players who can protect the collection of offensively gifted forwards they’ve accumulated through the draft.

Draft Tendencies

The club believes in selecting the best player available to them, regardless of position. It worked out with the selection of Carey Price even when they had a youngish, Vezina-Trophy-winning Jose Theodore manning the pipes, and they continue to stockpile talent, rarely reaching for a need.

Over the past few years the club has also shown an affinity for players who are going the U.S. collegiate route. The (up-to) four years of development time they receive while these players exercise their collegiate eligibility enable the Habs to add to their talent roster while not having to accelerate the need to make tough choices on which players they’re going to keep. That said, if the player proves his worth, the Canadiens have shown a willingness to nullify that eligibility by signing them to professional contracts.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft selection: Simon Despres, D

Montreal is loaded on the blueline but doesn’t have a lot of size there. Despres’ offensive upside is attractive.