2015 NHL Draft: Montreal Canadiens draft review

By Shawn Wilken
Photo: Noah Juulsen had 52 points in 68 games with the WHL's Everett Silvertips in 2014-15. (Courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Photo: Noah Juulsen had 52 points in 68 games with the WHL’s Everett Silvertips in 2014-15. (Courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

 

 

The Montreal Canadiens went to the 2015 NHL Draft with five picks, and selected near the end of each round. The only exception was the team’s fifth round pick, acquired when they traded Daniel Briere to Colorado for P.A. Parenteau. General Manager Marc Bergevin was inactive on the trade front, and held on to all of his picks—selecting when his turn came up.

After taking a forward with their first round pick in the last three drafts, the Canadiens went defence first, fulfilling a need in that regard. Director of Amateur Scouting Trevor Timmins focused on the character philosophy that Bergevin has instilled into the organization since his hire. That meant going with prospects that possess a good two-way game, maintain a leadership personality, and skate well. Montreal went with three forwards and two defensive prospects, four of which came from the Canadian Hockey League and one from Europe.

Noah Juulsen, D, Everett Silvertips (WHL)
1st Round, 26th overall
Height: 6-2 Weight: 174 lbs

Juulsen was ranked from early to mid-second round, so it came as a surprise when the Canadiens selected him at the 26th spot. Short on defence due to the likes of Nathan Beaulieu graduating, and both Greg Pateryn and Jarred Tinordi pushing for a spot in the line-up, Bergevin and Timmins felt the need to address their lack of skill on the blue line. Juulsen was remarkable in his second full season in the WHL, leading all Silvertips defencemen in points (52).

Bergevin and Timmins had his name on their list by the time it was their turn to hit the stage. Both felt his skating ability was top-notch, his shot was good (but could be great), and appreciated his skills as a puck-moving defenceman. Timmins was able to have a close look at him this season, as did future teammate Nikita Scherbak. Scherbak, whom the Canadiens selected last year at the same spot, also plays for the Silvertips.

Taking great strides in his development, Juulsen had the chance to play at a higher level this season compared to last.

“The opportunity I had this year, compared to last year, helped me a whole lot,” said Juulsen. “I got to play all situations this year, and last year I didn’t so much. I think just the opportunity I had this year was great.”

His skating is one of his strong suits; he has a fluid stride and excellent pivoting that covers a large area. Although he’s not the fastest guy out there, he is efficient with his pacing and extremely intelligent. He also moves the puck well at high speed, showing confidence and poise. His passing is both precise and quick, and both his slap shot and wrist shot are hard and accurate.

Where the Abbotsford native falters is in his own end. He is efficient with using physicality and aggression to separate the puck from a player and clearing the crease, but his tendency to cross the line and take undisciplined penalties has been noted. Juulsen is also guilty of looking for big hits, and by doing so, takes himself out of position—putting extra pressure on his defensive partner to cover for him.

Juulsen models his game after Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa.

“Growing up as a Canucks fan, and I kinda modelled my game around (Bieksa), so everything he does I’ve modelled myself after him. I think playing in Everett has been huge on my development. We’ve got a great coaching staff there and they showed me the ropes when I came in at 16, and they’ve been great to me.”

Lukas Vejdemo, C, Djurgarden (SuperElit)
3rd round, 87th overall
Height: 6-2 Weight: 194 lbs

The Canadiens didn’t feel an urgency to move down from the first round, or attempt to move up from the third. Instead, they waited to make a selection that caught everyone off guard, taking the 19-year-old center Vejdomo 87th overall in his second year of eligibility. The Swedish forward went under the radar last season due to the fact that he played in just three games with Djurgarden’s J18 Elit squad last season, spending the majority of it in the second-tier Allsvenskan. He did however have a career year with the J20 squad this season, recording 48 points (23 goals, 25 assists) in 34 games, while wearing the A on his sweater. He then added 6 points (4 goals, 2 assists) in 7 playoff games.

“As soon as I saw him I really liked him right away. He has more offensive upside than (Jacob) de la Rose but not as good defensively. He’s a player that’s a strong skater. Strong two-way play but he can create offense. He’s got good vision,” Timmins said about the third-round selection.

“Christer Rockstrom really deserves a lot of credit for really pushing him; dragging me over there on the first of April for a weekend.”

Despite his impressive production on offence, Vejdemo is more known for being a solid two-way center. The offensive side to his game remains questionable at this point. He possesses good top speed and a nice pivot, but is in no way a flawless skater. He has a good wrist shot and a heavy slap shot, but lacks the positioning of a natural goal-scorer. Vejdemo is exceptional on the defensive side of the game, great with his stick and intelligent, covering for his teammates and remaining disciplined at all times. He is a leader on the ice, and his aggressive work ethic and effort make him stand out.

Matthew Bradley, C, Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
5th Round, 131st overall
Height: 6-0 Weight: 187 lbs

Looking to add to their depth down the middle, the Canadiens chose the 17-year-old two-way center, after he scored 17 goals and finished with 40 points in 71 games with the Medicine Hat Tigers. Added as a depth player, Bradley’s energy and effort on the ice led to him getting a bump in the depth chart, earning a top six role on the team and showcasing the ability to play both at center and on the wing.

“We see a guy with a ton of upside here. We like his upside. We like his hockey sense, his skating ability. We’re looking forward to bigger and better things from him in the future,” Timmins said.

Quick on his skates and no quit to his game, Bradley earned the trust of his coach and received more playing time in a bigger role. Good in the face-off circle, his greatest trait is his high hockey IQ. He is able to read plays perfectly and anticipate passes, making him a player that strives at taking pucks away in all three zones.

Bradley is one of the more dependable Tigers forwards, and improved his ability to block shots. His defensive game as a whole was good enough to earn him time on the penalty kill as well. His offensive game isn’t nearly perfect, but his 17 goals show that he has some scoring capability, while excelling at the defensive side of the game.

Simon Bourque, D, Rimouski Oceanic (QJMHL)
6th Round, 177th overall
Height: 6-1 Weight: 184 lbs

Electing to go local with their next selection, Timmins and Bergevin went with left-handed defenceman Simon Bourque, out of the QMJHL. Like the aforementioned picks, Bourque brings leadership and character to the Canadiens pipeline, two things the organization covets. He served as an alternate captain last season, putting up 38 points (10 goals, 28 assists) in 68 games and evolving into a top-four defenceman that can log heavy minutes and excel on the powerplay.

“His athleticism is very good,” said Timmins. “We noticed that at the combine. We think he’s going to take his game to another level next year and the year after.”

Bourque has a unique set of tools. Offensively, he has great awareness on the ice, is an excellent stick-handler, and has a great pass. His ice time was increased in the second-half of the season, and his effectiveness on the powerplay was showcased. Known more as a set-up guy than a shooter, Bourque is a complimentary player on the man-advantage, looking to create rather than finish. Defensively, Bourque relies on positioning and an active stick rather than using his frame to separate a player from the puck. He can be physical when need be, but his body of work resembles that of former Montreal Canadiens defenceman Josh Gorges in its subtlety.

Jeremiah Addison, LW, Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
7th round, 207th overall
Height: 6-0 Weight: 182 lbs

With their last pick of the draft, the Canadiens took a defensive-specialist with three years of experience in the OHL. Addison failed to hit 20 points in his first two seasons with the Saginaw Spirit and was sent to the Ottawa 67’s. In his first full season with the new team, his offensive game took a monumental leap, as he scored 19 goals and finished with 47 points in 63 games. He also added 6 goals and 10 points in 6 playoff games. It was enough to impress Timmins.

“He’s a power-type forward with a really quick release. He really improved this season. He plays a hard game. He plays a hard style. He’s not afraid to get his nose dirty and gets in the paint,” he said.

Despite his numbers taking a spike, Addison has never been known as an offensively-gifted forward. He’s been suited to a role as a two-way forward that plays phenomenal defensive hockey and prides himself on a strong back-check. He plays his opponent hard, finishing checks and showing a relentless attitude. Addison provides leadership and a strong work ethic that inspires his teammates, and is a responsible player in all three zones. His skating is good, his top speed is remarkable, and he is able to carry the puck and make quick decisions while skating at full speed.

It’s hard to tell just how much more his offensive game will progress past the major junior level, but his play in his own end has earned him enough respect as a contributing forward at this point in his career.

At the completion of Day 2 of the NHL Draft, Canadiens’ Vice President of Player Personnel Trevor Timmins spoke talked about some of the players chosen by Montreal. A portion of his comments are included in this Hockey’s Future video.