The Montreal Canadiens made seven selections in the 2011 Entry Draft — five defenseman, and two forwards.
For the second consecutive year, the Canadiens took a defenseman with their first pick in the draft. Beaulieu flourished in the QMJHL on a deep, dominant club in Saint John, which produced three first-round picks in the 2011 entry draft, and a fourth early in the second round. Beaulieu exactly matched his statistical output from last season by posting 12 goals and 33 assists. And en route to a Memorial Cup championship, he also added a goal and two assists, and was named to the tournament’s all-star team.
Over the course of the season, Beaulieu made marked improvements defensively, by limiting the amount of chances he takes. "Now he’s a lot smarter about when he goes and when he jumps up in the play," said Kim Houston of NHL’s Central Scouting. "When he does, he makes sure it’s an opportunity to create something and that’s very positive for the team."
"He’s pretty well a complete package in terms of his overall game."
As well as quarterback the play from the blue line, Beaulieu is a highly mobile defenseman, who carries the puck well and can make things happen on the rush. Some scouts, however, believe Beaulieu still has more to offer.
"I don’t think he’s asserting himself as much as maybe he should," said Chris Mooring, ISS’s head scout for the QMJHL, "but I also think that he’s a kid that’s developing a special skillset."
After waiting patiently through the second and third rounds, in which Montreal didn’t have any selections, the team continued to take defensemen in round four. The Canadiens looked to a league they have become increasingly familiar with in recent years, the USHL, to take Didier from Cedar Rapids.
Didier has both good size and mobility. He is a physical presence who is strong on his skates, plays with some grit, yet can make a first pass and jump up into the play offensively. Didier was good enough offensively this past season to finish in the top 10 in goals among USHL defenders with eight goals and 13 assists in 58 games.
A raw talent, Didier’s 6’2 200-pound frame is perhaps his best asset.
Olivier Archambault, LW – Val-d’Ors Foreurs (QMJHL)
4th Round, 108th overall
Height: 5’11 Weight: 176 lbs
With their second of three fourth-round selections, the Canadiens chose their first forward, from the QMJHL’s Val’dOrs, Olivier Archambault. Taken first overall by the Foreurs in the league’s bantam draft, Archambault scored 23 goals and assisted on 33 others in 65 games.
At 5’11 and 176 pounds, Archambault lacks some size, but has both quickness and skill at his disposal, and can display some flash at times. "He’s got the combination of speed and hands and he’s always moving and he thinks while he’s moving too," Houston said. "He’s going to be a good player."
Archambault has a variety of tools, but needs to polish his game and better learn to play away from the offense. The Foreurs are a young, up-and-coming team, with Archambault at the forefront.
With their third selection in round four, Montreal took their first European prospect of the draft, Sweden‘s Magnus Nygren. The Canadiens previously acquired this pick in a trade that sent Kyle Chipchura to the Anaheim Ducks in December 2009.
Nygren, who recently turned 21, is a member of Farjestads BK in the SEL. He excels with the man advantage, where he is able to get his big shot on goal with consistency and demonstrates noteworthy offensive awareness. During the regular season, Nygren skated in 22 contests and recorded four goals and 11 assists with a -2 rating. In the playoffs, he added three goals and seven assists in 14 games with a plus-seven rating.
Relatively experienced for a 2011 draftee due to his age, the Swedish blueliner still has plenty to learn on the defensive side of the game and is hampered by limited mobility. He is highly competitive however, and on the ice, is willing to do what he has to in order to help the team.
Continuing to stockpile defensemen, the Canadiens selected Darren Dietz of the WHL‘s Saskatoon Blades. Other than Brendan Gallagher in 2010, Dietz is the only WHL product the team has chosen going back to the 2006 draft. That year, when the team chose Cameron Cepek in the seventh round, was the most recent instance of the Canadiens drafting a defenseman out of the league. And prior to Cepek, it had been almost 10 years since the last time a WHL blue line prospect was chosen by Montreal: Daniel Tetrault in 1997.
A right handed shot, Dietz is not afraid to support the offense, and makes a smart first pass. He keeps active on the ice, willingly engaging the opposition with physical play. With Saskatoon, as a 17-year-old, Dietz had eight goals and 19 assists in 68 games.
Daniel Pribyl, C -Sparta Jr. (Czech Jr.)
6th Round, 168th overall
Height: 6’3 Weight: 189 lbs
In round six, the Canadiens took only their second forward, Czech center Daniel Pribyl. With Sparta in the Czech Jr league he had 58 points through 41 games. He also made a brief appearance with Sparta Praha of the Czech Extraliga. In three games, he did not register any points.
Pribyl is a hard-working, creative forward with good hands that shares the puck well, but is also able to release shots quickly. Standing 6’3 tall and weighing 189 pounds, Pribyl still has a lanky frame. He prefers not to make use of his size, playing instead with more finesse than power.
Colin Sullivan, D – Avon Old Farms (Conn. HS)
7th Round, 198th overall
Height: 6’1 Weight: 196 lbs
With their final pick, Montreal snatched up one last defenseman. From Avon Old Farms, Colin Sullivan. The team has routinely taken high school blueliners in recent years, including, from Connecticut, Mac Bennett (2009), Ryan McDonagh (2007), Joe Stejskal (2007), Scott Kishel (2007), David Fischer (2006), and in the seventh-round in 2005, also from Connecticut, Philippe Paquet.
On the season, Sullivan scored three goals and 12 assists in 27 games. Sullivan is a strong skater with good balance, and excellent physical conditioning. His biggest challenge will be to overcome what some scouts consider to be questionable hockey instincts, and learning to read the play, especially at faster pace.
Sullivan is committed to Yale in 2012.