Little separation among the Top 20 Montreal Canadiens prospects

By Tyler Campbell
Daniel Carr - Montreal Canadiens

Photo: Daniel Carr was a surprise contributor with the Montreal Canadiens this season. The undrafted free agent appeared in 23 games with the big club, scoring six goals and adding three assists. (courtesy Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

 

There isn’t one guy who really stands out among the Montreal Canadiens prospects. General Manager Marc Bergevin hasn’t hit one out of the park so to speak just yet, although that could be coming with the ninth pick in June’s NHL Draft. But if we are going with the baseball analogy, he has hit a lot of singles and doubles.

The Canadiens had strong drafts in 2012 and 2013 and that really shows up in their Top 20 list. While there are not sure-fire stars in the group, it’s a deep prospect pool.

20. (NR) Lucas Lessio, LW, 6.0D
Drafted: 2nd round, 56th overall, 2011

Lessio was brought over from the Arizona Coyotes back in December.  After nine points in 18 for the Ice Caps, he found himself getting called up to play 12 games with the Habs, posting just one goal and one assist.  

The skill set is there for Lession to become a solid fourth line player in the NHL, but he really needs to become a more assertive player.  His size (6-foot-1, 212 pounds) helps him win a lot of puck battles, but while he isn’t soft, you would like to see him become tougher to play against.

19. (NR) Tom Parisi, D, 6.0D
Signed as an undrafted free agent, 2016

On March 26th the Habs announced the signing of the Providence captain to a 2 year entry-level deal. He isn’t too big at 6-foot and close to 200 pounds, but he is a terrific skater and moves the puck well. A kid like Parisi is basically a new-age stay-at-home defenseman. He won’t bring a lot of offense to the table, but he has a good stick and is positionally strong in his own zone.  

Parisi got into five games with the Ice Caps before the end of the season, posting one assist in five games. For Providence he helped lead the Friars to the national championship in 2015, and then the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament this season. Parisi had just one goal, but 15 assists in 38 games this season.  

18. (NR) Matthew Bradley, C, 6.0D
Drafted: 5th round, 131st overall, 2015

After a very sluggish start offensively to the season that saw him post only 11 points in his first 23 games, Bradley improved a lot in the 2015-16 season and ended up posting 23 goals and 28 assists in 68 games for the WHL‘s Medicine Hat Tigers.  

Bradley never will post eye-popping numbers, but he is the type of player coaches fall in love with. He can be depended on in any situation, he can play any position up front, will never cheat you with his effort, and he can really think the game which is vital to play in the pros.  

17. (11) Lukas Vejdemo, C, 6.5D
Drafted: 3rd round, 87th overall, 2015

Vejdemo has a scouting report that reads a lot like Matthew Bradley’s, and he really progressed well this season. He’s a very strong two-way player who can really think the game at a high level and will never give you a poor effort.  

Vejdemo posted five goals and 12 assists in 52 games for Djurgardens in the SHL this season. He finished fourth in the SHL among the U20 players in the league this season. In the first round of the playoffs Vejdemo scored a massive overtime goal in Game 1 of their series against Brynas.

16. (NR) Michael McNiven, G, 6.5D
Signed as an undrafted free agent, 2015

McNiven checks in as the first netminder on the list. With a weak Owen Sound team this season, the goaltender posted a respectable .902 save percentage and 2.94 goals against average in 53 games this season.  

McNiven doesn’t have elite size for an NHL goaltender, so he will need to continue to improve his lateral movement and continue to be technically sound in the crease.

15. (NR) Jake Evans, C/RW, 6.5D
Drafted: 7th round, 207th overall, 2014

Out of all the prospects in the system, Evans perhaps made the biggest jump this season, putting up 33 points and a plus-15 rating in 37 games for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The breakout coincided with a move to center from right wing. And it wasn’t just offensively that Evans took a big step. He was often matched against the opposition’s top line, had a ton of time on the penalty kill, and took a lot of defensive zone faceoffs, particularly late in the game.

Evans had struggled with consistency the last few seasons, but those days at least appear to be behind him and if that’s the case the Habs may want to get him locked up to an ELC contract after next season.

14. (16) Brett Lernout, D, 6.5 D
Drafted: 3rd round, 73rd overall, 2014

Lernout got his first taste of NHL action this season against the Florida Panthers on Apr. 2, though he only saw 6:30 of action before he suffered a season-ending knee injury. Lernout definitely earned that call up, however, after a solid rookie season for the Ice Caps: two goals and 10 assists is nothing that will get fans overly excited, but Sylvain Lefebvre was never afraid to use him.  

Being 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, right handed shooting defenseman, who is a solid skater for his size and can hammer the puck when he has time to get it off, the tools are there for Lernout to be a quality bottom pairing player at the next level.

13. (14) Darren Dietz, D, 6.5D
Drafted: 5th round, 138th overall, 2011

Dietz might be the latest example of how playing defense in the NHL is actually easier for some than in the AHL. His 2016 season wasn’t much better than his 2015 with the Ice Caps, but he got the call up to the Habs late in the season.  

All he did was improve, putting up five points in just 13 games while also posting impressive Corsi numbers the more responsibility he was given. With good size, good skating ability, and being a right handed shot from the blue line, the Habs appear to have a pretty valuable asset in Dietz moving forward.

12. (NR) Charlie Lindgren, G, 7.0D
Signed as an undrafted free agent, 2016

Bergevin signed Lindgren on Mar. 30 and managed to get him into an NHL game before the end of the season where he looked real good, posting 26 saves in a 4-2 Habs win over the Carolina Hurricanes.  

In three seasons at St. Cloud State, he did nothing but improve every season, capping his collegiate career with 30 wins, a .925 save percentage and a 2.13 goals against average in 40 games. It is likely he starts next season splitting time with Zach Fucale in St. John’s, but with a good camp it is possible he earns the backup job to Carey Price.

11. (17) Daniel Carr, LW, 6.5C
Signed as an undrafted free agent, 2014

A case can definitely be made for Carr to be higher on this list after nearly posting a point per game in 24 AHL contests this season, and then impressing a lot of people during his call-up to the Canadiens which saw him net six goals and nine points in 23 games despite missing two months with a knee injury.

The Sherwood Park, Alberta native has done nothing but overachieve in his hockey career, and there is no doubt that if he didn’t earn a permanent spot on the Canadiens roster this past season, he’ll get every chance to do it in the fall.

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