Montreal prospect pool replete with prospects in NCAA and European ranks

By David Thicke
Photo: Danny Kristo has had a strong junior season thus far, with 19 goals and 26 assists in 42 games. (Photo courtesy of Brace Hemmelgarn/Icon SMI)

The Montreal Canadiens have a solid group of prospects in the NCAA and Europe. The team has drafted a good mix of forwards and defenseman with speed, skill, physicality, size, and grit.

Prospects Greg Pateryn, Steve Quailer, and Danny Kristo could be signing entry-level contracts with the Canadiens before the August 15th deadline.


NCAA

Mac Bennett , D, Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)
Drafted 3rd round, 79th overall, 2009


Bennett had a solid sophomore season at the University of Michigan where the smooth skating defenseman improved slightly on last season’s numbers, scoring four goals along with 17 assists and a plus-15 rating in 41 NCAA games. He played his second season with his partner, senior Greg Pateryn who clearly helped the young defenseman develop his overall game.

Bennett gained valuable experience playing big minutes CCHA Playoffs and the NCAA tournament. The talented offensive defenseman was not able to contribute to the Wolverines’ offense in their 3-2 loss in the CCHA Championship game against Western Michigan University. He would assist on the game-tying goal which sent Michigan into over-time against Cornell University in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The Wolverines would lose 3-2 in OT, ending their season. Bennett will probably be returning for his junior year at Michigan to continue his development and play a bigger role for the Wolverines.


Michael Cichy
, C, Western Michigan Broncos (CCHA)
Drafted 7th round, 199th overall, 2009

Cichy decided to transfer to Western Michigan University after limited playing time in his freshman and sophomore season at the University of North Dakota. Under the complicated NCAA transfer rules, he was not permitted to play this season for the Broncos but will still have two years of eligibility at Western Michigan.

Cichy has lost an important year in his development and the talented forward probably would have seen plenty of ice time for the UND Fighting Sioux who have had many injuries this season. He could still benefit from the transfer as the head coach of the WMU Broncos; Andy Murray has plenty of NHL coaching experience and knows what is required to develop into an NHL caliber player.


Josiah Didier
, D, Denver Pioneers (WCHA)
Drafted 4th round, 97th overall, 2011

Didier was brought to the University of Denver, a year early than expected for the 2011-12 NCAA season as the Pioneers’ coaching staff felt that the big defenseman could help their Hockey program right away. The freshman would not disappoint them, as he played 41 games with three assists and a plus-six rating while playing big minutes all season and leading the team with 68 blocked shots.

Didier helped the Pioneers get to the WCHA Championship game against the University of North Dakota when the freshman assisted on the game winning goal in a double overtime win over defending NCAA Champions Minnesota-Duluth. The Pioneers would lose 4-0 in the WCHA championship game against UND Fighting Sioux but still advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Despite suffering from a lower body injury, Didier still played in the opening round of the tournament which ended in a heart-breaking 2-1 loss to Ferris State. The big defenseman will be returning for his sophomore season at the University of Denver to continue his overall development and take on a bigger offensive role on their blue line corps.


Scott Kishel
, D, Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (WCHA)
Drafted 7th round, 192nd overall, 2007

After only playing seven games in the 2010-11 season, Kishel was finally given the opportunity to play a full-time role on the defense corps of UMD Bulldogs this season. The senior defenseman was playing a key role on the team’s power play while scoring three goals along with 15 assists and a plus-15 rating in 35 NCAA games. The puck moving defenseman appeared to be a healthy scratch at times toward the end of the regular season.

Kishel would play in the heart-breaking 3-2 double over-time loss to the University of Denver Pioneers. For unknown reasons, the graduating senior was not in the Bulldogs’ lineup for both of the NCAA tournament games against the University of Maine and Boston College. The senior defenseman seemed to struggle down the stretch having play the most hockey of his four-year NCAA career, this season. Kishel could be hard pressed to receive an entry-level contract from the Canadiens but he might get an AHL level contract which would allow Montreal to add extra depth on defense in the minors.


Danny Kristo, RW, North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA)
Drafted 2nd round, 56th overall, 2008

After a difficult and under-achieving sophomore year, Kristo had a good junior season at the University of North Dakota where he scored 19 goals along with 26 assists in 42 NCAA games. The offensively talented winger was forced to play in unfamiliar situations all season long due to the numerous injuries the Fighting Sioux suffered this year.

At times, Kristo lacks the consistency and the work ethic needed to play at the NHL level but definitely not the skills. When the quick skating forward brings his "A" game, like in UND’s two NCAA tournament games, then it is easy to see why the Canadiens drafted him in 2008. Kristo could return to university for his senior year but the Canadiens will most likely try to convince the talented winger to sign an entry level contract for the 2012-13 season.


Mark MacMillan
, LW, North Dakota Fighting Sioux (WCHA)
Drafted 4th round, 113th overall, 2010

MacMillan had an excellent freshman season for the University of North Dakota where he played mostly on the top-two lines, scoring seven goals along with 16 assists in 42 NCAA games. The playmaking centerman had a seven-game point streak snapped in the NCAA West Region championship game where the Fighting Sioux lost 5-2 to the University of Minnesota ending their season.

MacMillan improved his two-way game while gaining valuable experience from all the injuries on the team this season and winning the WCHA Championship against University of Denver. He will be returning for his sophomore year where he will be expected to bring more offense for the Fighting Sioux while continuing his development as a two-way player, and adding more muscle mass to his thin frame in order to help his physical style of play.


Greg Pateryn, D, Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)
Acquired via trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2008

Pateryn had an excellent senior season at the University of Michigan where the alternate captain scored two goals along 13 assists and a solid plus-15 rating in 41 NCAA games. The big physical defenseman was most definitely the anchor of the defense for the Wolverines where he partnered with sophomore, Mac Bennett to form the team’s shutdown pairing and helped Bennett to become a much better all-round defenseman.

Pateryn was unable to graduate from university with an NCAA or CCHA championship this season. The Wolverines suffered losses in the CCHA championship game to Western Michigan University and the opening round of the NCAA tournament to Cornell University. The Canadiens signed Pateryn to an entry-level deal on March 28th.


Steve Quailer
, RW, Northeastern Huskies (Hockey East)
Drafted 3rd round, 86th overall, 2008

After a poor 2010-11 season, Quailer put in a solid junior year at Northeastern University despite missing the month of February with a sprained ACL to the same knee that forced the big winger to miss a whole year of NCAA play in 2009-10. He scored eight goals along with 17 assists and a plus seven rating in 26 NCAA games. The physical forward played at a point per game level this year while improving his skating and offensive skills but he would not be considered a defensive player.

Quailer will be graduating this spring but still has another year of NCAA eligibility due to the lost season from the knee injury and he could register for graduate classes in order to return to Northeastern for another season of hockey. It is most likely that the Canadiens will try to sign the developing power forward to an entry-level contract for the 2012-13 season.


Dustin Walsh
, C, Dartmouth Big Green (ECAC)
Drafted 6th round, 169th overall, 2009

After a good sophomore season, Walsh was expected to lead the Dartmouth Big Green’s offense in his junior year and the talented centerman scored two goals along with six assists in the first six NCAA games. He was forced to miss six games with a leg injury before returning to play two more games where pick up another goal and an assists.

Walsh worked hard to try to return to the Dartmouth line-up before he was forced to shut-down his season from the same leg injury. The playmaking centerman was on a pace for a 40 point season and was a huge offensive loss for the Big Green this season. He will most likely be returning for his senior year at Dartmouth to continue his development unless the Canadiens have other plans for the highly skilled forward.


Europe

Daniel Pribyl , C, Sparta Praha (Czech)
Drafted 6th round, 168th overall, 2011

Pribyl started his 2011-12 hockey season playing in the senior Czech league for the HC Sparta Praha where the rookie scored two goals in 17 games. The team decided to loan the young forward to its affiliate, HC Berounsti Medvedi of the Czech 2 league for the remainder of the season. The Czech-born player would represent his country at the 2012 World Junior Championship but a leg injury suffered in the pre-tournament games reduced his playing time and he only contributed an assist in five games.

Pribyl would finish up his season in the Czech 2 league as HC Berounsti Medvedi’s third leading scorer with nine goals and four assists in only 21 games. He played on the team’s second forward line while being used at all three forward positions and also playing significant time on both of the specialty teams units. The big centerman has been able to develop a better two-way game this season while adding more size to his frame.


Magnus Nygren
, D, Farjestad (SEL)
Drafted 4th round, 113th overall, 2011

Nygren played all but three games for the Färjestads BK (SEL) where he scored seven goals along with 11 assists and a minus-10 rating in 50 games. The offensively talented defenseman runs the power play for his team and has worked this season to play better defensively. He has increased his physical play and added muscle mass to his 6’1 frame but will need to continue improving his skating speed and balance.

Nygren has contributed two goals for Färjestads BK so far in the SEL Playoffs. The offensive defenseman could be important to his team if he can produce points on the power play like last season’s playoffs. Nygren still has another year left on his contract in Sweden so the Canadiens have until June 2013 to decide if they should sign him to an entry-level contract.


Maxim Trunev
, RW, Cherepovets Severstal (KHL)
Drafted 5th round, 138th overall, 2008

Trunev played the full 2011-12 season for the KHL Cherepovets Severstal where he scored four goals along with six assists in 49 games. The young winger received more playing time than the previous season and has filled out his six-foot frame to just over 190 pounds but will need to improve his defensive game.

The talented offensive Russian played in only two games of the five games series loss against Altant in the quarterfinal of the KHL playoffs. He contributed an assists on the only goal scored by his team in the deciding game but saw only six minutes of total ice time in the game. Trunev’s contract expires on April 30, 2012 and will be a free agent but will most likely try to stay in the KHL as the 21-year-old has not yet expressed any interest to play in the NHL.


John Westin
, LW, Modo Hockey Ornskoldvik (SEL)
Drafted 7th round, 207th overall, 2010

Westin spent most of the season with the Modo Hockey where he scored only one goal along with an assist and a minus seven rating in 38 games. The 19-year-old played on the team’s fourth line bringing energy, physicality, and hard work while playing on his off-wing. He’s still under contract with Modo Hockey for the 2012-13 season and will most likely stay for another year in Sweden.

The hard skating, physical forward also played 17 games for the Modo Hockey J20 in the Super Elite League where he scored seven goals along with six assists. Westin was one of the last cuts made to Team Sweden for the 2012 world Junior Championship where they won the gold medal. The Canadiens must make a decision on whether to sign him to entry level contract before the June deadline.