The 2012 NHL Entry Draft was the first one under the guidance of new Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin. On paper at least, the draft class looks as though Director of Scouting Trevor Timmins hit a home run. Prior to the NHL Draft, Montreal's GM had stated that championships are not just won with size and skill, but character and desire.
The Canadiens' new management team has definitely selected the right players to match the club's new identity going forward. With Montreal's selection of six forwards and one defenseman, they addressed most of the organization's depth needs. The Canadiens added some toughness, grit, physicality, lots of offensive talent, and scoring upside with their new prospects, but only time will time if they will develop into NHL players.
Bergevin and Timmins were absolutely beaming after selecting Alex Galchenyuk with their third overall pick of the NHL draft and the 18-year-old was very excited to be a part of the historic franchise. The American-born player is the big, impact playmaking centerman that the organization has needed so desperately for many years. Bergevin indicated that Galchenyuk was chosen for his excellent offensive skills, vision, hockey sense, character along with a deep desire and commitment to be the NHL's best player.
After undergoing ACL surgery to start his second year in the OHL, the talented centerman was considered a high risk pick, having only played the last two regular season and six playoffs games in 2011-12. Galchenyuk showed his work ethic by coming back earlier than expected while showing no ill-effects from the knee injury, and impressed people at the NHL combine with his solid results. After the past problems concerning NHL defenseman Andrei Markov's knee, the Canadiens management did their due diligence multiple times before selecting the big centerman as the third overall pick.
Galchenyuk put up excellent numbers as a 16-year-old rookie, scoring 31 goals along with 52 assists and a minus-eight rating in 68 OHL games. The Canadiens believe that the highly skilled forward would have only improved on those numbers. He needs to improve his first step acceleration, physicality, and defensive zone positioning to be successful at the NHL level. The knee injury has lagged his development for this year and it might be better for 18-year-old to play the upcoming season in the OHL. However, if he continues his hard work and gains more strength over the summer, nobody should bet against Galchenyuk making the Canadiens starting roster for the 2012-13 season.
Sebastian Collberg, RW – Frölunda (SEL)
2nd Round, 33rd overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 180 lbs
The Canadiens were pleasantly surprised to be lucky enough to select such a high-end talent like Sebastien Collberg early in the second round as the 18-year-old was projected as a possible first-rounder. The young right winger may have fallen in the draft after not obtaining any points in 41 games in the SEL while playing against men. Montreal's management believes that Collberg has a lot of potential and felt that his performances against the best players of his age at the U-18 and the WJC were more indicative of his real game.
Collberg is a very skilled forward with excellent skating skills and speed while possessing excellent one-on-one moves. The Swedish sniper doesn't shy away from the dirty areas, knows how to find the soft spots to score goals, and has an elite wrist shot which he can release in a hurry with great accuracy and velocity. The 18-year-old must add more strength to play along the boards at the more physical men's level and will need improvement on the defensive side of the puck.
Collberg is under contract for another year with Frölunda in the SEL and will most likely have the opportunity to help Team Sweden defend the Gold Medal at the 2013 World Junior Championship. It is very possible that the young sniper could be playing at the professional level in North America as early as the 2013-14 season.
The Canadiens were shocked to select another projected first-rounder when the team chose defenseman Dalton Thrower with their other pick in the second. The defender brings grit, character, and much needed toughness to the organization while making life miserable for the opposing top forwards.
Thrower has already played two seasons in the WHL and improved his offensive numbers by over 34 points this past season. The bruising blueliner scored nine power play goals and one shorthanded tally while playing big minutes on the depleted Blades' defense corps. He has good offensive skills, a hard shot, makes good outlet passes, and can be a puck-mover from the backend.
The 18-year-old defenseman needs to improve his defensive zone positioning and avoid taking himself out of the play to make the big hit. He will most likely be returning to the junior level with the Blades and will have a chance to play in the 2013 Memorial Cup hosted in Saskatoon.
Tim Bozon, LW – Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
3rd round, 64th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 184 lbs
Montreal has added some key offensive potential to the organizational depth chart by selecting Tim Bozon in the third round and again receiving a player who considered a second rounder by many scouts. His father Philippe was an NHL player with the St. Louis Blues, which can help with feedback and advice on the young player's game.
In his first season in North America, Bozon put up excellent numbers, scoring 36 goals along with 35 assists and a plus-27 rating in 71 WHL games. He has breakaway speed, some slick dekes, a nose for the net, and one of the quickest, most accurate releases in the 2012 NHL draft. The sniper has unique abilities to find the open spots on the ice but typically needs little time or space to score goals. Expect Bozon to return to the WHL for at least one more season, as he needs to add considerable strength and fill out his frame.
Brady Vail, C – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
4th Round, 94th overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 195 lbs
The Canadiens added another much needed big, physical centerman to the organization when they drafted Brady Vail. The American-born player is a late-comer to the game of hockey and showed an incredible offensive improvement of 44 points in his second OHL season with the Spitfires this year.
Vail is a solid two-way centerman who has thrived nightly in the shutdown role, but is also able to put up good offensive numbers. He scored 22 goals (five on the power play and two shorthanded) along with 30 assists and a plus-one rating on a weak defensive team in 68 OHL games. The hardworking 18-year-old is a good skater which allows him to be an effective back-checker and penalty killer. He also has great patience, vision, and size, which he uses to protect the puck down low on the cycle and crash the net to score goals.
Vail needs to work on his overall offensive skills as well as developing a better shot and quicker release. He will probably be returning to the OHL with the Spitfires for the upcoming season after attending the team's NHL training camp.
Montreal made an excellent choice by selecting native Quebecer, Charles Hudon who was a steal as a fifth rounder after being projected as a late third round pick. Despite just turning 18-years-old, he has shown a maturity beyond his age by providing leadership, character and a strong work ethic for his Chicoutimi teammates this year.
Hudon is mainly known for his offensive skills but can also play defensively as seen by his solid plus/minus differential over the last two years at the junior level. The talented winger is blessed with superior hockey sense, a great vision, and quick hands which allow him to control the play in the offensive zone and create scoring opportunities for himself or his linemates.
The smallish forward will need to add more muscle mass to withstand the physical play along the boards while working on his skating edge control and his four step acceleration during his training over the summer. Hudon will be returning for his third season in the QJMHL and has a good possibility of playing for Team Canada at the 2013 World Junior Championship.
Erik Nyström, LW – MODO JR (SWE-JR)
6th Round, 154th overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 176 lbs
The Canadiens went way off the charts with a risk/reward pick when they chose Erik Nyström as their sixth rounder of the NHL draft. Timmins stated that when he was in Sweden to scout Henrik Samuelsson (PHX) earlier this year, he really noticed Nystrom and decided to take the chance on him after the team's Swedish scout follow the rest of the season.
The smooth skating winger has very good hockey sense, a good work ethic, and can make things happen with his speed and has excellent distribution skills. He will need to add muscle mass and strength to play on the boards against the men while working on his shooting skills. Nyström played 19 games for MODO in the SEL this year and could compete for a full-time roster spot on the men's team instead of playing at the junior level in the upcoming season.