Canadiens 2005 draft preview

By Eric Forest

Canadiens Top 10 Prospects

1. Alex Perezhogin, RW
2. Andrei Kostsitsyn, RW
3. Chris Higgins, LW
4. Yann Danis, G
5. Kyle Chipchura, C
6. Tomas Plekanec, C
7. Marcel Hossa, LW
8. Ron Hainsey, D
9. Ryan O’Byrne, D
10. Corey Locke, C

The Montreal Canadiens have been able to build up their prospect depth very well given their lack of Top 10 picks in the last five years. The Canadiens will select fifth overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, a good spot from which to upgrade this depth. This is the best position the team has had since 1984 when they selected Petr Svoboda also fifth overall.

Team Needs

If Montreal can get all of its restricted free agents signed, they should have a well-rounded team heading into the 2005-06 season. It’s hard to fathom Brisebois’ option being picked up at $3.42 million, thus offensive defenseman becomes a team need.

A year ago, the Canadiens needed size down the middle and they were able to fill that need by drafting Prince Albert’s Kyle Chipchura. He had a potential career-ending injury last season, then came back quickly to lead the Raiders to the WHL semi-finals. He could be in the line-up opening night.

Organizational Strengths

Montreal is deep offensively with players with scoring instinct – Perezhogin, Kostitsyn and Locke. They also have their share of hard nosed and gritty forwards – Chipchura and Higgins. Plekanec, one of the fastest players in the AHL last year, should be Montreal-bound soon.

Defensively, the Canadiens possess a group of steady players who get the job done. Mark Flood captained the Peterborough Petes to the OHL semi-finals. O’Byrne has been nothing but effective with Cornell University. If he can finally play up to his potential, Hainsey could help Montreal a great deal in 2005-06.

Gainey can also count on goaltender Danis, who was impressive in his first professional season. He might start the season in Montreal, in replacement of backup Cristobal Huet, who is injured.

Organizational Weaknesses

Perezhogin, the team’s second pick in 2001, tops the team’s prospect chart after successful seasons in the AHL and the RSL. But the team does not possess a superstar player in its ranks.

Montreal is still in dire need of an offensive defenseman and the lack of progression from both of 2000’s first rounders Marcel Hossa and Ron Hainsey has put more pressure on the team to find talent elsewhere.

Still, in four years, the weaknesses have gone from general to specific. Montreal will now be able to concentrate on filling small holes instead of building a base of talent.

Draft Tendencies

Assistant General Manager Andre Savard has a nose for discovering talented and dynamic players, while General Manager Bob Gainey has a taste for gritty and hard-working players. In the last four drafts, the Canadiens have been able to select both styles, from Perezhogin and Higgins to Kostitsyn and Chipchura. Going along with this, the Canadiens don’t favor a league or country as much as other teams do.

But a keen eye might notice that Montreal has a pattern of alternating between safe and risky players in the first round. Safe Komisarek, risky Perezhogin. Safe Higgins, risky Kostitsyn. Safe Chipchura, risky Kopitar?

The Habs could also look for a power forward this year, which could be Owen Sound Attack’s Bobby Ryan. With Perezhogin, Kostitsyn and Ryder already in the system, Ryan wouldn’t be pressured to produce immediately; he would get time to develop his game.

Player most likely to be taken with first selection (Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result): Bobby Ryan, RW, Owen Sound Attack.

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.