While the Montreal Canadiens came very close to winning the draft lottery, selecting at fifth overall still allowed GM Bob Gainey the chance of furthering the team’s already considerable prospect depth.
After the selection of highly-touted goalie Carey Price with the first pick of the draft, the team then traded two picks to move up and opted for Guillaume Latendresse. With its other picks, the team increased its depth up front. Out of the seven players taken, five were forwards and only one was a defenseman.
Carey Price, G – Tri-City (WHL)
1st Round, (5th overall), 6’2 175 lbs
The pick of Price was surprising as the Canadiens roster still includes former Hart and Vezina winner Jose Theodore. But Theodore will by 29 next month and the goaltending pipeline must be restocked.
This season marked the first time Price was called upon to assume full-time starter duties for the Tri-City Americans in the WHL. Price played 63 games in 2004-05, second only to Devan Dubnyk (EDM) and Aaron Sorochan’s 65 appearances, and ranked second in the WHL in minutes played (3712). His 2.34 goals against average, .920 save percentage, 24 wins and eight shutouts all landed Price within the top 10 of all goalie categories for the 2004-05 season. The native of Williams Lake, B.C. earned CHL Player of the Week and CHL Goalie of the Week honors for the week ending December 19, 2004.
The honors would not stop there for Price, who participated in the 2005 CHL Top Prospects game in Vancouver. At the conclusion of the Americans 2005 playoff drive, Price again played at the U-18 World Junior Championships in the Czech Republic where his brilliant play backstopped Canada to a silver medal. Price will join Dubnyk as the two WHL representatives in net at the upcoming Canadian Junior Development Camp.
It is Price’s agility and quick reflexes that put him in the sight of many teams looking for a potential franchise goaltender. Not only is Price able to read and react quickly, but he is also able to steer rebounds into the corners with relative ease. Playing a butterfly style, Price is excellent at taking away the lower portion of the net, and relies on his quick hands to cover the upper portion. One thing is certain, the Habs have secured their goaltending future with such a prospect in their system, one who might, according to some, have enough talent to skip a few development steps on his way to the NHL.
Guillaume Latendresse, LW – Drummondville (QMJHL)
2nd Round, (45th overall), 6’2, 222 lbs
In the second round of the draft, the Canadiens traded two of their picks to the Rangers to move up and were able to grab this power forward from Sainte-Catherine, PQ, who was projected to go earlier in the draft.
Latendresse began the season as a highly-touted prospect, as he was drafted only second after Sidney Crosby two years ago at the QMJHL draft. However, his play failed to meet expectations as he recovered from an off-season shoulder surgery. Fortunately, his game picked up momentum over the course of the season, and he finished at more than a point per game, and 17th in league scoring.
Latendresse is a power forward who plays an all-around game. He uses his body to throw thunderous checks and fight for positioning in front of the net and along the boards. Latendresse has good instincts and always drives hard to the net. Defensively responsible, he is willing to lie down to block shots. He ended his season on a personal high note, as he was dominant in a first-round loss to the Moncton Wildcats. His play was, however, average at the Under-18 World Championships.
Juraj Mikus, C – Skalica HK 36 (Slovakia)
4th Round, (121st overall), 6’0 185 lbs
After skipping the third round, the Habs decided to tread on familiar territory, selecting another European attack-minded forward, this one out of Skalica, Slovakia. Mikus will have to fight hard for recognition amongst a corps of prospects that already includes skilled European forwards such as Alexander Perezoghin, Andrei Kostsitsyn and Tomas Plekanec.
After a successful 2003-04 season with the Skalica midget squad (35 points and +28 in 34 games), he was expected to anchor the junior team in 2004-05. He did just that as he piled up 35 points and a +16 in 30 junior games. His great skill caught the attention of the pro team’s coach, Ivan Cerny, and he was promoted to play alongside the seniors for most of the season. At first. Mikus’ pro games were limited to watching the game from the bench for almost the entire game. He finished with 6 goals and 6 assists in 46 Extraleague games. In total, Mikus played 85 games for Skalica at various levels last season, a number unheard of from any European-based player.
Mikus was a mainstay for Team Slovakia at various international tournaments, and didn’t let the heavy schedule affect his game. At the end of the season, Mikus played with plenty of energy at the World Under-18 Junior Championships. Put on a line with fellow touted prospects Richard Lelkes and Mario Bliznak, Mikus was Slovakia’s most dangerous offensive weapon as he led the squad with seven assists in six games.
Mathieu Aubin, C – Lewiston (QMJHL)
5th Round, (130rd overall) 6’2 190 lbs
In the fifth round, the Habs went back to the QMJHL, selecting Mathieu Aubin, from the Lewiston MAINEiacs. Aubin is an ’86-born player who missed the 2004 draft day cut-off by just three days. He missed 20 games during the 2004-05 season, including the Top Prospects Game in Vancouver. He helped to elevate his status in the playoffs by putting up nine points in eight games, in which Lewiston had a first round sweep over Cape Breton, and then was swept by Rimouski.
A player with a good frame, Aubin is isn’t nearly physical enough, although that may be caused by playing on a line with bangers like Alexandre Picard (CLB) and Alex Bourret (ATL). Look for him to fill out his frame during his remaining time in junior.
Matt D’Agostini, RW – Guelph (OHL)
6th Round (190th overall) 5’11 170 lbs
The Canadiens then opted, in the sixth round, for this feisty free agent that was signed by the Guelph Storm and eventually became one of their key players. D’Agostini showed some decent offensive upside in his first season in the OHL, tallying 24 goals and 46 points in 59 games in 2004-05. He led Storm rookies in scoring and was named to the OHL Second All-Rookie Team.
He fits in with the typical Canadiens’ prospect type as he is not very big, but shows good intensity and a fast set of wheels.
Siarhei Kostsitsyn, LW – HK Gomel (Belarus)
7th Round, (200th overall), 5’11 180 lbs
In the seventh round, the Canadiens went for Belarussian Siarhei Kostsitsyn, 2003 first round pick Andrei Kostsitsyn’s brother. Siarhei has been playing for HC Gomel in Belarus, tallying four goals and 10 assists in 40 games with 24 PIM. He also played in the U-18 WJC tournament in 2005, coming through with one goal and six points at +5 in four games. He also played with his brother in this year’s U-20 WJC tournament, where he was shut out in his team’s six games.
Kostsitsyn will play with the London Knights in 2005-06, having been drafted in the first round (57th overall) at the CHL Import Draft.
Philippe Paquet, D – Salisbury School (USHSE)
7th Round, (229th overall), 6’3, 200 lbs
With their very last pick, the Canadiens went for some size on defense by picking up two-way defenseman Philippe Paquet. Paquet enjoyed an outstanding senior season at the Salisbury School, where he posted five points (one goal, four assists). His stellar performance in the Flood-Marr Holiday Tournament earned him a selection to the All-Tournament team. Several ECACHL schools heavily recruited the Saint-Augustin, Quebec native and he has committed to playing for Clarkson University this fall. This giant defenseman will surely be a welcome addition to the Habs’ prospect pool, which lacks size on the back line.
Salisbury head coach Dan Donato told Hockey’s Future that Paquet’s skating ability and quick shot remain his best assets. He also makes good decisions with the puck and doesn’t cough up the puck in his own end. His coach also praised his capacity to clear the front of the net and anticipate the play.
Jes Golbez Ursulak, DJ Powers, Eric Forest, Phil Laugher, Aaron Vickers and Jason Ahrens contributed to this article. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.