Montreal Canadiens showcase depth and skill in latest top-20 ranking

By David Thicke

Brendan Gallagher - Montreal Canadiens

Photo: Montreal forward Brendan Gallagher was one of the top rookies in the NHL last season, managing 15 goals and 13 assists through 44 games. (courtesy of Jay Kopinski/Icon SMI)

The Montreal Canadiens have added quality and quantity to their talent pool over the last two years, bringing in players with good offensive skills, speed, size and physicality, but more importantly leadership and good work ethic. This could be the deepest group of prospects the Canadiens have had in their farm system for quite some time.

There are at least five other players like Mac Bennett, Gabriel Dumont, Greg Pateryn, Dustin Tokarski, and Brady Vail that could quite easily have been on this list and could move up in the rankings by next time.
 
1. (1) Alex Galchenyuk, C/W, 8.5B
Drafted 1st round, 3rd overall, 2012

Forward Alex Galchenyuk is the top prospect for the Canadiens and should be their franchise player in the near future. He is going to be an elite offensive player, possessing excellent vision and playmaking skills coupled with a wicked wrist shot. The 19-year-old is already mature beyond his age but it is his work ethic, attitude, desire, and drive to be the best is what will push him to exceed expectations.

Galchenyuk should be pushing the Canadiens coaching staff for more power play ice time along with a top-six spot in the team's lineup. He still needs time to learn the nuances of being a centerman at the NHL level, but should absorb as much knowledge and tricks from his older teammates this coming season.

2. (4) Brendan Gallagher, RW, 7.5B
Drafted 5th round, 147th overall, 2010

Gallagher is a non-stop ball of energy that just keeps going for the puck and thrives around the opposition's net. His work ethic and goal scoring abilities will likely put the skilled winger on the top two forward lines for the Canadiens this coming season. A runner up for the 2013 Calder trophy, Gallagher does not have the complacency or character to suffer the NHL sophomore jinx. His never-quit attitude is infectious to his teammates and pushes them to follow his lead.

He will have to absorb more punishment over a full NHL season and is not going to surprise very many teams this year. The young winger is not one to back off a challenge and he continues to prove people wrong with his solid play. Gallagher is an outstanding example for all of the organization's other prospects of what is required in order to reach their dreams of playing in the NHL.

3. (2) Nathan Beaulieu, D, 8.0C
Drafted 1st round, 17th overall, 2011

Beaulieu was one of the top offensive players for the AHL Bulldogs in his rookie season last year. He is still very young and needs to mature, but has the offensive tools to play in the NHL. His defensive physicality and urgency for the puck down low in his zone just is not there yet and must improve greatly to play at the NHL level.

The smooth skating defender has great poise and patience with the puck and could be the prospect that might eventually replace Andrei Markov as the Canadiens' power play leader. He can still learn so much from spending any time with a maestro like Markov. Though he could see some NHL games due to injuries along the blue line, Beaulieu will continue his development at the AHL level and be brought along slowly as he gains more experience playing pro hockey.

4. (3) Jarred Tinordi, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 22nd overall, 2010

Tinordi has a simple solid defensive game and could be the physical force that is needed on the Canadiens' defense corps. He skates well for a big man, is an excellent penalty killer and will be a leader of the team's backend in the very near future. There is some offensive potential to his game but it will take more time at the NHL level to for it to possibly emerge.

As he matures and grows into his large frame, Tinordi could be a shutdown pairing defenseman in the NHL, capable of playing huge amounts of minutes. It could be better for his overall development to play on the top-two defense pairings in AHL for Hamilton than riding the bench or sitting in the press box at the NHL level. If he is ready to make the jump to the NHL this season then the organization might have to move an experienced defenseman to make space for him.

5. (6) Sebastian Collberg, RW, 8.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 33rd overall, 2012

A forward with high-end offensive potential, Sebastian Collberg played against men in the SHL as a 17-year-old but has not yet received consistent top line minutes. He does not 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. However, to showcase his offensive skills, he needs to push his way into Frolunda top-six group this upcoming season.

Collberg will get the opportunity to represent his country for the third time at the 2014 WJC tournament and should play a bigger role in whether Team Sweden can get to the finals again. It is highly likely that he will make his way over to North America upon his SHL season finishing and he should be playing at the AHL or NHL level for the 2014-15 season.

6. (NR) Mike McCarron, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 25th overall, 2013

McCarron has a mix of size and offensive skill, which is something the Canadiens are missing in their lineup right now. He has good puck protection skills which he showcases very well along the boards and in and around the oppositions net. His skating is very good for a young man of his size and height but he still needs to improve his balance, agility, and acceleration.

McCarron has the hockey sense, work ethic, character along with willingness to drop the gloves and can be a player that could fit anywhere in the team's lineup. The physical winger will have possibly two years of development under the Hunter Brothers with the OHL London Knights. He will have the opportunity to play in the Memorial Cup and could play in the 2014 WJC tournament for Team USA.

7. (13) Charles Hudon, LW, 7.5C
Drafted 5th round, 122nd overall, 2012

Charles Hudon has so many offensive attributes that can get him to the NHL but it will ultimately be whether he can stay healthy enough to get there. He has maturity beyond his age while providing leadership, character and a strong work ethic for his teammates. A smaller forward, he still needs to add size and strength to play his type of gritty game at the pro level. Explosive skating acceleration along with better edge control are the only things missing from his offensive arsenal and if he can improve that, then the sky is the limit on his success at the NHL level.

The 19-year-old forward will return for his fourth season in the QJMHL with the Chicoutimi Saguenéens. He is expected to dominate at the junior level and be his team's offensive engine again this season. Health permitting, he should play a big role for Team Canada at the 2014 WJC tournament.

8. (14) Tim Bozon, LW, 7.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 64th overall, 2012

An established offensive threat, Tim Bozon needs to bring more physicality and reduce the streakiness of his play. He is developing the other skills required to get to the NHL level but it is his scoring capabilities that will put him in the top-six forward group. His ability to find the open soft spot around the opponents' net and release a quick accurate shot are natural skills that cannot be taught.

Bozon will return for his final year in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers and will play on the team's top forward line. He is expected to provide more offense and play a better overall game. The sniper possesses the talent to be one of the top scorers in the WHL again this season.

9. (NR) Zachary Fucale, G, 8.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 36th overall, 2013

The most recent addition to the Montreal goaltending pool, Fucale is a poised goalie with excellent technique, quick lateral movement, and the ability to make key saves in games. He needs more consistency and added strength to his lanky frame in order to play at the pro level, but goalies typically take longer to fully develop their games.

Fucale will be tested both mentally and physically over the next two years at the junior level as the Halifax Mooseheads will not be anywhere near the talented offensive team they were the past two season. This should be very good for his development and could help form him into an elite goalie but it also might expose some of his weakness. He will have the opportunity to compete for a position on Team Canada for the 2014 WJC tournament.

10. (11) Darren Dietz, D, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 138th overall, 2011

Defenseman Darren Dietz brought his overall game to another level in his final season of junior hockey. His work ethic and practice habits have been at a pro level over the last two years. He has such good hockey sense and puck moving skills that help get him out of tight spots in defensive zone. He is a very fluid skater in all four directions and has good defensive awareness, positioning and physicality down low in his end of the rink.

Dietz has the game to play a top role on the Bulldogs' blue line and might find himself a role on both specialty team units. The tough physical competitor projects as a top-four blueliner at the NHL level and his nastiness is a missing ingredient on Montreal's backend.

11. (7) Louis Leblanc, C/RW, 7.0C
Drafted 1st round, 18th overall, 2009

Plagued with injury issues, Louis Leblanc struggled last season to regain his 2011-12 form, where he played 42 NHL games. It is far too early in his pro career to write him off but he needs to step up his overall offensive game in order to stay ahead of the other young prospects on the organization's depth chart.

Leblanc has the hockey smarts and versatility to play on the wing or at center and in a variety of situations. He will need to continue adding more muscle to his thin frame and increase his skating speed in order to play his gritty style in the NHL. At this time, he still projects as a good two-way forward that could play anywhere in the top-nine at the NHL level.

12. (NR) Jacob de la Rose, C/W, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2013

A big physical centerman, Jacob de la Rose has an excellent defensive game, NHL size, and skating speed. He plays a physical game in both ends of the rink and even if his offensive game does never materializes, he should be a fairly good two-way forward.

The young Swede is under contract for another year with Leksand, who are moving into the first division of the SHL. It is possible, should his development be slowed by limited playing time in Europe, the Canadiens could push Leksand to allow him to come play in the OHL for the Windsor Spitfires.

13. (9) Michael Bournival, C, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with the Colorado Avalanche, November 11th, 2010

Michael Bournival showed improvement offensively and defensively during his rookie pro season in the AHL. He proved to be a solid penalty killer and his offense game should improve as his confidence grows and he matures. Heading into his second AHL season, Bournival will need to bring more offensive production and further develop his overall game. His work ethic, character, and skating speed should allow him to be at least a bottom six forward for the Canadiens, but he needs to add more strength to play his physical style at the NHL level.

14. (10) Patrick Holland, RW, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with the Calgary Flames, January 12th, 2012

Patrick Holland is an excellent playmaker that has the hockey IQ and the offensive skills to get to the NHL. He is very strong on his skates and reads the play at high speed. He was a top offensive player for Hamilton last year, playing all forward positions and posting 10 goals and 18 assists in 69 games. He even at times played the point on the power play, which shows the amount of confidence that his coaches had in his overall skills.

The smooth skating forward proved to be durable at the AHL level and showed good poise when distributing the puck on the Bulldog's power play. He should bring more offense this coming season now that he has adjusted to the speed and size of players at the pro level. Holland projects as a top-nine forward at the NHL level but could be far better if he can just gain more weight and strength.

15. (NR) Artturi Lehkonen, LW, 7.5D
Drafted 2nd round, 55th overall, 2013

Artturi Lehkonen is a slick stick-handler who possesses excellent hockey sense and is always a threat to score. Despite being undersized, the 18-year-old is highly competitive and is not afraid to play in the high traffic areas. He is a smooth skater with very good technique but still needs work on his top-end acceleration and gain more power in his stride.

Lehkonen will return to play for Kalpa in the SM-liiga this coming season and should play for Team Finland at the 2014 WJC Tournament. He has plenty of time to bulk up and develop his overall game before coming to North America. Assuming he stays healthy, Lehkonen projects as a top-six forward with high end talent in the NHL.

16. (NR) Sven Andrighetto, RW, 7.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 86th overall, 2013

Swiss forward Sven Andrighetto is an excellent skater with explosive acceleration and excellent lateral movement when at full speed. Though not overly large at 5'9, he is very stocky and hard to knock off the puck. He has excellent vision, creativity, and extremely quick hands and can operate the powerplay using his natural playmaking ability.

Andrighetto showed excellent overall improvement as an overage player with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL and will get the opportunity to play at the AHL level in Hamilton this coming season. He should see ample time on the top two forward lines for the team and will be expected to make an immediate impact with the offensively challenged Bulldogs.

17. (8) Morgan Ellis, D, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 117th overall, 2010

Ellis struggled out of the gate and with a groin injury for most of the first half of 2012-13 season. He steadily improved his overall play as the year progressed and should have a better second year at the AHL level. The two-way defender has to use his shot more often, increase his urgency with the puck, and upgrade his overall skating speed in order to get an opportunity at the NHL level.

There are consistency issues and the he needs to make decisions at a quicker pace at the AHL level. He is still a few years away from competing for a roster spot in the NHL, but has the potential to be a top-four defenseman that can play on both special teams.

18. (12) Dalton Thrower, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 51st overall, 2012

Thrower's potential upside is right up there with Beaulieu but work ethic and attitude will have to improve to reach it. The tough blueliner still needs to work on some of his defensive issues like positioning, gap control, his pivoting footwork, and making better decisions with the puck in his end of the rink. His physicality, toughness, and offensive skills could allow the Canadiens to convert him to a forward position at the pro level if needed.

Thrower struggled on and off the ice in Saskatoon last season and will most likely be returned to junior for another year instead of playing at the AHL level in Hamilton. He needs to mature and take the steps required to learn how to be a pro hockey player. His mix of toughness and skill is very much needed in the Canadiens' organization and will probably see his best development under Don Hay in Vancouver at the WHL level this coming season.

19. (20) Magnus Nygren, D, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 113th overall, 2011

Defenseman Magnus Nygren has an excellent shot that gets through traffic and hits the net a large percentage of the time. He has good mobility and offensive skills but has become more than just a power play specialist. His defensive positioning and the reduction of high-risk plays in his end of the rink have improved over this past season, though he still needs to improve his net front coverage to play at the NHL level.

Nygren brought his overall game to another level last season in the SHL and will most likely start his North American debut at the AHL level adjusting to the style of game. The Swede will improve the Bulldog's powerplay and could combine with Beaulieu to make a solid one-two punch offensively on the point. Due to his prior pro experience in Europe, he may get an injury recall if the Canadiens' need help on their power play.

20. (NR) Christian Thomas, RW, 7.0D
Acquired via trade with New York Rangers, July 2nd, 2013

Thomas has great offensive skills and speed to burn, but still has to overcome his smaller size and physical issues in order to play at the NHL level. The young sniper has excellent hands; an NHL caliber shot and a knack for finding the open spots in the offensive zone. He has improved his defensive game and back checking urgency, but can disappear at times while staying too much on the perimeter of the action waiting for offensive chances.

Thomas should compete for a top-six position at the AHL level in Hamilton and see time on the team's powerplay. He is expected to help provide more offensive production for the Bulldogs this coming season. The newly acquired winger could be used as a possible injury replacement for the Canadiens this year depending on his play in Hamilton.

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