Canadiens fall 2007 juniors prospects update

By Jason Menard

Ben Maxwell, C (2nd round, 2006) – Maxwell has been snake bitten the past couple of years when it comes to injuries. He’s currently on the shelf with a thigh injury suffered early in November. Last year he missed a significant portion of the season with an elbow injury.

But when he’s been on the ice the Kootenay Ice center has been a revelation, picked up in the second round of the 2006 draft.

In 11 games, Maxwell’s been performing at a point-per-game pace with three goals and eight assists. Those numbers are slightly off his pace from last year where he racked up 53 points in 39 games. At the time, Maxwell was among the WHL’s leaders in scoring, so the ability is there. From the Habs’ perspective they have to hope that he’ll shake the injury bug in the near future.

Olivier Fortier, C (3rd round, 2007)
– The Rimouski Oceanic center’s production has fallen off from last year when he averaged almost a point per game. This year, in 31 games the Quebec City native has accounted for 12 goals and 10 assists.

That said, it’s not just Fortier’s fortunes that have fallen on hard times – the once high-flying Oceanic are now league bottom-dwellers with 13 wins in 38 games.

Fortier finds himself in second place in team scoring, behind Michael Frolik. However, despite the diminished production, the Canadiens can take solace in the fact that Fortier is showing his commitment to developing an all-around game. Playing on a talent-thin team means that Fortier gets to play in all situations and he’s excelled on special teams. Of Fortier’s 12 goals, six have come on the power play and seven have come short handed.

He’s also shown that he can be counted on in crunch time. And although the opportunities have been few and far between, Fortier has chipped in with four game-winning goals. And one mustn’t forget that despite being on a team that’s allowed 25 more goals than it has scored, Fortier has maintained a plus-3 rating, which shows the 18-year-old is developing into a well-rounded player.

P.K. Subban, D (2nd round, 2007) – The call was raised by the Habs brass that Subban’s play needs to mirror his outstanding effort from last year’s playoffs more so than his regular season work.

The call has been answered. The 18-year-old blueliner has been a key cog in Belleville’s success, pacing the club from the point with six goals and 22 assists. And it’s not just the fans in Belleville or Canadiens management who have taken notice – Subban recently was named to the Canadian World Junior Championship roster.

Read any interview, or listen to any anecdote and Subban’s confidence and personality are what’s brought up first. This year, Subban’s play is what has people talking as he has been a key component of the Bulls’ ascension to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Ryan White, C (3rd round, 2006)
– At this rate, White can make a career out of being slighted. And if the Habs ever have been worried about getting a motivated player out of their surprise 2006 third-round selection, those worries can be put to rest.

Despite being a point-per-game performer and a repeat attendee at the Canadian World Junior camp, White found himself cut again from the club. Add those slights to the fact that concerns about his conditioning sent the potential first-rounder plummeting to the third round and one could forgive White for having a chip on his shoulder.

Yet White’s done nothing but impress the Habs with his commitment, coming into the rookie camp motivated to perform. Last year he was among the WHL’s leading scorers. This year, White’s production has fallen off a bit. After scoring 89 points in 72 games last year, this year White’s tallied 15 goals and 18 assists in 32 games.

That said, White’s a player who’s all about the winning and he’s led the Hitmen to a solid 22-11-1-2 record, good for second place in the WHL Central Division.

Cameron Cepek, D (7th round, 2006)
– The Habs felt they got a diamond in the rough when they selected Cepek with the 199th pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Unfortunately, while most diamonds are found under glass, Cepek’s been as fragile as glass over the past two years.

With seasons of only 21 and 49 games over the past two years, Cepek’s biggest challenge this year is to prove he’s rugged enough to last for a full season. And perhaps a change of scenery may just do the trick.

Cepek moved from the Portland Winter Hawks to the Edmonton Oil Kings this season and the move appears to have had a positive impact on Cepek’s ability to stay in the line-up. The Huntington Beach, CA native has appeared in 34 games so far, scoring four goals and adding 11 assists.

And it’s not as if Cepek’s shied away from the rough stuff to preserve himself. The 19-year-old blueliner’s already racked up 60 penalty minutes to date.

Yannick Weber, D (3rd round, 2007) – Over the past couple of seasons, it’s clear that the Habs have been attempting to beef up their blueline corps – and they’ve enjoyed a fair bit of success doing so, especially when mining the U.S. minor league and collegiate ranks. But they’ve also been able to find quality throughout the draft – often players who have fallen farther than expected.

Weber could fall into that category. The Swiss blueliner has been a key cog in the powerful Kitchener Rangers defensive corps — and he’s on pace to obliterate last season’s impressive offensive numbers. In 51 games last year, Weber scored 41 points in 51 games. This year, in just 31 games, Weber is already at 36 points buoyed by 15 goals.

The 5’10 defenseman has also showed a bit more of an edge to his game, as his 49 penalty minutes already exceeds last year’s totals.

Most importantly for the Habs, Weber’s played a key role on a winning team. The Rangers are at the top of the standings in the OHL and Weber’s combination of offense and defense from the point has been a major component of the club’s success. In fact, Weber finds himself behind only Brampton’s Bobby Sanguinetti in the list of the OHL’s top scoring blueliners.

Andrew Conboy, LW (5th round, 2007) — At 6’4, the Burnsville, MN has developed upwards the way the Habs would love to see – but at only 190 pounds, he hasn’t quite filled out. That said, he’s been throwing his size and weight around the USHL to date this season. And a recent announcement may find the USHL player taking a new route to the pros.

Conboy recently rescinded his commitment to the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Some reports suggest that academic eligibility concerns, which plagued him last year, have failed to be resolved this season. Conboy may find himself in the CHL next year – the WHL Portland Winter Hawks at one point had his rights – as the collegiate route appears to be closed.

Conboy is fifth on his Omaha Lancers team in scoring, with 18 points in 25 games. But he’s No. 1 – by more than a pair of fists – in penalty minutes, racking up 96 PIM so far in the notoriously tough league. In fact, Conboy’s totals are tops in the entire league and the 19-year-old winger is on pace to shatter his penalty totals from last season soon. Last year, Conboy totaled 105 PIMs, but was more offensively proficient with 25 goals and 50 points in totals. He’ll have to pick up the pace (and maybe spend a little less time in the penalty box) to match his output from last year.

A plus-8 player, Conboy has also shown some proficiency on the power play, with four of his seven goals coming with the man advantage, along with three assists. Of course, this is nothing new for the player – and is one of the reasons the Habs are so high on Conboy’s potential. Beyond his size, Conboy was a plus-17 last year and scored 11 power-play goals. In an organization that’s not really blessed with size, Conboy’s performance this year bodes well for his opportunities.

Scott Kishel, D (7th round, 2007) – Kishel has enjoyed a solid freshman season with the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede. In 22 games, the blueliner has scored two goals and added three assists, while maintaining a respectable plus/minus rating of minus-3.

His steady play has helped Sioux Falls stay in the middle of the league’s pack. However, at 5’11 and only 160 pounds, he still needs to work on building some muscle and gaining some strength to handle the rigors of the position and continue his development. The expectation is that Kishel will be attending Duluth next season to further his progress in the collegiate ranks.