Canadiens 2010 draft preview

By Ian Bross

Top 10 prospects

1. P.K. Subban, D
2. Danny Kristo, RW
3. Louis Leblanc, C
4. Yannick Weber, D
5. Aaron Palushaj, RW
6. Ben Maxwell, C
7. Joonas Nattinen, C
8. Ryan White, C
9. Mathieu Carle, D
10. David Fischer, D

The Canadiens hold the 27th overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.

Team Needs

The Canadiens narrowly made the postseason, and despite numerous injury issues, they made a deep playoff run. Montreal was finally ousted by the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference final.

By then, the team’s image had already begun to show significant signs of change. Most notably, 21-year-old P.K. Subban, with a mere two NHL games under his belt, became a go-to blueliner. Even in their success, the team was in flux. Change was initiated a year ago, when in the offseason, then general manager Bob Gainey revamped the Canadiens core. In February, Gainey stepped down as general manager.

Though Gainey remains as a special advisor to his successor, Pierre Gauthier, the Canadiens are in the midst of a crucial transitional phase. Many of the organization’s prospects, those situated in North America, have reached the minor-professional level. The upcoming draft will be a pivotal event for the shaping of the franchise in the coming years.

At present, the team is still characterized by a lack of size, focusing instead on speed and quickness. Having been the case for the last several seasons, the June festivities may be as good a time as any to begin to focus on this possible need. Another issue will be the uncertain futures of numerous pending free agents, particularly Tomas Plekanec, who is likely to be one of the more heavily sought-after players come July.

And perhaps most importantly, the Canadiens roster is built around veterans. This is especially true on defense, with Hal Gill, Roman Hamrlik, and Jaroslav Spacek all age 35 or older. Other than Subban, only three of last year’s rearguards are still in their 20’s; Marc-Andre Bergeron is 29, and both Josh Gorges and Ryan O’Byrne are 25.

Young forwards such as Benoit Pouliot, and Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, will need to start to shoulder more of the offensive burden.

Organizational Strengths

Though not to the same extent as a year ago, depth is the best asset the organization can boast as of now. Hamilton, Montreal’s AHL affiliate, has been a perennial Calder Cup contender in recent years. In addition to being brought up in a competitive atmosphere with the Bulldogs, many young hopefuls have had the opportunity to sample NHL life in brief stints with Montreal.

Beyond of the minor-pro leagues, there is an even distribution of talent throughout various other leagues. The Canadiens claim ownership to the rights of several European prospects, each which possess intriguing skills or skill sets. And in the NCAA ranks, the team has had particular success. Danny Kristo and Louis Leblanc, Montreal’s top two forward prospects, have been standouts early in their collegiate careers.

The center position is one of the more amply stocked within the Canadiens prospect pool. Because of this, the organization has experimented with redeploying players as wingers. In most cases the move has been a success.

Organizational Weaknesses

Bona fide offensive talents, meanwhile, are few and far between. Recent graduates such as Pouliot, Max Pacioretty, and the Kostitsyn brothers as well, possessed ceilings that current prospects don’t appear to compare to. High-end talents, in general, aren’t commonplace in the Montreal system. Likely several who flirt with this distinction, whose skill is unquestionable, still are far from guaranteed NHL’ers for other reasons. In general, whether up front, on the back end, or between the pipes, the organization doesn’t possess a potentially elite prospect. Currently, only Subban appears to be an elite prospect on defense.

An easily criticized feature of the Montreal depth charts, as begins at the top with those already donning bleu, blanc et rouge, is a deficit of size. Whether this is truly a detriment that the team will choose to address or instead a chosen strategy, cannot be said for certain. In recent years, Stanley Cup championships have been won by teams each with their own unique makeup. Even if not vital to future success, though, it is a trait that would add welcome diversity to the organization.

Overall, the weakest position in the organization is, with little doubt, the goaltending position. The emergent success of Cedrick Desjardins this past season provides some short-term depth, at least. Regardless of the immediate futures of Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak, both of whom have been named in trade rumors, it is a position that could stand to be further solidified.

Draft Tendencies

The resignation of Bob Gainey as Montreal’s general manager does not necessarily guarantee the Canadiens will debut a new drafting philosophy in Los Angeles. Reportedly, nor does the decision to not renew the contracts of six scouts which expire this month.

For their first selections, the club has demonstrated a preference for North American prospects. Not since Andrei Kostitsyn in 2003 has Montreal utilized their top pick on a European player. After choosing six defensemen in 2007, including Ryan McDonagh (NYR) 12th overall, Montreal has selected only one defenseman (Mac Bennett, 2009) in the two most recent drafts.

Hockey’s Future staff mock draft result at No. 27: Alex Petrovic, D

The 6’4 Red Deer Rebels defenseman is still not yet fully grown, but has a propensity for physicality and makes deft first passes. A right-handed shot, Petrovic has earned comparisons to the Chicago Blackhawks Brent Seabrook, also a WHL product.