Canadiens’ Draft Outlook

By Chris Boucher
Past failures, and recent pressure indicate that the Canadiens will be looking to Europe for their early draft picks this year. The Montreal media have been quite vocal concerning the Habs’ past failures at the draft table. Serge Savard’s legacy still lives on in this regard. The past 10 years have seen too many players drafted for size rather than talent. Look for the Habs’ to be calling names like Nordqvist, Krykov, and Jonsson rather than names like Boyes, Taffe, and Dipietro.

Dave King’s presence in Europe during the past season is a huge indication of the team’s latest direction change. King has spent most of his time scouting players and working his contacts. Leading up to a draft there is usually 1 or 2 opinions that carry more weight than all the others. GM’s and scouting directors listen more attentively to these voices than to all the others combined. Look for Houle and Dorion to be paying especially close attention to the voice of one Dave King.

Another indication of the Canadiens’ draft plans is the recent agreement reached between the Habs and the Djurgarden Ice Hockey Club in Sweden. This agreement will allow both hockey clubs to send some of their top prospects to participate annually in the other teams’ rookie camp. The teams will also share information on player evaluation methods. Thereby allowing the Habs access to Djurgarden’s personal scouting reports.

But what about local talent? Under Rejean Houle the Canadiens have made it a habit to draft players from the QMJHL. Names like Ribeiro, Chouinard, Ryder, Beauchemin, Marois, and Thinel can attest to this. The Canadiens’ will definitely be calling some French names during the upcoming draft. Just not in the early rounds. Look for the Canadiens to call names like Vermette, Mallette, and Abid from the third round on.

The pressure on management to get players who can help the club immediately could prove too much for Houle to handle. The one mistake the Habs could make during this year’s draft is to spend too much energy(and picks) looking for over-age European players who can step in to the roster now. Over-age drafting is usually a mistake. Who you draft should be based on talent rather than age.

Setting their sights on Europe is definitely the right thing for the Canadiens to do. The past decade of drafting has left the Habs short on talent. With 2 picks in the first round the organization’s talent base should improve dramatically. On draft day names like Nordqvist, Krykov and Jonsson would certainly be music to most Hab fan’s ears