Canadiens Top 20 prospects

By Jason Menard

Montreal Canadiens prospects are enjoying the benefit of playing in winning environments. Whether it’s a resurgent Hamilton Bulldogs’ AHL franchise that’s posted a 33-20-2-2 record and in a three-way dogfight with Rochester (BUF) and Manitoba (VAN) for top spot, or the club’s potential franchise goaltender leading the Canadian squad to junior gold, several of the prospects are learning how to win – a lesson that has the potential to pay dividends at the NHL level for years to come.

Key: Rank, (Previous Rank), Name, Position, Age, How Acquired

1. (1) Guillaume Latendresse, RW, 19
Acquired: 2nd round, 45th overall (2005)

It will prove to be a short stay at the top of the Habs’ prospect board for the Ste-Catherine, QC native, only due to his mercurial rise up the ranks. Any questions as to whether Latendresse should have been sent back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League have been put to rest this season, as the 19-year-old forward has not looked out of place in his first year in the professional ranks.

Last season, fans of Les Glorieux were livid that Latendresse wasn’t given a roster spot as an 18-year-old. This season, under a new coaching regime, Latendresse took the reins of his own career and impressed everyone with his developed game, on-ice dominance, and growth. He’s been able to translate that early-season promise into actual production this season having scored 11 goals and 13 assists in 62 games. The 6’2, 229-pound power forward is only averaging just over 12 minutes of ice time per game, but he’s found a place on the club’s power-play unit (five of his goals have come with the man advantage) and has shown an ability to adapt his game to the team’s requirements. The only knock on Latendresse, which is indicative of the team as a whole, is his -11 plus/minus rating.

However, the fact that he’s needed to display that adaptability betrays one of the major reasons for Latendresse’s average performance to date. Playing on a squad that’s been riddled with injuries, the 19-year-old hasn’t been able to establish a rhythm with any one set of forwards. Regularly on the club’s fourth line, he has – on several occasions – been called upon to play a more prominent role on the team’s top two lines as an injury replacement.

All in all, Latendresse hasn’t been hampered by the twin demons of reduced ice time and unrealistic expectations. A fan base that’s starved for the next great French Canadian forward has been remarkably supportive and – dare it be said – patient with the development of a player who is projected to be a key cog for the club for years to come.

2. (3) Carey Price, G, 19
Acquired: 1st round, 5th overall, 2005

That splash you may have heard was the future of the Canadiens’ goaltending corps announcing his arrival. And after a wave-making performance at this year’s World Junior Hockey Championships, Carey Price has shown the world why Montreal made the pick with its fifth-overall selection in 2005.

Forget the fact that Price added even more depth to an already impressive system. Forget the fact that his promise enabled the club to shed itself of the prohibitive salary and attitude of then-starter José Theodore. All you need to know was gift-wrapped by Price in that week following Christmas when he turned in a performance for the ages in backstopping the Canadians to a gold medal – and from his lofty position as tournament MVP and top netminder he was able to shout to the world that he is the Habs’ future between the pipes.

The 6’3, 222-pound native of the tiny hamlet of Williams Lake, BC has certainly taken to his first taste of something that has eluded him for a while – winning. After three losing seasons with the WHL‘s woeful Tri-City Americans, Price has backstopped his resurgent club to 80 points in 60 games, good for a tie for third place in the Western Conference, and a solid second place in the U.S. division behind the powerhouse Everett Silvertips.

The Americans have racked up a 39-19-1-1 record and Price has been a huge part of that resurgence, posting a personal 25-11-1 mark with a 2.45 GAA and .917 save percentage. At the WJCs, Price was even more impressive. Despite some opining that Price wasn’t the man for the job, he proved his detractors wrong and fought his way to a 1.14 GAA and .961 save percentage in playing every minute for the goal-medal-winning squad.

What has impressed team brass the most about this netminder is his calm and steady demeanor. While some take his reticence as indicative of a lack of passion, it’s more accurately described as an ability to keep things in perspective and not get too high or too low. It is that quiet confidence and emotional restraint, combined with stellar skills, that have Habs’ brass excited about their long-term goaltending prospects.

3. (2) Andrei Kostitsyn, RW, 22
Acquired: 1st round, 10th overall, 2003

The elder Kostitsyn’s slight drop in ranking is due largely because of Price’s superlative performance as opposed to any deficiency on his own. The Belarusian winger has already enjoyed a career season with the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs and he has been called up on a few occasions to join the big club.

In five NHL games this season, the 22-year-old has yet to score and has only one assist, but has impressed with his speed and willingness to put the puck on the net. In total, Kostitsyn has two goals and two assists in 17 career NHL contests. However, it is at the AHL level that he has dominated. In 50 games, Kostitsyn is performing at more than a point-per-game pace, paced by 24 goals en route to 52 points, good for a tie for the team lead with the suddenly resurgent Duncan Milroy (2nd round, 2001). Oddly enough, Kostitsyn has made his mark almost exclusively on the power play – of his 24 goals, only a pair have come with the man advantage.

He’s also taken suggestions to improve his two-way game to heart: last season’s even mark has skyrocketed to a stunning +24 rating. On the ice, the improvement is obvious, but that’s also been aided by his off-the-ice familiarity with North America and the English language. Some of Kostitsyn’s development has been slowed by a less-than-masterful command of the language. However, he’s improving in that regard and seems more comfortable not just with the North American style of game, but with the North American way of life.

In essence, the question no longer is whether Kostitsyn will join the big club, but rather it’s when will he stick for good. And the answer may just come next year.

4. Kyle Chipchura, C, 22
Acquired: 1st round, 18th overall, 2004

Run some of these names through your head: Lindsay Vallis, Turner Stevenson, Brent Bilodeau, David Wilke, Matt Higgins, Terry Ryan. All big, all from out west, all first-round draft picks who failed more or less equally spectacularly (Stevenson being the lone exception, but certainly not first-round worthy). So for their first, first-round foray out west since that dark period, the Habs changed their considerations. Instead of just measuring the size of their bodies, with the 6’2, 208 Westlock, AB native they also considered the size of his heart.

In 57 games, Chipchura has accounted for nine goals and 27 points. He’s a +8 and has added one power-play goal and one short-handed goal. And while those numbers may not blow one away, they just serve to illustrate that Chipchura’s contributions to the team are often not quantified on the scoresheet.

Chipchura has future captain written all over him and he follows in the footsteps of Chris Higgins, without the same apparent offensive upside. He’s always played older than his age, and impressed Habs’ brass last season with his ability to fit right in to the Bulldogs roster straight out of junior.

5. (6) Mikhail Grabovski, LW, 22
Acquired: 5th round, 250th overall, 2004

In his first season overseas, the speedy winger has caught lightning in a bottle, harnessing his enormous potential and earning himself a brief sojourn in the NHL for his efforts already this season.

After an impressive season last year with Moscow Dynamo that saw him earn 27 points in 48 games, Grabovski was encouraged by the team to come overseas and start adjusting to the North American game – a task, to date, that he has passed with flying colors. Grabovski is already the third-best scorer on the team, trailing only Milroy and Kostitsyn, and his 47 points in 50 games, paced by 16 goals, are outstanding for a rookie in the AHL.

His combination of speed and dynamism hasn’t just entranced the fans in Hamilton – they’ve caused the big club to stand up and take notice to the point where he’s found himself in the Montreal Canadiens’ line-up for three games as an injury fill-in. While he hasn’t found the same offensive luck in Montreal that he’s enjoyed in the AHL, he has created a buzz with his superlative stickhandling and speed.

Grabovski has developed in all aspects of his game, showing a remarkably keen interest in developing his defensive game. To date, he’s posted a +8 rating. In addition, the young Belarusian (by way of Germany) has spent a lot of time on the power play where his creativity and deft passing has been of immeasurable benefit.

6. (7) David Fischer, D, 18
Acquired: 1st round, 20th overall, 2006

There’s no worry that the Habs’ most-recent first-rounder is going to rush his way through things, as this season certainly has marked a slow transition for the 18-year-old. However, being in a winning environment, playing with some of hockey’s top prospects, and continuing to display the leadership that’s been his hallmark – even as a rookie in the NCAA, has the Canadiens front office very excited about the long-term potential of this blueliner.

As they say, you can’t teach size. And at 6’4 Fischer is blessed with a combination of impressive height and even more impressive skills. However, weighing in under 190 pounds means that there’s still plenty of time for him to grow into his lanky frame and fill out in order to stand up to the rigors that his position demands.

Although he finds himself lower on the University of Minnesota’s depth chart, behind upper-classmen like Alex Goligoski (PIT), Mike Vannelli (ATL), and first-overall selection Erik Johnson (STL), he has managed to play in 32 of the team’s 34 games. He’s also added five assists and has displayed a solid overall game in helping the club attain its No. 1 NCAA ranking and stellar 25-5-3 record.

Fischer should be able to play a more prominent role next season and continue his development. In addition, with the prospect of another year’s worth of growth and experience under his belt along with passable organizational depth, it can be said that time truly is on his side, and there’s no need to negatively impact his development by rushing him through the ranks.

7. (17) Maxim Lapierre, C, 22
Acquired: 3rd round, 61st overall, 2003

While Latendresse may be getting all the hype, there’s another local-boy-makes-good story unfolding in Montreal with the arrival of St-Leonard native Maxim Lapierre.

The 6’2 center has made coaches and fans alike fall for his combination of grit, dedication, and effort. A mid-season decision to demote Lapierre had the newspapers, talk shows, and radio stations debating the merits of keeping established roster players over this dynamic sparkplug.

Last season, as a reward for outstanding heart and play in Hamilton, Lapierre earned a one-game call-up. Obviously the taste of NHL life appealed to him because he’s made a concerted effort to bite down on a roster spot and stick long-term. In 28 NHL games this season, mainly in a third or fourth-line energy role, Lapierre has accounted for seven points. This is in addition to his outstanding work in Hamilton where he netted nine goals and 12 assists in 33 games.

Always known for his defensive responsibility and effort, Lapierre has shown off an unexpected offensive flair. He’s shown an ability to complement a wide variety of linemates and has quickly displayed his long-term potential at the NHL level. In fact, were it not for challenges with waivers and salary caps, Lapierre would most likely have avoided ever being sent back down to Hamilton.

8. (9) Alexei Emelin, D, 21
Acquired : 3rd round, 84th overall, 2004

Emelin has rebounded from a controversial end to last season when he was involved in an on-ice incident that earned him a suspension. But he’s put that uncharacteristically thug-like behavior behind them and has again been a cornerstone for his Tolyatti Lada squad in Russia.

The 6’0 blueliner shows a solid balance to his game, maintaining his defensive responsibilities while showing a solid understanding of when to jump into the play. He’s also shown a willingness to be Physical without being bruising.

In 38 games, Emelin has posted adequate offensive numbers, with two goals and seven assists. He’s also cut back on his time in the penalty box, with only 65 minutes in penalties to date as opposed to his career-high 129 minutes earned in only five more games last season.

The goal for the Habs is to see Emelin make the jump to North America next season to continue his development in the AHL. The idea is that he’s progressed as far as he can against the Russian competition and it’s now time for him, like Grabovski and the Kostitsyn brothers before him, to learn the ancillary lessons that complement the on-ice knowledge that he’s displayed.

9. (8) Sergei Kostitsyn, LW, 19
Acquired: 7th round, 200th overall, 2005

It appears that the younger Kostitsyn brother’s case of Latendresse-itis has well passed. Last season, after narrowly missing out on a roster spot, Latendresse was sent back to the QMJHL and rapidly sunk into a scoring slump. Fast-forward one season and those skates were now on Kostitsyn’s feet.

Due to the fact that Kostitsyn was drafted by the Habs before being drafted by his OHL club, the London Knights, the Belarusian was eligible to play anywhere – including with his brother in Hamilton. And while Sergei expressed interest in moving up, the club was adamant in its desire for Kostitsyn to return to the OHL where he would play a key role with a powerhouse junior squad. While he did play with less than his usual zeal at the beginning of the year, he’s shaken those blues off and has enjoyed a dominant season at the OHL level.

Playing on the same squad – and occasionally alongside – potential first-round selections Pat Kane and Sam Gagner, Kostitsyn has been an integral part of London’s dynamic offense. His 31 goals and 104 points in 50 games is good for fifth in the OHL – but incredibly only third on his own roster. (Kane leads the league with 123 points, Gagner is third with 109).

More importantly for the Habs, Kostitsyn has assumed a leadership role that’s been greatly aided by his rapidly improving command of the English language. In addition, Kostitsyn has proved over and over that he’s no stereotypical European, displaying an edge to his game and a willingness to stick his nose into places where it could get dirty.

Of course, Kostitsyn has seen time on the power play – often at the point – but he’s also played a key role killing penalties. Even strength, he’s improved his defensive play so much that he’s gone from being a -5 player last year on a squad that scored far more often than it was scored upon, to his current +23 rating. The only downside this season was that, despite an outstanding personal performance, his Belarusian squad was relegated at the WJCs.

If his performance this season is any indication, it’s safe to say that he won’t be back in the OHL as an overager next year.

10. Jaroslav Halak, G, 21
Acquired: 9th round, 271st overall, 2003

Halak has certainly made the most of the opportunities presented to him. When Cristobal Huet was felled by a hamstring injury, the young Slovakian stepped into the void and filled it admirably, winning his first three contests before finally suffering a defeat at the hands of the New York Islanders.

Once an after-thought in the goaltending ranks, Halak has literally exploded on the scene. After performing admirably last as a late-season call-up in Hamilton, Halak has wrested at least a share of the starting position away from the incumbent Yann Danis. Enjoying an all-star season to date, it was the younger Halak who earned the call-up to the NHL ranks over the more experienced Danis.

And while the Patrick Roy and Ken Dryden references may be premature, Halak’s impressive play has given the Habs a great deal more roster flexibility than they might have expected. His early returns at the NHL level have eased trade talk stoked by the loss of starting netminder Huet to a season-ending injury. And with Price expected to join the pro ranks next season, David Aebischer up for free agency, and question marks surrounding Danis, the time may be now for the young Slovakian to stake his claim on an NHL roster spot.

When Halak is good, he’s very good. But when he’s great, watch out. Last season, in just seven AHL games after his call-up from the ECHL, Halak turned heads with three shutouts in just seven games. This season, en route to posting a 2.00 GAA and .932 save percentage in 28 games, he’s added another six shutouts to his total. He’s yet to bar the door completely at the NHL level, but has compiled an impressive 3-1 record behind a 3.21 GAA and a less-than-stellar .885 save percentage in helping to right a staggering Canadiens ship.

11. (16) Ben Maxwell, C, 18
Acquired: 2nd round, 49th overall, 2006

It’s been a bit of a season of disappointment for the Vancouver, BC native, but he’s shown enough promise to have validated the scouting staff’s desire to make him one of two key players taken in the second round of this year’s draft.

Maxwell’s been hampered by an elbow injury this season and he was an early cut from the Canadian World Junior squad. However, when he has been on the ice, he’s made an impact. Despite missing over 20 games, Maxwell is still fourth in team scoring. However, his 19 goals and 34 assists in just 39 games only tell part of the story. He’s also continued to refine that two-way play for which he’s so well known, to which his +20 rating attests.

When he’s played, the young center has played a key role in all facets of the game. He leads the team in short-handed goals with four this season, and is amongst the team leaders in power play goals – again, despite missing a significant part of the season. He is scheduled to return to the Ice’s line-up in a couple of weeks.

Many felt that Maxwell was a steal in the second round, and with a dynamic – albeit interrupted – performance to date this season, the Habs have to be happy with the results of their draft-day wheeling and dealing.

12. (11) Juraj Mikus, C, 20
Acquired: 4th round, 121st overall, 2005

Sharp-eyed Habs fans would have noticed that Price wasn’t the only Canadiens prospect to enjoy an outstanding WJC. Although toiling in greater obscurity, this young Slovakian has taken the lessons learned in North America and played a key role with his home country squad.

After a couple of years of requesting, Mikus finally consented to coming overseas to play in the QMJHL – and it’s a move that’s paid off in spades for the young center. After a couple of solid seasons playing with Skalika in the Slovakian League, Mikus has been an offensive revelation for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens. He’s averaging over a point per game, accounting for 54 points in just 50 games, which includes 20 goals.

At the WJC, Mikus put those offensive talents to good use, scoring five goals in just six games – including three markers on the power play, en route to being named his squad’s top player twice. 

13. (15) Mathieu Carle, D, 20
Acquired: 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2006

The second of Montreal’s two second-round picks in the latest entry draft, Carle has continued to display the reasons why the team so aggressively maneuvered its draft position to lock him up. He continues to be an offensive dynamo from the point, combining solid skating with an excellent passing ability and a nose for the net.

Carle was traded from the Acadie-Bathurst Titan earlier this year to the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. And while the move hasn’t agreed with him statistically, he still finds himself fourth in defensive scoring in the QMJHL. In his first 38 games with the Titan, Carle was on a blistering pace: with 51 points, including 12 goals, and was leading the league in blueliner scoring. However, he’s lost some momentum trying to fit in to the Huskies’ rotation, although he’s still contributed an admirable eight points in the 17 games since the trade – a number that’s far from the 1.3 points-per-game he was averaging. He currently finds himself fourth overall in the league in defenseman scoring.

The mobile blueliner is still on pace for career-best totals and has displayed the continued growth and development that was expected of him. Carle’s been a little underrated to date, but his combination of speed, puck-handling, and offensive prowess is of premium value in a game built on speed and mobility.

14. (NR) Pavel Valentenko, D, 19
Acquired: 5th round, 139th overall, 2006

Although many eyes were on the Canadian net during the WJC gold medal game, Price wasn’t the only Canadiens’ prospect that was putting on a show. In that game – and throughout the tournament — late-round blueline selection Pavel Valentenko showed why members of the Montreal Canadiens’ management feel they got a steal in picking up the Russian blueliner.

His numbers with Nizhnekamsk Neftekhimik of the Russian league have been pedestrian at best, with only one assist in 44 games, but it was on the grandest stage of all for junior-aged players that the 6’2 blueliner stepped into a starring role. He led the Russians from the blueline, scoring two goals and adding an assist in his club’s six games. But more importantly, he was a force moving the puck out of his own end and displaying some physicality. In fact, his performance in the final, which included voluntarily scrapping with Canadian tough guy Steve Downie (PHI), led him to be the Russian’s player of the game.

Valentenko is still very much an unknown quantity on this side of the Atlantic. Those who have seen him talk about his offensive upside and ability to play the puck, although his numbers don’t seem to back that up. Again, Valentenko looks like a low-risk, long-term reward type of prospect who will be afforded the time to develop as per his needs.

15. (5) Yann Danis, G, 25
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent in 2004

Looking back last year, Danis was on top of the world. He was entering a season that would see him get called up to the NHL a couple of times, earn an AHL all-star berth, and a call-up to the NHL as at least the club’s back-up seemed imminent.

Oh, how one year can make a difference. Danis is still the nominal starter in Hamilton – but that’s because his greatest competition, Halak, is currently in the NHL in the back-up role that was his for the taking. His all-star berth went to Halak this year, and he also has to start looking over his shoulder not only at the much-ballyhooed Price, but also at free-agent signee Cedric Desjardins, who is rapidly playing himself towards a contract in the Habs’ system.

What went wrong? For a player who came out like a house on fire last year, enjoying success at the NHL level as an injury fill-in. Instead of looking towards the future, which once seemed so bright, he’s now struggling to hang on to the present – and those future prospects are starting to look dimmer as the numbers game catches up.

Numbers are part of the problem. Danis has posted respectable numbers (17-10-2, 2.94 GAA, .902 save percentage), but they pale in comparison with Halak – almost a full goal worse in GAA and 20 points poorer percentage-wise. There have been some suggestions that last season’s roller-coaster ride impacted Danis’ confidence. A shared player environment and a copious amount of injuries last year left him bouncing from team to team, sitting for stretches, and not being able to develop any consistency with his club.

This year, he’s enjoyed a little more consistency as he and Halak are the clear 1 and 1a netminders. However, his performance has plateaued while others in the system have stepped up their game. With Halak in Montreal and making a case as the heir apparent to free-agent-to-be Aebischer, Huet firmly entrenched with the big club, Price probably on his way to Montreal, and Desjardins making some noise as well, time may be running out for the free agent out of Brown University.

Making the NHL is part talent, but also part taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to you. Once the flavor of the month in the Habs organization, Danis now has to work to ensure that the club’s tastes haven’t changed.

16. (18) Matt D’Agostini, RW, 19
Acquired: 6th round, 190th overall, 2005

You know things are going well when a front office staff member makes a point of singling you out as a player to watch in the organization. D’Agostini has gone from being a solid, but unspectacular, junior player to becoming a key cog in the Hamilton Bulldogs’ fortunes as a rookie.

D’Agostini is another player who has made the most of the chances offered to him. Since coming back from an elbow injury D’Agostini, who starting his rookie season predominantly as a third and fourth-liner, found himself riding shotgun on the top line with Kostitsyn and Grabovsky. In that time he’s scored four goals and 10 assists which have propelled him to the top of the team’s scoring charts. His 12 goals and 21 assists are good for fifth overall, despite the fact that he’s appeared in only 41 games.

But there’s much more than just offense to this 6′ winger – versatility is the key to his game. Beyond being able to play both a offensive role and excel on a checking line (as his +12 rating lays testament to), he’s also able to play all three forward positions and complement the skills of his linemates with good speed and robust play. He’s also shown the ability to excel in all situations with four goals on the power play balanced by two short-handed tallies.

With some top-end talent expected to make the jump to Montreal next year, expect D’Agostini to play more of a key offensive role next season. And his current scoring line experience should serve as on-the-job training for that expected increase in responsibility next year.

17. (12) Ryan O’Byrne, D, 22
Acquired: 3rd round, 79th overall, 2003

At 6’5 and over 230 pounds, anything Ryan O’Byrne does will be big – so is it any surprise that the beefy blueliner has made a big impression on the Bulldogs’ blueline in his rookie season?

O’Byrne left the cozy confines of Cornell University to begin his professional career and the move, so far, has paid dividends. He’s appeared in all 58 of the club’s games and has accounted for 11 assists, although he’s still searching for that elusive first professional goal. And while a +3 rating isn’t going to set anyone’s house on fire, it does show that he’s at least holding his own in his first season in the professional ranks. As evidenced back in the collegiate ranks, O’Byrne isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. He’s currently second only to Zach Stortini (EDM) with 102 penalty minutes.

While the game of hockey is placing a greater premium on speed and puck-moving for its blueliners, there will always be a place for big, rugged, crease-clearing blueliners with adequate mobility. O’Byrne has that in spades and has shown that when he does have the puck, he knows what to do with it.

18. (13) Mathieu Aubin, C, 21
Acquired: 5th round, 130th overall, 2005

The Sorel, QC native started the season trapped in a numbers game. With a plethora of skilled forwards in Hamilton, there was really no room for Aubin to stick in the AHL. As such, he was sent down to Cincinnati where he performed at better than a point-per-game rate with eight goals and 21 assists in his first 25 games.

That performance was enough to earn him a call-up to the AHL ranks when injuries and NHL call-ups depleted the roster. And he’s shown that he’s got what it takes to stick at this level. The 6’3, 204-pound center has posted a modest two goals and two assists in his limited 14-game stint with the Bulldogs, although he’s currently sidelined with a nagging wrist injury.

Aubin is a long way from displaying the offensive prowess that defined his junior career, having finished his last season with the Lewiston MAINEiacs with a whopping 47 goals and 56 assists in 70 games. Should he continue to develop his defensive game (and a -2 rating suggests there’s some work to be done), Aubin’s offensive upside makes him an intriguing long-term prospect.

19. (20) Francis Lemieux, C, 22
Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent in 2005

Francis Lemieux looked to build upon last year’s outstanding rookie campaign with the Bulldogs when he scored 18 goals en route to 40 points in 67 games. However, injuries have impeded the young forward’s development, restricting him to participation in only 29 games.

His offensive production has been modest, with four goals and eight assists to his name, but, like Chipchura, Lemieux is one of those players who are defined more by those things that don’t find their way onto the scoresheet.

20. (NR) Ryan White, C, 18
Acquired: 3rd round, 66th overall, 2006

Remember all the pre-draft hype suggesting that Ryan White was a sure-fire first-rounder? Ryan White does. Remember all the teams that passed up on him before the Habs couldn’t wait any loner and decided to wheel and deal their way to picking him in the third round? White does too – and he’s put that frustration to good use, proving his detractors wrong with an outstanding season that sees him tops in the WHL for scoring.

White’s draft-day drop was precipitated by questions about his dedication and conditioning. Those doubts are rapidly being erased as he is enjoying a WHL player of the year-type season with the Calgary Hitmen. In 64 games, White has already tied his goal total for the previous two years combined with 29. Add to that 55 assists (also more than the previous two years of his junior career), and the Brandon, MB native finds himself atop the WHL scoring leaders with 84 points. But what’s exciting is that he hasn’t sacrificed that extra edge in his game in search of offense. He’s continued to show the grittiness that’s so appealing about his game, spending 76 minutes in the penalty box.

While not expected to be this type of offensive force at the NHL level, White’s continued refinement of his offensive game bodes well for his long-term prospects as he can easily be seen as a third-line, defensive-minded, energy forward who can contribute both on and off the score sheet. And if an unexpected fall from the first round serves as motivation for great things, then Habs fans – and the club’s management – will be the happy beneficiaries on his redemption tour.

Off the List

(14) Christopher Heino-Lindberg, G, 22 (6th round, 177th overall, 2003) – Still not a starter in Sweden, organization running out of crease room in North America. Expected to be a starter next year. Must prove himself there, but time and numbers may catch up.
(19) Oskari Korpikari, D, 22 (7th round, 217th overall, 2003) – Solid, steady, unspectacular, stagnant. Must come overseas to develop game, but is comfortable in Finland. Next year may be the year.

Missing the Cut

Cameron Cepek, D, 19 (7th round, 199th overall, 2006) – Can’t seem to shake the injury bug. Boom or bust late-round flyer may be too brittle.
Duncan Milroy, RW, 24 (2nd round, 37th overall, 2001) – Finally, the light switched on. A revelation in his fourth season. AHL totals of 52 points in 52 games leads team, earns first-ever call-up to the big club.
Corey Locke, C, 22 (4th round, 113th overall, 2003) – Endless supply of talent, lacks the intangibles to put it together. Should be dominant, but 37 points in 58 games indicates he still isn’t getting it.

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