The Montreal Canadiens will look to add to the impressive prospect depth they have accumulated over the past few years, when the 2004 NHL entry draft gets underway later this month. This will be Bob Gainey‘s first official draft as acting General Manager, as he was at last years draft, but had not officially taken over the position till weeks later. But with the same scouting staff in place from last year with the exception of Pierre Gauthier and the loss of Martin Madden, we should expect the same type of drafting that selected Mike Komisarek, Alex Perezhogin, Chris Higgins and Andrei Kastsitsyn in the first round of the last three drafts.
In looking over the prospects in the Canadiens organization, the most glaring need is a lack of a power forward type prospects and size down the middle. Currently there aren’t many power forward types in the system, as Marcel Hossa has the size but not the power game and Jonathan Ferland has the physical game but is still very raw overall, which leaves a need for more bigger, stronger, aggressive forwards.
Having some early picks in the last few drafts have enabled the Habs to obtain an impressive amount of depth in every position, especially scoring forwards which just about every organization could use more of. With the trio of Andrei Kastsitsyn, Alex Perezhogin and Chris Higgins, the Canadiens have some highly skilled offensive forwards, in addition to Tomas Plekanec, Marcel Hossa, Cory Urquhart and Corey Locke who also possess an abundance of offensive abilities, making this an important strength of the organization. With the signing of NCAA standout goalie Yann Danis, and the two young European goalies Jaroslav Halak and Christopher-Heino Lindberg being drafted last summer, the Habs also have a good bit of depth with Joni Puurula and Olivier Michaud all being goalies under 22 years old.
With the lack of progression from 2000 first round pick Ron Hainsey and the lack of size from Konstantin Korneev and Mark Flood, the Canadiens are in need of another power play quarterback, puck moving defensemen to help the power play and bring additional offense. Another weakness is the lack of size at the center position, as they lack big strong centers with only two centers over 6’1 and not one of them are over 200 pounds. Playing in the eastern conference, the lack of any size down the middle is something that will most likely need to be addressed, and the draft could be just the place for them to do so.
Five of the last six first round picks from come from either the NCAA or Russia, which shows they aren’t afraid to go the college route or Russian leagues. As for their drafting tendencies over the last three drafts, they have picked a total of 25 players, with ten from the Quebec Major Junior league and Ontario Hockey league combined, They have picked four players from the PEI Rocket over the last two years, and a total of six players from the Q in the last two drafts. Only one player has been picked from the WHL in the last three years and one from the BCJHL, perhaps not having a lot of faith in players they see less of. From the European countries, Russia, Czech Republic and Finland have been the main focus, as they have only picked two players over the last three drafts from Sweden, Slovakia, Germany, and Switzerland.
As for each position, the Canadiens have picked a combined fifteen defenesmen and centers, with five of the eight defensemen being right handed. On the wings they have split it down the middle with four from each side, but they have had a tendency to move some of their centers to the wings. The one position they have not done much drafting is in nets, where they have only picked up two goalies and they were both drafted last year.