The second part of our 2014 Prospect Rankings features players in some very different situations. The two biggest droppers on this year’s list are in this group, players who will need strong seasons to earn another contract from the team. There are also some long-term projects among these prospects, one that is just beginning his development while another is set to begin his final amateur season.
As we’ve done the last couple of years, the top-10 have been voted on
by members of our HW writing staff while the remainder of the rankings were done by yours truly. Here are the criteria that each player had to meet to be eligible to be in these rankings:
1) The player must be 24 years old or younger as of October 1, 2014
2) The player must have no greater than 50 games of NHL experience (including regular season and playoffs)
3) The player has to be signed on an NHL contract
Here are the departures from last year’s list (in alphabetical order):
Graduated: Michael Bournival (NHL GP), Dustin Tokarski (age)
Released: Michael Cichy, Peter Delmas, Robert Mayer, Erik Nystrom, Brady Vail
Traded: Sebastian Collberg, Louis Leblanc, Steve Quailer
New this year is an estimate of each prospects’ NHL readiness date. For some players, the estimate is a specific season while others whose projected development paths are harder to determine will be in a range.
#30) Gabriel Dumont
Centre, Hamilton, AHL
5th round pick (139th overall) in 2009
On the plus side, Dumont had a career year in 2013-14, posting career highs in several categories. That said, it was his fourth full year in the minors so that was to be expected and it’s not as if he lit it up. Dumont is an effective two-way player at the minor league level and he has demonstrated that for several seasons now. However, his overall upside ranges somewhere between very low and next-to-none. He’s nothing more than a fringe fourth line player in the NHL and given that that he’ll be 24 when the season starts plus the fact that he’s undersized for a fourth liner, he’s unlikely to take a jump forward in his development. Dumont is a solid organizational depth player but a lot of this list is about upside and he’s pretty much near the bottom of the pile in that regard.
2013-14 Stats: 74 GP, 19-17-36, 111 PIMS, -10 rating, 195 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 21st
NHL ETA: 2014-15 – Dumont, as he has done the last few years, has shown he can fill in as a low minute injury replacement with the big club. He was passable in that role then and he would be again if he’s needed this year.
#29) Morgan Ellis
Defenceman, Hamilton, AHL
4th round pick (117th overall) in 2010
After a sub-par rookie year, many hoped and expected that Ellis would have a bounce-back campaign last season. It didn’t happen. In fact, there’s a case to be made that he took a step back. Ellis quickly tumbled down what was a very thin depth chart and found himself out of the lineup far too often. His play in his own end improved but only slightly while offensively, he won’t bring enough to the table to make any sort of impact in that end. It’s a make-or-break year for Ellis as he enters the final year of his entry-level deal and he will need to demonstrate significant improvement to warrant a new deal. The likely graduations of Beaulieu and Tinordi will open spots higher on the depth chart. If Ellis can’t step up and take on a larger role now, that will pretty much be it for him as a prospect for the Habs.
2013-14 Stats: 59 GP, 3-7-10, 36 PIMS, +4 rating, 77 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 17th
NHL ETA: 2016-17 – Ellis has a long way to go to be NHL ready and it’s hard to imagine that even if he improves considerably this year that he’ll be ready to play with Montreal by the end of it. Being a top-pairing defenceman with Hamilton is a lofty enough goal for him in 2014-15.
#28) Nikolas Koberstein
Defenceman, Olds, AJHL
5th round pick (125th overall) in 2014
The Habs have been targeting grit in their last two drafts and gritty, physical play is what Koberstein can bring to the table. He’s also a strong skater which is a nice attribute to have as like any tough, young defenceman, Koberstein is guilty of going for the big hit even if it takes him out of position. Overall, his game is very raw and he is someone should really benefit from the long-term development approach. He originally was supposed to return to the AJHL as captain of the Grizzlies but instead he will try to crack the roster of Sioux Falls of the USHL before going to the ‘hockey hotbed’ that is Alaska-Fairbanks in 2015-16.
2013-14 Stats: 51 GP, 5-13-18, 153 PIMS
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
NHL ETA: 2020-21/2021-22 – At the draft, Trevor Timmins noted that he expects Koberstein to have five years of development before turning pro. After that, at least one year of time in the minors will be needed. He’s a long way away from having an impact in this system but if he pans out, he could be a useful blueliner down the road.
#27) Mark MacMillan
Centre, North Dakota, NCAA
4th round pick (113th overall) in 2010
With three of North Dakota’s top four point-getters departing prior to the start of last season, MacMillan was being counted on to be a top liner. It took a bit of time but he got more comfortable in that role as the season progressed. He also has taken some steps forward in filling out his frame; he was listed at 183 lbs at July’s development camp, up 33 pounds from when he was drafted. While that’s not exactly an ideal weight to play at the pros, he still has this season to bulk up further. MacMillan will once again be expected to be a go-to player and should be expected to put up around a point-per-game this season. The Habs have to sign him by August and at this moment, I’d
hazard a guess that they’re on the fence as to whether he’d be worthy of one right now or not.
2013-14 Stats: 38 GP, 10-16-26, 26 PIMS, -4 rating, 52 shots,
52.8% faceoff percentage, 16 blocks
Previous HW Ranking: 24th
NHL ETA: 2017-18 – Assuming he gets an entry-level deal, MacMillan will still be somewhat of a project with the Bulldogs. He doesn’t have the upside to be a top six forward in the NHL so it’s his two-way game that will get him there. After being used in an almost exclusively offensive role at college though, the two-way game will take a while to refine and develop.
#26) Mike Condon
Goalie, Wheeling, ECHL
Undrafted free agent signing in 2013
Condon made a mark right away with Wheeling and played his way out of the original timeshare plan before too long. He was among the ECHL’s top goalies throughout the season but he found another level late in the year. In the month of April, he allowed a total of five goals. In that same month, he also posted five shutouts, including two in the postseason (over a total of eight games). Condon served notice that he is more than ready to move onto the AHL level on a full-time basis starting this season. As things stand, he’s the likely backup behind Joey MacDonald but if Tokarski makes it down via waivers, he may have to bide his time with the Nailers again. If that happens, the Bulldogs would be wise to make some sort of loan to keep Condon in the AHL as much as possible.
2013-14 Stats: 39 GP, 23-12-4 record, 2.18 GAA, .931 SV%, 6 SO
Previous HW Ranking: 32nd
NHL ETA: 2016-17/2017-18 – Condon’s ideal development path would see him serve as the backup with Hamilton this year before taking over as the starter in 2015-16. Given the aforementioned potential blocking this year and the fact that Zach Fucale will be there next year, the actual development path may take a bit longer.
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