The month of September means a few things in the hockey world. Not only is it the start of training camp and the preseason, allowing us to think excitedly about the year ahead but here at HabsWorld, the calendar turning to September means that it’s also time for our annual prospect rankings. As always, we start at the bottom with rankings 31 through 37.
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.
#37) Maxim Trunev
Right Wing, Vladivostok, KHL
5th round pick (138th overall) in 2008
Yes, he’s still around thanks to there being no transfer agreement between the NHL and KHL; until an agreement is struck, the Habs will hold his rights indefinitely. Trunev’s struggles in Russia continued last year as not only did he provide next to no offence yet again (and considering he’s a finesse player that isn’t all that good defensively, that’s not a good thing), he managed to bounce around, playing for four different teams in two different leagues. At this stage, even if he decided that he wanted to come to North America, I doubt that Montreal would have any interest in actually signing him.
2013-14 Stats: 27 GP, 2-5-7, 12 PIMS, -9 rating, 43 shots, 14:16 ATOI
Previous HW Ranking: 38th
NHL ETA: N/A – He’s not ready now and quite frankly, he isn’t ever going to be ready.
#36) Colin Sullivan
Defenceman, Green Bay, USHL
7th round pick (198th overall) in 2011
After dropping to ninth on the depth chart at Boston College, Sullivan withdrew from the program and joined the USHL. On the plus side, he at least got to play regular minutes with Green Bay, something that wasn’t the case in his freshman season and clearly wouldn’t have been the case had he stayed at BC last year. This season, he’s moving to Miami University, a program that struggled last year despite having a pair of high-end forwards. With nine blueliners on their roster, however, there’s no guarantee that he’s going to get to play regularly there either. When he was picked, it was obvious that Sullivan was going to be a long-term project and despite his struggles thus far, we can’t write him off entirely yet.
2013-14 Stats: 41 GP, 2-6-8, 46 PIMS, -2 rating, 27 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 35th
NHL ETA: 2018-19 – Sullivan will need to use all of his remaining college eligibility plus at least a season in the minors before he’d be ready. That said, he’s a long shot at best to actually make it that far.
#35) Stefan Fournier
Right Wing, Hamilton, AHL
Undrafted free agent signing in 2013
Although he showed some improvement throughout the year, it would be hard not to call 2013-14 a disappointment for Fournier. His opportunities to play more than just a minor fourth line role were few and far between and when he was playing, he couldn’t find a way to put everything together. Some nights, he tried to play a skill game while in others, he played more of a gritty style. Finding a way to play a tough guy role while still contributing on the scoresheet is what’s going to keep him in the lineup. What will hurt Fournier’s chances is that two of Montreal’s other prospects are joining the team with eyes on playing that exact role. Don’t be surprised if he’s in Wheeling (ECHL) to start the year despite spending just one game there last season.
2013-14 Stats: 40 GP, 2-5-7, 86 PIMS, even rating, 47 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 30th
NHL ETA: 2016-17/2017-18 – It’s clear that Fournier is going to need the final two years of his entry-level deal before he’d even be close to ready. If he shows improvement in his offensive game, he might get a look then. If not, a fourth year in the minors would be needed…if he proves enough to warrant a qualifying offer which isn’t a guarantee.
#34) Joonas Nattinen
Right Wing/Centre, Hamilton, AHL
3rd round pick (65th overall) in 2009
Year #3 with the Bulldogs yielded struggles as the first two did for the Finnish forward. He stayed healthy but failed to progress beyond the fourth line for most of the season as Sylvain Lefebvre opted to play players on minor league deals ahead of him regularly. He was decent defensively for Hamilton but brought little else to the table. The highlight of his season was his recall to the Habs (where he played all of two shifts and was demoted the next day). He’ll now try to improve his game in a different environment as he has signed in the Swedish League for the upcoming season. Because he made the decision as early as he did, the Habs were able to give Nattinen a qualifying offer to retain his rights for up to the next four years.
2013-14 Stats: 69 GP, 8-7-15, 22 PIMS, -4 rating, 63 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 29th
NHL ETA: 2016-17 – One season away from the Bulldogs isn’t going to magically turn him into an NHL’er. He will need two years of working on his game (particularly rediscovering his offensive touch) before he might be ready for another look. He’ll need to improve a lot to warrant another NHLdeal though and we probably shouldn’t expect him to do so.
#33) Jack Nevins
Left Wing, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL
Undrafted free agent signing in 2013
Nevins was somewhat of a surprise signing last December. One year earlier, he had been waived out of the OHL and now he has an NHL contract under his belt. The overage forward had by far his best season last year, posting more points than the rest of his junior career combined. Nevins also showed that he can be a quality fighter which presumably is what caught the attention of Canadiens’ management. He’ll be fighting (both figuratively and literally) for a spot on Hamilton’s fourth line this coming season. If the Habs need a fighter, they may call on him fairly quickly, providing extra motivation to earn a spot with the Bulldogs and not go down to Wheeling.
2013-14 Stats: 64 GP, 19-29-48, 159 PIMS, +10 rating, 214 shots
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
NHL ETA: 2016-17 – Because he’s a fighter in an organization that is lacking in players and prospects that can drop the gloves, there’s a chance that Nevins can get to the NHL. His overall upside is quite low, however. His offensive game isn’t going to be good enough to warrant more than a fourth line role; his NHL role will be as an enforcer or he won’t have one at all.
#32) Jake Evans
Centre/Right Wing, St. Michael’s, OJHL
7th round pick (207th overall) in 2014
In recent years, the Habs have shown a willingness to go with a long-term project with their last pick and Evans is another example of just that. His offensive game is well rounded which should help him step into a regular role on a team that lost three of its six top scoring forwards from last season. As is always the case with these long-term projects though, he needs to fill out his frame while continuing to work on his defensive game. Most of Montreal’s recent seventh round picks haven’t been anything worth getting too excited about as they seemed like long shots at best the minute they were picked. Evans seems to have a little bit of upside and is someone that I think will move up a bit in the rankings in the years to come.
2013-14 Stats: 49 GP, 16-47-63, 79 PIMS
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
NHL ETA: 2019-20 – At this point, the Habs will likely want him (as they do a lot of their college picks) to go the full four years. If he earns a contract at that time, he’ll likely need at least a season in the minors before he could be considered NHL ready. His play in the next year or two will suggest whether he’s likely to get that opportunity.
#31) Hayden Hawkey
Goalie, Omaha, USHL
6th round pick (177th overall) in 2014
After getting passed up in his initial draft class, Hawkey made up for it with an outstanding rookie season in the USHL. He led the league in goals against and save percentage, earning himself Goalie of the Year honours. Instead of going to college this year, he will remain with Omaha for the upcoming season before attending Providence, making him potentially someone that will wait five years to sign. While there’s a glut of goalies in the system right now, a lot can change between now and five years which makes him an intriguing ‘draft-and-stash’ player to follow between now and the end of the decade.
2013-14 Stats: 33 GP, 22-6-3 record, 1.99 GAA, .926 SV%, 3 SO
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
NHL ETA: 2019-20/2020-21 – While the plan for now is for him to be a five year project, goalies tend to get signed early with a bit more frequency if they show they’re ready in advance to play in the minors. Keep in mind though that he’s 19 now and will be 24 when he graduates college so there’s a lot of projection being done with this pick.
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