Defence is the theme when it comes to our prospects rated 11 through 15.
Three of the players in this group patrol the blueline and while none may start
the season with the big club, all of them could be seen in the NHL in the
not-too-distant future. Additionally, two of Montreal’s more intriguing
offensive-minded prospects are also slotted in this section.
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
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.
#15) Mac Bennett
Defenceman, Michigan, NCAA
3rd round pick (79th overall) in 2009
Bennett has an offensive skill set that I believe the Habs are coveting with
many of their blueliners right now. He’s a very strong skater and makes a
good first pass out of the zone to get the transition game going. As he’ll
be playing with better players in Hamilton than he did in college, I expect
those two attributes to further stand out with the Bulldogs. The biggest
question with Bennett is his defensive zone play. Though this has improved
over recent years, it’s still an area that needs some work. If he can
improve on that and show that he can handle bigger opposing forwards (being that
he’s a bit undersized for a blueliner), he should have an NHL future sooner than
later. Despite being a rookie, he should see a regular shift with Hamilton
to start the year which is the first step.
2013-14 Stats: 21 GP, 2-12-14, 10 PIMS, +12 rating
Previous HW Ranking: 14th
NHL ETA: 2016-17 – Even though he’s one of the older defence prospects in
the system, it still will take some time before he’s ready for full-time duty.
As has been the case with many youngsters on the blueline, the early coaching
priority will probably be his defensive zone play; as a result, it may take a
while before he gets PP time and a chance to work on that side of his game.
#14) Tim Bozon
Left Wing, Kootenay (WHL)
3rd round pick (64th overall) in 2012
Everyone knows about Bozon’s fantastic recovery from meningitis so I won’t go
into that too deep here. On the ice (prior to the illness), last season
has to be considered a bit of a disappointment for the French winger. He
got off to a slow start in Kamloops after losing his two linemates from the
previous season which got him dealt to Kootenay. There, he improved
considerably and was a top line forward for the most part. As he heads
into his first pro season, there are obviously more challenges that lie ahead on
top of making the adjustment to playing at a higher level. It wouldn’t be
the worst outcome if Bozon were to start his season in ECHL Wheeling which would
allow him a more gradual timetable to return to full-time action.
2013-14 Stats: 63 GP, 33-36-69, 47 PIMS, +9 rating
Previous HW Ranking: 8th
NHL ETA: 2017-18 – Prior to his illness, the ETA for Bozon would have
likely been after two years in the minors but given the circumstances, it’s
likely to take a bit longer than that now. I wouldn’t expect much in the
way of offensive numbers in the upcoming season as he’d likely be in the bottom
six with the Bulldogs; it won’t be until year two before he’s likely thrust into
a scoring role.
#13) Magnus Nygren
Defenceman, Farjestad, SHL
4th round pick (113th overall) in 2011
It was a tale of two seasons so to speak for the Swedish blueliner.
Nygren started the season in Hamilton and while his offensive output wasn’t bad
at all (1-7-8 in 16 games), he struggled considerably in his own end. He
then chose to go back home and play out the final year of his SHL contract and
he turned his year around immediately after that. He finished third in the
league in goals by a defenceman, quite the accomplishment when you consider that
he missed more than half the year. He also made some strides defensively,
giving everyone some hope that there is still room to improve in that end.
It’s back to Hamilton to start this season where he will likely start in a top
A clarification regarding Nygren’s eligibility to return to Sweden this
year: Last season, he was allowed to return to the SHL as he had a valid
contract with Farjestad. He does not have that option this year as his
contract is up. This is why Michel Therrien was able to say definitively
at the beginning of camp that it’s Montreal or Hamilton for Nygren. This
doesn’t prevent them from coming up with a loan agreement later on in the year
but the Habs can thwart any attempt to play in Sweden should they choose to do
2013-14 Stats (SHL): 25 GP, 12-8-20, 8 PIMS, +6 rating, 79
shots, 25 hits, 23 blocks, 23:16 TOI
Previous HW Ranking: 15th
NHL ETA: 2015-16 – If there’s a need for an offensive infusion from the
back end this year, Nygren will likely get the call. The rest of his game
will need some time to adapt to playing on the smaller rink. Even if he
could just be average in his own end, he could be an intriguing third pairing
weapon in the not-too-distant future for the Canadiens.
#12) Greg Pateryn
Defenceman, Hamilton, AHL
Acquired from Toronto in 2008
When people think of the top blueliner in the system, they naturally
gravitate to Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi. However, the best
defenceman in Hamilton last season – by a considerable margin – was actually
Pateryn. He was their go-to player in all situations and he didn’t
experience the ups and downs that the other two did. His 15 goals on the
year was second in the AHL amongst d-men. Despite this, Pateryn
surprisingly never got in a game with the Habs (though he did spend 17 days on
the roster) but the club recognized his worth when they gave him a two year
extension late in the year, the second of which is a one-way salary.
Pateryn has an outside chance of making the big club out of training camp but if
he goes back to the Bulldogs, he’ll be their #1 defender once again.
2013-14 Stats: 68 GP, 15-19-34, 67 PIMS, +4 rating
Previous HW Ranking: 16th
NHL ETA: 2014-15 – Pateryn doesn’t have the raw upside that some of the
other prospects do; he projects as a third pairing defenceman and that’s a role
that he’s ready to step into as soon as this season. When you’re thinking
about blueliners that don’t have much of anything left to do or learn in the
minors, Pateryn is the one that actually fits that description.
#11) Martin Reway
Left Wing, Gatineau, QMJHL
4th round pick (116th overall) in 2013
In terms of players with raw offensive talent, Reway is right near the top
when it comes to Montreal’s prospects. He has the ability to take over a
game and wow the crowd with some of the plays he can make. Why is he down
here then and not well in the top-10? (He narrowly missed cracking the
top-10 by a single point in the voting.) For one, he’s very tiny and that
will work against him as he plays against bigger, stronger players in the pros.
Reway also isn’t always willing to put in the effort in his own end and clashed
with his coach on quite a few occasions. Nonetheless, he certainly has the
skill to be a top six forward down the road which makes him one to watch moving
2013-14 Stats: 43 GP, 20-42-62, 48 PIMS, +13 rating, 139 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 26th
NHL ETA: 2016-17/2017-18 – He has a two year deal in the Czech League so
he’ll need to play through that before signing with Montreal (and he is eligible
to as he qualifies for four years of signing eligibility instead of the standard
two for CHL drafted players). That league isn’t the strongest though so
even after that’s done he might benefit from some time in Hamilton. He’s a
boom-or-bust top six player though, he’s probably not one that will play a
bottom six role successfully.
If you haven’t done so already, please take a moment to vote for your top-10
here for the ballot. The results will be revealed before we begin
posting our writers’ top-10 in the coming days.