With the dust on the season now settled, it’s time to take a look at some of the Habs’ prospects who saw their stocks rise throughout the year and others who went in the opposite direction.
Back in January, I highlighted some players who were on the rise or decline at the midseason mark. Rather than discuss those ones some more, this will focus on some different players instead. (None of the prospects mentioned in the midseason report really saw their fortunes change in back half of the year anyways; most of the comments from that piece still apply now.) Risers and fallers are based on their preseason prospect ranking.
(Preseason prospect rankings are in parentheses.)
Joel Hanley (29) – In the first half of the year he was pretty underwhelming, playing in a depth role with St. John’s. After the trade deadline when he was recalled is where his stock went upwards. Hanley wound up getting into ten games with the Habs, picking up six points while faring a whole lot better than anyone who had even heard of him at the time of his recall expected. He’s not going to soar in next year’s rankings but Hanley has moved himself up the depth chart.
Artturi Lehkonen (10) – It was a great second season in Sweden for the second round pick. He doubled his regular season production from the year before which is no small feat for a youngster in the SHL. His postseason was that much better – record breaking, even – as he picked up 19 points in 16 games to tie for the league and team lead in scoring while setting a new team record for playoff scoring. Lehkonen barely slipped into the top-10 in our writer vote for the prospect rankings back in the preseason. After the year he just had, he should find himself a fair bit higher next September.
Michael McNiven (25) – His first full season as a starter was unsurprisingly full of ups and downs. Unfortunately for McNiven, his team wasn’t strong offensively and didn’t give him a whole lot of support. They also didn’t have a great backup goalie which saw McNiven get into a lot of games and he was one of the league leaders in minutes as a result. At the end of the day though, he was among the six finalists for OHL Goalie of the Year and looks poised to take another step forward next year. He isn’t at the level of Zach Fucale or recent signee Charlie Lindgren but McNiven is another goalie prospect to keep an eye on and should challenge for a top-20 ranking next season.
Daniel Audette (18) – The decision to sign him a year early was very curious back then and even more so now. As a front liner that was in his fourth year at the junior level, Audette was supposed to become a dominant threat. Instead, his output actually dropped to the level of his draft-eligible season. That’s never a good sign, especially considering he’s about to turn pro. This season didn’t do much to disparage the thought that he’ll likely be a minor leaguer at most for the Habs; if anything, it only strengthened it.
Jacob de la Rose (2) – To put it lightly, this was not a great season for de la Rose. He didn’t show much in the way of offensive progression in the AHL and he actually seemed to take a step backwards in terms of his play with the Canadiens where he was a non-factor almost every time he was out there. Sophomore slumps happen and it’s certainly not time to give up on de la Rose entirely but at this point he can’t really be considered one of Montreal’s top prospects at the moment.
Jeremy Gregoire (11) – Gregoire never really seemed to get much momentum going this year. Inconsistent play and injuries kept him in a depth role or the press box which didn’t do much for his development. He’s further away from being NHL ready than I certainly thought he was going to be. After getting some top-10 consideration in the writer vote back in September, he’ll likely find himself sliding into the teens next season.