The Habs may have made most of their noise at the draft before making their first pick but they still wound up making six selections in total. Let’s take a closer look at each and give an early grade to the draft class of 2016.
9th Overall – D Mikhail Sergachev, Windsor (OHL)
Montreal’s prospect depth on the left side of the back end was extremely poor heading into this draft and with Andrei Markov nearing retirement, a big hole is going to open up soon enough. Sergachev certainly fills that void and becomes their top prospect in the process.
I’m not calling this strictly a needs-based pick though. There’s a case to be made that he was the best player left on the board (some would argue Logan Brown or Tyson Jost but really, there was no clear cut BPA remaining). If arguably the best player available happens to also fill a glaring need, that’s a win-win for the Habs.
70th Overall – C/W William Bitten, Flint (OHL)
The nightmare situation surrounding the ownership of that team clearly worked against Bitten. He’s a bit undersized but is one of those ‘buzzy’ players that should be able to overcome his smaller stature and still be an effective professional player. (Between this pick, the Andrew Shaw trade, and Brendan Gallagher, Montreal is starting to put together a collection of these agitating types.)
The Habs appear to be making a bit of a shift towards getting faster and Bitten is one of the fastest forwards in the draft. I don’t think there’s major top six upside but to me, he profiles as a strong third liner down the road. That’s not the most exciting but it’s a solid value pick, especially considering he was expected to be a second round selection.
100th Overall – D Victor Mete, London (OHL)
There aren’t many small defencemen that make the NHL as regulars but that’s about the only negative there is with this selection. Mete’s still a very intriguing pick though. Like Bitten, he’s one of the fastest at his position in this draft class and his skill level is certainly better than that of a typical fourth round pick.
This is a low risk/high reward selection for the Canadiens. If Mete isn’t able to overcome his small stature, it’s not the end of the world as most fourth rounders don’t amount to much anyways. If he does make it though (and I’m inclined to think there is legitimate NHL upside in spite of his size), this could be a pretty good steal for Montreal.
124th Overall – D Casey Staum, Hill-Murray (USHS)
Speedy, skilled, and undersized. This pick continued the early theme of Day 2 for the Habs with one main exception – while Bitten and Mete are both junior aged and have shown considerable upside, Staum is a straight long-term projection pick. He’s a legitimate five year project as he won’t even head to college for another season.
On the surface, Staum fits the form of being another speedy and skilled blueliner which is always nice and is another lefty, giving them more depth at that spot. But these types of gambles can usually still be made later in the draft, especially when you’re picking someone who missed a lot of time with a leg injury. I don’t mind draft-and-stash picks at this stage but this feels like a selection that could have been made later on.
160th Overall – C Michael Pezzetta, Sudbury (OHL)
This qualifies as a safe pick. Pezzetta doesn’t have a ton of upside, especially compared to some of the other skilled players on the board at the time, but at least profiles as a serviceable bottom six forward with some grit. He has spent the last two years with the Wolves whose teams have been nothing shortly of laughably terrible in that time (they have a combined total of just 28 wins in those two seasons).
It feels like the Canadiens are banking on Pezzetta having a breakout campaign in 2016-17, one that would have really got him on the radar had he been undrafted this year. With Sudbury expecting to be better next year, that’s certainly a possibility. Montreal already has a lot of bottom six type prospects which makes this pick seem somewhat redundant though. I’m not saying it’s a bad pick – it’s decent value, but this could have been a time to take a bigger swing, so to speak.
187th Overall – D Arvid Henrikson, AIK J18 (J18Elit)
The Habs opted to trade their seventh rounder next year to get Henrikson. He’s big and has shown some offensive upside, albeit at a very minor level. There’s a strong chance he’s a draft-and-stash project (for up to four years) unless they have a deal with a CHL team to get him picked in the Import Draft.
If Henrikson can fill out and play well enough to get into the higher levels of the Swedish system (assuming he stays out there), Montreal might have an intriguing player a few years from now. As far as late round gambles go, there’s some upside to this one.
Final Thoughts: The draft had the potential to really restock the cupboards had Marc Bergevin not dealt the two second rounders for Shaw but with what they had to work with, they did pretty well here. Sergachev is the high upside, high skilled selection that could really fill a big void down the road while Bitten and Mete are both strong value picks with legitimate NHL upside. The last three selections aren’t quite as appealing but most late round picks aren’t. Henrikson is an interesting project to follow over the next few years though. The draft would have been much better with those two second round picks but all in all, it looks like Montreal had a good one nonetheless.