On Tuesday, we unveiled our official mock draft with us projecting that the Habs will select Logan Brown ninth overall on Friday night. Do our writers think that’s the right pick or do they feel Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins should take someone else?
Having seen the results of how the top eight went, here is who our writers think the Habs should select:
Gordon Black: A lot of people have referred to this draft in terms of there being a “big three”. Yet, history always shows us that whether or not the top picks live up to the hype (it’s very rare that they all do) – at least a few of the lesser known entities that may carry a few warts or question marks on draft day, turn out to be as good or better than some of the sure fire blue chip picks. Nobody could deny Erik Karlsson’s skills in his draft year, but many were afraid to burn a top ten pick on a player with questions surrounding his size and ability to translate the offence at a higher level. There have been many other examples, but most of them have one thing in common: elite skating ability.
Michael McLeod and Jakob Chychrun both gave me pause exactly because they both skate at such an elite level. I feel that either of them could drop significantly below where they belong and end up being the steals of the draft. For that exact same reason though, I feel the Habs have to pick Clayton Keller if he is available. If the questions around him (which are only whether he can overcome his relatively small size at the NHL level) are ignored, I believe that Keller possesses top three skills. The Habs have a chance to pick a legitimate offensive superstar and simply cannot pass that up.
Many people may point to the Habs current overabundance of small, skilled forwards – but none of them carry a ceiling as high as Clayton’s. Even if Artturi Lehkonen, Martin Reway, and Charles Hudon all turn out to be NHL-level skilled top-6 forwards, Keller could easily turn out to be on another level altogether, and being able to insert that level of skill on cheap contracts up and down the lineup is what separates great teams from also-rans. Andrei Kostitsyn over Zach Parise (when Parise was known to possess the greater skill in a smaller package) or Jarred Tinordi over Evgeni Kuznetsov (or pretty much any Habs pick in the 90s after Saku Koivu) are the situations that the Habs cannot find themselves in again.
Picking size over talent in the later rounds or even the late first is a gamble you sometimes make – because all things being even – the difference in skill is not so great that you can’t make up for it through size. In the top ten, the level of skill you may be passing up on will only become available again through trade or free agency – and at that point you’re not getting the same value you need to in order to ice a Stanley Cup winning lineup.
Brian La Rose: Size is certainly an area of concern for the Habs. Quality defence prospects are another, especially on the left side. What’s an even bigger issue though is skill. In their prospect group, the Habs have some decent talents but no one that really stands out as that high level talent.
With the players left on the board based on our mock, one stands out above the rest in terms of high end skill, Clayton Keller. Yes, he’s quite small but as we’ve seen lately, size doesn’t matter as much if you have elite offensive abilities and that’s what Keller brings to the table. Pair him with Alex Galchenyuk down the road and you have the potential for quite the dangerous duo. I’d rather the Habs take a shot at that than simply shy away based on his size. Regardless of whoever they pick, they’re going to get a pretty good player. With Keller, they would have a chance to get a great one. With a top 10 pick, I want Montreal to swing big. In this case, swinging big means going small.
Alex Létourneau: It’s kind of tough to go against what most mock drafts are leaning on if Logan Brown is available at #9, so I’m sold (given that the eight previous spots fall as projected). At 6’6, there’s the size that Montreal media/fans have been griping about down the middle for what seems like forever. There’s clearly plenty of potential, as well as some interesting drawbacks, which were highlighted in our Draft Options series. Raw, a work in progress and, oddly enough, plays small have been a recurring theme, but imagine how much fun it would be to see Michael McCarron and Brown on the same line causing sort of hybrid Mighty Ducks 2 ‘Bash Brothers’ type play. With a young core in place now, he could slot in nicely in a few years to maybe put the Habs over the top. Unless they trade up for a near sure thing, I’d have zero problems with Bergevin undertaking a development project.
Paul MacLeod: Logan Brown is a temptation due to his size and skill but Tyson Jost‘s desire, scoring ability, and character should make him Montreal’s first pick if they stay at #9.
Craig Scharien: If the top eight picks go this way, this would be the perfect scenario to trade down and pick up another asset. The Habs could drop a few spots, staying in the top 15 and still get one of Brown, Keller, Jost, McLeod, Chychrun, or Jake Bean – just to name a few. But I digress, with the 9th pick in the 2016 NHL Draft the Montreal Canadiens should select Jakob Chychrun.
Chychrun started the season as the top defensive prospect in the draft, and though he has fallen in the rankings this may have more to do with the emergence of Olli Juolevi and Mikhail Sergachev than what could be seen as a less than perfect year. He fills a major organizational need for Montreal – a left handed defenseman with great size and top pair potential is simply too good to pass up.
While Brown, Keller, or Jost may be able to step into a top-six role up front in a few years, none of them will help the Canadiens in the immediate future. In Chychrun they would get someone who will likely be able to step into a significant role within the next year or so. Already NHL sized at 6’2, 215 lbs, he is an excellent skater, with strong offensive tools and a bit of a mean streak. Some have questioned his decision making, but with a bit of maturing the Habs could have a good top four defenseman on their hands sooner than later. With Andrei Markov nearing the end of his career a left shooting defenseman with upside has to be a top priority and Chychrun fits the bill nicely.
Norm Szycrek: At this point in the draft, the Habs should be pleased to select Logan Brown with their pick. A huge offensive centre like Brown has been as elusive to the Canadiens as a leprechaun riding a unicorn…on St. Catherines’ Street…on February 29th. Brown’s stock has risen significantly in the second half of the season, and he also had an impressive showing at the Under-18 tournament for the American squad with 12 points in 7 games. Logan is already a pro size player, who has many tools – good skater, passer, shooter, hockey sense. He may still require a little polishing with the defensive side of the game before arriving in the NHL. He’s not as aggressive a player as you may hope for, but he’s more of an offence producer than a disturber.
Who do you think the Habs will pick at #9? Make your prediction by entering our draft pool.