Part three of our 2016 rankings primarily features players who have yet to play regularly at the professional level. It also has a trio of players who could potentially be out of the organization at the end of the year.
As we’ve done the last few 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, 2016
2) The player must have no greater than 50 games of NHL experience (including regular season and playoffs)
3) The player cannot be signed to an AHL contract
Here are the departures from last year’s list (previous ranking and reasoning in parentheses):
Graduated: Jacob de la Rose (2nd, NHL GP), Sven Andrighetto (8th, NHL GP), Joel Hanley (29th, age), Joonas Nattinen (34th, age)
Released: Darren Dietz (17th), Mac Bennett (20th), Gabriel Dumont (30th), Morgan Ellis (33rd)
Traded: Jarred Tinordi (7th), Christian Thomas (16th), Stefan Fournier (35th)
Included with each ranking 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.
#25) Casey Staum
Defenceman, Team Southwest/Hill-Murray (USHS)
5th round pick (124th overall) in 2016
The Habs went a bit off the board to select Staum who is a very strong skater but has some defensive holes in his game. He had some decent offensive production last year as well but it was the US high school level so it’s hard to put much stock into that.
Staum will move up to the USHL this season which will be a big jump in the level of competition he faces and in terms of the number of games he’ll play. Smooth skating alone will only take a defender so far and he’ll get exposed if his in-zone performance doesn’t improve.
2015-16 Stats: 29 GP, 5-14-19, 12 PIMS
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
NHL ETA: 2022-23/2023-24 – Staum is one of those ‘draft and stash’ players who is half a decade away from needing to be signed. He’ll head to the college level in 2017-18 and kick off the four year wait from there while there will be AHL seasoning required after that. Of all of Montreal’s prospects, he’s the furthest away from actually turning pro.
#24) Hayden Hawkey
Goaltender, Providence (NCAA)
6th round pick (177th overall) in 2014
Hawkey followed up a season where he played just 15 games by playing even less last year, but for a different reason. Instead of being injured, he was the backup for a Friars team that routinely just played their starting netminder. Hawkey did play well in his very limited action at least.
The good news here is that last year’s starter (Nick Ellis) turned pro, setting Hawkey up as the potential starter in just his second college campaign. If he can grab the #1 job and run with it, he could really get on the radar for many fans this season. Even if he doesn’t, he still should get more than five appearances so things are looking up either way.
2015-16 Stats: 5 GP, 2-0-0 record, 1.67 GAA, .940 SV%, 1 SO
Previous HW Ranking: 32nd
NHL ETA: 2021-22 – Hawkey is another of Montreal’s long-term development projects and the fact he has played in just 20 games over the last two years combined only solidifies the notion that he’s still several years away. If he plays well over the next couple of seasons, he could look to turn pro early which could bump his projection up by a year.
#23) Matthew Bradley
Centre, Medicine Hat (WHL)
5th round pick (131st overall) in 2015
The expectation was that Bradley was going to have a breakout season offensively last year and become a real two-way threat. While he did improve his scoring numbers, stepping into a bigger role didn’t really happen for him until late in the year where it wound up being too little, too late.
It’s a make-or-break season for Bradley who has to be signed by the beginning of June or the Habs will lose his rights. He will need to become a go-to player in all situations for the Tigers this season if he wants to earn that coveted entry-level contract. The team has most of their top players back from 2015-16 so they should be in line for a better year this time around which in turn should help boost Bradley’s production.
2015-16 Stats: 68 GP, 23-28-51, -16 rating, 12 PIMS
Previous HW Ranking: 21st
NHL ETA: 2020-21 – As a slow developer at the junior level, it’s likely that Bradley – should he turn pro with Montreal – will be a slow developer at the minor league level. It’s not crazy to think that he’ll need the three full AHL seasons before potentially being NHL ready.
#22) Jeremiah Addison
Left Wing, Ottawa (OHL)
7th round pick (207th overall) in 2015
Addison was the beneficiary of the 67’s moving out several players last season as he found himself on the top line more often than not. Not surprisingly, he put up the best numbers of his career though he failed to hit the point per game mark, something that most NHL prospects should be able to do at his age. He also got into four games with St. John’s last year where he held his own.
If Addison is going to succeed as a pro, it will be as a bottom six checker where his hustle and willingness to get involved physically become important traits. If the Habs want to give him a head start at playing that style, he’s eligible to play in the minors (on an NHL deal or a minor league pact) this season or if they want him to work on his offence, he’s now with the Memorial Cup-host Windsor Spitfires, meaning he’d be in for a lot of action on a strong team. Both are decent options.
2015-16 Stats: 66 GP, 27-29-56, -3 rating, 74 PIMS, 180 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 28th
NHL ETA: 2019-20 – Because his overall ceiling is pretty limited (he’s a bottom six player, not a top six one in the pros), I could see him move up fairly quickly as an energy player if he plays well in the AHL early on. For that to happen though, he’ll first need to earn his entry level deal by the beginning of June or the Habs will lose his NHL rights.
#21) Tim Bozon
Left Wing, St. John’s (AHL)
3rd round pick (64th overall) in 2012
Last year was pretty much a disaster for Bozon in his first full pro season. He struggled to produce at the AHL level which is never a good thing for a player whose billing is that of a natural goal scorer. His all-around game isn’t good enough so when he’s not scoring, he’s not producing.
As a result, I was tempted to drop him further but he still garnered some top-10 votes from our writers so his overall drop in the rankings was limited. The IceCaps will probably struggle to score again this season (they’ve lost a good chunk of their offence and haven’t done much to replace it) so if Bozon can take a few steps forward and become more of a regular contributor, he’ll still have a shot with the Habs.
2015-16 Stats: 41 GP, 5-3-8, -12 rating, 14 PIMS, 64 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 14th
NHL ETA: 2019-20 – Assuming he does enough this year to warrant a second contract, Bozon’s still going to need to show signs of consistent offensive improvement over the span of a couple of seasons before he can really get back on the prospect radar.