We’ve now reached the top ten in our 2016 Prospect Rankings. It features a trio of players who have seen NHL action plus a couple of prospects who have been in the top ten for a few years despite not making it yet.
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.
#10) Zach Fucale
Goaltender, St. John’s (AHL)
2nd round pick (36th overall) in 2013
Fucale didn’t have the best of rookie pro seasons with St. John’s last season. He had the starting job early on (thanks to Mike Condon sticking with Montreal) but started to lose time to Eddie Pasquale as the season progressed. The knock on Fucale has always been his tendency to allow untimely soft goals and last year was no exception as he coughed up more than his fair share of clunkers.
Given how he finished his junior career and the team that was in front of him most nights, the fact that he struggled last year wasn’t all that surprising. For most goalies, playing time really matters early on and Fucale was tied for 11th in games played last year for netminders which is a positive. Going down to Brampton this year isn’t too much of a negative either – he needs as many minutes as possible right now and he’ll get them in the ECHL.
2015-16 Stats: 42 GP, 16-19-4 record, 3.13 GAA, .903 SV%, 1 SO
Previous HW Ranking: 6th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 11th
NHL ETA: 2018-19/2019-20 – Goaltenders get four years of waiver exemption and it’s quite conceivable that Fucale will need all four of those before having a shot at being NHL ready. His value has certainly taken a dip compared to this time a year ago though; Fucale will need to have a big year with Brampton if he wants to start working his way back into the discussion.
#9) Charlie Lindgren
Goaltender, St. Cloud State (NCAA)
Undrafted free agent signing in 2016
Lindgren didn’t get a whole lot of attention from many fans in the college free agent market (Alex Lyon who signed with Philadelphia was the most known of the UFA goalies) but GM Marc Bergevin said at the time of the signing that he believed that Lindgren was the best available and persuaded him to forego his senior season to join the Habs.
The 22 year old is more of a reflexive netminder than a technique-based one at this point of his career but it certainly has worked for him thus far, particularly in his few professional appearances thus far. From a development standpoint, it’s certainly interesting to ponder how his game may improve as he works more on the positioning aspect of the game.
2015-16 Stats: 40 GP, 30-9-1 record, 2.13 GAA, .925 SV%, 5 SO
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 8th
NHL ETA: 2017-18/2018-19 – A strong rookie season with St. John’s could get Lindgren into the discussion to be Carey Price’s backup as soon as next year but from the standpoint of getting him as many games as possible, a couple of years in the AHL may be the best situation for him.
#8) Martin Reway
Left Wing, Fribourg (NLA)
4th round pick (116th overall) in 2013
Last season was an adventurous one for Reway. Despite a strong start in the Czech league, he was disillusioned with his role and wanted out. After a considerable wait, he eventually found himself in Switzerland where he continued to put up the points before a concussion ended his season prematurely. He did, however, sign an entry-level deal in the offseason with Montreal.
Unfortunately, things have again gone the wrong way for the Slovak winger as he was hospitalized with a yet-to-be-disclosed illness that has him out indefinitely and his playing status this season in question. As a result, it’s going to be a while yet before we see him in a Montreal uniform.
The majority of the ballots cast by the writers for the top ten came before learning of this illness.
2015-16 Stats (NLA): 19 GP, 8-13-21, -7 rating, 14 PIMS
Previous HW Ranking: 9th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 10th
NHL ETA: 2019-20 – Assuming Reway winds up missing the season (and is able to return afterwards), next year will be more about getting back into the daily grind of playing instead of pushing for a roster spot, much like Tim Bozon a couple of years ago. As a result, his timetable to reach the NHL basically would be delayed by one year.
#7) Charles Hudon
Left Wing, St. John’s (AHL)
5th round pick (122nd overall) in 2012
Hudon followed up a strong rookie AHL season with an arguably better sophomore campaign with the IceCaps. He finished fourth in the league in goals and also spent a bit of time at centre which could come in handy down the road. Despite that, he didn’t really get much of a look with the Habs, getting into just three games.
At this stage, Hudon is on the cusp of making it but still has some elements to his game to work out. In particular, his skating needs to improve, especially as the Habs transition towards being more of a speed-oriented team. His play in his own end could also use a bit of work but it has improved over the years. Hudon should see more time in Montreal this season in a second or third line role and could force his way into their lineup sooner than later.
2015-16 Stats: 67 GP, 28-25-53, -3 rating, 79 PIMS, 181 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 5th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 7th
NHL ETA: 2017-18 – Hudon is pretty close to making the jump and should push for a full-time spot no later than next training camp. If he doesn’t, he’ll have to clear waivers which could be a challenge. One way or another, it seems like he’ll be in the NHL next season if he doesn’t force his way onto the team this year.
#6) Daniel Carr
Left Wing, St. John’s (AHL)/Montreal (NHL)
Undrafted free agent signing in 2014
Carr was one of the few pleasant surprises for the Habs last year. After forcing his way into a recall based on his production with the IceCaps, he made an immediate impact with the Habs. Not only did he score on his first career shot and shift, his energy and drive made him a good fit in Montreal’s bottom six. A knee injury cost him most of the second half last year and quite possibly a full-time spot in the lineup to start this season.
There probably isn’t much more development in Carr’s game. The soon-to-be-25 year old isn’t quite skilled enough to be considered a top six forward in the NHL but with Montreal trying to run three lines that can score, he should be a good fit on the third line in the immediate future. He made the team out of training camp but may shuffle back and forth a bit this year if he finds himself as the 13th forward.
2015-16 Stats (AHL): 24 GP, 10-11-21, +7 rating, 10 PIMS, 66 shots
(NHL): 23 GP, 6-3-9, even rating, 8 PIMS, 39 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 12th
HW Fan Vote Ranking: 5th
NHL ETA: 2016-17 – While Carr is technically in the minors at this very moment, it’s likely that he’ll spend most of the season with Montreal. He’s not going to be a core player but he’ll be a useful bottom six option for the Habs not only this season but down the road as well.