With the 2017-18 season now underway, it’s time to kick off our annual prospect rankings series. As always, we begin with the bottom four prospects, slotted from 30-33.
As we’ve done the last few years, the top-10 have been voted on by members of HabsWorld’s writing staff while I ranked the players from 11 through 33. Voting was done prior to the beginning of training camp. 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, 2017
2) The player must have no greater than 55 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 in parentheses):
Graduated: Artturi Lehkonen (2nd), Daniel Carr (6th)
Released: Matt Bradley (23rd), Ryan Johnston (26th), Mark MacMillan (27th), Connor Crisp (32nd), Dalton Thrower (33rd), Colin Sullivan (34th)
Traded: Mikhail Sergachev (1st), Tim Bozon (21st)
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.
33) Nikolas Koberstein
Defenceman, Alaska-Fairbanks (NCAA)
5th round pick (125th overall) in 2014
The highlight of the year for Koberstein was that his team didn’t wind up folding at the end of the season due to a lack of funding which was a serious concern at one point. Unfortunately, the 21-year-old didn’t really take much of a step forward in terms of his role with the team or his performance.
When the Habs drafted him, Trevor Timmins said right away that Koberstein would be a long-term project and so far, it’s fair to say his development has been pretty slow. He doesn’t need to become a star this season to get back to prospect relevancy but he is going to have to take a significant step forward if he wants to give himself a shot at a contract down the road.
2016-17 Stats: 31 GP, 2-4-6, -17 rating, 33 PIMS, 31 shots, 54 blocks
Previous HW Ranking: 29th
NHL ETA: 2021-22 – There’s a long way to go before he’s NHL ready. Assuming he becomes enough of an impact defender with Alaska-Fairbanks to get an entry-level deal, he’ll need at least a couple of years in the minor leagues after that before realistically having an NHL shot. The odds of that happening are pretty slim, however.
32) Tom Parisi
Defenceman, St. John’s (AHL)
Undrafted free agent signing in 2016
While the Habs have had success when it comes to signing college free agent goaltenders, the same cannot be said for college free agent defencemen as Parisi appears to be well on his way to being another player sent to the scrap heap quickly.
Parisi was unable to secure a regular role with the IceCaps last season and found himself a frequent healthy scratch. When he was in the lineup, he was a regular fixture on the third pairing and played limited minutes. He’s a smooth skater but the rest of his game is lacking and at the age of 24, there probably isn’t a whole lot of development left. With several veterans being brought in, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him spend some time in the ECHL with Brampton this season.
2016-17 Stats: 45 GP, 1-8-9, -4 rating, 10 PIMS, 56 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 19th
NHL ETA: N/A – The only reason he’s ranked ahead of Koberstein is because he has at least made the AHL level, something I don’t expect to be the case for Koberstein. Parisi is almost assuredly heading for a non-tender in June barring him playing his way into a full-time top-four spot in Laval (which isn’t going to happen).
31) Max Friberg
Right Wing, St. John’s (AHL)
Acquired from Anaheim in 2015
Admittedly, this is skewed a little bit by the fact he signed a three-year deal in Sweden as that basically will run out the clock on Montreal’s control of his RFA rights.
Last season, Friberg was an important player for St. John’s as a key checking forward that also contributed a bit offensively, albeit not at the level he did with Anaheim’s farm team in the past. He’s the type of player who can competently hold his own as a call-up on a fourth line at the NHL level but the overall upside is limited. Friberg admitted that he’s hopeful returning to the SHL will allow him to develop a bit more and if that happens, maybe he’ll take another run at an NHL spot down the road. For the Habs here and now though, that doesn’t really matter much.
2016-17 Stats: 71 GP, 11-20-31, -3 rating, 18 PIMS, 101 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 30th
NHL ETA: 2017-18 – I’m skeptical that going to the Swedish League will allow him to unlock some late-developing potential, particularly when it comes to his offensive game. He’s basically as ready as he’s going to be now.
30) Arvid Henrikson
Defenceman, AIK J20 (SuperElit)
7th round pick (187th overall) in 2016
Another player that had a very long development path from the moment he was drafted, Henrikson was able to hold down a regular spot in the lineup while moving up from the under-18 to under-20 level but remains a level behind where players his age that are drafted out of Sweden typically are at this point.
Henrikson’s skill set is intriguing as he’s a good skater for his size, is willing to play a physical game, and can hold his own in his own end. His offensive game, however, needs refinement…a lot of it. If he can put that together over the next few years, the Habs could have an intriguing prospect on their hands but the odds of everything coming together is fairly low.
2016-17 Stats: 37 GP, 2-4-6, -9 rating, 26 PIMS
Previous HW Ranking: 31st
NHL ETA: 2021-22 – Montreal has three more years before they have to make a decision on him and it’s highly likely they’ll use all three of those. From there, at least one year at the AHL level to adjust would be prudent given that he appears to be someone who develops at a more gradual pace than other prospects.