Saturday will be a busy day at the draft for the Habs as they come in with nine selections to make. As always, we’ll keep tabs on their selections in this article which will be updated with stats and scouting reports as the draft goes along.
46th Overall – Jayden Struble, D, St. Sebastians (USHS)
After not landing a defenceman on Friday with their top pick, they wasted little time picking one up with the selection of Struble. As a high school player, he’s a long way away from being NHL ready. He’ll suit up with Victoria of the BCHL next season before heading to Northeastern in 2020-21.
DOB: August 9, 2001 – Cumberland, Rhode Island
Weight: 194 lbs
Hockey Prospect: Struble plays a high-octane game at both ends of the ice and plays physical in all three zones. He doesn’t hesitate to step up on players to attempt big hits in the open ice or on his pinches down the wall Jayden has no issue with protecting his goalie or teammates when the need arises and sometimes looks to be seeking out these opportunities. Struble projects as a two-way defenseman who’s versatility puts his ceiling at the NHL level as a top two pairing defenseman.
Draft Pro: Terrific skater who possesses quick agile feet, all-encompassing mobility and impressive jump in his stride. Jumps into the play on the rush and will often be the one with the puck. Flashy puck skills and a quick transition game. Makes crisp and accurate passes. Has a big shot that he gets through lanes. Likes to bring a physical game, lay the body and get into opponents faces. Issues with attitude when things don’t go his way and maturity leave some questions.
Future Considerations: A puck-moving offensive defenseman, Struble has an explosive stride and great acceleration. He possesses slick edges and a tremendous top speed. He often gets caught deep in the offensive zone and sometimes takes time to come back to his position. Already pretty mature physically for his age, he has some great tools, but he’s still a bit raw in terms of his game and his potential.
McKeens: Despite never having played above the prep ranks, Struble’s top tool is in his head. Plays a mature, responsible game with tight gaps. Could stand to use his powerful point shot more often.
Recrutes: Struble only confirmed at the combine what scouts saw on the ice – he’s a big strong kid with impressive physical attributes. That alone will appeal to teams that are willing to put the time in to mould this raw project. The good news is that they will have up to five years to do so.
HP Blackbook: 56
Future Considerations: 124
TSN (McKenzie): 63
The Hockey News: 50
CSB: 48 (North American Skaters)
The Habs then traded down with their next selection, dealing pick #50 to Los Angeles for picks 64 and 126.
64th Overall – Mattias Norlinder, D, MODO (SuperElit)
Another left-shot defender, Norlinder also is another project player. He was productive at the Swedish junior level and didn’t look out of place when he was brought up to the Allsvenskan either. He’ll look to play at that level (their second tier) on a full-time basis next season, the final year of his contract.
DOB: April 12, 2000 – Kranfors, Sweden
Weight: 181 lbs
Hockey Prospect: The second-year draft-eligible Norlinder will be attractive and if his development during the season is an indication of where he is going, he might end up to be a steal. His upside is to become a good, solid two-way defenseman with great skating abilities.
Elite Prospects: Great skater with good offensive instincts. Has a great first pass and good shot from the point. Uses his skating ability and good hands to get the puck into the offensive zone. Not that physical in the defensive zone but uses his positioning and stick work to solve defensive situations.
Draft Pro: Smooth skating, offensive minded, defender. Great skater, balanced, accelerates quickly, impressive lateral movement and skates well with the puck. Puck skills and hand speed allow him to be creative with the puck. Great vision and delivers passes with good timing and sharpness. Has a decent shot with quick release but could improve its velocity. Strong hockey sense and awareness.
Future Considerations: Although he has great defensive awareness, he could play with a bit more of a physical edge. He could also be even more involved in the offensive game, since he has all the necessary tools. He has some interesting tools that could see him wind up as a potential middle pairing defender.
McKeens: We will start, as we must, with his near elite skating. He is both quick and fast. He can win races to loose pucks and he can skate well over long distances to help create zone entries and even scoring chances. He is just as smooth skating backwards, shutting down the rush. Because of his relatively advanced age, he may fall in the draft, but his recent advancement suggests that he may yet have top four upside at the NHL level.
Recrutes: Uses his speed, shot and puck skills to create offence –
his ticket to the NHL will be as a point producer.
HP Blackbook: 51
Future Considerations: 81
TSN (McKenzie): 55
CSB: 25 (European Skaters)
77th Overall – Gianni Fairbrother, D, Everett (WHL)
I’m starting to sense a pattern here. Fairbrother is yet another left-shot defender although this time the Habs went the junior route, one that carries a shorter timeline for signing. Fairbrother was third on the Silvertips in scoring among defencemen this past season.
DOB: September 30, 2000 – North Vancouver, BC
Weight: 183 lbs
Hockey Prospect: A very strong skater, Gianni gets low and has a strong stride, and the ability to easily move laterally. His speed often allowed him to jump up in the rush where he provided a great option for teammates, scoring multiple times on drives to the net or hanging back in the second wave for a one timer. Fairbrother is effective as a competent 2 way defender, but right now lacks the standout abilities and confidence of a true difference maker.
Draft Pro: Excellent skating defender. Makes a solid breakout pass. Gets his shots on net. Has a bit of a mean streak. Some questionable decisions with the puck.
Future Considerations: His top-end speed doesn’t hit a pinnacle gear yet, but he has some dynamic qualities when it comes to his edge work and quickness in starts and stops. Defensively, he is a smart player who manages risk and reward and is an effective shut-down guy at his foundation. He is strong on the wall even though he has some strength to gain and does a good job of gaining leverage and keeping his hands free to corral pucks. Strong on gap control, governing the net front and breaking out play as this is the area of his game that he prides himself on. He puts together a simple offensive game without much flair.
McKeens: He plays a solid two-way game with a fairly low band of possible outcomes in his possible development path. He looks like a pretty surefire NHLer, but quite likely that he will top out as a #5. He is not a safe player, per se, and his physical game is almost dynamic. And considering how much his game has grown this year, there is also the off chance that he can grow into even more, but it is not something we would project yet.
Recrutes: Chips in a few goals, skates capably, competes, thinks and defends. Some might call that vanilla…the optimist would call it safe and dependable. He’ll be given a larger role in Everett next season and the hope will be that he can fill a top-two role.
Future Considerations: 79
CSB: 50 (North American Skaters)
The Habs made another pick swap with 108, dealing it to the Sharks. Instead of taking a pick in this draft back, they acquired San Jose’s fourth-round pick next year which is notable considering the draft is in Montreal. They now have three fourth-round selections next year (MTL, SJ, and WPG from the Joel Armia trade).
126th Overall – Jacob LeGuerrier, D, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Hey, look at that. Another defenceman. Another one that shoots left-handed as well. After taking some riskier blueliners with their first two picks of the day, this qualifies as a safer selection.
DOB: November 22, 2000 – Gloucester, ON
Weight: 198 lbs
Hockey Prospect: What Jacob does do pretty well is move the puck. He plays a decisive game. If he feels there’s an opportunity to impose himself physically by closing his gap on a player, he’ll do it. If he thinks he can weave through the neutral-zone and generate a transitional-entry, he’ll do that too. He’s a kid who thinks the game at a plus-rate in most of our viewings and when combined with his poise, it allows him to use his tools to take advantage of his skill-set.
Draft Pro: Big, two-way defender. Terrific skater with fluid agility. Uses his reach and physicality well in his own zone. Has untapped offensive potential.
CSB: 92 (North American Skaters)
131st Overall – Rhett Pitlick, LW, Chaska (USHS)
The Habs went for another longer-term project with the selection of Pitlick. He was a dynamic scorer at the high school level but given the lower level of competition, it’s harder to project his long-term upside. The cousin of Dallas forward Tyler Pitlick will play in the USHL next season before heading to the University of Minnesota in 2020-21.
DOB: February 7, 2001 – Chaska, MN
Weight: 161 lbs
Hockey Prospect: Pitlick sees the ice well and is a playmaker with quick strike ability that will identify and take advantage of defensive lapses by the opposition. His top skating gear is good and is an equally fast skater with the puck on his stick. There is still a ways to go in terms of his 200-foot game but Pitlick displays a consistent work ethic to win puck battles and uses his crafty stick work to strip pucks off players.
Draft Pro: Fleet-footed, diminutive winger. Quick and elusive. Playmaker with solid vision. Dominated Minnesota HS hockey but not a lot of high end NHL skills.
McKeens: Like older brother Rem, Rhett is a fantastic skater with plus puck skills. On the other hand, he doesn’t seem to have his brother’s high-end shot. Plays a heavier game than his size.
Recrutes: Pitlick has elite quickness, a non-stop motor and an NHL-calibre shot. Flying under the radar to a certain extent, may get picked higher than most expect.
Hockey Prospect: 43
Future Considerations: 223
CSB: 98 (North American Skaters)
The Hockey News: 92
The Habs then dealt pick 136 to Florida in exchange for the Panthers fifth-round pick in 2020.
138th Overall – Frederik Nissen Dichow, G, Voyens (Denmark)
This pick is one that’s well off the radar but we’re at the point of the draft where that starts to happen with regularity. He had a strong showing with Denmark at the second division of the World Under-18s where he was named their best player and the top goaltender in the tournament. Between that and his size, someone on Montreal’s scouting staff clearly made the case to roll the dice on him but he’s a long way away from being ready. He’s transferring to Malmo’s junior program next season.
DOB: March 1, 2001 – Voyens, Denmark
Weight: 192 lbs
170th Overall – Arsen Khisamutdinov, C, Nizhnekamsk (MHL)
This is another pick that likely was born from their European combine earlier this month. Khisamutdinov has been through the draft several times already and turned 21 earlier this year. He has been dominant at the MHL level and didn’t look out of place in his first action in the KHL last season. It’s possible that the Habs will look to get him in Laval right away.
DOB: February 26, 1998 – Russia
Weight: 205 lbs
The Habs then did their seemingly-annual tradition of trading next year’s seventh-round pick to Philadelphia in exchange for the seventh-rounder they traded them the year before. As a result, they wound up with the 201st pick.
201st Overall – Rafael Harvey-Pinard, LW, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
With their extra pick, the Habs looked to their backyard for someone who had an exceptional postseason while playing on Joel Teasdale’s team. The undersized winger has been dealt to Chicoutimi for next season but he is eligible to turn pro and play in Laval.
DOB: January 6, 1999 – Jonquiere, QC
Weight: 161 lbs
Future Considerations: 276
206th Overall – Kieran Ruscheinski, D, Calgary Midget (AMHL)
The Habs wrapped up their draft with another defenceman, one that has really not been tested at a level of consequence. Ruscheinski has size and they can wait several years to see what he becomes. Going the long-term project route here is common from Montreal and they continued that trend with this pick.
DOB: March 5, 2001 – Calgary, AB
Weight: 201 lbs