Although the Habs are likely to draft a defenceman with their first-round pick, I propose they look towards a Quebec-born forward by the name of Raphael Lavoie. Yes, the Habs often try to select local talent when they can, and GM Marc Bergevin was close in pulling this off in a big way back in 2016 when he tried to make a deal to move up to select Pierre-Luc Dubois. But this is an opportunity for Bergevin to make a splash in a year when Lavoie played his best hockey in this season’s playoffs. Consider that last year at around the same time, Bergevin took in the World Junior U-18 tournament in the spring, where Jesperi Kotkaniemi was a standout. It’s a sign that when Bergevin has the opportunity to watch a prospect perform well, there stands a chance he will weigh that impression into that prospect’s selection.
Speaking of the playoffs, Lavoie saved his best for the postseason, scoring a league-high 20 goals and 11 assists in 23 games. His next closest teammate had 20 points, and he trailed only Habs prospect Joel Teasdale who scored a league-leading 34 points in the playoffs. Raising his level of play when it counts most is a positive sign for this prospect from Halifax.
DOB: September 25, 2000
Weight: 199 lbs
Hockey Prospectus: 25
Future Considerations: 25
The Hockey News: 16
TSN (Button): 17
The Athletic (Pronman): 21
Raphael is a very good skater both in terms of acceleration and overall speed, especially considering his size. He also has an NHL level shot, and gained confidence with it during the second half of the regular season and the playoffs, to the point where he would use it anywhere on the ice. His passing skills are also top notch and he has good hockey sense. Before he landed in major junior, he played centre but played both there and on the wing while in the QMJHL. That’s not unusual for rookie/sophomore forwards to do at this level since more experienced veterans are typically given the responsibilities of the centre position. At this year’s NHL Combine, Raphael faired pretty well indicating a high level of fitness. He ranked fifth overall at the dreaded VO2 Max & its duration level and tied for fifth overall at the Wingate peak power output.
Lavoie has several pro-level abilities now, when you consider his size, skating and shot. However, like so many prospects, his consistency is lacking, as he was expected to step up more so in the regular season. That likely turned off some scouts. I like the package Lavoie offers, and his areas of weakness can be put down to immaturity and development. By that, I expect Lavoie will need at least one season before being ready to challenge for an NHL job, and perhaps two. For a mid-round selection, that’s very common and should not be seen as a negative. Typically, only the top two or three draft picks in a given year actually make the NHL the following October, with perhaps a few more other players surprising the expectations to do the same. I believe a player like Lavoie really needs to experience one or two pro training camps to get a better sense of what NHL players are like in terms of their dedication and consistency. It will take that type of experience to help him realize what he will need to do next to move up to the next level. Although Lavoie is a late birthday draft option, last season Ottawa selected a late birthday player in Brady Tkachuk, and he fit into the lineup right away, seamlessly.