The fire sale in Montreal has begun and almost no one on the roster is safe. A rebuild requires prospects as well as picks and the Habs would do well to pry as much future gold from other teams’ prospect pools as possible.
It’s no secret that the Montreal Canadiens don’t have many French-Canadian players on the roster or in the team’s prospects pool, but here are five very good prospects with Quebec birth certificates, all owned by playoff-hungry teams who might be persuaded to part with a blue-chip prospect for an experienced player who makes the NHL roster stronger.
The Capitals find themselves in the hunt for a Wild Card spot in the East. If they are looking to bolster their chances with an NHL player or two without subtracting from their NHL roster, the Canadiens have what they are looking for. Depending on how “all-in” Washington is this year, getting playoff-ready might cost them a top prospect:
Hendrix Lapierre, 19, has had an up-and-down season but made a good enough impression out of training camp to stay with the Capitals for six games before being sent back down to the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan for the rest of the season alongside Montreal prospect Riley Kidney. The 6’ 179-lb. centreman was taken 22nd overall in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft and has a good offensive game and moves the puck well. Known for his vision, he’s more a passer than a shooter but has a sneaky wrist shot that he’s starting to use more this season. After a slow start, he’s picked up the pace in recent weeks and now has 30 points in 18 games for the Titan. The Gatineau native was a late cut from Team Canada’s selection camp for this year’s World Junior Championship.
The Oilers find themselves out of the playoffs and it’s still only February, but I suspect they would do an early deal with just about anybody if they thought it might jump-start their playoff hopes. With that in mind, the Habs should be making calls on one of their prized prospects:
Xavier Bourgault, 19, is a complete offensive player with speed, a good shot, and good passing skills. He can also who can play both wings and looks very much like someone who could develop into a top-six winger in the NHL. Taken 22nd overall 2021, the 6’ 180-lb. L’Islet native was named to Canada’s World Junior Championship team in December, playing one game before the tournament was cancelled. A four-year veteran of the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes, Bourgault is one of the Q’s leading scorers, collecting 22 goals and 21 assists in 25 games so far this season. Though not a big guy, he’s a decent defensive player and has been effective this season on the penalty kill.
The Nashville Predators are holding tight to a playoff spot in the West, but perhaps one of Montreal’s many useful spare parts can help put a little daylight between them and the competition. It might cost them something from the prospects pool, though.
Zachary L’Heureux, 18, will almost surely be a member of Canada’s 2023 World Junior Championship team after not even being invited to the December selection camp. He probably deserved a look, but, far from being disappointed, the 5’11” 196-lb. left winger is having a fine season in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads, piling up 18 goals and 24 assists so far this season. Taken 27th overall in 2021, the Mercier native is a physical player, a strong skater who is hard on the forecheck, and has a heavy shot. L’Heureux has top-six potential but should be at least a top-nine forward throughout his NHL career.
The Ducks have been in and out of the third and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division for most of the season. If they stay close much longer, they should be tempted to boost their lineup with a veteran or two to gain enough points to claim the playoff berth. That’s where Kent Hughes should step and try to convince them to part with a prospect:
Jacob Perreault, 19, is the son of former Habs centreman Yanic Perreault and has inherited many of his father’s offensive skills, boasting fine hands and a hard shot. The 5’11” 192-lb. right winger is one of those rare players who has been able to spend the past two seasons in the AHL after the pandemic shut down OHL play last season. So far this year, Perreault has eight goals and 11 assists in 33 games with the AHL’s San Diego Gulls. His main problem as a hockey player has been bouts of wavering commitment and consistency. While the skill is certainly there for the Montreal native to become a top-six player one day, he’ll have to show what he can do on a more consistent basis before that becomes a reality.
The Stars are another West team on the fringes of the playoffs, but if they can string together a few wins and find themselves in a playoff position by the trade deadline, Hughes might be interested in lending a helping hand. It might cost something from the prospects pool, though:
Mavrik Bourque, 20, has a good all-around game and could turn out to be a solid number two centre in the NHL if his development goes as expected. Though undersized at 5’11” 180-lb., he’s a very good skater with has a low centre of gravity that makes it difficult to knock him off the puck. An excellent passer, the Plessisville native is an even better shooter, able to get his shot off effectively from a variety of angles and distances. Though he works hard defensively and has good instincts, Bourque’s size will sometimes put him at a disadvantage in his own end. Taken 30th in 2020, he has offensive skills with and without the puck but will need to become better on faceoffs before he reaches the NHL.