Finishing off the first-round prospects ranking brings us to those hanging on at the end of the round. It’s a close race as very few points separated the prospects at the end of the first round and the start of the second, so there is plenty of potential for this to change between now and the end of the year. The 25-32 group features an onslaught of defenders who may actually get selected prior to their ranking as teams usually love to gamble on the blue liners, a position that seems to hold more value around the NHL. A reminder that their potential fit on the Habs is also covered in the analysis.
#25 – David Reinbacher
EHC Kloten (NL) – RD
He’s a well-sized right-handed defender whose bread and butter is his offensive game. Unlike many of the other defenders on this list, his offensive upside may be limited, but his defensive game is likely stronger. I think his recent meteoric rise in recent weeks is questionable and actual scouts are unlikely to fall for that sort of recency bias.
21 points in 40 games in Switzerland’s top league is decent, but his play for the Austrian team at the WJC is really why Reinbacher has had a significant climb up the ranking.
While Reinbacher holds the potential to become a top four defender, the comparisons being thrown around to Shea Theodore I think are lofty and unlikely to be accurate. While the raw tools appear to be there, he’s never had to display them in quite the level of consistency as others in this general area of the draft. I can’t see this being a great pick for the Habs.
#26 – Cameron Allen
Guelph Storm (OHL) – RD
Allen was the top-ranked blue liner entering the season and was often ranked in the top 15. He has since slipped considerably. Both Gulyayev and Sandin-Pellikka have surpassed him in most rankings and I think both will end up ahead of him but after that, the outlooks are similar and it’s a guessing game what team selects in this plethora of blueliners and where they go with their picks.
22 points in 46 games is decent for a defender though it’s hard to really evaluate when Allen is playing for one of the worst teams in the OHL. In fact, he’s playing for the worst defensive team in that league.
Scouting reports say that Allen does everything right and picks his moments most intelligently to chip in offensively. This reminds me of what scouts said about Kaiden Guhle at the same age. Granted, Guhle developed quicker than expected and saw his ceiling raise due to this progression. A right-handed d-man that develops into a solid second-pairing Guhle-type would be fine by me should the Habs acquire a third pick in the first round. The only question is if Allen makes it that far. As previously mentioned, defenders have historically been the position that is picked above ranking in the draft, will this season buck that trend?
#27 – Caden Price
Kelowna Rockets (WHL) – LD
While he’s certainly not a consensus to be selected in the first round, my belief is that he ends up around here based on blueliners usually being selected above their final ranking. The issue with Price that places him outside the first round for many scouts is simple: consistency. He’s a bigger Gulyayev that sometimes shies away from making that bold play that could really make him stand out offensively. However, those who watched him play in the U18 Hlinka Gretzky Cup aren’t allowing him to leave their first-round rankings, but that means his day-to-day play leaves scouts wanting more.
32 points in 51 games in the WHL is some good production for a defender his age, so there is still hope for him to put it all together with more regularity.
The upside seems to be quite similar to Gulyayev though he appears further away from reaching it as of now. Considering the Habs are not in desperate need on the left side defensively, I prefer this roll of the dice later in the round to Gulyayev earlier. Honestly, unless Sandin-Pellikka drops into their lap, I’m thinking the play for the Habs is to not select a defender in the first round this season, with one exception.
#28 – Lukas Dragicevic
Tri-City Americans (WHL) – RD
An offensive defenceman with good size that can skate fairly well but has difficulties with decision-making at times. For teams desperate for offence from the blue line, this would be a very interesting gamble as he can surely adapt his game to be a bottom-pairing guy should he not achieve a ceiling as a late 20’s pick that wants to play offensively. Either way, I believe this is a project pick, but one that holds important upside.
60 points in 51 games for a defender of his size is certainly intriguing. He’ll need a few more years at this level to really determine his ceiling.
If I believe some of the other defenders on the board risk going way above expected and that teams that make those selections may regret doing so later, I don’t see that being the case with Dragicevic. The question marks around his game appear to be too consistent for him to move to even the middle of the first round. I think his position cements him within the first round. He’s a project, but the upside is so enticing that I would be quite pleased if the Habs were to make this gamble late in the round.
#29 – Gavin Brindley
University of Michigan (NCAA) – RW
Smaller in stature, Brindley plays a fast game and excels with his hands when in tight. The most interesting aspect of his game is his desire to get to the dirty areas on the ice, and the question marks come around his defensive efforts.
25 points in 30 games in the NCAA isn’t incredible but considering he’s playing second line minutes and killing penalties, it’s certainly not terrible either.
Finding a suitable replacement for Brendan Gallagher isn’t a terrible gamble, though if the Habs end up picking here, I wonder if the next player on the list is a better fit compared to Brindley. Considering the realities of playing in Montreal and the fact that the Habs already count quite a bit of smaller players, I would personally choose Perreault over Brindley.
#30 – Gabe Perreault
U18 (USNTDP) – LW
A high-octane smaller winger who plays offensively and has more offensive skill than his brother (recent Anaheim draft pick Jacob) or father (Yanic). He fights hard along the boards and has excellent vision though the size is certainly an issue.
He has scored 87 points in 44 games with the U18 and 28 points in 14 games with the USNTDP Juniors. Both totals are rather impressive for a selection this late in the round. This player appears to be a boom or bust which is perhaps why he’s this late in the first round.
Coming from a father who has played with the Habs, this is a player who might actually be one that gets the right advice from his father to make it in Montreal. I really like the home run swing this late in the round considering this would be the Habs’ third or maybe even fourth pick depending on their success at the upcoming trade deadline. Add in the previous pipe dream I have of seeing the Habs end up with the entire line of Smith, Leonard, and Perreault, and I’m really on board with this pick.
#31 – Koehn Ziemmer
Prince George Cougars (WHL) – RW
Ziemmer has a big shot with good size and likes to play like he’s much bigger. His willingness to get to the dirty areas on the ice to create chaos is what scouts love most about him.
72 points in 51 WHL games is worthy of this placement in the first round, though some questions remain about his skill set being transferable to the next level.
When I read this kid’s attributes and abilities, the first thing that comes to mind is to draft him and sit him in a room with Brendan Gallagher for a week. That type of bulldog attitude with a bit more size and hands could make for an interesting product.
#32 – Hunter Brzustewicz
Kitchener Rangers (OHL) – RD
This fair-sized right-hand offensive defenceman is scoring at a decent pace but needs to learn to pick his spots more efficiently to support the attack. Not surprisingly given the previous point, he also isn’t great at reading the play. As mentioned with other players above though, it’s oftentimes easier to teach someone like Brzustewicz how to read a play than to teach a player with lesser skill. This kid is a boom-or-bust pick.
43 points in 50 games with the Kitchener Rangers is quite good for a defenceman although his defensive play definitely needs some work.
There are defenders that are better than Brzustewicz in this draft. But there aren’t many, and I think those players end up being picked at an earlier slot than they should due to the bias toward defenders, and the obvious lack of defenders on this list. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t love the idea of getting on board that train and picking a defender just because the other teams are taking the ones ranked higher on your list and you’re afraid to miss out. Brzustewicz has a much higher chance of being on the board late in the round or even early in the second. Considering the Habs will be intelligent and select forwards with their early first-rounders, rolling the dice on a boom or bust like this in the second round is an excellent idea. That’s the context under which this pick makes sense. Anywhere in the twenties and I think it’s a mistake.