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During the course of setting our HW Mock Draft (to be posted next week), one of our panelists raised an interesting question when we were discussing Montreal's draft selection. We've heard all the pros and cons ad nauseam in terms of drafting a local, but what about the other 2 leagues in the CHL? Let's look back at the draft picks from the 3 CHL leagues since the turn of the millennium and see which league is best for the Habs.
Let's go in alphabetical order by league, so we start with the OHL. (As it's way too early to judge 2008 draft pick Jason Missiaen, he's skipped in the evaluation).
2001: Eric Himelfarb (171st overall), Andrew Archer (203rd overall)
Certainly not a great start for the OHL draft history here, as neither of these players ever played with the Habs. Himelfarb never signed with the Habs and wound up in the Detroit organization as a free agent, while Archer had a decent AHL career with the Bulldogs.
2002: Andre Deveaux (182nd overall)
The early trend continues, as Deveaux never signed with the Habs either. He's bounced around through various organizations over the years, but finally made his NHL debut with Toronto this past season.
2003: Corey Locke (113th overall), Mark Flood (188th overall)
Another tale of one decent story and one bad one. Locke, a prolific junior scorer spent 4 successful seasons in the Canadiens system before being dealt to the Wild for Shawn Belle. He did manage to get an NHL game in with the Habs, the only one of his career thus far. As for Flood, another non-signee who is now applying his trade in the Carolina system.
2004: Gregory Stewart (246th overall)
Finally, a success story, if you can call a career 4th liner/AHL'er a success story. Stewart became a regular for the most part with the Habs late last season and because of his waiver status, likely has a roster spot penciled in heading to camp. Certainly not a star, but for an 8th round pick, this is a steal.
2005: Matt D'Agostini (190th overall)
Before the season started, he would've been classified like Locke or Archer, a career minor leaguer. However, a solid start to the AHL campaign earned him what turned out to be a permanent callup to the Habs where he had his ups and downs. Like Stewart, his waiver status likely has him on the opening 23-man roster going into next season.
2007: P.K. Subban (43rd overall), Yannick Weber (73rd overall)
Considering Subban's never played a pro game, it's hard to call him a steal at this point, although his stock has certainly gone up since his selection. As for Weber, he had a very strong rookie campaign in Hamilton and acquitted himself reasonably well when thrust into action in the postseason against Boston. It's hard to guess their roster prospects for next year, but both of them will see regular NHL action sooner than later.
The last few years have proven to be successful
for the Habs when drafting out of the OHL. Only 2 picks were in the top
100 overall, and both figure prominently into the team's future plans.
D'Agostini and Stewart both are steals, while Locke and Archer had decent
careers in the minors, which given where they were selected is by no means bad.
Overall, factoring in all of the above players, I give the OHL drafting a B+.
Onto the next league, the QMJHL, where the majority of the CHL prospects have been taken from since 2000.
2002: Michael Lambert (99th overall), Jonathan Ferland (212th overall)
Like the first few OHL years, this starts out the same with one somewhat successful pick and one, well, nightmare. Lambert played out his entry-level deal with little fanfare, bouncing between the AHL and ECHL on a regular basis with marginal success. Ferland never emerged as that energy 4th liner like some had hoped, but he did spend 5 successful years in Hamilton and played reasonably well in 7 NHL contests.
2003: Cory Urquhart (40th overall), Maxim Lapierre (61st overall), Danny Stewart (123rd overall), Jimmy Bonneau (241st overall)
I would call this draft class the reason why the Habs aren't drafting out of the 'Q' as much as they used to. To their credit, 3 of these players actually signed and played in the Habs' system, Stewart being the odd man out. Of those 3 however, 1 was released after his entry level deal (Bonneau), while another was traded before his first contract expired (Urquhart), then got non-tendered by Phoenix. At least 1 success story came out of here, as Lapierre has established himself as a legitimate 3rd liner in the NHL.
2004: Loic Lacasse (181st overall), Alex Dulac-Lemelin (278th overall)
Back to the bad we go here. Lacasse signed with the Habs a year earlier than was necessary, which happened to coincide with his freefall. He was waived out of the 'Q' and was unsuccessful in the OHL. In his pro career, he has spent more time in the IHL than either the ECHL or AHL. His contract expires at the end of the month, and I'd be surprised if he got a new one from Montreal. Dulac-Lemelin never signed and appears to have hung up his skates, but considering he was the 278th pick, it's hard to call this pick a bust.
2005: Guillaume Latendresse (45th overall), Mathieu Aubin (130th overall)
Latendresse, one of many Habs where fans seem to have polarized views on. One thing most should be able to agree on is that he is a legitimate NHL'er and that management made a good move trading up to secure that pick. He's entrenched himself as a regular for years to come. Aubin is one of those hardluck guys you just have to feel for. This year was to be his first full AHL season after spending most of his time in the ECHL, then he gets hit with some freak injuries/illnesses that wiped out most of his year. An RFA at the end of the month, he'll likely get another look.
2006: Mathieu Carle (53rd overall)
Carle has acquitted himself quite nicely over his first 2 AHL seasons, but has yet to really do anything to make a name for himself in Montreal. He is quickly being surpassed by several other young blueliners. Next year is the final year of his entry-level deal and will likely have a significant impact on his future in the Canadiens organization.
2007: Olivier Fortier (65th overall)
Fortier has done enough to impress fans and the management brass alike, recently signing his first pro contract a couple months ago. He's not expected to be fast-tracked to the NHL like some expect Subban to, but he's certainly a solid prospect who should be in the mix for years to come.
Both the percentages really jumped out at me
when I put them together. An over 80% signing rate is quite successful,
but on the other hand, only a handful seem to be panning out into NHL'ers.
Even if Carle and Fortier suit up in Montreal, their NHL percentage would still
fall below that of the OHL. The 16.7% is even more distressing when you
consider half the 'Q' players were drafted in the top-100. Based on that,
it's hard to give them as high a grade as the OHL, so a B- appears on the report
card for recent QMJHL picks.
Now, onto the final CHL league, the Western League, where the fewest players have been selected since 2000.
2001: Duncan Milroy (37th overall)
Keeping with the early trend, this has to be classified a disappointing selection, despite the fact that Milroy spent 5 quality years in the organization. Unfortunately for him, he only managed to earn a relatively uneventful 5 game NHL stint and has since taken his game to Germany.
2004: Kyle Chipchura (18th overall)
So far, he has not lived up to expectations, but to his credit has at least improved every year. Right now, this pick can really only be considered a disappointment, but he'll most likely have an opportunity to change that as he's all but a lock for next year's roster due to waiver reasons.
2005: Carey Price (5th overall)
It's been quite the roller coaster with Price since he was fast-tracked to the NHL. Over his 2 years, he's shown flashes of being a franchise goalie and others that suggest he'll be merely an adequate starter. The jury is still out on this pick considering who's been taken, but it's fairly safe to say that he'll be an NHL'er for years to come.
2006: Ben Maxwell (49th overall), Ryan White (66th overall), Cameron Cepek (199th overall)
Some good and some bad with this draft crop, as Maxwell quickly showed why the Habs were so high on him with a strong rookie pro campaign that saw him earn a midseason callup. Montreal moved up to acquire White, and although he struggled with consistency this year, he's still in the organization's plans. Cepek meanwhile wasn't signed but earned a late season tryout with Colorado's farm team. As the saying goes, 2 outta 3 ain't bad...
Like the Q, the WHL has produced a good crop of
prospects when it comes to being signed, but considering the average draft
selection this is also to be expected. Over the last couple of years,
there's been some improvement in the selections, but it's hard to overlook those
first couple of picks. But, 4 NHL'ers out of 6 is solid, so factoring that
and the average selection in, they too receive a B- from me.
So, what does this infer? Tendencies suggest that if the Habs are looking to draft a CHL'er early on, the odds are that the player will be from the WHL. Despite the overwhelming cries to the contrary, the Habs do draft more locals than from other leagues, so that fallacy can be put to rest. However, based on the above, it's my view that the Habs have had the best success drafting from the OHL, but that particularly seems to be in the later rounds compared to the early ones.
In less than 2 weeks, there will (hopefully) be more players to add to these lists, it'll be interesting to re-visit this list down the road to see if any of the percentages change.
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