Caption: Michael McCarron
Although the Habs went from last to first in the Northeast Division in 2012-13, the club was able to restock the cupboards quite well with several extra draft picks acquired in prior deals with former GM Pierre Gauthier. Although there isn't a blue chipper among the mix anymore with Alex Galchenyuk making the jump to the NHL straight out of junior mere months after being selected, there are NHL quality prospects at each position.
The story of the 2013 Draft came with Montreal's puzzling selection of Michael McCarron with their first round pick, 25th overall. Many would agree that he has an NHL future but there are questions abound as to whether he can be a legitimate top six forward or just a bottom line physical player. Both types represent needs for the Canadiens but Trevor Timmins and his staff clearly are banking on McCarron being able to be a key contributor for the Habs down the road.
McCarron is one of several prospects plying their trade in the CHL after being pried away from a college commitment to Western Michigan. McCarron joins Brady Vail and Connor Crisp in the OHL while Tim Bozon and Dalton Thrower, who many felt last year would be with Hamilton in 2013-14, are in the WHL. The most interesting batch of players may come from the QMJHL though. Charles Hudon vaulted up the rankings throughout the year while 2013 late round selections Martin Reway and Jeremy Gregoire are certainly intriguing players to follow. The Habs' top goalie prospect also plays in the 'Q' as Montreal was able to nab QMJHL and Memorial Cup champion Zach Fucale early in the second round. He instantly becomes the top goalie in the system since Carey Price.
With McCarron backing off of his commitment and Danny Kristo's graduation (and subsequent trade), the talent pool at the college ranks is the weakest it has been in quite some time though there are a handful of players with some potential. Blueliner Mac Bennett has made slow but steady progress throughout his NCAA career and will be turning pro following his season at Michigan. Josiah Didier, another defenceman, has a physical style of play that Montreal covets while Mark MacMillan will have a chance to carry an offence for the first time in his collegiate career.
The Canadiens don't have too many prospects playing overseas but many of the ones they have are noteworthy. Sebastian Collberg remains in a similar situation as last year, struggling to get consistent playing time on his SHL team, but continues to dominate when he plays his own age group. 2013 draft pick Jacob de la Rose also finds himself in the SHL seeing regular minutes while defenceman Magnus Nygren returns to Farjestad looking to build off his Borje Salming Award campaign. Artturi Lehkonen, another of Montreal's 2013 selections, is once again among the top scorers on his Finnish League team while Erik Nystrom will look to earn an entry-level contract with a strong performance with Zagreb of the KHL.
For the second straight season, there has been a ton of turnover in Hamilton. Among the key newcomers are forwards Christian Thomas and Sven Andrighetto, a pair of small but highly skilled offensive forwards. Former first rounder Louis Leblanc also returns as he looks to battle back from a disastrous sophomore minor league year. The blueline is where Montreal's top prospects are, led by Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu, who rank first and second respectively in our 2013 Prospect Rankings. After finishing dead last in 2012-13, there's only one way to go for the Bulldogs this time around.
There's a chance that none of these prospects become stars but it won't be long before we several of them donning the bleu-blanc-et-rouge and being important contributors to the Montreal Canadiens.
Intro written by Brian La Rose - November 2013
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