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The NHL draft will be held on June 22 and 23 in Columbus, Ohio, with the Canadiens holding two first round picks thanks to a late season trade involving Craig Rivet going to the San Jose Sharks in exchange for their first round pick. As it stands right now the Habs have the 12th and 22nd overall picks and look to expand the second most talented prospect pool in the NHL, according to Hockey’sFuture.com. The Canadiens have built a huge supply of talent by making the most of their draft choices, and this year will be no different.

The Canadiens have a plan for the draft, and since it has worked out so well in the past, the plan remains the same; Trevor Timmins is the man in charge.

Timmins enters his sixth season as the Canadiens’ Director of Player Personnel. He is primarily responsible for overseeing and directing the Canadiens’ amateur scouting system including the annual NHL Entry Draft. With standout prospects Carey Price, Andrei and Sergei Kostitsyn, and Mikhail Grabovski to his credit (to name just a few) let’s hope he stays with the Habs for the duration of his career.

Although the final word goes to Trevor Timmins and GM Bob Gainey, we are going to examine a few players that could be available when the Canadiens go to the podium twice in the first round.

Here is a list of prospects that the Montreal Canadiens could be adding to their steadily deepening prospect list via the 2007 NHL entry draft in respect to the International Scouting Services (ISS) final rankings and Montreal’s draft position.

Since there is no way of knowing if a certain player will still be available in the twelfth and twenty second spot, we will centre on Montreal’s draft position (underlined) and the two players ranked above and below that mark according to ISS.

Ranked #10 Mikael Backlund C 6′ 0” – 194 lbs – (Left shot)

Assets: He possesses that innate ability to find seams in the defensive zone and capitalize on the opportunities that he gets from that trait. His competitiveness and his strong leadership are strengths scouts love. Backlund scores important clutch goals, drives the net hard with the puck and is able to beat D one-on-one with quick moves. He is very mature for his age and has all the skills to be a #1 centre.

Flaws: He could use more work on his defensive game and consistency.

Ranked #11 Angelo Esposito, C 6′ 01” – 180 Lbs – (Left shot)

Assets: Owns a very projectable frame, outstanding offensive instincts, excellent hand/eye coordination, tremendous hands, and great on-ice vision that boarder on elite. He displays the flair and attitude of a first-line center.

Flaws: Needs to improve his skating and play without the puck. Must get stronger physically, and work harder, in order to become a great point producer in the NHL.

Ranked #12 Colton Gillies, C 6′ 04” – 194 lbs – (Left shot)

Assets: Lorne Molleken (GM and coach of the Saskatoon Blades) has nothing but praise for Colton. “The biggest thing is he’s got such a big reach and he does everything at top speed,” Molleken explained. “He likes to challenge a person one-on-one, which to me is very important. He uses his skating and puck handling abilities to his advantage and he’s got good vision on the ice.” Colton has a great work ethic, leads by example, and thinks the game very well.

Flaws: Needs to work on his consistency and positional play. He must learn to position himself better to be able to shoot, and deflect shots more often.

Ranked # 13 Logan Couture, C 6′ 01” – 188 lbs – (Right shot)

Assets: Logan is a playmaking center who has impressive vision and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. His other strengths include soft hands, and an ability to distribute the puck. Couture is a high energy player with an all around game.

Flaws: His skating ability needs work and his toughness in traffic needs to addressed to succeed at the next level.

Ranked #14 Nick Petrecki, D 6′ 03” – 213 lbs – (Left shot)

Assets: Nick has a very heavy shot and likes to play with a mean streak while maintaining responsibility in his own end. Petrecki has good skating ability and makes a good first pass. He is known for his thunderous body checks and has been compared to Ottawa’s Chris Phillips by some scouts.

Flaws: Nick’s decision making and discipline are the only drawbacks on an otherwise solid prospect.

Ranked #20 John Blum, D 6′ 0” – 155 lbs – (Right shot)

Assets: Blum’s strengths are his mobility, puck skills, and instincts. He has shown toughness and tenacity, and is always willing and able to throw a hard hit. John is considered by most scouts to be one of the top offensive minded defenseman in this year’s draft.

Flaws: Defensively he is only average. He needs to get stronger and fill out his frame, which is something he has struggled with his entire career.

Ranked #21 Brett MacLean, LW 6′ 1.5” – 200 lbs – (Right shot)

Assets: Brett is in the mold of a power forward. He uses his size to his advantage to get open ice and scoring chances for himself and his teammates. MacLean battles hard while playing a high-energy physical game.

Flaws: Skating/mobility and stick handling are a concern for MacLean. The scare involved for some scouts is that he played on a line with phenom John Tavares, and he might not actually be as good as his 47 goals and 100 points suggests.

Ranked #22 Jim O’Brien C 6′ 2” – 184 lbs – (Right shot)

Assets: Jim has soft hands, great on-ice awareness, good work ethic and hockey sense that are mature beyond his years. Not bad for a guy who was a defenseman as recently as two years ago. He has a fierce competitive nature and poise that compare to his idol Chris Chelios. Overall he is a hardworking complete player with an already polished defensive game.

Flaws: O’Brien needs to bulk up and get stronger to play above the collegiate ranks. He also needs work on his acceleration and overall speed.

Ranked #23 Patrick White, C 6′ 0.5” – 186 lbs – (Right shot)

Assets: Patrick has a hard, accurate shot and an ability to bounce off checks and keep control of the puck. He is also responsible on his own end of the ice, which should make him even more attractive to NHL teams.

Flaws: White needs to work on his strength and his creativity with the puck. Patrick projects to be a responsible two way centre.

Ranked #24 Logan MacMillan, C 6′ 01” – 180 lbs – (Left shot)

Assets: MacMillan played all of last season on a line with fellow prospect Jakub Voracek, and while he does nothing great, he does everything well. Logan can play the body, kill penalties, and play on the top PP unit. “He brings good leadership to the team and he helps on the offense. He’s the type of player you have on the ice in the last minute of a game, whether you’re up by one or down by one,” said coach Cam Russell

Flaws: Logan needs to address his acceleration, strength, and consistency.

Honorable mentions

Honorable mention for Alexei Cherepanov. Cherepanov is a classic wild card pick, but it is hard to spend a high pick on a potential problematic player.

While all of this offers insight to some players abilities, it is my opinion that the Canadiens will make a trade before or at the draft to either move into another (higher) position, or to address current roster weaknesses.

If that is the case and the Canadiens do make a trade to move up in draft position (pick number 2 through 7 for argument sake) here are two players the Canadiens should take based on future/current needs.

Patrick Kane or Kyle Turris

Although very unlikely, if the Canadiens are lucky enough to get the second pick in the draft you must take the best player available (BPA) and select whoever remains between Turris and Kane; but preferably Turris.

Kane has loads of talent, but he is small at 5′ 10”, very light at 162 lbs, and also a RW which is something the Canadiens currently have a surplus in. On the other side of the coin, Turris while only 3 pounds heavier then Kane at the moment (165 lbs) he stands 6′ 0” tall, and will fill out his frame as he matures and develops. The most important fact is that Kyle Turris is the most skilled (right handed ) centre in the draft; something the Canadiens desperately lack.

Odds are that even if the Habs manage to trade up in the draft they will not get into the top 3 picks, so another player(s) is needed as a suggestion.

If the Canadiens pick anywhere between 4th through 8th pick my choice is to either go slightly off the board a bit and take Mikael Backlund or stay with the rankings and take the BPA in Sam Gagner. Both players are seen as playmakers, but they play different positions and styles.
Gagner is another talented right handed centre that the Canadiens lack, except he is not overly big at 5′ 11” and I’m not sold on the fact he would have had such a great season without Kane and other star players on a powerhouse London Knights team (including Sergei Kostitsyn). We all know what his skill set, is but Gagner’s main weaknesses are his acceleration, mobility and ability to fight off defenders.

Backlund is slightly bigger then Gagner (6 ‘0”) but can better handle the physical side of the game while his skating and acceleration are better as well (see previous listing ranked #10).

Unfortunately this is a breakdown of only 11 prospects that are available for the upcoming 2007 entry draft but the possibilities are endless. Naturally any player that falls from positions above the Canadiens pick, would have to be considered by management, but this list will at least give you an informed look at some players that could be pulling on the fabled bleu, blanc, et rouge in the near future.