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Until Max Pacioretty’s emergence in 2011-12, the Habs were sorely lacking in
talent and depth at left wing.  Today, there’s a case to be made that the
left side is their greatest strength up front.  Unfortunately the same
can’t be said for the team at the AHL and junior levels meaning that this is an
area that GM Marc Bergevin will need to focus on in the coming weeks.

As quite a few forwards in the organization can play in multiple spots, their
positions for the purpose of this series will be based on the position listed
on our depth


Signed: Rene Bourque (RW), Alex Galchenyuk (C), Travis
Moen, Max Pacioretty, Brandon Prust
RFA: None
UFA: None

For the second straight year, Pacioretty led the team in scoring and gives
the team a bonafide front line scoring threat.  The supporting cast is also
impressive though.  Bourque (who spent a lot of time on both wings but
finished the year on the left side) gives Montreal another offensive winger with
size while Galchenyuk is poised to become much more of an impact player next
season.  Prust fit the Habs’ needs perfectly as he provided them with grit,
toughness, and quality defensive play, the same elements many were expecting to
see from Moen.  Both players will likely spend time on both the third and
fourth lines next year as things presently stand.

Needs Assessment: Low – Even if Bourque moves back to the right wing
to replace Michael Ryder, a quartet of Pacioretty-Galchenyuk-Prust-Moen is still
pretty good…for next year at least.  I don’t expect Galchenyuk to play
much at centre in 2013-14 but the year after that he should be moved back to his
natural position.  With that in mind, picking up a second line left winger
on a multi-year deal wouldn’t be bad idea but beyond that, Bergevin shouldn’t
have to modify this group too much. 

Minor Pro

Signed: Phillipe Lefebvre, Steve Quailer
RFA: Michael Blunden (RW)
UFA: Blake Geoffrion (C)

Unlike the NHL level where the depth and talent level are both strong, what
the Bulldogs have to work with is simply appalling.  Quailer was expected
to be a quality secondary scorer for Hamilton but instead scored just six times
in 64 games and is now looked at as a 3rd/4th liner at best.  Lefebvre will
enter his final year of his entry-level deal and will need to take several big
leaps forward to even be considered for a qualifying offer.  Blunden is a
nice 2nd/3rd line option on the farm but even in the minors he won’t contribute
much in terms of scoring.  Geoffrion informed the franchise that he’s
strongly considering retiring so it’s highly doubtful that he returns.

Needs Assessment: Very High – Bergevin would be wise to sign or trade
for two veteran left wingers that are capable of scoring at the minor league
level.  One would be better than nothing but given the lack of depth, two
would be ideal.  Michael Bournival spent a lot of time on the left side
this past year but there’s a lack of depth at centre so he’ll likely be needed
there.  Quailer and Lefebvre (plus Blunden if he’s brought back which isn’t
a guarantee) are passable as depth players but can’t be counted on as impact
performers if the Bulldogs are to escape the AHL’s basement in 2013-14.

Unsigned/Junior Prospects

There aren’t any big name prospects but the ones that are there have some
legitimate upside.  Tim Bozon had a very strong second season in junior and
earned a spot on France’s entry at the Worlds where he was three years younger
than anyone else.  He already has been signed by the club but will return
to junior next year.  The same can be said for Charles Hudon who at this
point is looking like a steal in the 5th round as a smart two-way winger with a
steadily improving offensive game.  Mark MacMillan is a longer-term project
but improved in his second NCAA year.  The big test will be next year as
he’ll likely slide into Danny Kristo’s role, can he become a top liner at the
collegiate level?  Erik Nystrom is the final prospect in this quartet who
progressed steadily throughout the season, earning a permanent promotion to the
Allsvenskan midway through the campaign.

Needs Assessment: Medium – I like the depth of this group and there’s
a good chance that at least two of the four could become NHL’ers.  However,
it’s lacking in two important departments.  There isn’t a top six forward
among them (Bozon and Hudon could be but I think they’d be best suited to be 3rd
liners) and none of these players play a physical style.  Given the Habs’
weaknesses in terms of size and grit, I expect Timmins to draft at least one
player to help improve in those departments.

Part four of this series will focus on centres and will appear later this