HabsWorld.net -- 

At the time, Montreal’s 2013 draft class was supposed to be a big part of their future.  Five years later, although they have got some NHL talent out of that group, it hasn’t really helped the team too much.

Shortly following the draft, I gave the class a ‘B’ grade.  Now with the benefit of hindsight, what should their grade be?  Let’s look at the picks, how they’ve fared, and who they passed on.

(For the purposes of looking at who they passed on, it’s easy to just look for the best non-picked player and say they missed on that.  However, that’s not necessarily the most objective approach.  Instead, I’ll look at the three players picked immediately after Montreal’s selections as those are the ones they may have been choosing from at each pick.  It’s not a perfect approach but it’s a little fairer of an evaluation.)

25th Overall – Michael McCarron

Original Grade: C:  I have reservations about him being able to become the offensive threat that the team obviously believes he can be but he should make the NHL in a lower role at the very least.

This wasn’t a popular pick at the time and felt like an overreaction to their playoff series against the Senators.  Today, it’s still not a popular choice and still feels like it was an overreaction to that series.

In three professional seasons, McCarron has failed to establish himself as anything more than a fringe fourth liner.  Even worse is that his offensive game seems to be getting worse, not better, as his mindset seems to have shifted towards solely becoming a hitter and fighter.  Even though his upside was fairly low at the time he was picked, it’s hard to imagine the Habs thinking that this would be what he provides them with and that it’s worthy of a first-round pick.

There’s no guarantee he’ll be in the organization much longer either.  He has to go through waivers to get to the minors and he’s not likely to make the opening roster (at least on merit).

Next Three Picks
26 – D Shea Theodore, Anaheim
27 – C Marko Dano, Chicago
28 – LW Morgan Klimchuk, Calgary

Theodore would look awfully nice in a Montreal uniform right about now while Dano has had more NHL success so far as well although he’s on the fringes in Winnipeg currently.  Klimchuk has basically been a career minor leaguer through his first three pro seasons with only one NHL game under his belt.

Revised Grade: D+: If McCarron can even turn into a decent third line player, this pick wouldn’t have been a total waste and it could get back to the original grade.  Given how his development has gone downhill though, that doesn’t seem to be remotely likely to happen.  An overhyped fourth liner is bad value from a first rounder.

34th Overall – Jacob de la Rose

Original Grade: B: Ideally, he’s a third liner in the future for the Habs but he could be a very important piece of the secondary core moving forward.

Through now parts of four seasons in the NHL, de la Rose has done enough to stay around (he just signed a two-year deal earlier this month) but he hasn’t really moved the proverbial needle either.  He has spent most of his time on the fourth line and projects to be in that role (if not the press box) to start next season with the return of Tomas Plekanec and the addition of Matthew Peca who probably has already jumped ahead of him on the depth chart.

While de la Rose has shown some signs that there is more to his game if he could get more playing time, that larger role isn’t likely to come.  He needs to find a way to make more of an impact from that fourth line and really become a reliable checker.  If he can do that over the next couple of years, the Habs could still get pretty good value from this pick.

Next Three Picks
35 – C J.T. Compher, Buffalo
36 – G Zach Fucale, Montreal
37 – LW Valentin Zykov, Los Angeles

Compher just finished his first NHL season to mixed results.  He has a bit of offensive upside but figures to be a bottom six forward when all is said and done.  Zykov hasn’t got a lot of NHL time yet but that’s likely to change next season so he’s still a little tricky to evaluate.  (Fucale will get his own section shortly.)

Revised Grade: B: Most players picked in this round have either been role players in the NHL or haven’t made it.  In de la Rose, the Habs have someone that fits in the first category; he actually has played the second-most NHL games among 2013 second rounders.  He’s not a game changer but if he can become a consistent defensive weapon, he could still become an important part of the secondary core.  (If not, he’s at least cheap roster filler for two years.)

36th Overall – Zach Fucale

Original Grade: A+: The selection fills a glaring need and may very well have been the BPA at this point as well. It’s nice when it plays out that way.

Well, I sure nailed that one, didn’t I?  I’ll give you a moment to stop laughing…

This looked like a solid pick at the time.  Fucale, had he developed as anticipated, would have been pushing to be Carey Price’s backup and basically would have been in the spot that Charlie Lindgren currently finds himself in.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Instead, Fucale struggled in three minor league seasons and never really progressed above being a mediocre AHL backup.  It’s telling that in free agency, he chose to go to a team (Vegas) where he’s probably the third-stringer at the AHL level.  His days of having NHL upside appear to be long gone.

Next Three Picks
37 – LW Valentin Zykov, Los Angeles
38 – C Connor Hurley, Buffalo
39 – C Laurent Dauphin, Phoenix

Zykov was already covered earlier while Dauphin is a centre that is on the fringes of an NHL roster spot.  He could be a fourth liner but is probably best served as a minor league call-up.  As for Hurley, he’s still in college after redshirting last season so he has yet to really make a mark.

Revised Grade: D+: It turns out that Fucale isn’t the goalie of the future but there was a need to be filled here, they just picked the wrong goalie.  (Tristan Jarry, who went 44th, was the better pick in hindsight.)  The miss rate is fairly high on second rounders so while Fucale was a bust, this wasn’t a complete abject failure either.

55th Overall – Artturi Lehkonen

Original Grade: A-: At a point in the draft where bottom six forwards and role players start to get a lot of attention, picking up a player with legitimate top six upside is a very nice addition at this juncture.

The jury is still out on whether or not Lehkonen can be a regular in the top six long-term but he has shown flashes of being able to do so.  He also has shown that he can handle a defensive role which is going to earn him a longer leash and more opportunities to play in Montreal’s lineup, even though they’re currently quite crowded on the left wing.

This coming season is going to be a big one for him.  If he can take another step forward, he could really become part of Montreal’s young core.  If not, he may start to look more like an interchangeable part (especially with their winger logjam).

Next Three Picks
56 – C Marco Roy, Edmonton
57 – LW William Carrier, St. Louis
58 – LW Tyler Bertuzzi, Detroit

Roy has not fared well and spent the majority of last season at the ECHL level.  Carrier is an energy player with Vegas while Bertuzzi has played himself into what should be a full-time role with Detroit next season.  (He could turn out to be one of the better second rounders from this draft class.)

Revised Grade: A: Lehkonen is the leading scorer and has played the most games of anyone picked from this round.  He’s not a star in the making to get that top grade but to get a good regular player at the back of the second round is a solid selection.

71st Overall – Connor Crisp

Original Grade: D+: There were a lot of skilled players that were beginning to slide at this point (Kujawinski, Buchnevich, and Hayden to name a few), I’d have preferred they went with one of those there and look for Crisp (or a similar player) come the fourth round. It’s a safe pick in that he isn’t likely to completely bust (his physicality will get him to the next level on its own) but the upside here is quite low.

From the standpoint of simply getting an entry-level contract, Crisp didn’t bust; his physicality got him signed.  Unfortunately, he had trouble staying healthy and was let go at the end of his entry-level deal.  Crisp wound playing for Detroit’s ECHL team on a minor league deal last season.  It’s safe to say that this pick didn’t pan out.

Next Three Picks
72 – LW Tyrell Goulbourne, Philadelphia
73 – C Ryan Kujawinski, New Jersey
74 – C John Hayden, Chicago

Goulbourne made his NHL debut last season but is more of a depth AHL player.  That’s still a level ahead of Kujawinski who has yet to really make his mark in the minors.  Hayden spent the better part of last season with Chicago and should battle for a roster spot again this season (or be a top recall option if he clears waivers).

Revised Grade: D: The pick made little sense then (remember, he was a year older than most players picked in this draft) and even less sense now.  Someone whose upside is maybe a fourth line guy probably shouldn’t be getting drafted period let alone in the third round.  Missing out on Hayden (and several others that went shortly after him) also really stings.

86th Overall – Sven Andrighetto

Original Grade: B: If he gets to Hamilton and does well early – and I think he can – there’s a decent chance that he could be the first pick from Montreal’s draft class to make it to the NHL (as a callup). That alone makes it hard to not like the pick. At the very least, he could be an important piece in Hamilton for a few years so there’s not a ton of downside despite his diminutive stature.

Andrighetto did indeed go to Hamilton right away and was the first Montreal pick to be recalled.  He never really settled into a regular role with the Habs over four years with the organization but he was well above average at the AHL level and was serviceable when called upon most of the time.

While he played better when he was dealt to Colorado in 2017, his play took a step back last season to the point where he was in and out of the lineup at times as a scratch.  He’s someone whose skill set is best served in the top six but he isn’t quite skilled enough to stick there long-term which makes him a ‘tweener’.

Next Three Picks
87 – D Keaton Thompson, Anaheim
88 – LW Anton Slepyshev, Edmonton
89 – RW Oliver Bjorkstrand, Columbus

Thompson just played his first full AHL year last season but he doesn’t figure to be a big part of Anaheim’s future.  Slepyshev spent the majority of the last two years in Edmonton but didn’t play a ton and has since signed overseas.  Bjorkstrand is coming off of his best NHL season and is a level above Andrighetto but even he has had some rough patches over the past few seasons.

Revised Grade: B+: Andrighetto had some good years in Montreal’s system and if you can get a good AHL player with a late third, it’s not too bad.  However, they didn’t exactly do well in terms of trading him (he brought back Andreas Martinsen who later brought back Kyle Baun who was a throw-in in the Tomas Plekanec deal in February) which lowers the overall value of the pick somewhat.

116th Overall – Martin Reway

Original Grade: B-: He has some offensive upside but I fear that he may be a bit too small to play successfully in the pros. With a late 4th though, it’s not a bad gamble to take.

What a weird few years it was with Reway.  He bolted on his junior team one year after being picked and went to the Czech Republic then one year later, left that team to go play in Switzerland.  He then missed an entire season with a heart ailment that set him back.

Even so, he came into last season ready to play in Laval, a notion that lasted all of about three weeks before he’d had enough and asked for his release which the Habs granted.  For anyone wondering what happened after that, he landed in the KHL where he was more or less a non-factor.  Last month, he decided to change teams once again and is headed back to the Czech league but his days of having NHL aspirations appear to be over.

Next Three Picks
117 – G Fredrik Bergvik, San Jose
118 – RW Hudson Fasching, Los Angeles
119 – D Ryan Segalla, Pittsburgh

Bergvik never signed and is toiling away with lower level Swedish teams while Segalla also never signed and played just ten ECHL games last season.  Fasching looked like he was going to become a decent power forward but stagnated last season and wound up being dealt to Arizona where he’s still a long-shot to make the roster.

Revised Grade: C: It’s unfortunate that Reway’s heart issue took away his best shot at really making it and his complete unwillingness to even try to stick it out last season in Laval certainly hurts.  In the end, the Habs got just five AHL games out of this pick which isn’t a great return, even though taking a swing on skill here made sense then and still does now.

176th Overall – Jeremy Gregoire

Original Grade: B+: There’s little risk here (there rarely is with a late sixth rounder) and his offensive progression with Baie-Comeau suggests he has some upside in him. I’ll take that at this stage of the draft any day.

Gregoire’s offensive progression never really translated to the professional level as he was more of an energy winger in his time with St. John’s and Laval.  While he played better last season, it wasn’t enough to earn a qualifying offer from Montreal and he quickly signed a minor league deal with Nashville when free agency opened up.

Next Three Picks
177 – C Miro Aaltonen, Anaheim
178 – D Zac Leslie, Los Angeles
179 – C Blaine Byron, Pittsburgh

Aaltonen never signed with Anaheim but wound up playing an important role for the Toronto Marlies last season.  Despite that, he chose to go back overseas this offseason.  Leslie has been a serviceable defenceman in the minors for the Kings (and now Vegas) while Byron didn’t sign with the Penguins and just wrapped up a so-so rookie AHL year in Florida’s system.

Revised Grade: B: Gregoire got a contract and was serviceable in the minors.  Lots of sixth rounders don’t even do that.

The Canadiens decided to trade out of the seventh round in 2013, flipping their pick to Florida for their 2014 seventh.  Days later, that future pick was dealt back to Florida for George Parros.  Meanwhile, with Montreal’s 2013 selection, they selected defenceman MacKenzie Weegar who was a regular on their back end for most of last year.  When you do deals like these, you’re going to win some (see the Cayden Primeau pickup) but you’re bound to lose the odd one as well.  This qualifies in the latter category.

Revised Draft Grade

From the perspective of getting players to the NHL, the Habs didn’t do too badly here.  Lehkonen is a regular while Andrighetto and de la Rose are close to that status.  Even McCarron could wind up with 100 or so games under his belt before too long.  From that standpoint, they did relatively well.  92 players from this draft class have played at least one NHL game which averages out at roughly three per team.  The Habs have four (above the league average).

However, it can’t be overlooked that McCarron was a bad pick that didn’t develop while Fucale completely busted.  Whiffing on two of your top three picks with the other being more of a depth player than an impact one isn’t pretty.  Lehkonen is the closest thing they have to an impact player from this group and while he’s a decent youngster, he’s probably not going to truly be an impact player on a contending team.

Five years ago, I thought this wasn’t a home run draft for the Habs but that it would still be a solid group nonetheless.  That isn’t the case.  They get some surplus value from some of their middle picks panning out but basically whiffing on 25 and 36 negates any benefit from that (although it takes the grade away from being really bad).  It could have been a worse group of picks but it could have been a lot better as well.

Final Draft Grade: C