Let’s start by getting one thing in the clear: in no way, shape, or form do I fancy myself a draft expert. I have not really seen these kids play, so my aim here is not to evaluate the quality of the projected selections. What I am is an avid fan who understands (or at least thinks he does) the team’s prospect pool, what the Habs are looking for based on the vision sold to the fan base since new management has been in place, and therefore what they are also likely to stay away from.
With that in mind, I used many draft references to get an idea of who stands where in the draft order. In addition to this, I’ve used Draft Prospects’ simulator multiple times over the course of the last four weeks to get a handle on players and their positioning within the draft. I think using the tool more than once over different weeks is key since players’ rankings appear to be updated regularly on this site (and they still remain rather erratic when compared to other sources).
This exercise gave me a list of players that would fit either in need or profile for the Habs. It also had to be a player within the selection range of the Habs’ current draft positions. I absolutely did not consider that trades will happen, that teams will select picks that are off the board, etc. I then dove a little deeper to find out what selections I would make in that position, and the fruit of that labour is presented below. Again, the large number of variables make this exercise unlikely to even be close to reality, but rather a fun look into what are potential picks with the draft still over a month away.
#1 selection – #1 overall
Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) – Shane Wright
I understand that it’s not a unanimous #1 selection and this debate has been featured way too prominently since the May 10th lottery. Will they pick him, will they move the pick, can another team offer a package, etc. The fact of the matter is that this is a no-brainer pick, a pick that the organization cannot be criticized for later. They just can’t. The kid has been ranked first for three years and not selecting him here and watching him erupt elsewhere is a fireable offence. For a management team that is new, there is no better way to get started than with a 1OA as it takes the pressure entirely off the draft selection. They will select Wright; I’m not even considering another name in this slot. The pressure is now entirely on the new player development team to make sure this isn’t another swing and miss while in a high position.
In Wright, the Habs will get a player who is above average in every single skill associated with the game of hockey. To help along these above-average skills is the biggest Shane Wright selling point which is his elite hockey IQ and hockey sense that make all his above-average skills shine, likely more than they should if considered in isolation. Easy pick here.
Most recent Rankings: 1 (NA nhl.com), 1 (Baracchini), 1 (Smaht), 1 (FC Hockey), 1 (Dobber Prospects)
1st round selection – #27 overall
Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL) – Tristan Luneau
As early as 22nd in one simulation, as late as 40th in another. This is one pick that really doesn’t seem unanimous between sites. He is a 6’2” right-handed defenceman who is said to be smart and safe, who will eat minutes with a heavy shot and a smart first pass. Projected as a top-4 defender, he seems on the safe side for a team picking for a second time within the first round, but if he is available, he seems like too safe a pick at too big of a team need to pass up on. Picking a Q player in the first round of a draft in Montreal doesn’t hurt either, though it wasn’t a good pick last time the Habs did that.
Most recent Rankings: 24 (NA nhl.com), 31 (Baracchini), 71 (Smaht), 34 (FC), 23 (Dobber)
2nd round selection – #33 overall
Skelleftea AIK J20 (J20 Nationell) – Elias Salomonsson
Much like Luneau, Salomonsson ranged widely in variations of this exercise which made it quite difficult to place him on the board. Again, like Luneau, he is a big-bodied right-handed blue liner. Unlike Luneau, Salomonsson is highly mobile with an impressive skillset that is sure to be a far more popular choice for fans of advanced stats (no, I didn’t look up his advanced stats, this is a tongue-in-cheek comment). While an impressive puck-mover with great offensive timing, the knock on this prospect is that he’s got a ton of work to do on his defensive game. However, I still selected him here because he has the size that will make him an efficient NHLer, and an excellent option should he put in the work to develop defensively. A home-run swing that complemented the safe selection of Luneau.
Most recent Rankings: 12 (EU nhl.com), 52 (Baracchini), 38 (Smaht), 26 (FC), 46 (Dobber)
Others in 27-33 range
Ty Nelson plays in North Bay of the OHL and is another RD option. He’s much smaller than the other selections at this rank but has a bit of a Francis Bouillon build with similar aggressiveness that still makes him an interesting choice. His energy sometimes causes him to reach and end up out of position. He’s a rookie in the OHL and has played his way into important minutes on a contending team, would be an excellent selection at 33, though it seems likely he goes between the Habs picks.
Most recent Rankings: 32 (NA nhl.com), 38 (Baracchini), 35 (Smaht), 35 (FC), 20 (Dobber)
Nathan Gaucher of Quebec Remparts (QMJHL) was never available in these slots a few weeks ago. He is now with regularity and it is reflected in the rankings as some suggest this would be a reach. Wonder if he actually falls this much and if the Habs go with another centre with their second first-round pick. To me, he seems like an interesting prospect, but some of the featured D might answer team needs better than Gaucher considering all of Suzuki, Dvorak, Wright, Evans, and Poehling being in the mix.
Most recent Rankings: 16 (NA nhl.com), 34 (Baracchini), 58 (Smaht), 37 (FC), 49 (Dobber)
Jiri Kulich plays for HC Karlovy Vary in Czechia and everything I’ve read about him screams Tomas Plekanec in terms of skills. One thing that wasn’t spoken of very much was his defensive presence, which was a big Plekanec selling point, so I kept him on the radar even if I didn’t pick him. The biggest red flag for me is the rankings being all over the map which suggests that he is inconsistent, maybe something he can sort out with maturity.
Most recent Rankings: 13 (EU nhl.com), 20 (Baracchini), 15 (Smaht), 22 (FC), 41 (Dobber)
Seamus Casey of the University of Michigan is a strange player to have featured down here. Every ranking has him close to the 27th pick, but he’s a solid choice at 33. I’m featuring him way down here because Casey is a smaller RHD with great puck-moving skills. He fits, though I always question the amount of these players that can come together on a roster with the Habs already having a few in their current prospects.
Most recent Rankings: 29 (NA nhl.com), 27 (Baracchini), 25 (Smaht), 23 (FC), 27 (Dobber)
2nd round selection – #62 overall
Ryan Chesley of the USDP National U18 Team is another right-hand D with size, skill, and an aggressive nature. Unlikely to still be on the board at this point, he slipped to my slot once, so I allowed myself to feature him here. He’s a late riser which always makes me cautious, but again, he seems to be rising to the point where he won’t be available at 62. If he is, it might be a steal. I would not take him earlier and that might be the hottest take of this entire article based on the rankings from many who know more than me.
Most recent Rankings: 18 (NA nhl.com), 30 (Baracchini), 72 (Smaht), 28 (FC), 35 (Dobber)
Adam Ingram is a centre from the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL. One publication had him as the Habs pick when it was sitting at 49, though I wonder if that’s just a writer putting too much stock into Hughes’ knowledge of the league. He uses his size to win battles and is a physical player, but the knock on him is skating, so I’m not sure I see the fit here.
Most recent Rankings: 27 (NA nhl.com), 39 (Baracchini), 56 (Smaht), 49 (FC), 36 (Dobber)
Danny Zhilkin is a strong skating center which is interesting considering he’s 6’2”. He’s said to be elusive with soft hands though he’ll go stretches where he’s completely invisible. He is ranked higher than this slot but regularly slipped down and was available. I don’t know if it’s a quirk of the simulations, or if he’s got enough red flags that it could happen this way. Rankings vary which also sends red flags up for me. If, and it seems to be a big if, he’s still on the board at this spot, I’d think it might be a pick that fits with the version of the team that management has claimed to be seeking up to this point. A home run swing which I think is a great idea when picking for the fourth time within the first 60-ish selections.
Most recent Rankings: 35 (NA nhl.com), 39 (Baracchini), 53 (Smaht), 84 (FC), 42 (Dobber)
Maveric Lamoureux is another right-hand D prospect that is quickly rising through the ranks. He was available in this slot a few weeks ago but is likely close to the 27-33 range at this point. Should he fall here, it would be a no-brainer even though this is a young man that is without question more of a project than a safe pick. But the ceiling appears to be appealing to an increasing number of teams.
Most recent Rankings: 20 (NA nhl.com), 67 (Baracchini), 111 (Smaht), 48 (FC), 63 (Dobber)
3rd round selection – #66 overall
Following the theme of big and skilled right-handed defenders is Sam Rinzel of Chaska High (USHS-MN). Listen, there’s no way the Habs pick this many defenders. So, either forwards with better upside fall, or the Habs will move picks to select differently. Rinzel is smooth and skilled even if he’s 6’4”! The knock on him is his defensive work, as shown by his –1 rating despite scoring 38pts in 27 games this season in a high school league. He seems like a less polished Salomonsson. Maybe they come here if they don’t like or simply don’t get Salomonsson? The rankings are much higher than 66 on Rinzel, but once again, the late rise and the fact that I have so many defenders on the board means that I wouldn’t pick him higher than this.
Most recent Rankings: 19 (NA nhl.com), 51 (Baracchini), 43 (Smaht), 43 (Dobber)
I ended up with Mats Lindgren of the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL in two different sims. This is a left-handed offensively skilled defenseman with second-pairing upside. The highly skilled puck-moving defenders are quickly becoming a theme as the easy picks in the Habs’ draft spots unless they trade around to draft otherwise.
Most recent Rankings: 47 (NA nhl.com), 75 (Baracchini), 63 (Smaht), 75 (FC), 39 (Dobber)
Julian Lutz’s production in the DEL places the big left-winger somewhere in the second round. Projections headed into the season had him as a late first-round pick. Unfortunately for him, he’s missed an important period of this season with an injury. His injury started in February and the small sample size may cost him some rankings on the draft board. It’s anyone’s guess if he’s still available at this ranking, but he’s an excellent project pick if he is.
Most recent Rankings: 30 (EU nhl.com), 62 (Baracchini), 49 (Smaht), 51 (FC)
3rd round selection – #75 overall
Fraser Minten of the Kamloops Blazers (WHL) was my pick at 66 or 75 three sims in a row. He’s over the six-foot mark and is said to play with speed and offensive instinct while being defensively responsible. I think this centre’s offensive capabilities are questioned moving up, so that’s why he’s down in the third round, but I wonder if they could develop as a winger? He seems to really slot in nicely with the speed and skill being sold to the fans by management, so I like this pick.
Most recent Rankings: 28 (NA nhl.com), 71 (Baracchini), 92 (Smaht), 55 (FC)
Noah Warren of the Gatineau Olympiques is a big, bruising 6’5” defender that likely wants to be in the mold of Arber Xhekaj more than Mattias Norlinder. With all the incoming skill, it’s not a bad idea to include a bit of nastiness to round it out. Recent rankings project him higher, but I think the vision of new management takes a pass on him higher than this considering Xhekaj looks to already be the prospect that will fill this need within the organization.
Most recent Rankings: 33 (NA nhl.com), 50 (Baracchini), 87 (Smaht), 68 (FC), 56 (Dobber)
Ludvig Jansson of Södertälje SK (HockeyAllsvenskan) was all over this ranking a few weeks ago but now is consistently chosen lower in more recent simulations. He seems like a safe pick at right defence with good skill and intelligent positioning. Once again, based on the version of the team presented by Hughes and Gorton, he would appear to fit what they want to do with strong skating married to good offensive instincts. He may be better suited as a selection in the next two picks, but he started here so I’ll leave him here.
Most recent Rankings: 35 (EU nhl.com), 110 (Baracchini), 98 (FC)
The smallish Cole Knuble is in Fargo Force (USHL) and is said to play bigger than he is listed at 5’10”. Big shot and high effort. Wonder if he falls in line with Gallagher and Harvey-Pinard. He’s ranked around this slot and once again seems like a pick that lines up with what management has sold as their vision up to this point.
Most recent Rankings: 84 (NA nhl.com), 52 (Smaht), 99 (FC)
3rd round selection – #92 overall
Vinzenz Rohrer of the Ottawa 67’s (OHL) is ranked much higher than this by most so I snapped him up quickly when I could at this spot. Everything I’ve read suggests a similar skill set to Sven Andrighetto, though this Austrian is a bit bigger at 5’11” and could potentially be intriguing. The truth is that the right winger is unlikely to still be on the board at this point.
Most recent Rankings: 42 (NA nhl.com), 57 (Baracchini), 126 (Smaht), 67 (FC), 60 (Dobber)
Reid Schaefer of the Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) is a selection that intrigued me. The knock on him is his skating, so unlike many names here, he doesn’t really fit in the team’s vision of speed. But he’s said to dominate the physical game while having a big shot that may translate in the pros which might not be the worst thing for a left winger.
Most recent Rankings: 31 (NA nhl.com), 102 (Baracchini), 55 (Smaht)
Tyler Duke of the USDP U18 Team is a very small left defenceman at only 5’9”. Seems a little like Victor Mete to me, but maybe he has a better shot to make a bit of room for himself on the ice?
Most recent Rankings: 201 (NA nhl.com), HM (Baracchini), 88 (Smaht), 72 (FC)
4th round selection – #98 overall
Cameron Lund is a center for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL. A big body who is scoring goals, he’s slotted a bit later than this, but fitting the vision of the team in a league the new manager knows well, I allowed myself to reach on this one pick.
Most recent Rankings: 40 (NA nhl.com), 104 (Baracchini), 107 (Smaht)
If the Habs need some goaltending help, I’m not sure it comes in this draft. Should they want to pick one anyway, there’s Tyler Brennan of the Prince George Cougars (WHL). Big kid with good rebound control. As always with goaltenders, he’s a project. And because he’s the top-ranked netminder, it would be surprising if he were still available here, even if the overall draft ranking would suggest this is where it makes the most sense to get him.
Most recent Rankings: 1 (NAG nhl.com), 100 (Baracchini), 76 (Smaht), 94 (FC), HM (Dobber)
The USDP U18’s Cruz Lucius is a six-foot right wing that is a playmaker. He’s missed some time this season due to an injury but still produced at a point-per-game when he was in the lineup. For a fourth-round pick, this seems like a worthwhile gamble. His rank suggests he moves quicker than that, but considering team needs and the injury, I pass if it’s earlier than 98.
Most recent Rankings: 41 (NA nhl.com), 65 (Baracchini), 105 (Smaht), 61 (FC)
4th round selection – #127 & #128 overall
Evan Konyen was ranked down here a few weeks ago, but he’s since moved up by nearly 20 ranks in my last three sims. He’s a smaller player with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL that is marked as a playmaker. Clearly, if he’s still available here, it’ll be a nice addition.
Most recent Rankings: 85 (NA nhl.com)
Marek Hejduk, another product of the USDP U18 program, is a well-sized (6’) left winger. He’s another player that I selected in one of my first sims in the fifth round who has moved up in recent rankings yet still finds himself in the Habs’ territory, simply with a higher pick. He is mostly known for his work in the defensive zone.
Most recent Rankings: 159 (NA nhl.com), 89 (Smaht)
Ryan Healey is a right-handed D with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL. Good size and ranked as a two-way option. Mostly intriguing for his physicality.
Most recent Rankings: 70 (NA nhl.com), 121 (Smaht)
5th round selection – #130 overall
Angus Booth is a left-handed defenceman that plays for Shawinigan (QMJHL) and has been selected at this slot in four different simulations I’ve completed. Not ranked in many publications, but then ranked higher than this slot in others. He doesn’t really fill a team need, but it might be an interesting option with this selection.
Most recent Rankings: 92 (NA nhl.com), 114 (Baracchini)
Dylan Silverstein is a second goaltending option for this draft. The USDP U18 product is left-handed which is always interesting, and likely needs to grow into his frame a little before teams can really understand what he’ll be all about. Again, the draft is thin in goal, so a team who needs goaltending more than the Habs may reach. If I’m Hughes, I don’t reach on netminding in this draft.
Most recent Rankings: 3 (NAG nhl.com)
6th round selection – #162 overall
Look at that! A 6’2” big, two-way right defenceman! Michael Mastrodomenico plays for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL. If the Habs were to draft along with my selections, I’d go somewhere else with a roll-of-the-dice sixth-round pick. They likely don’t come close to these selections, so he might be an intriguing long-shot pick to round out a position of need.
Most recent Rankings: 78 (NA nhl.com), 126 (Baracchini)
Niklas Kokko plays with the Karpat U20 and is a big 6’3” goaltender. Likely a project, but if the team doesn’t believe in Silverstein or Brennan (or won’t reach), he’s a low-risk selection.
Most recent Rankings: 9 (EUG nhl.com), 123 (Smaht)
Antonin Verreault is a left-winger with the Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL) who is really small at 5’8” with good vision and skill. Can he compete in the pro game? He regularly slipped to just before this selection despite being ranked at 133 so it seems like the people who know more than me agree with my questioning. If still available at 162, I would absolutely take that risk, but not at 129.
Most recent Rankings: 140 (NA nhl.com), 91 (FC Hockey), HM (Dobber)
7th round selection – #194 overall & #216 overall
Drum roll for yet another right-hand defenceman from the USDP U18. Kaden Muir is a defensive presence and frankly, I’d like for the team to take a bigger swing than this at this position. But he was always there when I was selecting, and it seems to fit the bill.
James Fisher of Belmont Hill in USHS-Prep is a big pivot who loves to score. If I disliked the safe nature of the Muir selection, this is a project I’d be more in favour of. It might flop tremendously, but you’ve got an interesting player if it pans out.
Maxim Barbashev is a left winger for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL and was regularly available here a few weeks ago. A late-season surge for the Q import has him as high as a fifth-round selection in the eyes of some.
Kent Anderson is yet another big (6’3”) defender, this time of the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL. Big two-way type that can be a safe gamble (pardon the pun) this late in the draft process.
One quick look at this board suggests a heavy selection of American players, which is likely to draw some criticism. I think it’s a logical way for this team to draft considering the insight they likely hold on those players, the fact that many scouts missed an entire year of scouting due to the pandemic, and the fact that the team of scouts is likely still being assembled under Hughes and Gorton. There’s also the reality that the entire league is selecting more from these programs and that the Habs hold a distinct advantage of being able to offer kids from the Q who are perhaps slotted in rounds six and seven but go undrafted the chance to continue their careers in Laval or Trois-Rivieres without necessarily using up a draft selection.
Regardless, I’m sure to be way off on 90%+ of these picks, it’s simply entertaining to consider how the team’s vision will line up with what we see from a draft simulation and if any picks line up. If they do, that player will assuredly gain a supporter in hoping they develop and make it all the way.