While what Montreal does with the first-overall selection on Thursday rightfully is dominating the discussion, the Habs have a second pick at the back of the first round at 26th overall. Who might still be available for them at that time?
To figure out a shortlist, we’re going to work off our mock draft which will be released later this week. The following are players that went around the 26th pick in our mock, listed in alphabetical order.
Beck has already shown himself to be a very strong defensive centre and that type of high floor always is appealing to scouts at the back of the first round. From an offensive standpoint, the raw tools are there but it hasn’t translated to a lot of success as he barely reached the 20-goal mark in the OHL this season. If he is able to take a step or two forward in his development, Beck has the opportunity to be a quality two-way centre, the type of player that goes on to have a long and effective NHL career. If not, he will be more of a checker in the pros and with a faceoff rate higher than 60% in junior this season, he could fill an important role in the NHL even if it is a limited one.
While the league is transitioning towards more mobile blueliners, there is still a role for a big defenceman who can defend. Bichsel is that type of player while he brings a significant physical edge to his game. His skating is decent for his size and while he was used as more of a shutdown defender in the SHL this season, there is still some room to develop his all-around game. The left-shot blueliner is more of a high-floor type of player but there aren’t a lot of players like him in prospect pools which will generate some interest towards the back of the first round.
Chesley had a bit of an up-and-down season in that he struggled when he tried to do too much offensively with his performance suffering soon after. But he fits the profile of a modern defender in that he’s a very strong skater that can defend and kill penalties, likely on a second penalty killing unit. His play with the puck needs a lot of work but if he can improve upon that in college, he could slot in somewhere on the second pairing. A right-shot defender, the Habs could be interested with that being one of the weaker areas of their prospect pool.
The top pick in the 2020 QMJHL draft, Luneau’s stock fell a little bit this season after being pegged in the top-10 on some lists heading into the season. It’s not that he played poorly but rather, he didn’t find another level to really stand out. A jack-of-all-trades type of player, Luneau could play in the top four in the NHL if one or two skills really develop. If not, the right-shot rearguard might profile best on the third pairing with an ability to play more than a typical third-pairing player. As Montreal’s prospect pool seems to feature a lot of depth but not as much in terms of top-end talent, a by-committee approach might be in their plans and Luneau would fit in well in that structure.
McGroarty is more of an older-school power forward. While someone like Josh Anderson has a solid speed component that really helps out his game, skating is a big concern for McGroarty. But few others in this draft class are as advanced physically and he’s the type of heart and soul player that teams like to have around while he has a strong shot already. If a team thinks they can fix his skating, he’ll go in the top 20 but if not, McGroarty would be a safe selection for Montreal while giving them an element they don’t have a lot of in the system.
Mesar is one of the smallest players that could go in the first round but he’s also one of the more versatile ones. He’s comfortable playing both down the middle and on the wing and is a strong playmaker and that’s the type of profile that should be intriguing to teams picking at the back of the first round. Other than the size, there’s a lot to like about Mesar; he has a high enough floor to make him a safe pick but enough offensive upside to potentially play in the top six. Generally speaking, if the Habs could get a top-six forward at this spot in the draft, they’d be thrilled.
There’s a lot of projectability in Pickering which makes him a bit of a wild card. A late growth spurt now has him at 6’4 but he has yet to fill out his frame. He’s already one of the stronger defensive blueliners of this draft class but once he puts on another 30-40 pounds, he could find another level. Of course, that could come at the expense of his skating which, for now at least, is above-average. Pickering hasn’t shown a lot of offensive flashes so far which could make him a lower-ceiling player but the likelihood of the lefty making the NHL should be fairly high.
Who will the Habs pick with this pick? Will they even pick here at all? It won’t be much longer until we find out.