Montreal’s prospect pool has gotten a lot deeper over the past year as a result of extra draft picks and veterans being moved out for prospects. As a result, this is the deepest we’ve gone in our rankings series. We begin with the bottom seven.
Here are the criteria that each player had to meet to be eligible to be in these rankings:
1) The player must be 24 years old or younger as of October 1, 2022
2) The player must have no greater than 50 games of NHL experience (including regular season and playoffs)
3) The player cannot be signed to an AHL contract
Here are the departures from last year’s list (previous ranking in parentheses):
Graduated – NHL GP: Cole Caufield (1), Samuel Montembeault (23), Michael Pezzetta (29)
Graduated – Age: Otto Leskinen (35)
Traded – Ryan Poehling (9), Cam Hillis (32), Michael McNiven (40)
Released – Kale Clague (16), Josh Brook (19), Brett Stapley (24), Jacob Olofsson (36)
Included with each ranking is an estimate of the NHL readiness date for each prospect. For some players, the estimate is a specific season while others whose projected development paths are harder to determine will be in a range. Players are assessed on a combination of upside, likelihood of making it to the NHL, and overall value to the organization. The rankings were set in November (the write-ups take a while) so early-season performances have been taken into consideration but as they are small sample sizes, they only move a player up or down a few slots.
47) Arvid Henrikson
Defenceman, Lake Superior State (NCAA)
7th round pick (187th overall) in 2016
It has taken a while but Henrikson is now at least a regular player for the Lakers, something that wasn’t the case over the first couple of seasons. But merely becoming a regular in your third season isn’t much of an accomplishment, especially for someone that technically is an NHL prospect.
Of course, Henrikson’s presence here is just that, a technicality. He hasn’t been invited to any of Montreal’s camps in recent years, even before he got to college. That’s completely understandable too; if you can’t crack the lineup early in your USHL or college career, you’re probably not getting a contract so why invest anything further in that player?
2021-22 Stats: 35 GP, 0-5-5, -8 rating, 56 PIMS, 14 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 41st
NHL ETA: 2025-26/2026-27 – I’m stopping myself from putting N/A in any of these even though that’s the answer for Henrikson. He’d need to magically turn things around to land a pro deal somewhere and would need a year or two at that level to have even a remote chance of getting to the NHL. With all due respect to him, that’s not happening.
46) Jack Gorniak
Left Wing, Wisconsin (NCAA)
4th round pick (123rd overall) in 2018
With the Badgers, Gorniak is a particularly useful player. He primarily has played in their bottom six but is someone that has been shifted up into higher roles while playing on both wings. He’s turning that into a five-year college career. Wisconsin is certainly happy about that.
However, while that type of player is useful in college, it doesn’t translate into much of an NHL profile. Clearly, the Canadiens feel the same way as they didn’t even bother inviting him to Development Camp in July. In doing so, they basically confirmed they have no intention of signing him. Accordingly, let’s not go any deeper here.
2021-22 Stats: 37 GP, 5-10-15, -19 rating, 14 PIMS, 88 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 38th
NHL ETA: 2025-26 – Since I need to pick a year here as well, let’s say he gets a pro contract somewhere. He’ll need a couple of years in the minors and at that point, he’s going to be 26 and the odds of him developing later than that are slim.
45) Alexander Gordin
Right Wing, Kapitan Stupino (MHL)
6th round pick (171st overall) in 2020
First, let’s mention the good. Gordin made it into 14 KHL games with Sochi last season and even though he didn’t play or do much, getting a taste of the top level in Russia doesn’t hurt at this stage of his development.
Unfortunately, the bad is significant. It’s not that Gordin just took a small step back last season, he took a significant one. More specifically, it was another significant one. In his draft year, he was a dominant scorer at the Russian junior level. His output dipped the following season and with two different organizations last season, the production went down again. Now playing against players largely younger than him, this is another shift in the wrong direction.
Gordin was drafted for his ability to score goals as the rest of his game isn’t all that special. And, quite frankly, he hasn’t been scoring a lot of goals, a trend that continued early this season as he moves full-time into Russia’s second league. He has a long way to go to get back to prospect relevancy and it’s at least worth mentioning that Montreal holds his rights indefinitely. If he one day turns it around, he’ll still technically be in the system.
2021-22 Stats: 28 GP, 12-8-20, -2 rating, 8 PIMS
Previous HW Ranking: 37th
NHL ETA: 2027-28 – If he’s going to turn things around, it’s going to be a long process, not one that magically happens overnight. At this point, he’s a very long-term project at best.
44) Nate Schnarr
Centre, Laval (AHL)
Acquired in trade from New Jersey in 2022
The Habs brought in Schnarr at the trade deadline in the swap that sent Andrew Hammond to the Devils. Considering it originally cost Brandon Baddock to get Hammond, Montreal wound up with a better AHL player and a few NHL victories from Hammond out of the swap. Not a bad piece of business even if it was a small move in reality.
Schnarr is a perfectly serviceable bottom-six AHL forward that can play centre and the wing. He can kill penalties and is adequate at the faceoff circle. That was enough to earn him another contract from this front office in the summer.
However, this is not the profile of a future NHL player. He doesn’t produce enough to really get himself into the range of being an option to be recalled. I don’t think that’s going to change much moving forward so while he’s a quality player in Laval and a worthwhile addition in the grand scheme of things, he’s not someone they’re going to be counting on as an NHL prospect. When they need to open up contract slots, Schnarr’s will be one of them.
2021-22 Stats: 63 GP, 17-19-36, +21 rating, 36 PIMS, 106 shots
Previous HW Ranking: N/A
NHL ETA: 2024-25 – No one is viewing Schnarr as an NHL option based on how this season has gone. If he moves to another organization and becomes more productive, perhaps that’d be enough to give him a shot at being a recall in a couple of years.
43) Daniil Sobolev
Defenceman, Windsor (OHL)
5th round pick (142nd overall) in 2021
The 2021 draft class featured plenty of dart throws with fresh evaluations on many players ranging from minimal to non-existent. Sobolev definitely falls into that category as in 2020-21, he didn’t play a single game with the OHL not playing.
Sobolev struggled at the beginning of last season, adapting to a new league and a smaller ice surface than he was accustomed to. However, as a defenceman who is known more for his defensive play, he adjusted well as the season went on and became a quality part towards the back of their blueline.
This season, he has been even quieter though and it’s hard to see a scenario where things change dramatically enough to the point where they’ll sign him. If his role after his draft +2 season is that of a depth defender, that’s not the type of profile that typically plays in the pros in North America.
2021-22 Stats: 62 GP, 2-15-17, +25 rating, 36 PIMS, 71 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 25th
NHL ETA: 2026-27 – If Sobolev winds up with a contract, he’s going to need several years in the minors to make the adjustment to the tougher level and work his way into a strong enough defender to earn a recall. That’s a lot that has to happen.
42) Joel Teasdale
Left Wing, Laval (AHL)
Undrafted free agent signing in 2018
This is a ranking that probably is a little low but it also reflects where I think he stood with the organization a few months ago when these rankings were set. It’s also an unfortunate sign of how much his value has tumbled the last couple of years.
A few years ago, it looked like Teasdale was a very shrewd pickup by the Habs. He had a decent scoring touch, could kill penalties, and played with physicality. That’s the prototypical profile of a quality fourth liner and with the frequency that the Habs churned through them, being able to develop a cost-controlled one from within would have been great.
But injuries have simply made a key weakness – skating – even weaker. Unfortunately, that’s not an easy one for him to improve, especially after multiple surgeries. That was plainly evident in the postseason where, as a player that was built for the grind-it-out style that the AHL playoffs provide, he struggled to the point where it was hardly a given that he’d be tendered a qualifying offer even after a decent regular season.
He got that offer but I think he’s more of a placeholder (not unlike Schnarr, actually). He sticks around for this season but as several of Montreal’s other prospects become Laval-eligible next season, they’ll need contract slots and his is a logical one to be ceded.
2021-22 Stats: 44 GP, 15-13-28, -1 rating, 17 PIMS, 90 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 28th
NHL ETA: 2024-25 – His early performance this season wasn’t putting him in recall territory although he has been much better lately. Assuming he gets an opportunity elsewhere next season, a good showing in the minors with that team could get Teasdale on the NHL radar if all went well.
41) Jack Smith
Centre, Sioux Falls (USHL)
4th round pick (102nd overall) in 2020
Smith’s first season outside of the high school ranks was in 2020-21 and it didn’t go great. Last year was supposed to be his chance to rebound. It didn’t happen. He got off to a sluggish start and then suffered a season-ending injury in mid-November. Ouch (in more ways than one).
Smith was drafted as a long-term project and that most certainly remains the case. His speed is certainly a strong spot for him but he’s going to need a lot of improvement over the next few years. He has been in the lineup most nights with Minnesota-Duluth in the early going this season so that’s at least a decent starting point. The fact he’ll be in the organization for a few more years stopped him from falling behind some of the others that took big tumbles on this list.
2021-22 Stats: 10 GP, 2-1-3, -3 rating, 6 PIMS, 16 shots
Previous HW Ranking: 39th
NHL ETA: 2027-28/2028-29 – It seems safe to say that Smith will need the full four seasons in college before he’ll have a shot at a pro contract. From there, a year or two in the minors is likely. He has a long way to go.