The formula used for this ranking considered the current season without completely ignoring the initial rankings that include two to three seasons’ worth of information. My opinion is that far too many rankings are based on this current season alone and this leaves room for recency bias and being surprised on draft day that the scouts favour their entire body of work as opposed to what was seen this season, or even in a single tournament.
Over twenty rankings were studied and accounted for in the creation of this ranking. The most recent rankings hold more weight than the initial analysis of prospects. By increasing the points allotted per rank as the season progresses, players with great years will climb, but initial rankings won’t be ignored.
For now, here are the 16 top-ranked prospects based on this calculation. As a bonus, a final analysis will look at the player’s fit with your Montreal Canadiens and if it’s at all possible that the Habs select this player in a few days from now.
#1 – Connor Bedard
Regina Pats (WHL) – C
Mid-season rank: 1
Outlook: Consensus top pick by a wide margin and has been for some time. Will he truly be as generational as what is currently believed? It would be very fun for the NHL if he were. Too bad he lands in Chicago.
Habs? Not in this lifetime.
#2 – Adam Fantilli
University of Michigan (NCAA) – C
Mid-season rank: 2
Outlook: What a season for Fantilli. While some noise has surfaced recently about Anaheim’s decision, it would be awfully surprising to see anyone but Fantilli selected second overall.
Habs? While there were some rumours about the Canadiens trying to move up, this seems about as likely as Bedard. Even if Anaheim were inclined to move off the second pick to select Michkov, it seems far more likely that Columbus could put together a better package. And even if Anaheim were to pick Michkov at 2, Fantilli still doesn’t make it to Montreal.
#3 – Matvei Michkov
HK Sochi (KHL) – RW
Mid-season rank: 3
Outlook: Little doubt exists about his talent, but Michkov might slide by a considerable margin due to the multitude of factors surrounding his geopolitical situation as well as his contract status. There are now rumours that he’s even now playing hard to get with a few teams that would be considering drafting him. I’ll believe it when I see it, but should this be the case, it would be even more ammo for those seeking to skip on the ultra-talented Russian.
Habs? So many within the fan base want this to happen. Yet, so many believe they will shy away from this selection. I, for one, believe he does not make it far enough for the Canadiens to even have that chance. If they do and they pass, the scrutiny around who they do select will be haunting for the poor kid who is selected.
#4 – Leo Carlsson
Orebro (SHL) – C
Mid-season rank: 4
Outlook: Top-end talent on a responsible two-way centre. Who wouldn’t want that? Ironically, it looks like he’s a lock to be gone in the 3 slot to the Blue Jackets as they seek immediate help and Carlsson represents the best option that is available immediately as Jarmo Kekalainen seeks to save his job.
Habs? As mentioned, I can’t imagine Columbus passing on this player, so Carlsson might be even less likely than Fantilli and Michkov at this point.
#5 – Zach Benson
Winnipeg (WHL) – C/LW
Mid-season rank: 5
Outlook: Benson is a small and ultra-talented playmaker. That there’s a very real chance that he slips all the way to the 8-9 slots is insane as he would have easily been the top pick in last year’s draft. He’s rocked the 5 slot for most of the year and this is where he really should be selected, though it seems certain that he won’t.
Habs? If Smith and Carlsson are gone, and they want to pass on Michkov, Benson would be my personal selection. It appears that this isn’t the case for Montreal, but nobody saw them taking Slafkovsky last year, so who knows where the Habs decide to land with their pick. Benson would be an excellent selection, even if it would mean a second smaller player in the top-6 for the Habs.
#6 – Will Smith
USNTDP (Juniors) – C
Mid-season rank: 9
Outlook: Ultra-flashy and skilled centre with size, Smith has moved up the ranks consistently all year long. He finds himself 6th on this ranking, but he’s almost guaranteed to be selected between the third and fifth slots as teams have fallen in love with the projectable center.
Habs? If Smith is available, there is little doubt that they pick him. He’s exactly what Hughes wants, and the GM knows the player and the person extremely well. Many of the rumours around the wanting to move up mention that they are doing so to try to select Smith.
#7 – Dalibor Dvorsky
AIK (HockeyAllsvenskan) – C
Mid-season rank: 8
Outlook: Big Slovakian centre that plays a strong game all over the ice but may be more offensively limited than other options in this top-10.
Habs? I can’t imagine then going back to Slovakia for a second year in a row and picking a player with limited offensive upside. I refuse to believe in this possibility. I could be wrong.
#8 – Ryan Leonard
USNTDP (Juniors) – RW
Mid-season rank: 17
Outlook: Just like his linemate Smith, Leonard has spent most of the season shooting up the draft board. He plays a power game despite not being overly big. His shot is lethal, and he can handle the puck too. Considering how NHL GMs usually trip over themselves to find players that play the game like Leonard does, I would be fairly surprised to see him slip passed the 10th selection.
Habs? There is considerable noise that the Canadiens may opt for Leonard if Smith is gone. I’m not sure how much I believe it over it just being the same “Hughes likes the NCAA” that’s been the narrative since he took over. I prefer this selection to many others (notably Reinbacher), but I don’t really expect it to happen.
#9 – Oliver Moore
U18 NTDP – C
Mid-season rank: 14
Outlook: Shifty centre with speed to burn. Moore is at top speed all the time a little like Mathew Barzal. He might actually have more offensive upside than Barzal if he can learn to slow it down when making decisions with the puck on his stick.
Habs? Extremely unlikely. They have better options where they are picking and don’t hold the cards to trade this high up afterward.
#10 – Eduard Sale
HC Kometa Brno (Czechia) – RW
Mid-season rank: 6
Outlook: Considered a top-10 pick to start the year but has had his ranking drop throughout the year. It would be a surprise to see him actually picked this high, and some teams may well regret letting the player slide as low as he likely will. The talent is there, the kid just has to figure out how to deliver on it with more regularity.
Habs? Sale would have to drop more than anticipated for them to even get a shot at him. Should he drop to the early or mid-20s, I would be in favour of seeing the Canadiens package their 31st pick to move up and snag him.
#11 – Colby Barlow
Owen Sound (OHL) – LW
Mid-season rank: 15
Outlook: I wrote at mid-season that Barlow was polarizing and that hasn’t changed. He’s as high as eighth on some rankings and as low as thirty-eighth on others. Barlow is already wearing the C in major junior as a 17-year-old, he scored at an impressive pace and did so scoring all types of goals which is promising for when he turns pro. The knocks? He’s not as agile as others and could stand to use his big body some more.
Habs? Won’t slide low enough for them to grab him which is unfortunate because this is the type of players they should be targeting.
#12 – Axel Sandin-Pellikka
Skelleftea AIK J20 (J20 Nationell) – RHD
Mid-season rank: 19
Outlook: High offensive IQ matched with an ability to deliver the goods at both ends of the ice. He gets the top D spot on my ranking and is slotted at the right place for me. Another D is likely to get selected before Sandin-Pellikka which I believe is an error in identifying the top D in the draft, and an error in where he will be picked.
Habs? This is somewhat of the dead zone for the Canadiens as they can’t really get to this spot in the draft despite the fact that Sandin-Pellikka absolutely fills a need for them.
#13 – Brayden Yager
Moose Jaw (WHL) – C
Mid-season rank: 7
Outlook: Shoot-first centre that projects as a winger at the next level. That projection of moving to the wing makes his ceiling hard to predict and has caused a drop in his ranking. He’s not as creative as many others in this offence-stacked draft, but his passing game is still fairly effective, if simple.
Habs? If Yager can drop to the 20s and they want that type of high finish on their wing, they could likely package 31+ to get him. But that may be a big if. He was ranked top-10 to start the year, so he’s likely gone before that time.
#14 – Nate Danielson
Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) – C
Mid-season rank: 16
Outlook: I wrote at mid-season that Danielson was likely headed toward a drop and how wrong I was. Danielson finished strong and his size and finish to end the season showed that he has more to his game than just the playmaking ability and that has been seen favourably by many scouts. Danielson is projected to go anywhere between 10-20 and it looks like that’s an accurate evaluation of his talent.
Habs? With very Suzuki-like qualities, I would personally love Danielson. Once again, this seems like a spot Montreal just can’t get to on the draft order.
#15 – Andrew Cristall
Kelowna Rockets (WHL) – LW
Mid-season rank: 10
Outlook: Extremely creative playmaker with high-end IQ who sometimes gets caught cheating offensively has the scouts a little confused about Cristall. One thing is certain is that he’s got a ton of skill and remains a high-ceiling pick with a low floor as not everyone is convinced his style of play can translate to the next level.
Habs? If the scouts end up shying away from Cristall and he slips by the 20th rank, they should 100% be creating a strong package to get this player. This is precisely the type of swing the Canadiens need to make at this point in their rebuild. Make it happen Kent!
#16 – David Reinbacher
EHC Kloten (NL) – RD
Mid-season rank: 25
Outlook: Most NHL-ready D in the draft who was absolutely not on the radar to start the season. He did outproduce Roman Josi at a similar age in the same league. He is a big body that plays intelligently while showing offensive flair in his game.
Habs? If he was being considered for a pick between 10-12, I would be more open to this possibility. At this point, Reinbacher will be the first defender selected and it’s likely to be in the top 10. I think that is a mistake and one I sincerely hope isn’t associated with the Habs.