Rounding out the top round of this year’s ranking was interesting because there are many opinions that differ from 21-40 which meant that drawing that line at 32 was a tough one. Then consider that the Habs are picking right in the middle of that pool of talent and it makes for many prospects to consider seriously from a Montreal point of view.
#17 – Calum Ritchie
Oshawa Generals (OHL) – C
Mid-season rank: 11
Outlook: A consistent point-per-game player all season long who had his stock fall all season long because he isn’t as flashy as many others around him. He plays every position and does it well, has a projectable frame, and there’s really not much to not like in his game. His ceiling is a little more limited as he is projected to top out as a solid 2C, but his floor is also very high. Expect this to be a pick, maybe higher than 17, that goes to a team who wants results sooner rather than later and that is willing to sacrifice a little top end to make sure they get it right.
Habs? They aren’t picking in this area of the draft and I’m hoping they are more a team that’s swinging for the fence in this year’s draft. This player absolutely screams Trevor Timmins though, so historically, this would have been a player on the radar. Likely not the case this season though.
#18 – Matthew Wood
University of Connecticut (NCAA) – RW
Mid-season rank: 20
Outlook: A big winger who loves to shoot and did quite well in his first NCAA season. He needs work on his skating and his defensive game, but those are things that are more easily worked on than offensive skills. This rank suits him well as he doesn’t really fit in with the top of the draft, but the big body and high floor means it’s really unlikely he makes it passed the 20th rank.
Habs? As mentioned above, I think Wood is a pick in that dead zone where the Canadiens aren’t picking and won’t be willing to give up the assets to trade up to get him.
#19 – Mikhail Gulyayev
Omskie Yastreby (MHL) – LD
Mid-season rank: 12
Outlook: Highly intelligent and a creative puck mover that is undersized and has the Russian factor playing against him. I wrote at mid-season that I thought 12 was too high for him, he’s dropped to 19th where I think teams will start to consider him, but with two important factors playing against him, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him drop some more. On skill alone, this rank is probably the correct one.
Habs? I’ve never been high on this prospect and so I think there are similar players lower in the rankings that have similar upside without all of the risk. This is a pass for me.
#20 – Riley Heidt
Prince George Cougars (WHL) – C
Mid-season rank: 13
Outlook: Smallish centre that saw his stock drop in the second half of the season. I don’t really understand why. He continued to produce, to play hard on the puck, to show good playmaking and an excellent shot when he decides to use it. He even plays well in the defensive zone. The big knock on him appears to be his consistency.
Habs? Unlikely to be available to them; should he slide though, he is in the range of Cristall where the upside should be something Montreal jumps all over as a second pick in the round.
#21 – Otto Stenberg
Frölunda (SHL) – C
Mid-season rank: 18
Outlook: Stenberg is an excellent all-around player with his shot being his primary weapon. He’s not afraid of the dirty areas on the ice despite not reaching six feet. He’s got a high ceiling but needs a bit more work than many prospects ranked 20 and under to reach it.
Habs? I think this falls into the high-floor projects that don’t quite fit the mold of the big swings I’d like to see them take. Regardless, I do expect him to be gone if the Canadiens stick at 31, so this is an unlikely pick.
#22 – Gabe Perreault
U18 (USNTDP) – LW
Mid-season rank: 30
Outlook: Excellent vision and fierceness which makes him an excellent board player, though there are questions that the board play might suffer at the next level due to his smaller stature. He’s got a high compete level but does need to work on his skating. Projected as a middle-six winger with power play upside.
Habs? As we start to get into the territory where the players might actually slip to the Canadiens, this one has my interest as a player who saw his stock rise throughout the year, has a father that could coach him through being a Montreal prospect, and has enough upside to make this a worthwhile gamble. Not sure I’m completely sold, but I’m intrigued.
#23 – Quentin Musty
Sudbury Wolves (OHL) – LW
Mid-season rank: 24
Outlook: Powerful and physically gifted winger with a heavy shot describes Musty best. He’s a very north-south player that has the upside to interest teams with multiple picks in the first round. Scouts do wish he was a bit more physical for his size.
Habs? I was very high on Musty’s teammate David Goyette last year and I remain very interested in Musty. If he’s available at 31, that’s a gamble I take all day long.
#24 – Gavin Brindley
University of Michigan (NCAA) – RW
Mid-season rank: 29
Outlook: High-energy winger that has speed to burn and loves to play with the puck on his stick. The questions will always remain about his size as he’s only 5’8’. Very little questions about the skill, but there are some around his defensive efforts.
Habs? No. Size is a factor, but I just feel like there are many undersized options in this year’s first round, and there are better gambles to take than Brindley. Considering any one of Musty, Simashev, or But might be available, I don’t see the fit here.
#25 – Dmitri Simashev
Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (KHL) – RD
Mid-season rank: 39
Outlook: Big defensive defenceman who has been trusted with big important minutes on spotlight clubs in Russia. His offensive capability is questioned, but players have to be aware when he’s on the ice and there’s always room on a team’s blue line for someone like that.
Habs? This could potentially be a decent fit with Lane Hutson. Should Montreal decide to bring over Matvei Michkov earlier in the round, this could be an excellent second selection (like they did last year with the two from Slovakia) to fulfill a team need and make the offensive dynamo feel a little more at home upon arrival.
#26 – Samuel Honzek
Vancouver Giants (WHL) – LW
Mid-season rank: 34
Outlook: Tall rangy, Slovakian centre who skates well but needs some development to find his consistent focus and defensive game. He did score 56 points in just 43 games as a rookie in the WHL.
Habs? Seems unlikely that Honzek will remain available long enough for them to add him with their late-round selection, and as a project up front, I’m not sure it’s a great fit anyways. Seems to be many similarities with Slafkovsky in terms of work that needs to be done.
#27 – Ethan Gauthier
Pheonix de Sherbrooke (QMJHL) – RW
Mid-season rank: 21
Outlook: Offensive production at the next level remains a question mark for Gauthier, but his motor and desire have never been in question. Super safe, high-floor pick that is sure to be a welcome addition to any team’s bottom six, and that’s the minimum this player should achieve.
Habs? There will come a time when a selection like this is desired. Right now, the Habs need skill and should forego safe picks like Gauthier to take the home run swing on a player that could pan out and fill the net. Easy for me to say, my job’s not on the line. And if somehow Gauthier is available at 35, it would be an excellent selection.
#28 – Daniil But
Yaroslavl Lokomotiv (KHL) – LW
Mid-season rank: 40
Outlook: A huge winger that doesn’t always use his size but has a cannon of a shot. Not a huge fan that he spent most of the season in the MHL, but he ended the season with 15 games in the KHL which is impressive for a teenager. Now, can he fill in his frame and become a physical specimen that teams will salivate over?
Habs? This definitely qualifies as a home run swing. It would be a gamble on multiple levels and is one that might not make it all the way to their pick at 31.
#29 – Jayden Perron
Chicago Steel (USHL) – RW
Mid-season rank: 33
Outlook: A really small winger with incredible hands. Many amateur scouts have Perron much higher than this rank, but some important ones rank him lower too. Chances are fair that a team is in love with his potential and takes the chance on him, but it’s a boom-or-bust selection without a doubt.
Habs? The skill is there, the size is not for a team that’s already poised to ice Caufield with Farrell, this one is questionable. Can’t really complain if management takes this gamble though because it really is a player that could fulfill that need for unmatched skill down the road.
#30 – Tom Willander
Rogle BK Jr (Sweden) – RD
Mid-season rank: 61
Outlook: Quiet, composed defender who can do it all without necessarily shining in one area of the game over another.
Habs? If they must move Harris in a deal to make room on the left side of the blue line, this might be the right player at the right spot in the draft to mitigate that loss. Many of the qualities used to qualify Willander sounds like the current Habs defender, only this one plays on the right side where opportunities might come a bit easier.
#31 – Lukas Dragicevic
Tri-City Americans (WHL) – RD
Mid-season rank: 28
Outlook: Dragicevic is essentially a fourth forward that lines up on the blue line. At least, that’s how he’s seen at the moment. He’ll need significant work on his play away from the puck to ever even make it to the NHL. However, should he put in that work and become average away from the puck, the offensive tools are tempting for teams in need of that skill on the blue line.
Habs? Dragicevic offers an interesting test for fans when it comes to understanding just how much current management believes in the future of Lane Hutson. Dragicevic is a bigger version with perhaps a little less offensive polish, but not much. Do they double down on that type of defender and see who pans out more? Or do they believe in Hutson to the point that selecting Dragicevic isn’t really interesting?
#32 – Kasper Halttunen
HIFK (Liiga) – RW
Mid-season rank: 23
Outlook: Big body winger who plays a power game, has a concussion history, and struggles when facing men in Finland this season before producing much better when returned to a league with players his age. All this combined explains his drop in rank, but this is a high-floor pick and the type of player NHL GMs love, so it wouldn’t be shocking to see this player be selected higher than 32nd.
Habs? With questions surrounding his ability to produce when facing men, this is a hard pass for me as the Habs require skill, skill, and more skill and this player is questionable in that department for me. I don’t much care for the high floor at this stage of the rebuild.