The Habs enter the second day of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft with eight picks on hand. As is tradition, we’ll keep track of their moves here with scouting reports on their newest prospects.
Scouting reports are posted as they appeared in their write-ups; typos were not corrected.
69th Overall – G Jacob Fowler, Youngstown (USHL)
After five goalies went off the board in the second round, the Habs dipped a bit deeper into their list and picked up Fowler, a Boston College commit. There are concerns about his weight but going the college route will give him a chance to gradually fix that issue.
DOB: Nov. 4, 2004 – Melbourne, FL
Weight: 222 lbs
HockeyProspect.com: Fowler is more of a technician than a high end athlete. He merges his mechanics with a high level of poise. He’s able to remain quiet but effective because of his mental game and his anticipation. He uses his stick as part of his save process…which is a little bit rare these days for a more technical-style goalie at his age. Arguably his best quality is understanding when he needs to stay up right on plays that are in close proximity to his post. Staying composed, staying upright in his standing post integration or when in his set stance, and timing shots correctly as the foundation of his game.
DraftPro Hockey: Controls rebounds consistently. Active with his stick, not afraid to play the puck or utilize his stick to deflect passes coming into dangerous areas. Quick, precise movements on his slides into the butterfly. Anticipates plays happening with keen awareness and focus of things happening around him. Keeps his composure and re-focuses quickly after a goal goes in. Positionally sound and square to the puck, rarely gives up goals because he is out of position. He can challenge the shooters more, plays too deep in the net at times. Footwork is average, can still improve his agility in that area. Reflexes on rebounds and flexibility to make the second and third saves on low shots is excellent.
Elite Prospects: Fowler’s explosive lateral movement is the first thing that jumps out at most scouts. It’s easy to marvel at the overall strength that he pushes with. This is a testament to his physical training, but also to the confidence he has in his positioning. He doesn’t normally set up aggressively in terms of his depth, but he is aggressive in his approach. He’s not afraid to hone in on a shooter and leave more room at the back door because he feels like he can cover that area with the strength that he possesses. With some adjustments to his approach and the added overall game experience that he will receive in NCAA, he could be one of the biggest names to come out of this draft class.
Future Considerations: Fowler plays fairly deep in his crease, resulting in quick lateral movements over shorter distances. He approaches his posts with control, employing his RVH only when threats are present, and displaying great patience and foot-holding when the puck is in a more perimeter location. Fowler’s anticipation and patience allow him to remain in control and let shooters make the first move before reacting. His rebound control on both wings and low shots to the pads is commendable, and he tracks the puck well through traffic without sacrificing positioning. His combination of controlled movements, strong positioning, and excellent puck tracking make him a promising prospect. Fowler is a player to watch closely, with the potential to be among the early goaltending selections.
Jason Bukala, Sportsnet: Good sized goalie who takes up a lot of the net. Leans butterfly/positional style. When things are in control in his zone he squares up well and fronts the puck. Rebound control ranges. Not a huge concern, but when things get hectic around his crease his lateral quickness is tested and there are times he ends up tracking and leaning forward in his butterfly, compromising balance. Plays the puck well. Proven winner at USHL level.
Daily Faceoff: Take your pick: World Junior A Challenge champion. USHL goaltender of the year. USHL Clark Cup champion and MVP. It was an incredible season for Fowler with Youngstown, helping improve his draft standing all year. The statistical contrast between him and backup Colin Winn was quite staggering, with Fowler taking it to the rest of the league. Fowler is rarely caught out of position, tracks the puck well and has great rebound control. Just from a pure, raw skill perspective, Fowler looks like someone with a bright future.
Corey Pronman, The Athletic: Fowler is very athletic and has strong technique and hockey sense. He’s able to make a lot of tough saves, and does so while in control of his body. Fowler makes a lot of the difficult stops, while also being a dialed-in goalie who doesn’t let the soft goals in. He checks every box except his frame at 6-foot-1. I’ve questioned during the season whether he was special enough at that size to play in the NHL, but he grew on me as the season went along, especially in his exceptional postseason, that he could potentially be an NHL backup. While he looks quick and athletic in net, he does need to get his fitness level under control.
McKeens: When the top goaltenders in this year’s class are being discussed, rarely do you see Fowler lumped in with the top options. We believe that to be an error. What more could you have asked of Fowler this year? Check out this list of accolades: World Junior A Challenge champion, USHL Champion, USHL goaltender of the year, and USHL Playoff MVP. The Boston College commit should also step right into the starting goaltending position on a strong NCAA team next year affording him an excellent opportunity for development. So why does he appear to be lost in the shuffle? For one, his late 2004 birth date may be negatively impacting people’s viewpoint of him as more of a “what you see is what you get” player.
Last Word on Hockey: With all the positive aspects of Jacob Fowler’s game, it can seem like a wonder why he is projected as low as he is. The simple answer to this is that he is still very raw when it comes to his skating. The movement can feel stiff and slow, which is a worrying sign for his translatability. In the USHL he has been able to counteract this with his great hockey sense, but the NHL is faster and far less forgiving.
Recrutes: Concerns over his weight were alleviated somewhat by his outstanding playoff performance, going 9-1 with a .952 save percentage in leading Youngstown to a Clark Cup title. Despite his lack of athleticism, he makes clutch stops utilizing his elite puck-tracking abilities and intelligence. He’s expected to win the starting role in Boston College next season.
Scott Wheeler, The Athletic: He’s the kind of goalie where if he can see a shot and move to it, he’s going to stop it. He’s got work to do on some other things (conditioning/fitness, less business on scrambles) but he’s got some clear tools, highlighted by good hands, an ability to take space away through square angles and sound positioning, and good tracking/reads. Once he gets into better shape, there’s a belief that he’ll be an NHL goalie.
Elite Prospects: 73
Future Considerations: 71
Central Scouting: 5 (NA Goalies)
Bob McKenzie: 92
Dobber Prospects: 51
Draft Prospects Hockey: 99
Hockey Prospect Radio: 49
Daily Faceoff: 56
101st Overall – F Florian Xhekaj, Hamilton (OHL)
Things have gone well with one Xhekaj in Montreal and the Habs have decided to double down, selecting Arber’s younger brother, a rugged winger out of the OHL.
DOB: June 27, 2004 – Hamilton, ON
Weight: 175 lbs
DraftPro Hockey: Physical, grinding winger. Has long, powerful strides allowing him to get up to good straight-line speed but has poor acceleration from a standstill. Good crossovers to generate momentum. Slows down when carrying the puck. His wrist shot has good power behind it with good enough accuracy to get in on net consistently but isn’t one to pick corners. Takes some time to release it. Very physical player. Throws the body well. Great reserve hit ability. Smart player. Has good vision. Not creative with the puck but makes good decisions. Projects as a bottom-six checking winger at the NHL level.
Elite Prospects: Around the net, Xhekaj looks like a professional player. He doesn’t just plant himself in front; he moves his feet, presents his stick, and detaches from defenders just as the puck comes through. Tricky one-timers and high-skill deflections are his scoring tools, complemented by those off-puck reads. As a draft-plus-one with little scoring, Xhekaj doesn’t have the profile of an NHL draft pick. But his development curve might interest teams late. Given the reads, off-puck game, and energy, he’s likely to become an OHL scorer next season.
Central Scouting: 131 (NA Skaters)
Draft Prospects Hockey: 214
110th Overall – D Bogdan Konyushkov, Torpedo (KHL)
Montreal didn’t shy away from Russia entirely this draft. Konyushkov is in his third year of eligibility and played a full season at the KHL level in 2022-23. He led his team in ice time this past season at just under 21 minutes a night, impressive for a rookie. With the NHL not having a transfer agreement with Russia, the Canadiens will hold his rights indefinitely. He’s signed for next season in the KHL already.
DOB: Dec. 20, 2002 – Penza, Russia
Weight: 176 lbs
McKeens: If we look at the basic stat line it looks good, but not too special for defenseman Bogdan Konyushkov, which is likely the reason there isn’t much mainstream talk about him outside of Russia, yet even just pure stats can be more interesting if we look at those closer and at the right angle. First thing that stands out in case of Konyushkov is that despite his age he made his KHL debut just this season and actually led his KHL team in average ice time, as his cerebral game on both ends convinced coach Igor Larionov to immediately give him an opportunity for a leading role on the team. And if we look at advanced stats, those are telling that this trust paid off really well, as Konyushkov is among the league’s leaders in both completed pass amount and percentage, as well as in the puck battle win percentage — quite a debut season I’d say.
Corey Pronman, The Athletic: Analysis: Konyushkov had a great season for Torpedo, playing a real role on a good KHL team and putting up significant points for a player his age. He was a finalist for KHL rookie of the year. He also helped Chaika to an MHL title. He’s a highly mobile defenseman with good skill and puck-moving ability. Konyushkov is a small defenseman though. He’s listed at 5-foot-11 but looks a lot smaller on the ice and whether he can defend in the NHL is a question.
128th Overall – G Quentin Miller, Quebec (QMJHL)
The Habs looked to their backyard with this selection. Miller led all eligible rookies in save percentage this past season at .911. Their starter from the Memorial Cup run was traded to Rouyn-Noranda already, paving the way for Miller to push for the number one job next season.
DOB: Dec. 23, 2004 – Montreal, QC
Weight: 181 lbs
Elite Prospects: Even though Miller has a projectable frame at 6-foot-3, 181 pounds, it’s the mental side of his game that stands out upon first watch. You can tell he is a goaltender that agonizes over minute positioning details and is constantly finding ways to be more efficient. This is a major green flag in terms of finding a goaltender that is able to take instruction from a coach, then implement it successfully into their game. There’s a bit of old-school to Miller’s game. To go along with the pop-up recoveries, he also isn’t afraid to drop into the VH position on the post every once in a while when the situation calls for it. As Miller gets stronger and learns to use his size more effectively, he has the potential to turn into a very smart, adaptable professional goaltender.
Future Considerations: Miller holds his feet well and handles routine shots confidently, although he may struggle with more dangerous chances. His positioning and play tracking are generally good, but there’s room for improvement in rebound control, as pucks occasionally linger around the crease on saveable shots. While Miller’s hands are good, they could be more active, as they currently indicate a blocking style rather than reactionary save selections. When playing the puck, he is most effective when keeping things simple. Although he demonstrates a sound foundation, Miller requires more refinement in his glove hand and should either kick more pucks away from the net or have the puck stick to him.
Future Considerations: 192
Central Scouting: 11 (NA Goalies)
Draft Prospects Hockey: 228
133rd Overall – LW Sam Harris, Sioux Falls (USHL)
For the third time, Montreal looked to a player that wasn’t picked last year with this selection. Harris had a breakout year with the Stampede and is set to play at the University of Denver next season.
DOB: Oct. 14, 2003 – San Diego, CA
Weight: 185 lbs
Elite Prospects: Harris looks to punish opponents with and without the puck. Without it, he throws crushing hits, subtle nudges, and always gets in the way. With it, he does those same things while manipulating opponents to create lanes to the net. He prefers to slow down, drawing defenders towards him, then passing to the open teammate in the slot. With speed and agility as weaknesses, Harris usually makes his plays inside a lengthy glide. When defenders don’t allow that, he lacks the pace and adaptability to overcome. Well, he did for most of the season. A late-season viewing that showed more distinct variation in pace and in-motion skill suggested improvement.
McKeens: Harris is a competitive winger who improved his on puck play this year to become a more consistent offensive play driver. He has soft hands, and this helps him to finish off a lot of plays near the crease that his hard work affords him. His off-puck play remains a bit inconsistent and we wish he were a better skater for an average sized player, but he does have some intriguing skills. Harris is in his final year of draft eligibility and is headed to Denver.
Central Scouting: 213 (NA Skaters)
144th Overall – G Yevgeni Volokhin, Mamonty (MHL)
Goaltending appears to be high on the priority list for the Habs in this draft class as Volokhin is the third netminder they’ve now selected. He played in Russia’s junior level this past season, finishing ninth in the league in GAA. As was the case with Konyushkov, the Canadiens will hold his rights indefinitely.
DOB: Apr. 6, 2005 – Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia
Weight: 168 lbs
McKeens: A big, athletic netminder who was excellent in his rookie MHL year with Mamonty Yugry. Russia has been churning out quality netminders, seemingly out of nowhere, as of late and there is a great chance that Volokhin could be another one. His technique and approach need major refinement to find success at the higher level, but the athletic tools are pro quality.
165th Overall – C Filip Eriksson, Vaxjo (SWE J-20)
It took a while but the Habs have added a centre with the selection of Eriksson. He made his SHL debut this season, getting into two regular season games plus six more playoff contests which likely helped get him on the radar. However, he missed the majority of the year with a broken leg which didn’t help his stock. He’s under contract for two more years overseas.
DOB: Nov. 5, 2004 – Ljungby, Sweden
Weight: 172 lbs
McKeens: Injuries derailed Eriksson’s season this year with Växjö, but he is highly thought of in that organization, so much so that he was given a spot on the men’s club roster for their playoff run despite limited playing time at the J20 level. A late born 2004, Eriksson is a highly intelligent two-way center. Did he play enough or show enough progression this year to be an NHL draft pick? Could be a diamond in the rough down the line.
Future Considerations: 239
197th Overall – D Luke Mittelstadt, Minnesota (NCAA)
The younger brother of Sabres forward Casey, Mittelstadt had a strong freshman year with Minnesota, surprisingly earning himself a spot on Team USA at the most recent World Juniors. At 20, he was in his final year of eligibility.
DOB: Jan. 22, 2002 – Eden Prairie, MN
Weight: 174 lbs
Recrutes: He made a seamless transition to college hockey and was solid at the WJC this past winter, prompting socuts to revisit his draft stock and rank him in the middle rounds of this draft class. Finished top 30 in NCAA plus/minus as a rookie blueliner and demonstrated that he can handle bigger/older opponents just fine despite his size. Smart, competitive and mobile.
McKeens: Luke’s strong freshman season at the University of Minnesota has made him a likely selection in his final year of draft eligibility. Mittelstadt was one of the highest scoring freshman defenders in the NCAA and he even earned a place on the U.S.’ WJC team, where he performed admirably. Luke’s four-way mobility is an asset, especially in terms of starting the breakout or holding the offensive blueline. His defensive game has also improved greatly in the last two years, dating back to his Minnesota high school hockey days. What Mittelstadt is at the NHL level is a bit unclear, given his lack of elite physical tools, but the improvements made in the last calendar year have improved his outlook.
HockeyProspect.com: Mittelstadt is not a big statured defenseman, he has average size at around 5’11” but he uses good positioning and gaps to defend the rush very well. Around his own net and in one-on-one situations, Mittelstadt showed the ability to use leverage and his IQ to defend. He has a strong frame and shows the ability to clear the crease area despite giving up some size to his opponents at times. He has a quick stick and is able to poke pucks off the stick of skilled players when defending one on one.
DraftPro Hockey: Fast release on his wrist shot. Picks corners when given time to choose his spots and get his shot off. Scans the ice when he gets the puck, makes smart passes. Plays a tough game but could deliver more hits. Manipulates the play by using fakes at the blue line, maneuvering, and creating offensive chances in front of the net. Overall edgework can be quicker. Unselfish, playmaking style offensive defenseman but also plays a structured, consistent defensive game. Opportunity to be a solid bottom four defenseman.
Elite Prospects: At his core, Mittelstadt is an offensive defenceman. The 5-foot-11 blueliner is most comfortable at the top of the offensive zone, navigating the blue line on his inside edges, probing for shooting opportunities, and making occasional forays low into the offensive zone with cunning weak side activations. He’s far from a sure thing, though. A development regimen that prioritizes improving his off-puck reads and puck management may well elevate Mittelstadt to an NHL third pair, though.
Future Considerations: Mittelstadt is known for his stellar offensive upside and can utilize his speed to optimize opportunities, often becoming a fourth forward on the ice. This enables him to join in rushes and use his quality shot or vision to keep the opposition on their toes. His skating, puck skills, vision, and shot in the offensive zone, although not elite, classify him as a jack-of-all-trades due to his versatility.
Elite Prospects: 119
Future Considerations: 131
Central Scouting: 97 (NA Skaters)
Craig Button: 91
Draft Prospects Hockey: 101
Daily Faceoff: 103