As we explore the final eight picks of the first round, these picks are likely more interesting than the next eight selections. With the recent Sean Monahan trade, the Habs could very well find themselves in one of these draft slots so they will need to keep an eye on players in this range.
#32 – Maxim Masse
Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL) – RW
Preseason rank: 17
Masse is a creative player with a heavy shot aided by a large wingspan that allows him to complete plays. The skill that will limit him at the next level will be his skating ability, but since he’s willing to get to the dirty areas, he should be a serviceable player in the NHL. This is why he’s a 1st rounder in three quarters of the rankings consulted, though never higher than the early twenties.
46 points in 48 games is decent in the Q, but perhaps his 62 points in 65 games last season was even more impressive. Being a minus player in both seasons is somewhat of a concern, though.
Masse is an interesting prospect for the Habs here as he seems to hold steady at a point-per-game pace regardless of the league he plays in. While the “petit gars de chez nous” helps, it is worth noting that the style of play also seems to fit with what the Canadiens want to do moving forward. His draft rank has fallen since the start of the season, but we’ll see what the second half of the season holds in store before passing judgment on that. He could end up being an excellent pick should he fall a bit more into the early second round.
#31 – Michael Hage
Chicago Steel (USHL) – C
Preseason rank: 27
An intelligent pivot who plays a 200-foot game and missed most of last season with an injury as he only played 13 games. His offensive ceiling may well be limited at the next level. He does everything right and is still adjusting to much larger responsibilities this season. Hage plays hard and smart while he has the size and defensive acumen to make it easy for him to gain the coaches’ trust.
39 points in 33 games played in the USHL. The numbers suggest that the ceiling is perhaps a little higher than I gave it credit for above, I’m just really not sure that I see it.
Hage is a project pick with limited offensive upside. It’s a pass for me as I want to see more offensive upside within the ranks, even if they end up being misses.
#30 – Matvei Shuravin
Krasnaya Armiya Moskva (MHL) – LD
Preseason rank: N/A
One of three first-round ranks to not get a preseason nod is Shuravin. He’s a strong skater who reads plays well above average and has been so effective defensively that he was recently been recalled to the KHL. His stats suggest a lack in the offensive portions of the game, and this appears to be the case when watching him trying to assess where to go with the puck. Having said this, he is still very raw as he’s wiry and awkward. It might be that he just needs some time.
Shuravin has seven points in 22 games in the MHL to start the season and 26 PIMS in the process.
My opinion of the MHL isn’t particularly high, but Shuravin’s recent promotion likely explains his position this high up. LD isn’t a position of need, especially for a player who doesn’t appear to be an upgrade on the prospects already in the system at the position.
#29 – Luke Misa
Mississauga Steelheads (OHL) – C
Preseason rank: N/A
The second first-round presence without preseason recognition is an OHL centre that isn’t very big but plays with tempo to overcome a slight size disadvantage. Misa, whose brother Michael is a top prospect for next year’s draft, is also quite good off the puck in the offensive zone to create lanes and openings for his teammates to find him. Still, his role at the next level should come as a playmaking centre with size limitations.
After a modest 22-23 season, Misa has exploded this season posting 58 points in 47 games. He’s also done it by being defensively responsible as he’s sporting a +23 rating and a miniscule four PIMS, too.
A smaller playmaking centre for the Habs? Sure, but maybe not this early in the draft for me. The Canadiens are pretty flush with undersized forward options and prospects when considering Cole Caufield, Sean Farrell, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, and Filip Mesar, just to name the more prominent ones.
#28 – Andrew Basha
Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) – LW
Preseason rank: 38
Basha’s most obvious strength is his skating as he explodes out of the gate to gain an advantage over defenders in all zones. As he gets more comfortable being a leader on the Tigers, he’s also added stronger defensive play that only adds to his ability to create offensively. While not reaching the six-foot mark, Basha plays a big boy game as he does not shy away from bumps or the forecheck.
Basha has accumulated 62 points in 43 games this season as he continues an impressive draft season in the WHL.
Montreal is rather flush at the left-wing position, but I see Basha as decent competition for a depth role similar to Harvey-Pinard or Emil Heineman down the road. This would be a decent selection, though not really the home run swing the Habs need.
#27 – Cole Hutson
USNTDP (USHL) – LD
Preseason rank: 15
Much like his brother Lane, the questions around his offence are little. His edge work is excellent as he evades checks to create offence. His defensive work leaves much to be desired at this stage, and his size remains a big question mark even if he’s a little bigger than his elder brother. So, why the 12-rank slip to start the season? Well, the offence hasn’t been as steady as Lane’s and Lane’s eventual demise to the late second round appears to be possible despite an early ranking that may have been in part due to Lane’s post-draft dominance, at least in part.
11 points in 17 games in the USHL is decent to back a solid 29 points in 37 games in the NTDP. The stats aren’t the problem and won’t be the factor that truly determines where he eventually gets selected.
Habs drafting the brother Hutson? Listen, I get the charm of it, but this simply makes no sense. The role he’d be trying to fill should be filled for many years to come by his brother. I can’t see the Canadiens making this pick here. Let’s be honest, they also passed on Lane twice and someone will take a chance on Cole earlier than 62 thanks to Lane making them all regret skipping him a few seasons ago.
#26 – Beckett Sennecke
Oshawa Generals (OHL) – RW
Preseason rank: 20
A big winger who loves to forecheck and has soft hands even in tight quarters. He’s got some defensive deficiencies, but with the recent Calum Ritchie injury, he has carried the load offensively for the Generals.
39 points in 42 games for the 6’2″ winger.
Sennecke seems like a boom-or-bust pick offensively. Sure, he has the physical tools to reinvent himself as a Michael Pezzetta type should he falter, but what is being shown right now is more of a middle-six winger. While the Habs remain a team hunting for top-line offensive acumen, this player’s issues are not offence, and those defensive elements can oftentimes be taught. I would not mind this pick.
#25 – Tanner Howe
Regina Pats (WHL) – LW
Preseason rank: 23
Howe is a player who plays a power game despite his 5’11” frame. He stands out through his skating and ability to play his style of game with pace. While his production is excellent, he is a bit of a power play merchant as nearly 40% of his points this season have been scored on the man advantage. His coach says that Howe is the type of player coaches crave to have on their team and even Howe mentions that he takes pride in being a solid 200-foot player.
56 points in 48 games for the winger the year after posting similar numbers playing with Connor Bedard. Call me crazy, but this is a home run swing based on offensive ability.
Should the Habs hold onto the pick they received for Monahan, this player would be extremely high on my “want” list. This is his third straight season with over a point-per-game production, and he’s doing it without Bedard this season which says a lot.