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As we get closer to the top and into the top 10, this is where things get interesting for Habs fans. While unlikely to pick in the 14-16 section of this year’s draft, the 10-13 certainly looks possible, and there’s always movement in the picks, so some players featured below might be of real interest to the Canadiens, wherever their draft rank ends up being.

Previous Rankings:

Second Round

#16 – Ryder Ritchie 

Prince Albert Raiders (WHL) – RW 

Preseason rank: 16 

The top 16 starts with Ritchie. Ritchie is said to have soft hands, a willingness to fight for pucks, and a strong IQ to be at the right place at the right time. There seems to be a consensus that his IQ will be the tool that translates at the next level, and it will make him more of a goal-scorer than a playmaker. He protects the puck well and has a decent shot. 

31 points in 34 games for Ritchie before he suffered a lower-body injury. It’s interesting to note that 18 of his 31 points are assists while scouts seem to indicate that he’ll be a scorer more than a playmaker if he makes it at the next level. That’s a scary looking “if” though for a pick this high.

I think Ritchie falls into a zone in the draft where he won’t be a consideration for the Habs. Their draft rank should indicate that they can get a better player, but then Ritchie will be gone by the time they pick again.

#15 – Tij Iginla 

Kelowna Rockets (WHL) – LW 

Preseason rank: N/A 

After being completely off the radar to start the year, Jarome Iginla’s son is now ranked as high as 14th at the midway point of the season. This player needs so little explaining to figure out. Just watch highlights of his father’s illustrious career. That’s exactly what you are getting here in terms of style and tendencies.

63 points and 35 goals in just 49 games for Iginla sure helps the draft ranking for this ranking’s biggest midseason riser. 

For anyone following my rankings for the last two seasons, you’ve read my fears surrounding late-rising players. I’m usually not a fan as it flies in the face of up to two to three years of data because said player has a strong D-1 season.

I’m throwing caution to the wind in this case and saying I would love for the Habs to draft this player. We all know the pedigree that will make him a prime candidate to succeed under the bright lights of Montreal. Add that this player type is exactly what the current forward group of the Canadiens needs. Do it! If they end up picking too high for this to make sense, then trade what needs to be traded to draft again and get this player!

#14 – Trevor Connelly 

Tri-City Storm (USHL) – LW 

Preseason rank: 21 

An offensively skilled player with an excellent shot. His consistency is a major issue, especially on the defensive side of the puck. The second big issue surrounding Connelly is a recent social media situation. Expect to find him much lower in the first round by year’s end as teams wade the water of this controversy. 

Nice production of 48 points in 34 games so far this season in the USHL. However, he did not play for the WJC gold-winning team.  

This is a very boom-or-bust pick. Should Connelly find himself at the lower end of the round as some are recently suggesting, he’d be an intriguing pick. I’m not sure management will want to deal with more off-ice issues after the Logan Mailloux saga, and I can’t say I blame them.

#13 – Zayne Parekh 

Saginaw Spirit (OHL) – RD 

Preseason rank: 10 

Parekh is an offensive wizard as he skates well and is a king of deception with the puck on his stick. He’s got an excellent shot that allows him to score at will at the major junior level. He has an elite sense of the game offensively but doesn’t always give it his all defensively. 

76 points in 50 games in the OHL for Parekh sure doesn’t do justice to him falling three ranks. He’s regularly ranked just outside of the top 10 by most publications and should remain there throughout the season. Parekh is electric offensively as he scored 21 goals as a 16-year-old blueliner last season.   

He’s an interesting prospect, but I think the Habs have this player lined up on the left side in Lane Hutson. Unless they were to decide to use the buzz around Hutson to acquire some offence up front, Parekh has too many of the same attributes for me.

#12 – Zeev Buium 

University of Denver (NCAA) – LD 

Preseason rank: 24 

Buium is playing way above expectations as a college freshman on a team that is highly ranked in that league. For that reason, he’s made a real case for a top-10 selection in a class that is already quite stacked on the blue line. A strong skater who gets the puck out of trouble and then joins the rush, Buium is also a steady defender. Which of these skills translate at the next level remains to be seen. 

34 points in 26 games in the NCAA is some solid production for Buium and it was followed up with five points on the gold-winning USA team at the WJC. For these reasons alone, I suspect Buium to be a threat to continue his climb up this ranking over the next month or so. 

That said, he’s another player that positionally makes little sense for the Habs. Still, his progression is intriguing and would allow Montreal to once again explore the idea of overpaying for a veteran high-impact forward. I don’t see the Habs taking this player though and I’m ultimately satisfied with that decision.

#11 – Michael Brandsegg-Nygard 

Mora IK (Allsvenskan) – RW 

Preseason rank: 11 

A forechecking menace with scoring ability is how one scout describes this player. Known for his 200-foot game, the scoring stats are somewhat puzzling for a player ranked this high. He’s known for his heavy shot. 

14 points in 34 games in the second tier of the Swedish league. However, his production increased when he faced his peers as his 12 points in seven games and 38 points in 35 games in the J20 league show over the last two seasons. 

If David Reinbacher was my biggest fear last season (and I still hope and cheer that the kid proves me wrong), I think Brandsegg-Nygard is my biggest fear this season. If the Habs gave up a chance to select highly skilled offensive forward players in last year’s draft to draft the ultra-safe forward after an ultra-safe defenceman, I will simply believe that management’s desire is to rebuild to be an ultra-safe middle-of-the-pack team hoping for miracle playoff runs. I know, I’m being dramatic, but this is my honest outlook on what would be a third straight puzzling and frustrating draft selection for me.

#10 – Adam Jiricek 

HC Plzen (Czechia) – RD 

Preseason rank: 8 

A mobile player who is strong in defending rush chances, Jiricek does not boast the impact of his older brother but remains an intriguing prospect in that he makes good decisions with the puck and can shoot hard and accurately from the point. His skating needs some work, but it’s being overlooked by scouts because the same concerns were there with David, and they were ironed out. 

He had one point in 19 games and a minus-10 rating before he suffered a season-ending knee injury. It’s not a great follow-up to his 29 points in 41 games with the Plzen U20 club last season.  

Players like Jiricek being available at this rank is one of the many reasons I still don’t understand the need to draft how they did last season. It makes a ton of sense for the Habs to draft Jiricek, or at least it would have if they didn’t take a defender in the forward-heavy ’23 class only to be faced with a defence-heavy class now. I like this pick, but I can’t see how the Canadiens can take him.

#9 – Anton Silayev 

Torpedo Nizhny Novogorod (KHL) – LD  

Preseason rank: 14 

Get your eyes away from the classic stat sheet if you want to understand the rise of this player in the ranking. The 6’7″ (no typo here) blueliner has a plus-rated skating ability as he plays regular minutes on a mid-pack team in the KHL (11th-place team in the 23-team league). The skill is very raw, but he plays with an aggressive edge while maintaining power play minutes. He needs work with consistency issues, but the potential will be very real for a long line of NHL teams come the draft. 

11 points in 59 games in the KHL do little to explain the rise for Silayev; the shots and minutes playing in a premier league as a smooth-skating giant with a physical edge is where it’s at here.

Positionally, this player makes little sense for the Habs. The temptation might still be there. It would be a discouraging pick for the fan base, but if he turns into the next Zdeno Chara, it’ll be hard to fault the organization for taking the swing at the pick.