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Here it is. The cream of the crop. While the Habs continue to hunt for results on the ice, a group of scouts is hoping they don’t find too much so they can wield their craft and help the team for years to come by selecting a player on this list. Considering the once again mounting occupancy at the infirmary in Montreal, a midseason funk appearing to manifest itself in the young group at the NHL level in recent weeks, and the impending send-off of quality veterans at this year’s deadline, there is a good chance the Canadiens once again find themselves as one of the teams lucky enough to call out one of the next eight names at the draft. Here’s hoping they stick to the script this time around. 

Previous Rankings:

Second Round

#8 – Artyom Levshunov 

Michigan State (NCAA) – RD 

Preseason rank: 4 

Very comparable in style to David Reinbacher last season. Levshunov has produced everywhere so far and is praised for his play in all three zones. He’s deceptive with the puck, creates offensively, and has a booming shot. There remain some questions about his decision-making abilities with and without the puck, but the raw talent alone will intrigue teams and he’ll be selected very high. 

The Belarussian defencemen has produced 30 points in 32 games so far in his first season in the NCAA. That’s his second season in North America already as he produced 42 points in 62 games for the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL last season. 

Now that the Habs have selected Reinbacher, I certainly don’t want another of the same type of project type of defenceman picked this high. Trade down and pick up Iginla plus an asset if this is where the team wants to go with this year’s first pick. Hopefully, the Habs pick higher and some forwards I will highlight below will be available instead.

#7 – Konsta Helenius 

Jukurit (Liiga) – C/RW 

Preseason rank: 7 

Helenius’ calling card is playmaking as he understands the game on an elite level while also scoring with a sneaky strong shot. Strong skating and a desire to get to the tough areas to make plays are all part of his arsenal. His ability to do the latter on the small ice against bigger competition is the only question around this player. 

36 points in 47 games in the Liiga is quite impressive as Helenius is already showing that he can produce while playing against men. 

Much like Catton at the next pick, I really like this player and will be happy that they selected an offensive forward instead of a safe pick. That being said, I would also prefer the Habs to go with a finisher of plays if one is available.

#6 – Berkly Catton 

Spokane Chiefs (WHL) – C/LW 

Preseason rank: 5 

A smart playmaker with tons of speed that can execute flawlessly with the puck at top speeds. He’s under the 6’ barrier, so there are some questions about his ability to score in sustained pressure situations, but his ability off the rush should make him one of the top offensive picks of this year’s draft class.

93 points in 57 games for Catton to start the season after a solid 55 points in 63 last year.  

There’s no denying the talent here. My only concern is that Catton might be a better version of what the Habs already have on the roster in terms of types of talent. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer the Habs draft Catton and make a move to round out the roster around him over selecting another defenceman (unless that defender is Dickinson). He’s still an excellent pick if available.

#5 – Cayden Lindstrom 

Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) – C/LW 

Preseason rank: 28 

The 6’5 centre can absolutely fly and is very agile, and I mean overall, not just for his size. What’s got all the scouts buzzing about Lindstrom is that he understands his size and is very willing to use it. He’s disruptive along the boards (think of what we’ve seen out of Juraj Slafkovsky lately). He has a ton of good habits too, like the tendency to attack to the middle of the ice, good back-checking, and his ability to handle the puck at top speed. 

After putting up 42 points in 61 games last year as a rookie in the WHL, Lindstrom took the league by storm this season with 46 points in 32 games before suffering a hand injury in January. The important part here is that 27 of those points were goals, so there should be some finish here, even at the next level. 

The rank is right, the player profile is right, and the unbelievable jump up the ranking in the player’s draft year is right. This just seems like the player the Habs end up with, doesn’t it? Let’s hope so because as much fun as it’s been to see Slafkovsky with Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, a top line of Slafkovsky and Kirby Dach being centred by Lindstrom would be the best top line the Habs have put together in the last 30 years. If the Habs don’t win the lottery for the top two players, this is the player I covet the most for them, midseason rise be damned.

#4 – Sam Dickinson 

London Knights (OHL) – LD 

Preseason rank: 6 

What happens when you are 6’3, can defend like a pro already, and put up strong offensive numbers thanks to excellent skating and skating edges? Oh, let’s not forget doing it all as part of arguably the best CHL program in producing excellent NHLers over the last two decades. You end up being ranked fourth overall in your draft year, that’s what. Dickinson is having a phenomenal season and is making better decisions under pressure as the season moves along, too. 

63 points in 58 games for Dickinson after putting up 23 in 62 as an OHL rookie last year. 

Many Habs fans won’t like what I’m about to say, but if they are lucky enough to get their hands on Dickinson, they might want to cash in on the value of Matheson or Hutson… or both. Dickinson will be the power play and play nearly 30 minutes per night. A combination of Jayden Struble, Arber Xhekaj, and Jordan Harris can handle the rest. Take Dickinson and deal with the rest later, even if it makes no sense positionally. If both Celebrini and Lindstrom are off the board, take Dickinson.

#3 – Ivan Demidov 

SKA St. Petersburg (MHL) – RW 

Preseason rank: 3 

A quality playmaker who has flaws but is a flashy player who loves to wow the crowd. He’s got silky smooth hands as a play-creator but can still rip a shot to put it in himself. As one would guess from the initial description, Demidov’s skating is quite strong, but his physical strength is where he needs some work. 

After going without a point in four KHL contests, Demidov was returned to the MHL where he’s put up 60 points in 30 games.  He’s second in the league in scoring despite missing nearly half the year due to injury.

If Matvei Michkov was a pass last year, I can’t see Montreal jumping on Demidov. Should they be lucky enough to pick third, there are a few options from 4-6 that will likely be of greater interest to the Habs brass.

#2 – Cole Eiserman 

USNTDP Juniors (USHL) – LW 

Preseason rank: 2 

When you get mentioned in the same sentence as Phil Kessel and Cole Caufield because you are about to break the goal-scoring records they set, you might have a good chance at finding yourself at the top of the year’s draft class. He can score in any way imaginable, but there are some worries around his skating, which is unlike Kessel and Caufield. 

After scoring 69 goals last season, Eiserman has a chance to break Cole Caufield’s goal-scoring record as he’s already scored 56 this season. 

A Caufield-like sniper with some size in Eiserman might be just what the doctor ordered. The Canadiens desperately need more finish, so this would be a great pick. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely they suck enough between now and the end of the season to pick here unless getting lottery lucky.

#1 – Macklin Celebrini 

Boston University (NCAA) – C 

Preseason rank: 1 

Another year, another unanimous top pick. Every year except the one where the Habs got the top pick. In Celebrini, this year’s top pick is excellent at defensive positioning, board battles, intensity, evading pressure, passing, and shooting. His hockey IQ is off the charts, too. Just to name a few elements of the game. 

48 points in 30 NCAA games is unheard of for a player Celebrini’s age, so one can understand why the stock of an already unanimous top pick at the start of the season has actually risen throughout the first half of the season. The eight points in five games at the World Juniors for a disappointing Team Canada did little to lessen the enthusiasm around Celebrini. 

It’ll take significant lottery luck for the Habs to end up with this pick. Obviously, should they be so lucky, it’s a no-brainer.