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Here it is. The cream of the crop. With the Habs picking fifth and little to no consensus after Macklin Celebrini at #1, any and all of these prospects might realistically find themselves with the Habs at #5. Will they be smart enough to call out one of the next eight names at the draft? Or will they yet again suffer from a case of Galaxy Brain and go off the list? No one knows for sure, but here is the HabsWorld top 8. 

Here are links to the rest of the rankings: 

Second round
Picks 9-16
Picks 17-24
Picks 25-32

#1 – Macklin Celebrini 

Boston University (NCAA) – C 

Previous Rankings: Start – 1 Midseason – 1 

Another year, another unanimous top pick. This is the norm; it happens almost every year except the one where the Habs got the top pick, of course. In Celebrini, this year’s top pick is not touted as a generational talent, but he 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. 

64 points in 38 NCAA games is quite a feat 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 risen throughout the season. The eight points in five games at the WJC for a disappointing Team Canada did little to lessen the enthusiasm around Celebrini. 

No luck for the Habs in this year’s lottery and San Jose GM already tipped his hand, so this one isn’t possible. 

#2 – Ivan Demidov 

SKA St. Petersburg (MHL) – RW 

Previous Rankings: Start – 3 Midseason – 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 put up 60 points in 30 games. He was too strong for that competition, but he refused to sign an extension in Russia, so they left him there anyways. 

The question marks around Demidov’s arrival are nowhere near as much of a mystery as Michkov’s was last year, but I’m concerned about his entire season being spent in the MHL and if they might do the same this year. I get the hype and I’m not even hesitating if I’m the Habs and he makes it to 5, but the developmental aspect of playing another season in the MHL can’t be a great one, right? 

#3 – Artyom Levshunov 

Michigan State (NCAA) – RD 

Previous Rankings: Start – 4 Midseason – 8 

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. He’s third on the ranking, but there’s quite a bit of smoke that Chicago is all over this player, so he may well be selected second overall. 

The Belarussian defencemen produced 35 points in 38 games 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. 

With both Chicago and Anaheim potentially eyeing Levshunov, there is little chance he makes it to five for the Habs. If ever he were to remain on the board, I would be selecting him and trading Kaiden Guhle for some offensive help because he projects much higher than Guhle over the long term. 

#4 – Sam Dickinson 

London Knights (OHL) – LD 

Previous Rankings: Start – 6 Midseason – 4 

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 program in producing excellent NHLers over the last two decades? You end up being ranked fourth overall in your draft year. Dickinson had himself a phenomenal season and should cash in at the draft. 

70 points in 68 games for Dickinson after putting up 23 in 62 as an OHL rookie last year. 

There is a chance that Dickinson remains available for the Habs and I’m very much a fan of this player. The fit isn’t really there as he’s another left D, but perhaps if Demidov and Cayden Lindstrom are off the board and the Habs have an interesting offer to boost their offence via a Guhle or a Mike Matheson trade, Dickinson becomes a possibility. 

#5 – Berkly Catton 

Spokane Chiefs (WHL) – C/LW 

Previous Rankings: Start – 5 Midseason – 6  

A smart playmaker with tons of speed that can execute flawlessly with the puck at top speeds. He’s under the 6’ barrier and quite light, 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. 

116 points in 68 games for Catton after a solid 55 points in 63 last year. Production surely isn’t the issue.  

There’s no denying the talent here, but it appears the Habs are opting for a player with a bit more size. They might regret it, and while I am a fan of Tij Iginla should Demidov and Lindstrom be gone, I am of the opinion that Catton would be the BPA in that scenario, but I don’t believe the Habs are willing to go down this road. 

#6 – Cayden Lindstrom 

Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) – C/LW 

Previous Rankings: Start – 28 Midseason – 5 

The 6’3 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 second-half Slafkovsky). He’s got 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. Some teams have cooled off due to back issues he’s had in the second half of the season. Will that be enough to see him slide down? Unlikely. 

After putting up 42 points in 61 games last year as a rookie in the WHL, Lindstrom took the league by storm this season, scoring 116 points in 68 games. The important part here is that 54 of those points are goals, so there should be some finish here, even at the next level. 

The rank is right, the player profile is right, 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 and it allows Cole and Nick to destroy second line defensive pairings for years to come. 

#7 – Tij Iginla 

Kelowna Rockets (WHL) – LW 

Previous Rankings: Start – N/A Midseason – 15 

After being completely off the radar to start the year, Jarome Iginla’s son was ranked 15th at the midway point of the season. That he continued his ascension and is realistically not making it out of the top 10 is a credit to his work ethic and pedigree. 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. 

84 points and 47 goals in 64 games for Iginla sure helps the draft ranking, that the floor is so high on him is the other factor that likely keeps him up with this draft’s best. 

For anyone following my ranking for the last two seasons, you’ve heard my fears surrounding players who show up and have great draft seasons after being off the radar. I disagree with myself in this case. 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. Great fit here. 

#8 – Zeev Buium 

University of Denver (NCAA) – LD 

Previous Rankings: Start – 24 Midseason – 12 

Buium had an excellent season that really showcased that while he may not have the most skill in this year’s sublime class of defenders, he has off-the-charts hockey IQ that raises his floor almost as high as Dickinson. 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. 

50 points in 42 games in the NCAA is some solid production for Buium and it was followed up with 5 points on the gold-winning USA team at the WJC. 

Another player that positionally makes little sense for the Habs. Still, his progression is intriguing, and he’s actually been linked to the Habs which is all kinds of strange to me. This would allow them to once again explore the idea of overpaying for a veteran high-impact forward.