The 2012 NHL Draft is shaping up to be a wild one. With uncertainties surrounding not only who will be the top pick, but which team will be selecting them, very little can be taken for granted. This draft, the first of the Bergevin Era, is very much a make-or-break for the Canadiens. With a second round pick - two, actually - for the first time since 2008, along with obviously the 3rd overall selection, and choices in the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds, it is imperative that the Habs find a top-end player, along with several good long-term projects, in order to restock the system and to set the team up for long-term success.
With the help of the Future Considerations draft guide, rankings from Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus, the International Scouting Service (ISS), Central Scouting (CS), even TSN’s free-minded "scout" Craig Button, and the suggestions of Habs enthusiasts, I have compiled a list of players who may/should/hopefully will be available at the designated spots, starting with the second round, and who I think project to be good NHLers, meeting the needs of the Canadiens organization.
In part one of my draft preview, I made the argument the Habs should draft Alex Galchenyuk of Sarnia, but that argument was obviously conditional on his being available at 3rd overall. If Columbus (or another team trading up) were to select Galchenyuk at number 2, then Bergevin and Timmins would be left with some interesting possibilities. Option a) would be to select Mikhail Grigorenko, another big centre bearing considerable risk. But if Timmins, like myself, were to not be sold on the Russian, considering the questions surrounding his work ethic, then maybe Rick Dudley could help Bergevin to acquire some additional assets using one of his and Brian Burke’s go-to draft strategies.
Essentially, this involves capitalizing on the fact that other teams may have a particular prospect they want, while Timmins may be somewhat indifferent towards say Forsberg, Teravainen, Grigorenko, Murray, and Dumba. Bergevin could trade down, one spot at a time, with a clause in the trade agreement specifying that the designated team would have to take a specific player with the pick they traded up for, otherwise a first round pick next year would go to Montreal. So, for example, Bergevin could trade down at least from 3rd to 7th, acquiring four additional 3rd round selections, and still ensuring that one of the five target picks would be available, with every team in front being assigned a particular player, and being contractually obligated to select that player. Anyway, on to the picks.
Second Round (33rd overall):
6'1.15", 210 lbs - Shoots L
Rankings: Future Considerations - 34, Hockey Prospectus - 41
After seeing the success of power forwards Erik Cole and Max Pacioretty with the Canadiens this season, as well as the impact Dustin Brown and Dustin Penner had with the Kings come playoff time in similar roles, it's understandable that the team would look for players that project as comparables in the NHL, especially considering the lack of size when it comes to top forward prospects like Brendan Gallagher and Danny Kristo.
He has good skating ability for a bigger player and nice speed, but his first cou- ple steps are not the fastest. He's a wrecking ball with good size, plays with constant energy and has very strong aggressiveness. He hits everyone hard and always makes his presence known on the forecheck. He compliments his physical game with solid offensive skills including a hard wrist shot and some underrated playmaking abilities. He loves to take the puck to the net hard and fight for those second and third chances. He can carry the puck up ice and into the offensive zone but does not have much flash or the ability to dangle. He's smart and understands how to play the game in a straight forward way. - Future Considerations
The one potential issue that may cause Matteau to slide is his temperament. He was suspended three times in two years in the USHL for an attempt to injure, a spear, and - in the mold of a prominent former Canadien - getting into an altercation with a linesman. Timmins may see Matteau's character as too much of an impediment to make him worthy of consideration, but he should be encouraged by the fact that the Montreal native has chosen to play for his father, who is assistant coach with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada in the QMJHL next season, where hopefully he will learn how to successfully maneuver the line between being an effective pest and a Boston Brui-....er, dirty player.
C Mark Jankowski, Stanstead College (Mid-West Prep.)
6'2", 170 lbs - Shoots L
Rankings: Future Considerations - 44, Hockey Prospectus - 36
Jankowski is as much of a "project" player as any in the early rounds of this draft. Competing against incredibly weak competition, it's been hard for most scouts to get a read on how high he should go. His talent, however, is undeniable.
Jankowski's best asset is his hockey sense, as he's an aware, creative playmaker. He was checked tightly in games this year due to his skill level and the relative low talent level of his peers but he regularly executed above-average distributions and showed the ability to make plays in tight spaces. Jankowski tries to play physical, but despite good size he is not that effective in the physical game due to a significant lack of strength and a beanpole frame. Jankowski has the puck skills and hockey sense to be a noticeable possession player but will need quite a few years of development time. - Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus
Considering the fact that he plays here in Quebec, and the fact that new Canadiens scout Bobby Kinsella selected Jankowski with Dubuque's first selection in this year's OHL draft before coming on board, it's safe to say he will be on Timmins' radar. If he grows considerably over the next few years, he could become the steal of the draft. With 93 points in 57 games this season, as well as being reportedly excellent on the penalty kill and a leader in the dressing room, I'm sold on Jankowski as a potential star. If both he and Matteau were available with this pick, it would be a tough choice to make.
6'2.5", 185 lbs - Shoots L
Rankings: Future Considerations - 38, Hockey Prospectus - 58
Size and good skating ability are hard to find in one player, but Nieves is over 6'2" and is considered one of the best skaters in the draft. He scored a highlight real goal at the Ivan Hlinka u-18 tournament last summer, showing off his slick hands to beat fellow top-prospect goalie Andrei Vasilevski.
He has great vision and can really thread the needle with his passes. His shot is not as strong as it will be once he fills out but he can score off the rush with it. His overall consistency will need to improve as will his strength-his upper body is lanky. He drives the net with his long reach and size but is not an overly physical player. - Future Considerations
The biggest knock on Nieves is that despite competing against fairly weak competition at Kent, he wasn't able to build on his numbers from last year, although he did register 13 points in a 10-game stint in the USHL following this past season. If Canadiens fans like how Max Pacioretty developed at the University of Michigan, they'll be thrilled to know that Nieves has committed to Ann Arbor in the fall. To me Nieves would be a good consolation pick here if both Matteau and Jankowski are gone early.
Second Round (51st overall):
6'2", 215 lbs - Shoots R
Rankings: Future Considerations - 46, Hockey Prospectus - 48
Another power forward prospect, and another player from the prep-school circuit, Hart possesses many quality attributes, maybe the best being his wrist-shot, which is seen by some as the best in the draft.
He is surprisingly quick on his feet for such a big, and still growing, body. He is strong on the puck down low and dominates in puck battles. He creates havoc for defenders by coming off the wall and driving to the net with the puck like a bull in a china shop. - Future Considerations
According to scouts, Hart needs to work on his defensive game, and on using his size as more of a weapon, not just to deliver the occasional big hit or to drive the net, as he does currently, but to win battles along the boards and in front of the net. There are also questions about his development, going from a prep-school circuit to a low-level college, Harvard, which Canadiens' Louis Leblanc left after a single season, bolting (with encouragement from Habs' brass) for the CHL.
5'10", 170 lbs - Shoots L
Rankings: Future Considerations - 52, Hockey Prospectus - 34
Hudon is a polarizing prospect, mostly because of his size. At 5'10, he's one of the smallest prospects out there, and considering the emphasis placed on size, especially when it comes to the Habs, some may be scared away by this Quebec-native. It's important to note, however, that Hudon has has been great offensively in the QMJHL the last two years, including recording 66 points in 59 games in 2011-2012.
Hudon's best asset is his hockey sense as he's a tremendous passer who sees the ice so well and thinks the game in the other aspects at a high level too. He has a good panic threshold with the ability to control the play in tight quarters and still make all the right plays while being checked. Hudon is great on the power play and is very dangerous when he sets up on the side boards. His upside is very desirable, however he has some notable to significant holes. First of all, Hudon is a very small player. He's listed at 5'10" but that's likely overstated. He does attack the physical areas but he can be easily overwhelmed by bigger players. He's also an average skater if not leaning towards below-average and well below-average for a player of his size. - Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus
Often, when small players succeed in the NHL, it is because they are top-end skaters and thus can avoid excessive physical confrontation with agility - for example, Claude Giroux - but guys like the Canadiens' own Brendan Gallagher have shown that with great hockey sense and above-average puck skills and shot, there is no deficiency that can't be overcome. Hudon is obviously a risk, but seems like the type of boom-or-bust player that could burn the Canadiens if he is passed over.
RW Hunter Fejes, Shattuck St. Mary's (USHS)
6'1", 190 lbs - Shoots L
Rankings: Future Considerations - 59, Hockey Prospectus - NR (No Shattuck Evals)
Despite somewhat limited ice-time, Fejes led Shattuck St. Mary's in goal-scoring this season, and was second in points. Not impressed? Well former leading goal-scorers for this prestigious hockey institution include Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise. Now I'm not comparing Fejes to either one of those two, but like the two superstars, the forward prospect has a great work ethic, and dynamic speed, which he uses at both ends of the ice.
He shows ability to make passes under duress to set up teammates for shots on goal. He's observant and aware of what's going on in his own zone as he often picks up missed assignments or covers for players leaving position. He's a tireless worker who consistently wins foot races and board battles. He's not overly physical but plays with a good amount of grit. He can really shoot the puck and showed varying releases on his wrist and snap shots. He's not afraid to use his backhand as well. He shows good instincts in terms of goal scoring. He drifts toward open spaces, toward the far post and toward the slot, waiting for the puck. He sees the ice well and makes crisp passes. - Future Considerations
At 6'1", 190 lbs, Fejes isn't the biggest guy, but also won't be knocked off the puck easily, and will be able to use his speed to avoid defenders and reach the open areas of the ice, while also fighting for pucks in the corners. Fejes may not project as a superstar, but he may be one of the most complete players in the draft, and could be solid second-line forward in the future.
Third Round (64th overall):
C Zach Stepan, Shattuck St. Mary's (USHS)
6'0", 165 lbs - Shoots L
Rankings: Future Considerations - 77, Hockey Prospectus - NR (No Shattuck Evals)
If the name sounds familiar, it's because Zach's cousin Derek Stepan solidified his role this year as the New York Rangers' two-way second-line centre. Derek jumped onto the scene at the World Junior Championships in 2010, but prior to that he flew under the radar as a hard-working defensively responsible player at Shattuck St. Mary's. Unsurprisingly, his cousin Zach has followed the same path thus far, put up similar numbers, and according to scouts has a similar skill-set to his successful brother.
Plays an aggressive style where he finishes all his checks and tenaciously chases down the puck. Throws his body around and gets under the skin of his opponents but does not drop the gloves. Reads the play well and gets in the face of his opponent. Has a very good wrist shot, hard and accurate but can take too long to get it off, causing it to be blocked or deflected. Has good vision and makes tape-to-tape passes. Not the best puck handler and does not have the hands to go one-on-one with many defenders. - Future Considerations
The biggest concern with Zach is whether he has the offensive skills and creativity to be a top-6 forward at the NHL level. While many asked the same questions about Derek, there is disagreement among scouts as to which of the cousins possesses superior offensive skill. The work ethic, the two-way play, obviously the bloodline, and the fact that Zach scored the tournament-winning goal in the US U-18 National Tournament, are enough to convince me he can follow in his cousin's footsteps.
C Gemel Smith, Owen Sound (OHL)
5'10", 160 lbs - Shoots L
Rankings: Future Considerations - 76, Hockey Prospectus - 47
Smith doesn't fit in with many of the power-forward types I have included on this list, but was a late choice as more of a gut selection than anything. Anytime you read about a player being a "ball of energy that just flies all over the place", you're encouraged. Couple this with the fact that he scored 60 points in 68 games (a modest total, but impressive for a supposed grinder), and you get the idea that Smith could be an impressive third-line forward in the NHL someday.
He's a tenacious forechecker who pressures the defense very well and regularly forces bad decisions with how quickly he closes in on the puck off shoot-ins to the zone. Smith also works equally hard on the backcheck, and despite his size projects to be a fine defensive forward. He's not an all-energy player, though, as he has a decent combo of puck skills and vision to make plays by himself or for his teammates. He's more the kind of player who can handle the puck well in tight spaces and make nice one-touches as opposed to a dangerous puck controller. Smith doesn't just chuck the puck at the net when he gets it, though, as he has some vision and instincts to make plays, and his overall hockey sense is pretty impressive. - Corey Pronman
Winner of the CHL Prospects Game's fastest skater competition, I have a sneaking suspicion that Smith may go much higher than this, considering by all accounts he has an impressive character, but if he's available this late he would have to be a consideration.
D Dillon Fournier, Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL)
6'2", 170 lbs - Shoots L
Rankings: Future Considerations - 61, Hockey Prospectus - 51
Fournier is one of the lowest ranked defenseman that is still projected to have top-4 potential, meaning he could be a steal. Putting up 38 points this year for Rouyn-Noranda, he is clearly more of an offensive-defenseman, and much like current prospect Nathan Beaulieu, would need to significantly develop the defensive side of his game before being considered NHL-ready.
Has great vision and unbelievable passing ability. Plays with an active stick trying to close off lanes and check puck carriers. Plays calm under pressure, for the most part, and finds his options instead of just dumping the puck off the glass. Comfortable with the puck on his stick and has the ability to move it up ice quickly. Not strong and does not have the strength to physically separate the puck from opponents. - Future Considerations
According to Corey Pronman of Hockey Prospectus, Fournier's puckhandling is similar to that of former first-round pick Brandon Gormley, high praise for a guy not expected to go before the third round. A local boy playing in our backyard, he's a tempting choice if available here despite the team's blueline depth.
Fourth Round (94th overall):
RW Sam Kurker, St. John's Prep (USHS)
6'2", 200 lbs - Shoots R
Rankings: Future Considerations - 72, Hockey Prospectus - NR (Outside top 125)
A polarizing prospect but one that intrigued me from the beginning, Kurker is a powerful forward who would seem to have all the tools to thrive at the next level. He has a hard wrist-shot, great skating, and drives the net consistently to cash in his chances.
Can be a little do-it-all-myself type of attitude which is good in some instances but not all. Is able to control the puck with soft hands and protect it from defenders, wins most of his board battles. Uses his size and reach in traffic to control the puck. - Future Considerations
Kurker's biggest issue is his drive, whether he is willing to do what it takes to make it to the NHL. Often, a lack of drive in Prep School can be attributed to playing against players below his level, and hopefully when challenged, he will improve his work ethic. Despite committing to Boston University, there are rumors Kurker could be heading to the Q to play for Quebec, which would certainly suit the Canadiens, should they draft him.
LW Troy Bourke, Prince George (WHL)
5'10", 165 lbs - Shoots L
Rankings: Future Considerations - 87, Hockey Prospectus - 43
Bourke's numbers don't fly off the page - 56 points in 71 games - but when you consider that he was the leading scorer on his weak Prince George team, it gives you an idea of what he had to work with.
Bourke is a pretty intelligent forward who excels as a playmaker. He's a very creative thinker who knows how to make time and space for himself, and when lanes open up, he hits his targets quickly and effectively with his combination of puck skills and offensive sense. Bourke plays the point on the power play due to his sense, but also has a very good shot that is accurate and flies off his stick. Bourke is a quick skater, who can certainly get to a good top speed, but is more elusive and agile. - Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus
Pronman is high on Bourke, rankings him 43rd, but he does have concerns about his success when going up against bigger defensemen, as so far he has had trouble with such challenges. He is undoubtedly a project, but with a little growth, he could be another small Gallagher-like stud.
LW/C Matia Marcantuoni, Kitchener (OHL)
6'0", 200 lbs - Shoots R
Rankings: Future Considerations - 88, Hockey Prospectus - 79
As a strong, fast, skilled winger, this time last year Marcantuoni was projected to go in the top 10. In devastating fashion, however, scouts watched as injury after injury, including a bad concussion, set him back to the point where, according to some, he stopped going into traffic and driving the net. The fundamentals are all there, however, and the skill is undeniable.
He's a high-end skater with fluid, smooth movements and great jump in his step. His push-offs look effortless and he generates so much speed in every stride. Marcantuoni plays a high-energy game as well and really leans on his best asset to soar all over the rink, and will also engage physically. He's a good puckhandler who shows good coordination, and when he's on his game, can create offense without his speed. However, there are simply too many nights when he's off and looks one-dimensional. He'll force a lot of bad plays and overall doesn't show impressive hockey sense on a consistent basis, although when he's on, he shows nice vision. -Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus
Obviously, the question is whether Marcantuoni can return to being the player he once was. Nobody knows for sure, but the potential gain is enough for me to recommend spending a mid-late round pick on a guy who many at one point thought was the best skater in the draft.
Bonus: G Jon Gillies, Indiana (USHL)
6'5", 215 lbs - Catches R
Rankings: Future Considerations - 79, Hockey Prospectus - NR (Outside top 125)
When a team has Carey Price in nets, hopefully to be locked up for the next decade, drafting a goalie isn't a primary need. But considering the lack of depth in the system, it's always good to dip into the goalie pool every so often. It's paid dividends for the Canucks, Predators, Bruins, and Kings in recent years, and you never know when you might uncover a star. While Daniel Altshuller, Jake Paterson, Michael Houser, and Andrey Makarov are interesting prospects, my choice for a goalie selection would be Jon Gillies.
A big, tall goaltender with a great glove hand. He covers much of the net with his natural size, especially down low. He too is more of a puck blocker style of stopper than an athletic, flashy, scramble save type keeper. Has confident body language in the crease. Sees allot of rubber in the crease for a high octane offensive Indiana team. Has some decent in-crease mobility and quickness but can be beaten with quick back door plays as his post-to-post is not as quick as that of smaller tenders might be. - Future Considerations
Gillies put up solid numbers in the USHL this past year (2.77 GAA, .915 SP), and is likely headed to Quebec to develop under Patrick Roy this coming season. He seems like the complete package, reportedly calm under pressure, and a positional goalie in the mold of a Mike Smith. He's a project, but could pay dividends if he develops properly. He is also close friends and teammates with Nieves, a potential 2nd round selection.
Fifth Round (122nd overall):
D Justin Hache, Shawinigan (QMJHL)
6'1", 190 lbs - Shoots L
Rankings: Future Considerations - 150, Hockey Prospectus - NR (Outside top 125)
Hidden beneath a stacked Shawinigan defensive unit, Hache could be ready to break out next year as he was recently traded to Cape Breton.
He moves around well with nice speed and quick agile feet. He plays quite a mistake-free game in his own end as he uses his smarts and strong body positioning to defend against the attack. He shows good vision with the puck and has the ability to make strong accurate passes. He has a nice shot that he uses far less than he should. - Future Considerations
If he bulks up a little to help with his checking and in puck-battles, he could prove to be a capable top-6 defenseman in the NHL.
LW Kevin Roy, Lincoln (USHL)
5'10", 170 lbs - Shoots L
Rankings: Future Considerations - 138, Hockey Prospectus - 71
With captivating puck skills and an above-average shot, Roy led the USHL in scoring by a mile this past season, becoming the league's first 100-point getter since 1999, and first 50-goal scorer in almost two decades.
Roy has a decent frame for his size in terms of strength/muscle combination and is able to protect the puck well when being checked on top of being able to regularly make defenders miss. Roy has fine work ethic and while he doesn't bleed energy, he does play hard enough to somewhat make up for the size deficiency. Roy will show fine distribution ability, but I don't see him as a true above-average playmaker. Scouts see his hockey sense as more of the individual creative kind, being able to find open ice to set himself up to finish chances; he displays good ability on that front when it comes to his short to mid-range shots. - Corey Pronman, Hockey Prospectus
As an overager, Roy was passed over in the draft last year because of his lack of size and reluctance to play physical, but it's hard to argue with numbers like his, and he is likely worth a mid-late round selection in the hope he can use those puck skills to translate some of his scoring to the next level.
D Connor Carrick, US NTDP, USHL
5'11", 185 lbs, Shoots R
Rankings: Future Considerations - 136, Hockey Prospectus - 113
Carrick is a small offensive-minded defenseman considered to be one of the top skaters in the draft. He has a great transition game and can make end-to-end rushes, finishing plays with creativity and finesse.
Connor's shot is very effective and he gets it through consistently. His major problem is that he takes too many risks offensively, leading to odd man rushes against. His size in his own zone is also an issue as he has a hard time battling bigger forwards for pucks despite his stockiness. He is feisty and willing to participate in the rough stuff. - Future Considerations
He may have issues, but to get a guy with the upside of a Carrick this late would be a coup. He is another project pick, but one with first-unit powerplay upside if he can improve at the defensive end of the rink.
Sixth Round (154th overall):
RW Matt Pohlkamp, Brainerd (USHS)
6'1", 200 lbs - Shoots R
Rankings: Future Considerations - 153, Hockey Prospectus - NR (Outside top 125)
Scouts won't always place their reputations on the line to defend a prospect ranked far outside the top 100, but according to Future Considerations, that's exactly what Minnesota High School and USHL scout Dan Shrader did for this power forward.
Your power winger du jour; punishing physical presence but has the skating ability to beat defenders wide...maybe a bit more physical mature than the kids in his age group, but also played HS football and was a running back, which explains his fearlessness in the physicality department. Good hockey sense, has good instincts in the offensive zone, but also saw time on the penalty kill. Has a powerful shot and soft hands, but often choose to shoot when he had the chance. - Dan Shrader, Future Considerations
When it comes to the late rounds of the draft, where most work is guess-work, a report like this is enough to sell me on Pohlkamp as an ideal 6th rounder.
LW Martin Prochazka, Sparta Jr. (Czech)
6'2.5", 195 lbs - Shoots R
Rankings: Future Considerations - 187, Hockey Prospectus - NR (Outside top 125)
C Ondrej Slovacek, CHK Vsetin (Czech)
5'10", 160 lbs - Shoots L
Future Considerations - 174, Hockey Prospectus - NR (Outside top 125)
My final two options (no pictures available), although from the same league, couldn't be more different. At 6'2.5" and 195 lbs, Prochazka is described by Future Considerations as "A big power winger with some intriguing potential who needs to work on his footwork", while the much smaller and slimmer Slovacek is thought of as "An offensive generating machine with slick moves, outstanding vision and consistency concerns". They are obviously both sleepers, and may not even be drafted, but the Czech league hasn't been given much attention recently, and it might be time for a few under-the-radar stars to draw the industry's attention to the nation, much as Datsyuk and Zetterberg did to the ignored Russian and Swedish markets.
Enjoy the draft, folks!