With the 2014 NHL Entry Draft just a day away, we figured that now would be a good time to round up every single mock draft we can find, and figure out who the experts think the Montreal Canadiens will be taking at 26th overall. This year is viewed as a weak draft, and the Canadiens have no second round pick to speak of due to the Thomas Vanek deal, so they have to make their first one count.
There's a lot of pressure on GM Marc Bergevin and director of scouting Trevor Timmins, but Timmins has repeatedly shown an ability to exploit weaknesses in other teams' drafting and find diamonds in the rough. So who could the Habs end up with? Here's the expert opinions, alongside where the players they picked rank in various scouting services:
|Who's picking?||Selection||Central Scouting||Future Considerations||Black Book||McKeen's||ESPN|
|Red Line Report||Brendan Lemieux||28 (NA)||37||26||50||53|
|USA Today||Adrian Kempe||6 (Euro)||27||21||26||22|
|NHL (Kimelman)||Nikolay Goldobin||24 (NA)||23||29||41||28|
|NHL (Morreale)||Adrian Kempe||6 (Euro)||27||21||26||22|
|NHL (Hoffner)||Nick Schmaltz||19 (NA)||42||28||30||30|
|TSN (Button)||Ivan Barbashev||18 (NA)||16||13||23||17|
|Sportsnet (Cosentino)||Julius Honka||11 (NA)||31||23||20||29|
|Sportsnet (King)||Nikita Scherbak||15 (NA)||34||14||16||24|
|McKeen's||Nikita Scherbak||15 (NA)||34||14||16||24|
|The Hockey News||Brendan Lemieux||28 (NA)||37||26||50||53|
|SB Nation||David Pastrnak||5 (Euro)||16||17||25||16|
|Future Considerations||Adrian Kempe||6 (Euro)||27||21||26||22|
|Yahoo! Sports||Nikita Scherbak||15 (NA)||34||14||16||24|
A couple of players were selected twice, but as is expected when you're picking way down at 26th overall in a draft that has very little consensus on prospects in the first place, there's no real consistency in the picks. In 13 different mock drafts, eight different players were selected. Two players were picked three separate times, with another picked twice, so we'll focus on those first.
Similar in many ways to the Canadiens' first second round pick of last year's draft, Jacob de la Rose, Kempe equalled the performance of de la Rose in the Swedish Hockey League last season while being a year younger. He isn't lauded for his offensive game, but he has a large frame at 6'2" and is considered one of the best two-way players in the draft. Some scouts question whether Kempe has top six forward ability or creativity, which is a big red flag for a first rounder in most drafts, but this is a weak one, and the temptation of a safe player who is almost guaranteed to make an impact might be enough to sway the Canadiens.
It's not secret that this is one of the players that Eyes on the Prize has had their coveting eyes on. Scherbak is oozing with Russian skill, and because of the fact that he's Russian, even though he's likely a top 15 talent, it's very likely that he could fall to the Canadiens at 26th. Scherbak is a little light in the muscle department, but he has a large frame that should ensure he has the body to have success at the NHL level. Scherbak also fills an organizational need as a skilled right winger, which the Canadiens are remarkably low on in the junior ranks, and even in the AHL, especially is Sven Andrighetto challenges for an NHL spot.
For some reason there are a lot of people who assume that Marc Bergevin is obsessed with getting bigger and grittier, and when you combine that with a player who is also the son of a highly regarded former Canadiens player from a generation ago, you've got an easy pick for someone looking for a storyline instead of common sense. Outside of Black Book, every other scouting service has Lemieux in the second round, some late in the second round. While he's young with a March birth, Lemieux just hasn't displayed the offensive acumen necessary to be a first round pick, especially when you consider that the Canadiens don't have a second rounder to fall back on to add skill.
Pastrnak was the choice of the Eyes on the Prize staff for the SB Nation mock draft. The super slick Czech right winger had a promising rookie season in the Allsvenskan, and born in May, he's very young among draft hopefuls. The interesting thing about Pastrnak hasn't been his production though, it's been his play. If you watch him closely, you'll see him all over the ice, generating attack after attack for his team. In the 2014 World Juniors Under 20 tournament, he didn't lead his team on the scoresheet, but he was possibly their best player at just 17. Pastrnak is a boom or bust pick with top six potential, and would be a nice replacement for the departed Sebastian Collberg.
Goldobin is another player, like Scherbak, that will likely fall within the Habs' range due to his unfortunate affliction of being born within the borders of Russia. Goldobin doesn't have the size of some other prospects, and he's arguably not as skilled as Scherbak, but he is still a right wing, which fills a need, and he has the advantage of having played with Alex Galchenyuk for a short time in Sarnia, which may influence the Canadiens to pick him over a similarly valued prospect.
For some reason, Schmaltz gets brought up in regards to the Canadiens constantly as "the guy they would take if all the other guys they want are gone". As far as backup plans go, Schmaltz is a pretty good one, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Canadiens stay away from him due to getting burned a few times drafting out of the USHL, with Louis Leblanc apparently being a bust, and Danny Kristo being even worse. A few scouts have remarked that Schmaltz has top-15 skill in this draft class, but the USHL is an inferior league to pretty much everywhere else, and we've seen tons of players with his slight frame have success there and flame out everywhere else. There are also questions about his attitude, which is usually a no-no for Bergevin.
Julius Honka & Ivan Barbashev
These are the two biggest outliers in the mock draft class we have here, because neither of these two guys should be falling to 26th. Even with the Russian factor, Barbashev is ranked extraordinarily high by all the scouting services aside from Mckeen's, The likelihood of him being available for the Habs' pick is minuscule, but I don't think anyone would complain if he was.
Honka could be available for Montreal, but we didn't have time to profile him properly. Honka is first and foremost lauded for his competitiveness in spite of a slight frame, which is very stereotypically Finnish. Craig Button seems inordinately high on him, but for some reason he is almost alone in this regard, which is bracing. Honka's offensive production for a defenseman is pretty excellent, but that small frame is going to work against him.
What can we learn?
There isn't much consensus among these mock drafts, but there is one consistent theme, and that is drafting forwards. Only Craig Button envisioned the Canadiens taking a defenseman, and while the Canadiens actually do have a desperate need to add junior age defensemen, with literally none in the system, they're fairly stocked at right defense currently, so no one believes the Canadiens will be drafting for organizational need, though some believe they'll be drafting for current roster need, which makes no sense at all.
There is always a run on forwards or defense in the first round, so it's likely that if the Canadiens don't trade up, they'll wait to see what the run is on and draft the opposite position, but we can't know which way that will go until draft day. We're in for an interesting weekend.