For this year's draft, the Canadiens elected to address their need for more prospects on defense, by selecting Noah Juulsen of the WHL's Everett Silvertips. The teammate of Habs prospect Nikita Scherbak will join the young Russian as the newest member of the Habs' prospect corps.
You may be inclined to let the name fool you, but believe it or not Juulsen is a Canadian, native of Abbotsford, British Columbia. He's a smooth, if not elite level skater, moves the puck well and makes a good first pass. He played big minutes for the Silvertips in all situations, including a healthy amount of powerplay and penalty kill time.
While he doesn't possess the offensive upside of a P.K. Subban, his passing and ability to read the play enabled him to put up 52 points last year, good for second among WHL defensemen eligible in this draft. He is noted to have excellent hands and puck control, uses his body very well to protect the puck, and as such is a valuable asset in breaking out of his own zone.
He is known for throwing a lot of big hits, but at the same time receives a little criticism for putting himself out of position when doing so. His own zone is his major area of strength, where scouts have noted that his calm demeanour and excellent positioning make him a great shutdown option. By all accounts, he is projected to have the potential of a top-four defenseman in the NHL.
Ranked #22 by Hockeyprospect.com
Ranked #29 by ISS Hockey
Ranked #32 by Future Considerations
Ranked #20 by McKeen's Hockey
Ranked #22 by NHL Central Scouting (NA Skaters)
Noah Juulsen is a highly talented and lanky defenseman who played big minutes in all game situations for the Everett Silvertips. He is an effective skater, capable of taking the puck end to end. He's not afraid to pinch down low in the offensive zone when necessary. He plays big power play minutes and is very smart and consistent with the puck. He also possesses a hard point shot that regularly hits the net. Defensively in one on one situations he is calm and effective. All while displaying a willingness to play physical when the opportunity presents itself. In his own end, Juulsen throws big hits all over the ice despite looking rather lanky—physical and equipped with a long reach. He's a difficult player to beat along the boards. Not afraid to mix it up after the whistles either, Juulsen shows good intensity. On the penalty kill, he has very low body position and likes to lay down and use his body to block potential cross ice passes. Juulsen very much prefers to be the one to make the first play with the puck out of the defensive zone, usually sending an accurate first pass up ice.When you put together all of the talents Juulsen brings to the table, he has good upside at both ends of the ice. Juulsen will need to grow into his size and continue developing, but projects as a top four defender who can contribute both offensively and defensively.
Flying a little under the radar, put together an excellent season with impressive 2-way skills and above average hockey IQ .. finished 10th in WHL defenceman scoring and tied for second among WHL defencemen eligible for the 2015 draft .. brings high enthusiasm and energy level with an urgency to his game .. entered the season as a responsible defender and continued to improve in his own end - tasked with top minutes on the Silvertips blueline in all situations .. heady player with strong on-ice communication skills, showing vocal leadership .. plays with a wide frame of view, vision roams with strong awareness of surrounding plays .. doesn’t allow easy net front plays, but needs to be more physical when battling screeners .. seamless transition step from backwards to forwards .. skates to the defensive side of the puck with fluid clean reverse stride .. owns a tendency to open gap too wide to play a little safer .. puckhandling is adequate – not a pure puckmover, yet is starting to develop more imagination .. can use his speed and skating to create openings .. makes a quick accurate first pass .. lacks confidence in transition, pace slows with puck on his stick, a product of overthinking the play - more assertive decision making is needed .. works offensive blueline with fluid net drive and a quick, low, windup with a hard release .. doesn’t back down from chippy play, absorbs contact well .. good leadership qualities while thinking the game at a high level .. a package combined with a coveted right hand shot that will draw attention on draft day.
A solid two-way defender, Noah Juulsen is able to force plays and always find ways to support his teammates. Juulsen is a smooth, yet not dynamic skater, and is mobile when he needs to be. Plays with a chip on his shoulder, and isn't afraid to take the hit to make the play. Sees the ice well and has the individual skills to carry out the possibilities he sees. Very poised with the puck; calm and controls the play with authority. Has good hands. Without the puck and in high-pressure situations, Juulsen tends to overthink things and can try to do a little too much; that will go away with time and maturity. All-in-all, an impactful presence on the ice that strives to be difficult to play against; given how hard he works and how smart he is with the puck, he can be a very difficult player to read with and without the puck
The consensus need for the Canadiens heading into this draft was of course defense, particularly on the left side. While Juulsen is a right handed shot, they needed to pick a defenseman, and they did. While there were a couple of defenders one could name that some may rather have seen the Habs choose ahead of him, it would be quite premature to criticize this pick.
Juulsen fills that main need, and he appears to be a very solid prospect at his position. He has been noted to overthink things at times, but otherwise has been spoken of as a very responsible defender, particularly in his own zone. Not only is he great in his own zone, but his abilities there and in transition translate to a lot of assists, so he has some offensive upside as well.
One has to wonder if the Habs' scouting team didn't see something in the young defender while keeping tabs on Nikita Scherbak. Naturally, they would have spent some time watching the young Russian in the WHL, and that time could very well have contributed to their decision in drafting Juulsen.