The Habs have had very good luck with fifth round picks in recent years. Despite being a round in which there are rarely any guarantees regarding those players available, Montreal has grabbed the likes of Brendan Gallagher, the up and coming Charles Hudon, and now, Matt Bradley. Like Gallagher, Bradley is a western Canadian boy, and comes to the Habs from the WHL.
Following the trend set by picks like Gallagher and Hudon, here is another slightly undersized forward, standing at 5'11" and 187 pounds. Bradley may seem like an odd pick, as his first WHL season with the Medicine Hat Tigers saw him score at significantly less than a point-per-game pace. It would be important to note that neither did Brendan Gallagher in his first WHL season, although the latter played in significantly less games. In any case, Bradley still has plenty of time to develop his scoring abilities through a few more seasons in Medicine Hat.
His hockey I.Q. makes him a versatile player who can line up on the wing, or at centre. He also has a solid shot, and knows when to let it off, which allowed him to pot 17 goals in his rookie WHL season. While he started out as a pure depth player for the Tigers, he was eventually promoted to a top six role. As such, the team will likely begin to rely on him more and more as his WHL career progresses, which should do well for his development.
Bradley, a two-way centreman is an energetic, fleet-footed and strong-willed forward who saw his draft stock steadily rise over the course of this season. Bradley excels most in terms of footspeed, faceoff skill and hockey IQ and saw his ice-time increase concurrently with his rise in draft stock. Over the course of the last season he transitioned from a depth role to a top-six role. His promotion came as a result of his consistent play, as he finds a way to create a good amount of offense, a lot of energy down the middle and a ton of turnovers in all three zones on a game-to-game basis. His decision-making is also consistently good, making him a dependable presence on the ice most of the time. We also really like his work in the faceoff circle.
Bradley is solid on the forecheck, as he can turn into most passing lanes with surprising ease and unpredictability. His high hockey IQ allows him to consistently anticipate where the passes are going. His hockey sense additionally allows him to make good passes and properly anticipate where his teammates are going, which makes him very good on the cycle and at keeping the offense alive. His shot is yet another threat, as exhibited by his 17 goals in his rookie season.
All in all, Bradley is a dependable player in terms of faceoffs, offensive awareness and attention to defensive details. That dependability earned Bradley considerable time on the penalty kill this year, which allowed him to additionally show off some of his defensive skills. Even though he struggled to keep those minutes as the year wore on, he showed improvements in his shot blocking and clearing abilities. He's already trustworthy enough in the faceoff circle to be used in careful own-zone situations, so improvements in his defensive game and penalty killing capabilities will surely help him in developing in the future.
Bradley is a scrappy forward who has a good a sense at both ends of the rink. He isn’t a huge possession player but does have some offensive and puck skills. Playing a bit of a one touch type of offensive game, Bradley thinks ahead of the play and moves the puck accordingly. He doesn’t have top-end passing skills, but he is usually precise and doesn’t miss the mark too often. Quickness is key to his game. He has some basic skills carrying the puck and a good sense of where to be on the ice. He has a good sharp release on his wrist shot with a "shoot high" mentality. Bradley brings an up-tempo pace to both ends of the rink, ratcheting up pressure on the forecheck and doggedly back checking to defend his own zone.
He is a decent skater who is a bit sluggish accelerating at times, but, nonetheless, is balanced and can get on top of plays quickly. His defensive zone play is very solid as he never seems to be caught too far out of position. He goes full bore into checks and usually lays a solid smack to his victim despite being just average in size. His quickness is key in the defensive zone as he can remain on top of the puck carrier and react to the bouncing puck. He is an all situations type of player right now who can add some scoring pop and will compete every shift
It may be a tad unfair to make lofty comparisons, but his feels a lot like the Gallagher and Hudon picks. He's the type of sleeper pick that many teams would pass on due to his size and lack of scoring early in his WHL career. At the same time, he's noted to be an extremely intelligent two-way player. It's no guarantee, but this is the type of player who could well push for a spot in the top nine after a few more years.
The Habs don't exactly have any openings up the middle that will be coming available any time soon. That said, Bradley is a player who needs some more time in junior to develop, and he's also capable of playing the wing, so he's not locked in to one position. Only time will tell, but this could be yet another Trevor Timmins steal in the fifth.