Content warning: This story contains details of a crime that is sexual in nature.
The most controversial draft selection the Montreal Canadiens have made — at least in recent memory — is that of Logan Mailloux. The selection made with the 31st pick was met with widespread condemnation, stemming from his well-documented conviction in Sweden last year for unconsensually sharing a photo of a woman engaged in a sexual act, and a comment from his victim that she did not believe he was remorseful for his actions.
The Canadiens are deservedly taking their lumps from all angles for this selection. Be it through media of the social or mainstream variety, the team has been called out from all corners. They had to know this would come, and have the appearance of disregarding the impact that Mailloux’s actions have had on the victim.
It’s also true that Mailloux had asked not to be drafted this year, renouncing himself from the draft after the details of the incident received broader exposure in the days before the event. He did not add himself to the Canadiens organization; that action was done by Marc Bergevin despite all the information he had on the situation.
Whether he should now be an NHL property or not, his current status is as a prospect in the Canadiens pipeline, and he will be compared to and contrasted with those in the system with him. With his character in question, what is it about Mailloux’s abilities as a hockey player that the organization was willing to take such an expensive gamble on?
Birthplace: Belle River, Ontario
Date of birth: April 15, 2003
Weight: 214 lbs.
Current Team: London Knights (OHL)
A defenceman for the OHL’s London Knights, Mailloux spent the lion’s share of 2019-20 playing Junior B in the GOJHL. The Knights were simply too deep to give a regular roster spot to a 16-year-old, but he was also a little too strong for Junior B, putting up 68 points in 48 games as a defenceman. He had easily earned his spot with the Knights.
The 2020-21 campaign was supposed to be his first full year in the OHL, but like many other players, his plans were put on hold by the COVID-19 pandemic, so he ended up playing in HockeyEttan, the third division of Swedish professional hockey. There, he amassed a solid 15 points in only 19 games, good for a tie for second in SK Lejon team scoring with Patric Colton, who played in 10 more games than Mailloux.
SK Lejon was the worst team of that division, so Mailloux managing the production he did in fewer than 20 games was impressive. Many scouts and teams had him as a first-round talent before his crime became known to the public. Some scouts had him as high as their top-20 due to the set of tools he possesses.
He has size, the one thing you can’t teach, and uses it well on the ice. He hits like a runaway train, and plays physically along the boards and in front of the net. He still has room to grow into his frame, so he could be an imposing physical presence in a few short years.
His skating is far better than you would expect for someone of his size. He has above-average speed, with a powerful stride that stands out particularly when he joins the rush. He isn’t the most nimble of skaters, but uses his crossovers effectively to generate speed and attack defenders on the rush.
Another asset that in unexpected based on his size is what he can do with the puck. He has surprisingly soft hands and uses his frame well when deking to avoid opposing checkers. He can take bad passes and make them look good, and also can execute some impressive passes to his teammates as well.
Last but not least is his shot. One Hockey Prospect scout noted in their draft guide that when he rings one off the bar, a passer-by outside the arena might be able to hear it. He has excellent mechanics with his shooting motion, and gets velocity that you rarely see from players his age. Perhaps his best tool isn’t even his slapshot — which is impressive — but his wrister, on which he combines a spring-loaded release with an ability to shoot off either foot and on the rush.
Offensively, we’re talking about as complete a toolkit you’ll see from an 18-year-old blue-liner. He’s a high-end puck-mover with a lethal shot who loves to get involved in the offensive zone.
Issues have been noted in particular as it pertains to decision-making. As he is very offensively oriented, Mailloux at times picks the wrong time to go. Venturing into the offensive zone can be an asset as a defenceman, but he needs to do a better job of picking his spots to avoid creating odd-man rushes the other way.
Though his skating is very good overall, there are some issues to correct there as well, specifically when pivoting to skating backward on defence. Because he ventures so often to join the rush on offense, this is something he has to do quite frequently, and he struggles with it, often causing problems for him with gap control while defending.
He also does not display the same spatial awareness and positioning in his own end that he does on offence. He makes up for this with his physicality at times, but basic defensive positioning appeared to be an issue for him in HockeyEttan, so he’ll need to make that a focus in his game moving forward.
Like many, I was quite disappointed with the Tricolore for going in this direction when the pick was announced. My feelings were rooted primarily in my belief that his off-ice issues should have precluded his selection. That being said, when I just evaluated his hockey skills, I can see why the Canadiens wanted his talent in the system.
Some coaches and scouts give him the lofty NHL comparison to none other than Shea Weber. I think he has better skating and puck skills than Weber, so his ceiling is something in the environs of Weber mixed with Jeff Petry — a top-pairing, puck-moving defenceman with a booming shot, an imposing physical edge, and a frame that shouldn’t be possible to have with the way he can move. His upside is high, so I understand why the Habs went there even if I don’t agree with the selection.
His floor, on the other hand, is that he may not make the NHL. As Hockey Prospect put it in their draft guide, he may have “a floor made of fractured glass” to go along with that exceptional ceiling. If he can’t improve his decision-making (in a variety of contexts) and gap control, and smooth out his pivots to skating backward, he’s going to have a tough time at the NHL level. He got away with these issues in Junior B and the third Swedish division, but the NHL is a different animal.
It’ll likely be boom or bust for Mailloux, and his first full OHL season should be very telling as to which direction he’ll go. The Canadiens have obviously gone all-in on the potential boom, and have perhaps irreparably damaged their reputation in so doing. But if they’re right about that boom, we’re talking about potentially one of the best blue-line prospect talents this team has seen in many years.