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Catching the Torch: Previewing CHL & NCAA Prospects

Previewing the Canadiens' assets in the Canadian Hockey League and National Collegiate Athletic Association.

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With a number of high-quality graduates from the Canadian Hockey League ranks, including Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron, Jeremy Gregoire and Zach Fucale, combined with a dearth of draft picks for the organization in the past two years, the Montreal Canadiens feature a notably lighter group or junior and collegiate prospects this year than we became used to following the bounties of the 2012 and 2013 draft classes.

The CHL is the umbrella organization overseeing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), and the Western Hockey League (WHL). The NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletic Association where the Canadiens have several members in Division I hockey.

CHL

Player 2014-15 Team Pos GP G A Pts PIM
Jeremiah Addison Ottawa 67s (OHL) RW 63 19 28 47 49
Daniel Audette Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL) C 60 29 44 73 64
Simon Bourque Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) D 68 10 28 38 69
Matt Bradley Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL) C 71 17 23 40 24
Noah Juulsen Everett Silvertips (WHL) D 68 9 43 52 42

Expectations

Jeremiah Addison, 18, LW, Ottawa 67's, 6'0", 183 lbs

One typically should not leap ahead with grand projections for a player selected in the seventh round of the draft and probably not expect too much out of their first post-draft season. The best expected growth would be the range of a point-per-game season. As discussed in the "getting to know ..." article above, he is by nature a defensive specialist, so while top-end offensive output is out of his reach most likely, he will need to display a certain level of offensive ability to show he has the puck skills to manage in higher levels of hockey.

Daniel Audette, 19, C, Sherbrooke Phoenix, 5'8", 176 lbs

In what will likely be his final year in the QMJHL, Audette should be aiming to be one of the premier offensive stars in the league. While he has yet to break into the top tier of scoring in the league, he was selected by the Canadiens for his offensive skills and in his senior season, an elite scoring season would go a ways towards establishing his credentials as a potential pro by showing he can dominate his peer group.

The growth of Sherbrooke Phoenix as a franchise may aide in his efforts here, but he will need to be a difference maker over a player that is simply benefiting from playing with a better team.

Simon Bourque, 18, D, Rimouski Oceanic, 6'0", 183 lbs,

Being selected at near the end of the draft order is not often a sign of future NHL success, but Bourque does have some interesting qualities to his profile. He had a respectable year of production with Rimouski, finishing 2nd in scoring among defencemen and more than quadrupled his production in his previous season.

He is credited as both an able skater with the puck and a solid defender in his own zone, but scouts do hold reservations that while being a good all-around player, his tools may not grow sufficiently to reach the pro level. There is a consideration that while being good in all aspects is handy, it is sometimes necessary to have a distinctive skill to push up to the pros. Higher offensive production while maintaining his defensive acumen would come off as being a successful season.

Matt Bradley, 18, C/LW, Medicine Hat Tigers, 5'11", 187 lbs

Bradley is not going to impress many with his scoring levels, as he scored just 40 points in 71 games last season in the WHL, but there is more to his game than a quiet rookie year in the WHL suggests. He is credited as a high-energy two-way forward with solid hockey sense, and impressions are that his efforts on the ice have the potential to translate to more offence, given he has played just one year in the WHL so far.

The obvious expectation for the coming season is an uptick in his offensive production and while a jump to a point per game seems to be a stretch for a prospect of his level, a strong trend towards that level is likely to sell his potential as an up-and-comer.

Noah Juulsen, 18, D, Everett Silvertips, 6'2", 180 lbs

The expected ace of Montreal's junior prospects this season, Juulsen is the star defenceman of the Everett Silvertips and a candidate for Team Canada's 2016 World Junior Championship team. He's coming off a highly successful season where he scored 52 points, which ranked him second among draft eligible defenders in the WHL; notable given the defensive nature of the Silvertips as a team.

He is also well rated for protecting his own end, so there is no concern about him being too focused on offence. The expectations for Juulsen are pretty straightforward, show improvements both offensively and defensively and make the case to be selected to Team Canada for the World Juniors.  While making a nation team is not a prerequisite for an NHL career, it would show he is considered among the elite of Canada's junior hockey talent.

NCAA

Player 2014-15 Team POS GP G A PTS PIM
Jake Evans University of Notre Dame (NCAA) C 41 7 10 17 22
Nikolas Koberstein Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL), Bloomington Thunder (USHL) D 61 4 8 12 138
Player 2014-15 Team GP W L OTL GAA Save % SO
Hayden Hawkey Omaha Lancers (USHL) 15 5 7 2 2.99 .896 1


Expectations

Jake Evans, 19, C, University of Notre Dame, 6'0", 190 lbs

Growth will be necessary for Evans, who had a decent start to his rookie year with Notre Dame until petering out in the second half and scoring a mere five points in 20 games.

His dressing as a sophomore with a year of training will likely be to his benefit, as it can take time for young players to get significant ice time with their NCAA teams, especially when they join the team at 18 years old. Breaking the 30- or even 35-point barrier in his second season would be a very good sign for him.

Nikolas Koberstein, 19, D, University of Alaska, 6'2", 200 lbs

It's perhaps somewhat cruel to state, but it may take a miracle (or two) for Koberstein to rise to the level of a legitimate prospect this season. He went through an extremely poor season in the Junior A United States Hockey League last season, in which the only category he exceeded his peers on was his ability to accumulate penalty minutes.

With a mere 12 points in 61 games and a dubious history of production at lower levels, there does not seem to be much to expect from Koberstein, who, given his production in the USHL, may struggle to stay in the lineup in the NCAA ranks.

Hayden Hawkey, 20, G, Providence, 6'2", 182 lbs

Following a 2013-14 season that garnered USHL All-Rookie, First All-Star, and Goaltender of the Year awards, Hawkey's numbers fell to below average in all categories last year before his season came to an abrupt end in late November after suffering an ACL/MCL tear.

He is lining up with the Providence College Friars in NCAA hockey, where he stands behind two junior-year goaltenders, so he will be in a tough battle to earn starts as he tries to rebound from a disastrous season and recover from a serious injury. Getting a fair share of the season and posting decent numbers is about the most one could expect from him this coming year.