The second selection of the fifth round was exactly the type of thing you would expect from the Habs brass. A later round skilled forward, who's main reason for being available would likely be his small stature. Usually, you'd jump to the conclusion that drafting a legacy player would ostensibly invite comparison to his parentage, but in this case it may be more appropriate to do so with a current member of the Habs roster.
Daniel Audette and Brendan Gallagher share the same birthday(May 6th) and same overall draft position(147th)— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) June 28, 2014
Freaky. They share a birthday, were drafted by the same team in the exact same spot, and they're almost identical in size. Standing 5'9" and weighing 176 pounds, it is very easy to make the Brendan Gallagher comparison when talking about Audette. Pretty big shoes to fill when you consider that his comparable had a burger named after him by McDonald's for his efforts.
Audette has himself shown some pretty serious offensive skill during his time in the QMJHL with Sherbrooke, right in the Habs back yard. He's a quick and explosive skater with great lateral movement, which he couples with some highly proficient puck handling that he can maintain at full speed. His vision and passing are phenomenal, and he has the ability to find teammates for what would amount on the golf course to 'gimmes.' Despite being a later round pick, He may actually be the most skilled player drafted by the Habs this year aside from Nikita Scherbak.
While he is the self-professed playmaker to his father's scorer, he also has a sneaky quick release and knack for jumping on rebounds down low. At the offensive end he's a small, but complete package, and if he can overcome the size issue like those before him he could become a serious talent. He projects well offensively, as he jumped from 29 points in 54 games as a rookie to 76 points in 68 games as a sophomore in the Q. He'll be heading back to Sherbrooke for another season, and we'll definitely be keeping an eye on him to see if this trend continues.
Future Considerations: "Audette is a very nice skater, despite having a short stride as he has lightning-quick feet and good agility. He is well-balanced from his lower body and can lean into defenders to keep them off, but does get outmuscled when going against stronger defenders. He is very quick with the puck and shows great touch, even at full speed. He is electrifying with the puck on his stick and not afraid to pull a high-end deke."
Hockey Prospect: "A pretty explosive skater, Audette is easy to recognize on the ice, as he never stops skating and is in control of the puck more often than not. He is a great playmaker as he can dish out some nice saucer passes through traffic rather easily at top speed. Offensively, it's pretty tough to find a weakness in his game with the puck. He has great offensive hockey sense as he always gets in a good position to accept a pass or to take a shot at the net."
Dan Marr, Director of NHL Central Scouting: "He’s got good offensive hockey sense … very good passer. His strength is as a playmaker. He doesn’t have the size to win physical battles, but I wouldn't say he shies away from anything... He's got a very good shot, and is able to handle himself well in battles and can skate the puck through traffic."
The main criticism you'll hear is naturally size and strength, or lack thereof. Offensively, I'd argue his elite puck skills essentially negate this problem, whereas at the defensive end without the puck he is not as lucky. He won't be able to magically grow four inches and twenty pounds, but I am a firm believer that a small guy can be effective at both ends if he's got the work ethic. Audette doesn't need to be bigger, he just needs to hone his defensive skills so he can spend more time at work in the offensive zone, where he shines.
Where the Gallagher comparison is an obvious one, a David Desharnais comparison is almost more obvious, and both have already been made by various parties. So is he the French Brendan Gallagher, or a more offensively gifted version of Desharnais? Well, If his ceiling is in fact somewhere in between Desharnais and Gallagher, I would call this pick a great steal at 147th overall.
Projecting Audette is difficult because he has offensive skills that could put him in the top-six caliber range, but it's tough to tag him that high right now. If he can round out his two-way game, there's no doubt in my mind that his offensive skills can carry him to the NHL. If he makes the NHL, he'll be yet another great example of how determination and skill are more important than height and weight when it comes to judging the worth of a hockey player.
Now time to discuss. How do you feel about this pick? Did we get a steal in the fifth again?