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Getting to know Montreal Canadiens 87th-overall selection Cale Fleury

The Canadiens take their third defenceman of the draft with their fifth selection.

2017 NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens made their fifth pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, choosing defenceman Cale Fleury with the #87 pick.

Fleury played for a bad Kootenay Ice team in the WHL, and had a -61 goal differential as a result. It seems the Canadiens put little stock into that value and saw beyond the outdated stat to Fleury’s true abilities.

What they saw what a skilled defenceman whose biggest fault is trying to do too much from the back end to help his team. He tries to limit the amount of defensive-zone time — something Kootenay had a lot of this year — by aggressively trying to turn the puck over. He’ll go out of position to try to make a hit to stop the cycle, and that tends to make his life more difficult.

EliteProspects

He took advantage of the rare offensive-zone time he was able to get, and that largely from turning the puck over in his team’s favour. His season was highlighted by individual rushes into the offensive zone, and he was able to post 11 goals as a result.

His value to the team wasn’t lost on Kootenay’s coaches. His work ethic earned him the captain’s badge for the 2016-17 season, and there’s little doubt he was one of the top players on the team.

On the breakout, he has the awareness to find open lanes, whether they’re a pass to a rushing forward or a gap in the defence that he can skate through. He can sometimes be a bit too aggressive in his up-ice passes, leading to icing calls and turnovers that place the Ice right back into their own zone, but that is a fair strategy when your team is as overmatched as Kootenay was this season.

Scouting

Future Considerations

Fleury plays a pass-first, defensively accountable style that also features some offensive upside. He isn’t an overly enthusiastic skater but excels in the quickness aspects of the game rather than the puck-rushing straight line stretches. He uses his lateral footwork to avoid being turned around and keeping plays to the perimeter and away from the interior of his defensive zone.

Hockey Prospect Black Book

Fleury was the on-ice leader for the Ice and was remarkably consistent with his work ethic despite a very tough year for the team. He played in all situations and took control of the power play both on the breakout and from the offensive point. Cale heavily involves himself in the rush and jumps into the play often, wanting to make a difference offensively. His play is also aggressive physically, as he likes to step up to make a big hit in open ice.

Rankings

DraftBuzz Hockey: 59
Future Considerations: 86
Hockey Prospect: 69
ISS Hockey: 69
McKeen’s: 99
Craig Button: 60
Bob McKenzie: 95

Given the quality of his team, it’s hard to know just what kind of player the Habs got in Fleury, and that unknown factor could be why he was still available late in the third round. His skill set suggests a player who could have been taken higher, with strong abilities in all three zones of the ice, and all three situations.

Fleury will get a chance to play with a group of skilled players at the Canadiens’ development camp in a few weeks time. Playing with older players should allow him to display his skills better, making him one of the top players to look forward to at the summer prospect showcase.