The Montreal Canadiens head into the 2017 NHL Draft with needs, just like every team in the NHL. What that need is depends on who you ask, but most fans will tell you that the team desperately needs a top level centre within the organization.
Make no mistake there are plenty of them in this draft, unfortunately for the Canadiens those that could step in an make a difference during their current Stanley Cup window are highly unlikely to still be on the board at 25th overall. Players like Lias Andersson, Cody Glass, and even Michael Rasmussen are likely to have been scooped up before Montreal approaches the podium.
There are, however, options available for Marc Bergevin at this point. The boldest one being trading up and selecting one of the aforementioned centres in the draft, as to plug the gap in the prospect pool.
If nabbing a potentially elite centre is in fact the plan, moving up in the draft isn’t as simple as just packaging a pick with throw away players. For Montreal to move into the top 15 of the draft likely forces them to surrender a player like Nathan Beaulieu, in addition to their 2017 pick and likely a combination of prospects and other picks. If the team truly believes that Mikhail Sergachev is ready for full time NHL duty next season, than this trade is more easily palatable and helps Montreal fill a need without losing too much in terms of assets. With elite offensive talents like Kailer Yamamoto, or dominant centres like Lias Andersson, moving up is something Bergevin should consider.
He can also draft the best player available (BPA), or he can draft for need and select one of the remaining centres on the board at the end of day one. It’s an interesting position for Bergevin to be in, given there’s a plethora of good puck moving defenders in this draft, and some highly talented wingers who may fall due to various reasons.
If the Habs sit on pick number 25, they will be presented with more options. The first is the simplest: draft the highest rated centre left on the board at the time, thus filling a desperate need in the organization. Some of the potential names that would still be there include Ryan Poehling, Shane Bowers, and Robert Thomas. While these players are solid in their own right, there are a number of other prospects on the board that could hold more potential. This option gives the team a centre prospect that they need, but it’s also the safe play. In the first round it’s generally worth swinging for the fences if there’s a high ceiling player available. Montreal has gone this route before, picking players like Noah Juulsen or Michael McCarron, they’re not bad players, but when you consider some of the other talent still available at the time of the picks, their potential ceilings seem much lower.
The other, and likely best option for the Canadiens, is to stand pat at 25th overall, and take the best player available regardless of position. You have the potential for players such as Kristian Vesalainen, or Timothy Liljegren who could fall right into the Habs lap for various reasons. Even a player like Maxime Comtois could be of major interest to Montreal, even if he’s not a centre.
Bergevin is at a crossroads. He desperately need a centre, but those available when he steps up to the podium likely won’t be around to provide the immediate help they need right now. If the team isn’t willing to part with the necessary assets to move up and draft an impact player, then the Habs need to step up and swing for the fences with their pick.
Safe is death in the NHL, and it’s time for the Habs to take a risk and try to land their version of Travis Konecny or Josh-Ho Sang this year, and finally add some depth to their dwindling prospect pool. The Habs have focused on size and character lately, and it’s probably time to key in on talent rather than intangibles.
Outside of Sergachev, their prospect pool lacks a dynamic star player, especially in the forward prospect pool. Nikita Scherbak is still developing, Charles Hudon doesn’t receive any opportunities to prove his worth at the NHL level, and it’s unclear if Martin Reway will ever return to professional hockey.
What would you do with the Habs first round pick?
This poll is closed
Package it and try to trade up for a centre
Stand pat, draft the best centre available
Stand pat, draft BPA, regardless of position