With a cache of picks, the Montreal Canadiens added a mountain of new prospects to their loaded pool at the NHL Draft. Starting in the middle of the first round, Montreal continued their recent trend of adding skilled players with great skating, and prospects who project to be long-term builds. With 10 new players, there are a lot of new faces. This is your 2019 Draft class!
Round One, 15th Overall: Cole Caufield
Follow Cole on Twitter: @colecaufield
An absolute slam dunk of a pick on day one, the diminutive sniper slipped down to the Canadiens at 15th overall thanks to some off-the-board picks in the top 10 on Friday. With 72 goals in his draft year, Caufield is a premier goal-scorer, potentially one of the best available in the draft, and instantly becomes one of the best Montreal prospects not playing in the professional ranks.
He’s a finisher of the highest order, and a year or two at Wisconsin with Alex Turcotte and fellow Habs prospect Jack Gorniak will only serve to make him even better.
Round Two, 46th Overall: Jayden Struble
Follow Jayden on Twitter: @jaydenstruble
After landing a surefire bet in round one, the Canadiens took a bit of a leap selecting high-school player Jayden Struble. Standing six feet tall and just under 200 pounds, Struble is a solid defender with a physical edge that he utilizes to great effect.
While he can bring the heavy play, he also skates well with the puck on his stick, and does well protecting it from opposing forecheckers. He tested extremely well at the combine, and will use a year in the BCHL to get himself ready for his NCAA career at Northeastern.
Round Three, 64th Overall: Mattias Norlinder
Much like Struble in the previous round, Mattias Norlinder also looks to be a little bit of a project player, but he comes with high upside as well. Playing for Modo in Sweden’s second tier, the draft re-entry showcased major growth in his game, enough to be picked early in the third.
His skating is dynamic, giving him fantastic top speed, and it allows him to be a player who can jump up in plays with ease. He’s great on his edges, allowing him to quickly change course around opponents and find space to use his shot. While his numbers on offence aren’t mindblowing, the young defender was playing major minutes for Modo, trailing only Tobias Enstrom in that regard. A good hockey brain mixed with his great skating makes Norlinder a very intriguing option, especially in the modern NHL.
Round Four, 77th Overall: Gianni Fairbrother
Follow Gianni on Twitter: @Fairbro24
While Norlinder has the high-end offensive flair, 77th overall pick Gianni Fairbrother leans towards the other end of the spectrum, more a defensive-minded prospect. While more than capable of jumping into the play in the offensive zone, Fairbrother shows his true mettle in reading plays in his own end.
While he doesn’t make the flashy play, Fairbrother can be counted on to make the smart decision with the puck on his stick. The plays are simple but effective, and it’s a big reason why Fairbrother was a penalty-killing staple for the Everett Silvertips.
Round Five, 126th Overall: Jacob LeGuerrier
Part of a major run on defence, Montreal added Sault Ste. Marie defenceman Jacob LeGuerrier at the start of round five. LeGuerrier is not a high-event player; in fact he’s the modern embodiment of the defensive defender. He isn’t there to put up a lot of points, but to eat up minutes and use his physical traits to break up plays.
He is very raw as a prospect overall, but a strong Soo development program should bring out the best in him. For now, his NHL ceiling is on the lower side.
Round Five, 136th Overall: Rhett Pitlick
Going back into the US High School system, the Canadiens used the 136th overall pick on left-winger Rhett Pitlick. Immediately the first thing that stands out is that Pitlick is, among other things, not a defender, and also that he can skate like the wind.
Pitlick thinks and plays the game at full speed all of the time making him a nightmare for opposing defences to contain. He can fly in off the wing, get a shot off, retrieve a loose puck, and circle the zone to try again all in one fell swoop. His short stint in the USHL didn’t seem to slow him down at all. He’ll spend parts of next year with the Omaha Lancers before joining the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Round Five, 138th Overall: Frederik Nissen Dichow
Not much is known about the 6’5’’ Danish netminder that the Canadiens selected in the fifth round. Elite Prospects listed him as only playing 15 total games.
However, in the games he played for Denmark in the Division 1A World Under-18 Championship, he was a star, leading the Danes to a third-place finish with a 3-1-1 record, 2.37 goals-against average, and a .922 save percentage. He’ll face a lot tough competition next year as he heads to Sweden, where he’ll play on Malmo’s Under-20 squad.
Round Six, 170th Overall: Arsen Khisamutdinov
The Canadiens came away with one of the top Russian prospects, Alexander Romanov, in round two last year. This time around, with the picks and potential steals getting few and far between in the sixth, the team took a chance on drafting a 21-year-old forward from Russia.
In the Russian Junior league, the MHL, Khisamutdinov piled up 26 goals and 29 assists in 41 games, while also racking up 99 penalty minutes in that time. Those numbers led his team easily, but being at least a year older than many of his teammates, that was to be expected.
He didn’t look lost at the KHL level during his nine-game stint however, with two goals and three assists. He did this while playing on a team that finished last in its division, and was among the bottom teams overall in the league.
It’s unclear what his contract status is, but he could be a potential option to come overseas for a stint in the AHL.
Round Seven, 201st Overall: Rafael Harvey-Pinard
After going off the board a little bit, the Canadiens traded into the final round to grab a local player who was coming off a major championship. Trading with the Philadelphia Flyers in round seven once again, Montreal was able to grab the captain of Rouyn-Noranda in Rafael Harvey-Pinard.
Playing this season in the QMJHL, Harvey-Pinard put together a fantastic run as that led him and his team to lift the Memorial Cup just a few weeks ago. While he is now a member of the team in Chicoutimi, his age and never-quit attitude might appeal to Joël Bouchard and his staff in Laval of the AHL.
He’s a safe bet and a great chance to take late in the draft, especially since he had attracted attention previously from the Vegas Golden Knights.
Round Seven, 206th Overall: Kieran Ruscheinski
Much like the Dane selected in round five, this pick is a bit of a mystery to us as well. All we currently really know is that as an 18-year-old, Ruscheinski stands 6’6” and weighs over 200 pounds, making him a mammoth on skates.
His offensive numbers aren’t overly high on his local midget team, and he’ll likely gain more exposure heading into the AJHL next year. That is where current Colorado Avalanche star Cale Makar got his start, so it should be a solid league for Ruscheinski to cut his teeth and grow as a prospect.
That is 10 new faces added to an already deep Montreal Canadiens prospect pool, and there will be more joining them as undrafted free agents find homes for development camps in the coming weeks.
Who stands out most to you after this weekend in Vancouver?