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Grading the 2019 Montreal Canadiens draft class

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Evaluating each of the 10 picks the Habs made in Vancouver.

2019 NHL Draft - Round 2-7 Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Montreal Canadiens added 10 new prospects to the pool at the 2019 NHL Draft. The following is a grade of each selection made.

Cole Caufield, 15th overall, USNTDP

Damn! Smash! Boom! It was the reaction all around Montreal, and it describes the feeling about this pick. He is probably a year or two away from the big club, but when he gets there Caufield might be able to beat Mats Näslund’s (and Kjell Dahlin’s) rookie record. Nothing would be more fitting than one pint-sized goal-scorer beating the mark of another.

Grade: A+

Jayden Struble, 46th overall, St. Sebastian’s School, USA

It was hard finding value among the defenders in this year’s draft. Many went early, and above their predicted ranking. The scouting team found good value in a good skating, hard-working, physical defender at 46th overall. Jayden Struble will be a long-term project as he will go through university and hone some of the raw hockey skills to professional level. The more I study this pick the more I like it, and because of the inflated value of defenders this pick gets a high score.

Grade: B

Mattias Norlinder, 64th overall, Modo Hockey, HockeyAllsvenskan, Sweden

I like the pick of the Swedish U20 playoff MVP. He had a stellar season where he played with both Modo’s U20 team and the men’s team in HockeyAllsvenskan. His skating is great, and his vision and hockey IQ stand out, too.

There are concerns. He is a second-year eligible. While he didn’t have a stellar season from the start he did finish on a high, and he needs to show that he can cope when playing at the level for a full season. There might be some recency bias as his end of the season was great, but with quite a few rankings having Norlinder in the early 50s, this is a good pick.

Grade: B

Gianni Fairbrother, 77th overall, Everett Silvertips, WHL, USA

Another defender was added to the Canadiens’ class of 2019 when Fairbrother was picked. The Silvertips defender has had injuries, but like Norlinder he rose though the draft rankings closer to the draft.

He is another safety-first defender. I would have liked the team to hage gone for a more offensive-minded player here, however Faribrother has good projection, and if he stays injury free and continues his development he will have a chance to make it into the big club one way or another.

Grade: C

Jacob LeGuerrier, 126th overall, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL, Canada

In a hit-or-miss swing, the results will be known in a few years whether Montreal got the warrior in Jacob LeGuerrier that his name suggests. It is an intriguing pick and I personally like when you go for it, however after having read up on the big defender I don’t really see the upside. He seems slow and uses his reach and strength to control situations in a passive way rather than controlling the play in a more active fashion.

Grade: D

Rhett Pitlick, 131st overall, Omaha Lancers, USHL, USA

This is a pick a really like. Pitlick is fast and will fit the Canadiens’ new style of play. He is quick with both mind and hands and reads the game well. He will take the longer route via the University of Minnesota of the NCAA before making the professional jump over to the AHL/NHL. With his skating and quick thinking I don’t think his size will be a factor. To find a possible gem at 131st is good value.

Grade: B

Frederik Nissen Dichow, 138th, SønderjyskE, Metal Ligaen, Denmark

Many goalies went early, but once more Team Timmins seems to have found some value with “The Gnome” (Nissen means gnome in Danish). The 6’5” goalie was named the top goalie in WU18C Division 1A when he played for Denmark in the tournament.

He will cross the strait over to Sweden and continue his development with Malmö’s U20 team. Malmö has had success before in developing goalies, and while no one in Denmark thought of him as a draft pick before the event, he has had success at the international level, and I see this as a controlled swing for the fence from Timmins.

Grade: C

Arsen Khisamutdinov, 170th, Reaktor Nizhnekamsk, KHL, Russia

Adding the Russian is another controlled swing, in the respect that Khisamutdinov made the KHL All-Star Game this year as a top player in the MHL. He has another year left with his Russian club, but has produced already in the KHL.

He is an over-ager, but Russian development is slower than in the other European leagues, thanks to tradition. Mr. Timmins mentions in his scrum after the draft had finished, “He is one of those late developers, and if he wasn’t drafted here, he’d probably be one of the UFAs that would have been chased down by a lot of teams.” I like this forward thinking. Also, thanks to the Romanov situation, they made sure they knew the contract that Khisamutdinov had, and that makes this a very smart pick.

Grade: B+

Raphaël Harvey-Pinard, 201st, Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, QMJHL, Canada

The French-Canadian winger has a strong two-way game, fueled by high hockey IQ and good work ethic, and he has continued his development with every year. When you look at his stats this is the kind of player that you should swing for in this kind of draft situation; he has a decent professional upside, so drafting him in his last year of eligibility is smart, especially with a late pick. If he does make it in the end, you’ll smile like the Cheshire Cat.

Grade: B

Kieran Ruscheinski, 206th, Calgary Northstars, AMHL, Canada

With their last pick of the draft, the Canadiens finished off with another defender, and another behemoth. The defender will have time to go through the ranks before turning pro. It is another calculated swing, which I don’t mind.

Grade: C


Overall, it can be argued that the draft was a two-part drama for the Montreal Canadiens. The opening act was filled with tension and anxiety that resulted in a burst of ecstasy. It was tough for the following act to live up to the excitement of the opening act, and the picks were not as exciting or recognizable as Caufield, and there were a few names that Montreal had a chance to go for but chose not to.

At the end of day two, the first taste is a bit bittersweet; a taste of opportunities missed. However, after an hour or so, you are left with a lot of conflicting thoughts and it leads you to be curious. In the end the more you read and the more video you watch, the more interested in and the more understanding of the picks you get, and you become satisfied.

It is clear that the Canadiens have found a way to get more info via their private combines, and they must be considered a huge success. The idea and they way they run those sessions is well worth an A, but this time I am asked to grade the overall 2019 draft for the Montreal Canadiens, and that is...

Grade: B