Much has been made about the lack of top-end elite talent in the prospect pool, but in the past two years Montreal has managed to reload some of the areas on the depth chart that had become thin. This is reflected in the list as all three ranked prospects come from the 2016 and 2017 NHL drafts.
#36 Ryan Poehling
Montreal’s 2017 first-round pick is the highest rated Canadiens prospect this year. Poehling had the distinct privilege of playing in the NCAA at just 17 years old, making him one of the youngest players in the entire league this past season.
Pronman praises his smart playmaking ability, and how Poehling consistently makes above-average-skill plays. He notes that while not the fastest skater, he can play with plenty of pace and is more than capable on the defensive side of the puck.
Going into his sophomore season, it’s likely Poehling will take on a larger role and see more ice time, it’s possible we’ll see his scoring totals climb during that time as well.
#61 Joni Ikonen
Another 2017 draftee cracked Pronman’s list this year as well. Joni Ikonen was taken by Montreal 58th overall, but possesses talent that rivaled many of the first-round picks. His high-end skill is something Montreal has lacked a bit in recent draft years, and he could be a future answer to the long-standing concern at centre.
He’s known as an extremely skilled playmaker with Pronman most impressed by his control of the puck and his ability to create space for himself. While he isn’t the fastest skater, he’s extremely fluid on the ice, and that will help him stick at centre as he progresses in his career.
Ikonen left the Swedish powerhouse of Frölunda this off-season to return home to Finland, where he’ll suit up for KalPa this upcoming season. He has all the skill in the world, but he’ll need to focus his efforts on improving his overall game in the Finnish senior league.
#87 Victor Mete
In just over a year, Mete has become arguably the most exciting prospect in the Canadiens system. Drafted in the fourth round in 2016, he was a relative unknown amongst fans, then over the course of his year in London he jumped right into the spotlight occupied by first-rounder Mikhail Sergachev.
Mete’s game is all about dynamic movements and speed, whether it be in the defensive zone, or taking off to lead a rush down ice. He’s an extremely capable offensive player, able to distribute the puck well, but also able to create his own chances due to his skating ability and agility.
Not only is Mete an elite-level player on the offensive side of the puck, he’s also quietly become a dominant defensive player as well. The next major step for Mete is to make Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championship, and if he continues to grow like he has this past year it’s likely we’ll see him don the red maple leaf in December.
Honourable Mention: Noah Juulsen
The final Habs prospect to be included in Pronman’s ranking is 2015 first-round pick Noah Juulsen. In the two years after being selected Juulsen never really hit the same offensive peaks that he reached in his draft year, however he has become an extremely gifted defensive stalwart and mixes in decent production considering his role in Everett.
Juulsen will be turning pro this year and suiting up for the Laval Rocket, and he’s likely to take on some major responsibility right away. After he played his first two pro games last year in the playoffs for St. John’s, head coach Sylvain Lefebvre had nothing but praise for the young defender. He’s not overly flashy, but Juulsen could very well be the most NHLready defence prospect the Habs have right now.
The Habs have done well in recent years to replenish their prospect pool, especially this year after trading away Sergachev (who Pronman ranked #25). While they aren’t loaded to the gills like Toronto has been in recent years, it’s easy to forget that Montreal has also been a division leader for multiple years, and didn’t have the same quality of draft picks as other teams.
With an older defence and quite a few players who top out at bottom-six skill on the NHL roster, it’s encouraging to know that waiting in the wings is a handful of prospects who could realistically make a key impact in the coming seasons.