Every time we get going with this project, there's a handful of prospects that barely miss the cut in the Top 25 Under 25 final rankings. Although some are quick to dismiss these players, there have been a few examples of players missing the cut in previous years, and eventually finding their way to the NHL. For example, Dustin Tokarski finished 29th in our 2013 rankings, and Greg Pateryn was 27th in 2011.
Martin Reway debuted at 33th back in 2013, yet managed to climb all the way to 14th last year. It's never a great sign when a prospect is ranked outside the top 25, but as you can see there are players that manage to buck the trend.
Only two picks from the 2015 draft class made the cut this time around, which was somewhat predictable considering the Habs didn't own very many picks. Out of the 16 picks that are outside the top 25, seven were defencemen, eight were forwards, and there was one goalie.
30. Simon Bourque, 18, LD
Bourque was Montreal's sixth-round pick during the 2015 draft, and according to his pre-draft rankings, he seems to have been somewhat of a steal at 177th overall. As it stands, Bourque is the Habs' only left defenceman in the system that's currently slated for another year of junior hockey. He doesn't have any particular strengths that stand out, but he does bring a solid overall game to the table, as well as playing a leadership role for the Rimouski Océanic.
Hockey Prospect scout Jérôme Bérubé had this to say on Bourque's potential:
"Bourque is a player who does everything well on the ice but lacks a high end qualities, I love his compete level."
On the power play he played more the role of the playmaker, he likes to set up his teammates on the man-advantage instead of being the shooter from the point. He’s more of a complimentary player on the man-advantage at this point in his development. He has a good, accurate shot from the point, but his velocity could see an improvement. Defensively he’s reliable, with above-average mobility and an ability to keep up with the best forwards in the league. He’s capable of playing physical in his own zone but relies more on his smarts and a good active stick to counter those top forwards. He’s consistent from game to game, rarely having a bad one, and always bounces back after a bad shift or game. It wouldn’t surprise us to see him wear the C as soon as next season with the Oceanic, as the management and coaching staff are really high on him. Bourque doesn’t have any great qualities and lacks the ideal size for a defensive NHL defenseman and that could cost him a chance to go in the first three rounds of the NHL draft, a mid-round pick for us.
29. Mark MacMillan, 23, C
Following a fantastic start to the year that saw him nab top honours in our weekly prospect recap, MacMillan suffered an unfortunate injury, keeping out of action as he recovered from surgery. He was leading the North Dakota Sioux in scoring when a skate blade hit his left wrist, causing a major laceration.
Despite the injury, MacMillan rebounded to put together a solid senior season, eventually earning a contract with the Canadiens.
The fourth-round draft choice in 2010 is a speedy centre, who happens to be quite adept at taking face-offs. His elite skating has masked some flaws in his game, but it must be said that he has a nose for the net. MacMillan will be joining the St.John's IceCaps next year for his first professional hockey season.
28. Dalton Thrower, 21, RD
Thrower was first ranked back in 2012, his highest finish on our list. Since then, he was ranked 23rd in 2013, and 18th last year. His ranking this year represents a massive drop in faith from most voters.
Following a frustrating start to the 2014-15 season which saw miss time while he recovered from an ankle injury. Once he was fit to play he was immediately sent to the ECHL's Brampton Beast, where he put up six points in 37 games. By Thrower's own account, it wasn't a very good start to his professional career. He's looking to bounce back this season, and will have the opportunity to do so with the IceCaps. Fortunately he's healthy this time around, which should go a long way in helping him secure a spot on the AHL blue line.
27. Morgan Ellis, 23, RD
Like Thrower, Ellis spent some in the ECHL last season, but unlike Thrower, Ellis performed quite well once he was demoted. Ellis almost cracked the top 10 on our list in 2011, however he's seen a steady decline ever since, resulting in a 24th place finish last year.
Up until his stint with the Wheeling Nailers, Ellis hadn't shown much of the offensive potential he displayed in junior, although to be fair he was never granted much security when it came to ice time and his place in the lineup with the Bulldogs. Ellis should be relied upon much more this season in the AHL, and seeing as how the Canadiens only granted him a one-year extension, this may be his final chance to prove his worth to the organization.
26. Brett Lernout, 19, RD
Lernout is the first real surprise on the list. I was convinced he had played well enough for the Swift Current Broncos to earn a top-25 finish, but it wasn't in the cards. It was, however, incredibly close.
The prospect who finished 25th had an average ranking of 25, whereas Lernout finished with an average ranking of 25.44.
10 of the 18 voters had Lernout in their top 25, a noticeable improvement from the previous Top 25 Under 25, when Lernout finished 30th.
As an alternate captain for the Broncos, Lernout almost doubled his total points last season, which earned him an entry-level contract with the Canadiens. He finished fifth in team scoring, and was the leading scorer among defencemen.
Lernout will play with the IceCaps this season, and it remains to be seen whether or not his offensive outburst last season will transition to the professional ranks, but considering he wasn't touted as much more than a rough-and-tumble defencemen during the draft, it's very encouraging to see him flourish into a well-rounded player. He may end up as yet another Trevor Timmins surprise.