"He is a player that our entire staff saw quite a bit ... he's a real competitive, high-character, two-way defenseman, retrieves pucks, wins his puck battles really well ... when it came time to pick, he was the best asset available for us at that time." - Trevor Timmins
A right-handed defenseman hailing from Abbotsford, B.C., Noah Juulsen added his name to the Habs' history books this year when he was chosen 26th overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft in Sunrise, Florida. Juulsen currently plays for the Everett Silvertips of the WHL, and was selected 70th overall in the WHL Bantam Draft in 2012. His first season in the WHL (2013-2014) was a relatively quiet one, with two goals and eight assists in 59 games. That year, Juulsen also played for Canada Pacific in the 2014 U17 World Hockey Challenge.
During his second season with Everett, Juulsen was awarded much more ice time and powerplay minutes, which clearly paid off. Juulsen netted nine goals and 43 assists in his 68 games. He was second in scoring for WHL-eligible defensemen in this year's draft class, and was ranked the 10th-leading scorer amongst the league's defensemen. Canadiens' Director of Amateur Scouting, Trevor Timmins, mentioned that the Habs scouting team was fortunate enough to see quite a bit of Juulsen the past season, due to playing alongside last year's first round pick, Nikita Scherbak.
"The opportunity I had this year, compared to last year, helped me a whole lot. I got to play all situations this year, and last year I didn't so much." - Noah Juulsen
Juulsen recently attended the World Junior Championship Summer Showcase, in hopes to play for Team Canada come December.
While the majority of the voters placed Juulsen between 14-19, we see a few outliers ranking him out of the top 25 (Stephen at 26th) and well-under 18 (Mitch at fifth). This is Juulsen's first eligible year for the EOTP Top 25 Under 25, meaning he's a prospect to watch this season to monitor how his development pans out. It's worth noting that Juulsen finished with the exact same average ranking as Tim Bozon, however once we removed the high and low votes Juulsen finished ahead.
Juulsen is regularly noted for his excellent puck control and ability to win his puck battles. He moves the puck well and with confidence. He has a hard, accurate shot and played pretty big minutes on the powerplay this past season with Everett.
Juulsen is a solid two-way defender who seems to have little trouble breaking out of his own zone, but is also a smooth skater who pinches at the right time when doubling back. His skating may be his strongest asset, and he effectively uses his pivoting abilities to cover large areas of the ice. Interestingly, many scouts state that Juulsen is very communicative on the ice, a trait that effective team leaders tend to possess.
Many of these points were recently raised amongst fans who had the chance to watch him play with the Canadian national junior team this past week. Juulsen played back-to-back games and was given time on the first wave of the PP. Many believe he will have no trouble cracking the line-up.
Standing at 6'2", Juulsen certainly has the height sought after by many Habs fans, but needs to add a bit of weight to his lanky frame. Not one to shy away from the physical aspect of the game, he throws big hits on the ice. Unfortunately, this often puts him out of position, leading to increased pressure for his linemate to cover both positions.
His physical play can sometimes land him in trouble, having taken a few undisciplined penalties this past season. That being said, it has been noted that Juulsen needs to be more physical when attending to opposing players screening his goaltender.
Juulsen's biggest drawback is his tendency to overthink the play which causes him to slow down on the ice. When he is without the puck, or in high-pressure situations, it becomes evident that he gets inside his own head a bit too much.
I would argue that these 'weaknesses' can all be easily addressed with the proper development and another solid season in the WHL.
Juulsen will return to the Silvertips for the regular season, looking to possibly move up to the AHL by 2016-2017. As mentioned, Juulsen will be vying for a spot on the Canadian junior team and was one of the few 1997-born players to have been invited to attend camp. His recent performance at the WJC Summer Showcase has yielded very positive reviews, which led to his inclusion on an early projection of Team Canada's roster.
At the high end of the spectrum Juulsen is projected to be a top-four defenseman in the NHL. He can contribute both offensively and defensively. He recently signed a three-year entry level contract with the Canadiens and is expected to attend the Canadiens training camp this fall. Keep your eyes on this one, folks, as he's poised for another excellent year.