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Canadiens 2017 Top 25 Under 25: The biggest rises and largest drops

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There was a lot of movement in the rankings from what we saw last year, with a young goaltender leading the way.

Shanna Martin / Eyes on the Prize

Our full ranking of the Montreal Canadiens players under the age of 25 has been revealed, with Alex Galchenyuk taking the top spot for the fourth year in a row.

The 2017 list was one highlighting the newest additions to the organization, with six new players praised, criticized, dissected, and projected.

Four of the 2017 draftees cracked the top 25, with the centres, Ryan Poehling and Joni Ikonen, both making the top 15. We also saw the first appearance of defenceman Joe Morrow after he was signed as a free agent. The most significant debut was made by Jonathan Drouin, who slotted in at #2 right away, with some believing he should have been placed right at the top.

Of those who have been ranked before, there was some repositioning as those who made more progress toward an NHL future leapfrogged those who made no progress or even took a step back. In fact, Galchenyuk holding station at #1 was the only case of a player’s rank not changing from 2016.

There were some large jumps this summer and a few significant falls, with 2017 really belonging to the goaltenders.

Biggest rises

Michael McNiven

2016: #29 → 2017: #13

No one made a bigger move from last year to this than the reigning CHL goaltender of the year. He will now make a different kind of jump, starting his professional career after an excellent run in junior hockey. Based on the ranking he currently possesses, most of us believe it will be a successful transition.

His rise from several places outside the top 25 to comfortably within the top 15 is one of the largest rises this project has seen, outdone only by a trio of mid-round draft picks whose initial rank reflected their draft position before their true skill was apparent a year later.

Major moves

Player Rank (Year) New Rank (Year) Change
Player Rank (Year) New Rank (Year) Change
Martin Reway 33 (2013) 14 (2014) 19
Sven Andrighetto 26 (2013) 8 (2014) 18
Charles Hudon 28 (2012) 10 (2013) 18
Michael McNiven 29 (2016) 13 (2017) 16
Dustin Tokarski 29 (2013) 13 (2014) 16
Jake Evans 35 (2015) 20 (2016) 15
Morgan Ellis 25 (2011) 11 (2012) 14

Jeremiah Addison

2016: #30 → 2017: #19

He was underrated a bit last year, perhaps deserving a place among the top 25, but an exceptional playoff performance for the Windsor Spitfires ensured he found a place among the top prospects in the organization.

Like McNiven, his professional career now begins, and he should comfortably land a spot in the AHL with the Laval Rocket in October.

Charlie Lindgren

2016: #16 → 2017: #6

Another goaltender riding an impressive performance to a double-digit leap was Lindgren, who turned the promise he showed in one NHL game in 2016-17 into an All-Star performance in the AHL. He helped the St. John’s IceCaps earn a playoff berth with a game that has few weaknesses, and it seems that an NHL career is just around the corner.

Phillip Danault

2016: #11 → 2017: #4

Danault was used primarily in a bottom-six role last season after being added at the trade deadline. He started at the bottom again last season, but injuries at the top gave him an opportunity to rise up the lineup. Ultimately that took him right up to the top line, and he performed very well playing with Max Pacioretty and Alexander Radulov, with very strong possession numbers and a new career high in points with 40. He’s established himself as a key member of the team, with much more to offer than it appeared at the end of last season, and he moves up among the best players in the organization as a result.

Victor Mete

2016: #19 → 2017: #12

A fourth-round pick in 2016, Mete landed on our list much higher than his draft position would suggest he should. Being smaller than the average defenceman, the concerns that his height would hold him back seemed to trump the many skills he possessed. Consolidating a strong draft year with a great 2016-17 season, he proved that he deserves to be considered among the top defencemen in the OHL, and now ranks as the Canadiens’ second-best blue-line prosect with a spot just outside the top 10.

All rises

Player 2016 Rank 2017 Rank Change
Player 2016 Rank 2017 Rank Change
McNiven, Michael 29 13 16
Addison, Jeremiah 30 19 11
Lindgren, Charlie 16 6 10
Danault, Phillip 11 4 7
Mete, Victor 19 12 7
Juulsen, Noah 13 7 6
De la Rose, Jacob 15 10 5
Evans, Jake 20 16 4
Bourque, Simon 21 17 4
Lernout, Brett 22 18 4
Hawkey, Hayden 34 30 4
Hudon, Charles 8 5 3
Lehkonen, Artturi 5 3 2
McCarron, Michael 10 9 1
Koberstein, Nikolas 40 39 1

Biggest drops

Martin Réway

2016: #12 → 2017: #21

Réway had been one of the most enticing players in the prospect pool for the last few years, with excitement reaching its peak as he prepared to come to North America to attempt to earn an NHL roster spot, and had committed to playing in the AHL if that dream didn’t come to fruition.

A heart condition just before he was scheduled to fly overseas kept him at home for a full year, and he was only able to begin training in recent months. With his career in jeopardy, he was no longer given a top spot in the rankings, though hope did not fade completely for the skilled winger.

He’s now ready to make a second attempt at that NHL career, and should he be in good enough health to at least play professionally on this side of the pond, he will probably jump in 2018.

Daniel Audette

2016: #17 → 2017: #22

Audette had enjoyed a successful run in junior, with great offensive totals put up on a bad team in the QMJHL. His awareness and playmaking ability projected him to perform well at the professional level, but he wasn’t able to translate his game to the AHL in his rookie season, with just 30 points in 75 games. There’s still a chance he will rebound after getting his first year of pro experience under his belt, but it’s now a case of having to show that he can be a productive member of the Laval Rocket rather than simply riding his potential.

Lukas Vejdemo

2016: #18 → 2017: #23

Vejdemo was one of the few centre prospects in the organization last year when he ranked 18th, and had the good speed and defensive awareness that pointed to a strong possession game. The biggest concern was his point production, and in 2016-17 he took a step backward from what had already been quite underwhelming offensive output. Now with Ryan Poehling and Joni Ikonen in the system, Vejdemo doesn’t get the boost from being among the only hopes for a draft pick claiming a centre role in the NHL in the future.

Zachary Fucale

2016: #23 → 2017: #26

Fucale had been right on the fringes of the top 25 in the previous two years, and this time around he finally fell outside the top 25 altogether. In need of playing time to address the inconsistencies in his game, he spent the majority of the season in the ECHL, but his numbers disappointed in the third-tier league, and that reduced what were already dwindling hopes for a future as an NHL goaltender to pessimism that he will ever be able to play well in the top league.

Max Friberg

2016: #25 → 2017: #28

Friberg was a very good all-around forward for the IceCaps, even being named the captain this past season for his great two-way play and professional approach to the game. Opting to continue his career back home in Sweden, he’s no longer able to be called up to the Canadiens, which was one of the reasons for him placing in the top 25 last season. It’s possible that he returns to Canada in the future to continue trying to earn an NHL position, but for now he’s outside of the organization, and outside the list of the best players within it.

All drops

Player 2016 Rank 2017 Rank Change
Player 2016 Rank 2017 Rank Change
Reway, Martin 12 21 -9
Vejdemo, Lukas 18 23 -5
Audette, Daniel 17 22 -5
Friberg, Max 25 28 -3
Fucale, Zachary 23 26 -3
Henrikson, Arvid 33 35 -2
Parisi, Tom 31 33 -2
Gregoire, Jeremy 25 27 -2
Staum, Casey 37 38 -1
Pezzetta, Michael 36 37 -1
Bitten, William 14 15 -1
Scherbak, Nikita 6 7 -1