After several young players either moved on from the organization or aged out of our under-25 sample, we were left with fewer than 40 players to rank last year.
They weren’t insignificant losses either: Brendan Gallagher and Daniel Carr had become 25 during the year, while Mikhail Sergachev, Nathan Beaulieu, and Sven Andrighetto were all traded. It added up to half of 2016’s top 10 players under the age of 25 no longer on the list to be ranked.
After years of seeing the number of prospects and young NHL talents steadily decline, this year the pool rises to one the highest levels the project has ever seen. The net result is an increase of six players, though that comes about through both several new acquisitions and a few departures. We’ll break those all down into categories to see how the ballot came to include 45 players for 2018.
Once again, there were two graduates from the previous year. While perhaps not as significant as the removal of Gallagher, Phillip Danault no longer being eligible for the series eliminated one of 2017’s top five players.
Acquired along with a pick for the expiring contracts of Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann, Danault was part of one of the greatest trades under Marc Bergevin’s tenure. The GM flipped two rental players to his former organization in Chicago for a player still on his entry-level contract, who has become a top-six centre. Two very reasonable extensions since, including a recent three-year contract worth just over $3 million a season has consolidated the transaction as one of the top asset acquisitions the Monreal Canadiens have made in recent years.
Also graduating is Max Friberg, who was added from the Anaheim Ducks organization in a trade for goaltender Dustin Tokarski in the middle of the 2015-16 season. He ranked 25th in his first year in the project as one of the options to be called up from the AHL. He ranked 28th last year with the team holding his rights as he returned home to play in Sweden.
The Canadiens have also brought in four players who would have been eligible for the 2017 rankings, but will not be this year. Matthew Peca and Joel Armia turned 25 during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Mike Reilly celebrated his 25th birthday a few days into our voting period. All three of those players may be on the opening-night roster when the 2018-19 season begins.
Montreal also added Xavier Ouellet after the Detroit Red Wings bought out his contract to make him an unrestricted free agent. Although he won’t turn 25 until July 29 when our countdown is just about to get under way, because we use the same cutoff date the NHL has in place for the draft — September 15 — Ouellet was not eligible for consideration in this project.
Other than those who are now too old for inclusion, the Canadiens also parted ways with a few players who would be part of this year’s ballot were they still here. Ten players fall into this category.
|Alex Galchenyuk||1||1||1||1||2||3||-||Traded to ARI|
|Simon Bourque||17||21||30||-||-||-||-||Traded to WPG|
|Joe Morrow||20||-||-||-||-||-||-||Traded to WPG|
|Martin Réway||21||12||13||14||33||-||-||Contract terminated|
|Zachary Fucale||26||23||22||19||22||-||-||Signed by VGK|
|Jeremy Grégoire||27||25||20||25||36||-||-||Signed in AHL|
|Hayden Hawkey||30||34||36||37||-||-||-||Traded to EDM|
|Markus Eisenshmid||32||-||-||-||-||-||-||Signed in DEL|
It appears that Casey Staum is no longer in the organization after his rights expired. Normally teams have several years to sign players committed to university programs, but since Staum never attended, his tie to the Canadiens organization seems to have severed.
However, he is still listed on the Canadiens website as being in their system, so perhaps that understanding was incorrect. Ranking second-last in the 2017 rankings, his inclusion likely wouldn’t have had a significant impact on the results.
A block of players we had ranked in the tier just outside the top 25 in 2017 were released in the off-season: Tom Parisi (#33), Markus Eisenschmid (#32), Jeremy Grégoire (#27), and Zachary Fucale (#26) were all left unqualified on the June 1 deadline, free to join other teams, which many have.
Hayden Hawkey (#30) was traded to the Edmonton Oilers at the conclusion of the 2018 draft for a pick next year. Joe Morrow (#20) and Simon Bourque (#17) were traded to the Winnipeg Jets in separate trades.
Martin Réway saw his position drop after a serious health concern. While he made a remarkable effort to come back just one year after a life-threatening condition, he wasn’t happy with his performance, nor confident with his NHL chances after a few games with the Laval Rocket, and he and the organization reached a mutual decision to terminate his contract and allow him to continue his career in Europe.
The top player to see a change of address was Alex Galchenyuk. The third overall pick in the 2012 draft, he debuted at that same position on our Top 25 Under 25 a few months later, rising to the top position in 2014, and holding it right up until he was traded on June 15.
Galchenyuk’s peak performance with the Canadiens came in the 2015-16 season when he went on a goal-scoring tear to end the season, reaching the total of 30 in Game 82. Despite not approaching that milestone in the two seasons afterward, he had full-season projections of at least 50 points in his final three years with the club that drafted him.
|Kerby Rychel||LW||1994-10-07||Trade with TOR|
|Rinat Valiev||LD||1995-05-11||Trade with TOR|
|Hayden Verbeek||C||1997-10-17||Signed as UFA|
|Alexandre Alain||C||1997-03-03||Signed as UFA|
|Michal Moravčík||LD||1994-12-07||Signed as UFA|
|David Sklenička||LD||1996-09-08||Signed as UFA|
|Max Domi||LW||1995-03-02||Trade with ARI|
|Jesperi Kotkaniemi||C||2000-07-06||2018 #3 pick|
|Jesse Ylönen||RW||1999-10-03||2018 #35 pick|
|Alexander Romanov||LD||2000-01-06||2018 #38 pick|
|Jacob Olofsson||C||2000-02-08||2018 #56 pick|
|Cam Hillis||C||2000-06-24||2018 #66 pick|
|Jordan Harris||LD||2000-07-07||2018 #71 pick|
|Allan McShane||C||2000-02-14||2018 #97 pick|
|Jack Gorniak||LW||1999-09-15||2018 #123 pick|
|Cole Fonstad||C||2000-04-24||2018 #128 pick|
|Samuel Houde||C||2000-03-06||2018 #133 pick|
|Brett Stapley||C||1999-02-23||2018 #190 pick|
The Canadiens did get a good player in return for Galchenyuk, with Max Domi coming over from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange.
He doesn’t quite have the offensive rates Galchenyuk posted over his first six NHL seasons, but he still has a 50-point showing to his name and brings a playmaking ability and a good work ethic to Montreal.
He is a pass-frst player who amassed many of his points by directly setting up his Coyotes teammates’ goals, and his new team will hope he can provide an element of creativity to a group that ranked 29th in goals last season.
The first two additions for 2018 came in the trade deadline transaction that sent Tomas Plekanec to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Along with a second-round pick, the Canadiens recevied forward Kerby Rychel and defenceman Rinat Valiev from their Atlantic Division rival. Both players made their Canadiens debuts later in the season.
Marc Bergevin used the opening day of free agency on July 1 to once again bolster the AHL team with veterans too old to qualify for this series, but the team was able to add a few young players in the months beforehand. Hayden Verbeek and Alexandre Alain were signed to entry-level deals out of the CHL. The Canadiens also dipped into the overseas pool, bringing in two defencemen from the Czech Republic’s World Championship squad: Michal Moravčík and David Sklenička. At the very least those players will provide the Rocket with some skilled options throughout the lineup. With NHL deals, a chance to eventually play in the top league is not ruled out, either.
The greatest boost to the talent level of the organization came over the two-day event that was the 2018 NHL Draft. Going in with 10 picks, the Canadiens came away with 11 new prospects and three more picks for 2019 from trades made while in Dallas.
At third overall, they added a player they hope will develop into a top-line centre. Jesperi Kotkaniemi had been rising up draft boards in the weeks preceding the draft, and the Canadiens decided to take him when they were called upon.
Montreal welcomed five more prospects in the first 40 selections made on the second day, exchanging picks acquired in the Plekanec, Danault, and — in a roundabout way — Lars Eller trades for quality young players.
In this group were Jesse Ylönen, Alexander Romanov, Jacob Olofsson, Cam Hillis, and Jordan Harris. In the final four rounds the Canadiens also added Allan McShane, Jack Gorniak, Cole Fonstad, Samuel Houde, and Brett Stapley.
In 2017, 13 of the top 25 were players the Canadiens had drafted in the first three rounds. Another three were first-round picks made by other organizations. The draft added to that total this time around.
The 2018 list lost two members of the top four from one year ago, but the rest of the deletions were fairly minor pieces in the organization. With several early-round draft picks, the Canadiens have not only significantly increased the quantity of prospects in their pool, but raised the quality of the available talent as well. With the vast majority still eligible for next year, and what is already projected to be a busy draft weekend in 2019, this is not the peak of the current effort to rebuild the organization from the bottom up.