With the prospect pool as big as it has been in years, there were a lot of players who had a real case to be in the Top 25, but after the long shots yesterday, today we take a look at the players ranked #30 through #26, and just missing out.
In other years, these players would be shoo-ins for the Top 25, but due to the depth in the pool, they will have to try again next year. The positive is that all five of these players are in their first year of eligibility, and four of them were 2018 draft picks.
Without further ado, here are the players that just missed.
30. Jordan Harris - Defenceman - 18 - Kimball Union Academy (US High School)
At 5’11” and listed at under 180 pounds, the Montreal Canadiens’ third-round pick doesn’t necessarily scream “future NHL defenceman.” But among the more unknown draft picks, Harris showed a poise and consistency at the team’s development camp that opened a lot of eyes.
He was the 71st overall selection in the 2018 NHL Draft, and Bob McKenzie, notably, had him at #76 in his rankings, which indicates he caught the attention of several NHL teams.
Harris actually received four votes inside the Top 25 among the panel, and has a real chance to jump up into the Top 25 next year. He will play in the NCAA at Northeastern where he will be a teammate of fellow Canadiens prospect Cayden Primeau.
Harris projects to be a defenceman who will be able to move the puck and provide a skill set that is invaluable to today’s NHL, even if he doesn’t end up putting up many points. How he transitions to the NCAA, where he will be playing against older, and bigger, players will go a long way to show what his upside will be at the professional level.
The fact he was recruited to play at a top NCAA school bodes well for him, and will allow him to adjust to the next level accordingly. It is usually a big jump for freshmen straight from high school, so there should be some caution when judging Harris on the upcoming season.
If his development camp was any indication, his skill should enable him to make the adjustment.
29. Allan McShane - Forward - 18 - Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Despite being taken over 20 picks after Harris, McShane pulled ahead of the defenceman in our rankings. He earned one top 20 vote and two more in the top 25 but most slotted him in the near miss range.
McShane was one of the many centres that the Canadiens drafted in the 2018 NHL Draft, and while he was slotted ahead of fellow CHL centre Cole Fonstad, he will be behind Cam Hillis and Jacob Olofsson this year.
There were people who thought McShane could be a second- or third-round pick in the draft, which made him a nice value selection for the Canadiens in the fourth round at 97th overall.
McShane used a strong Under-18 World Championship with Team Canada to make a name for himself, with a goal and five assists in five games. He also had a good sophomore OHL season with the Oshawa Generals.
His 22 primary assists at even strength were third in the entire OHL, regardless of age, and were first among first-year draft-eligible players, which shows the kind of skill set he can develop.
He projects as a playmaker but did have some questions regarding the consistency of his effort leading up to the draft, which may have affected his draft stock. Like many players, his first season post-draft will go a long way in changing his ranking in the Top 25 Under 25. He will need to increase his production in order to help his value.
28. David Sklenička - Defenceman - 21 - HC Škoda Plzeň
Sklenička was the younger of the two defencemen the Canadiens signed from the Czech Republic this off-season after a solid performance at the World Championship.
Likely due to his age, he slots in three spots ahead of his compatriot Michal Moravčik, who was 31st.
Sklenička received four votes in the top 25 among the panel.
He is the only player in the near misses category to have professional experience, and is the oldest of this group of five.
Sklenička is a relative unknown. He played at the most recent World Championship and had two assists in eight games on top of his season in the Czech league. He is coming off of his third full season in the Extraliga, and his point totals have been close to Moravčik’s despite being two years younger.
At development camp, he showed that his skills have come as advertised. He was able to skate at a level that put him ahead of many of the younger players he played against and was able to make good decisions with the puck as well.
He is a player who we will have a much clearer projection for after this season when he goes through an NHL training camp and plays a season in North America — should he choose to play with the Laval Rocket in the AHL if he doesn’t make the NHL team out of camp.
He’s the only one in this group who will start the year playing professional hockey in North America next season, which should show us whether he has an NHL future.
27. Cameron Hillis - Forward - 18 - Guelph Storm (OHL)
Hillis is another one of the many centres who were picked by the Canadiens in the 2018 draft and there isn’t much to separate him from fellow OHL centre McShane who was two spots behind him.
He received two selections in the Top 16, and three more in the Top 25, but it wasn’t enough for him to crack the Top 25 overall. His rank of 13 was the highest ranking for any of the five players in this range.
Hillis was the subject of the Canadiens’ Behind the Draft video where Trevor Timmins wanted to take him with the 62nd overall pick before Marc Bergevin traded it to the Edmonton Oilers. The team was still able to choose him four spots later in the third round with the 66th pick.
He was seen by many as a late bloomer heading into the Draft, having played only one OHL season, but he put up almost a point a game with the Storm, and was also named to Canada’s Under-18 team, for which he had two assists in five games.
Hillis projects to be a playmaker as well, and like McShane, how he develops next year will go a long way into changing how we see him both within the organization and in the Top 25 Under 25.
Much like last year when the four defencemen the Canadiens chose started to establish themselves in some sort of order, the centres taken this year will have a chance to do the same. Right now there is a cluster of them just outside the official order, and the more time we have to see them in action will start to establish more separation between the pack.
26. Alexander Romanov - Defenceman - 18 - Krasnaya Armiya Moskva
It is perhaps fitting that the most mysterious prospect in the entire organization is the one to come closest to cracking the Top 25.
His highest ranking was Patrik at 14, and his ranking of 25 by the EOTP community is the highest of the five players in this section.
When the Canadiens selected Romanov 38th overall, there weren’t many who were expecting the selection and even fewer who were ready to discuss the newest defenceman to enter the organization.
Romanov played for Russia at the Under-18 World Championship and scored a goal and added two assists in his five games on home soil, and put up modest point totals in the MHL.
To add to the mystique, he didn’t take part in the team’s development camp, so we will have to wait longer to see how he stacks up among his peers.
You can be sure that this season there will be a lot more attention on Romanov as many try to decide whether he was worth being selected at the time when the Canadiens called his name.
Romanov projects to have the ability to be a power-play quarterback and Trevor Timmins has even said he didn’t understand why he didn’t get that opportunity in some tournaments. His shot is something that many scouts have pointed out, but the reality is that his upside is shrouded in a mystique reserved for a young Sidd Finch.
There will perhaps be no player watched more than Romanov this season, and perhaps no ranking in this list will be ripe for more second-guessing or hindsight than this one.