clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2018 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: The biggest rises and largest drops

New, comments

This summer saw a few large rises, but some massive falls as the organizational depth gets a boost of skill.

Club de hockey Canadien, Inc.

Our full ranking of the Montreal Canadiens players under the age of 25 has been revealed, with Jonathan Drouin taking over as the top young player in the organization.

The pool of players grew by six, up from 39 in 2017 to 45 in 2018, injecting new talent into the ranks of the recruits who will eventually challenge for NHL positions. All the newcomers will take some time to develop, but a few still managed to earn a spot among the Top 25.

With so many additions, the vast majority of players who were in the project last year found themselves with new ranks this summer. Only Artturi Lehkonen (#3) and Charles Hudon (#5) held station.

There was a record jump and quite a few substantial falls this time around.

Biggest rises

Cayden Primeau

2017: #36 → 2017: #17

If the Canadiens’ scouts saw the ability in Primeau’s draft year that we got to witness last season, it’s no wonder the team was compelled to add a pick to select him in the seventh round in 2017. Reports from the various scouting outlets spoke about some great qualities in his game, even if the numbers didn’t back it up, but this year Primeau impressed with both the eye test and a statistical evaluation.

Despite being a freshman, he set a new benchmark in the Hockey East Association for save percentage. It was such a convincing performance that it gave the Canadiens the confidence to part with two goaltenders at the end of the year.

The incredible showing wasn’t lost on the voters, as Primeau went from sitting outside the Top 25 after he was drafted to 17th in 2018. It was tied for the largest climb in the nine years we’ve compiled these rankings, made all the more impressive by the number of new additions to this year’s list. Should he have another great season for Northeastern University, he should advance even further next summer.

Moving on up

Player Rank (Year) New Rank (Year) Change
Player Rank (Year) New Rank (Year) Change
Martin Réway 33 (2013) 14 (2014) 19
Cayden Primeau 36 (2017) 17 (2018) 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

Cale Fleury

2017: #25 → 2018: #15

Fleury debuted in the final spot of the Top 25 last year, largely because of the offensive skill he showed from the blue line (or his own zone on an end-to-end rush, more accurately) while playing for the Kootenay ICE. An early-season trade to the Regina Pats also brought about a change in his style of play, as he became a top shutdown option for the team that went on to play in the Memorial Cup Final.

Having the skill to play both of those roles is a rare trait for defencemen, and knowing he has such an array of tools bodes very well for his NHL chances. That led to a large boost in his perceived value.

Victor Mete

2017: #12 → 2018: #4

Mete had cracked the Top 20 despite being a fourth-round selection in 2016. He featured in this section of last year’s article, rising seven positions to #12. He’s back again in 2018 after surprising everyone by making the NHL when most had their expectations set on him being a top player in the OHL. He had time alongside Shea Weber, looked very good in a defensive role with Team Canada at the World Juniors, and generally impressed with his overall game, even if the offence wasn’t there.

He won’t be making this list in 2019, but he can still build upon his first year of professional experience to raise his profile even more.

Josh Brook

2017: #24 → 2018: #16

From one spot ahead of Fleury to now one spot behind, Brook may have seen his status among the complement of WHL defenders taken in 2017 drop a notch, but he’s still regarded as one of the top defence prospects the Canadiens have.

Injuries and inconsistencies worked to derail what should have been a strong year for the Moose Jaw Warriors defender, and everyone knows there’s much more to give in 2018-19.

Ryan Poehling

2017: #14 → 2018: #7

Poehling had a lot of the tools you could ask for from a player who projected to be an NHL centre, but his draft year didn’t come with a lot of production. It left some wondering just how high his ceiling could be, even if there was a good deal of confidence that he could play at the top level.

A better performance in his sophomore season helped to ease some of those concerns, allowing him to claim a place withing the Top 10. It’s possible this will be his final year of university play, with his professional debut potentially coming at some point this year, depending on how deep a playoff run his St. Cloud State Huskies can manage.

There is a fairly clear pattern among the top risers this year: most of them had just been chosen in the 2017 draft when we made our lists last July. This year, depite adding 11 new prospects at the draft in Dallas, only three made the Top 25.

Each year when we introduce the project, there are a few comments wondering which new player we’re all going to rank too high before having to reassess our expectations the next year, However, it seems we actually underrate the new prospects, being hesitant to grant them high places on our ballots after the draft. It’s something that we will need to keep in mind when filling out our lists in 2019.

All rises

Player 2017 Rank 2018 Rank Change
Player 2017 Rank 2018 Rank Change
Primeau, Cayden 36 17 19
Fleury, Cale 25 15 10
Mete, Victor 12 4 8
Brook, Josh 24 16 8
Poehling, Ryan 14 7 7
Evans, Jake 16 12 4
Tyszka, Jarret 34 32 2
Drouin, Jonathan 2 1 1
Bitten, William 15 14 1
Vejdemo, Lukas 23 22 1

Biggest drops

Jeremiah Addison

2017: #19 → 2018: #33

Addison had an exceptional performance for the Windsor Spitfires in 2016-17, playing a big role as they went on to claim the Memorial Cup. Unfortunately, a shoulder injury prevented him from even starting the next season with the Laval Rocket, and left him out of action until late in the year, with little time to get accustomed to the pro game.

His drop therefore can’t really be pinned on his performance, but mostly the lack of exposure as several players took obvious strides. Playing his typical hard-nosed, net-crashing style will help restore some of the lustre, and it should allow him to rise several positions next year.

Michael McCarron

2017: #9 → 2018: #23

Confidence will not be nearly so high in the case of McCarron. Despite extended NHL time, he hasn’t really shown that he belongs at that level, and last year even struggled to make an impression in the minors. Several voters left him outside of the Top 25 on their ballots.

A 14-place drop has been a rare occurrence in this project. You have to go back to 2012, when Alexander Avtsin and Andreas Engqvist fell 16 positions each, to find such a plummet down the list. It’s a large drop, and may herald the departure of the 2013 first-rounder from the organization.

Antoine Waked

2017: #29 → 2018: #42

Waked had a great offensive showing in his over-age QMJHL season to earn an entry-level contract with the Canadiens, His 39 goals and 80 points were at least intriguing stats for a player about to begin his professional career, so he ranked ahead of a handful of players in the system last year.

His rookie campaign was a forgettable one, registering just 11 points in 63 games, and generally being a non-factor for the team that finished last in the league. As a result he drops to near the bottom this summer, and his performance may have also tempered expectations for over-age signees Hayden Verbeek and Alexandre Alain, who rank no higher than 35th.

Daniel Audette

2017: #22 → 2018: #34

Audette’s playmaking skill was obvious in his Junior days, and he has shown glimpses of it at the AHL level, but it’s not consistent enough to project him as a a top-level contributor for the farm team, let alone the NHL club. His defensive play is also a large concern, getting exposed more in a tougher league than a sheltered role in the QMJHL revealed.

The result is a placement outside of the Top 25 for the first time since he joined the organization, sitting as high as 17th two seasons ago. He has one final year on his ELC to show he has a place in the system, and that will require him to be more of an offensive factor on a nightly basis for the Rocket.

Arvid Henrikson

2017: #35 → 2018: #45

Henrikson was near the bottom last year, but falls right to the floor this time after a difficult season. It seems he has decided to place his hockey career on hiatus to attend university.

There is a bit of a pattern in the drops as well. Several of the flawed AHL players that the organization hoped — or maybe needed — to see pan out and become NHLers are no longer criticial to the future after two strong drafts and the promise of another in 2019. The players had gotten by on their potential, but new prospects have similar projections, with the benefit of more time to figure it all out.

All drops

Player 2017 Rank 2018 Rank Change
Player 2017 Rank 2018 Rank Change
Addison, Jeremiah 19 33 -14
McCarron, Michael 9 23 -14
Waked, Antoine 29 42 -13
Audette, Daniel 22 34 -12
Henrikson, Arvid 35 45 -10
Ikonen, Joni 11 20 -9
Walford, Scott 31 38 -7
Lernout, Brett 18 25 -7
Koberstein, Nikolas 39 44 -5
McNiven, Michael 13 18 -5
Pezzetta, Michael 37 41 -4
Lindgren, Charlie 6 10 -4
Juulsen, Noah 7 9 -2
De la Rose, Jacob 10 11 -1
Scherbak, Nikita 7 8 -1