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2019 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: The Near Misses (30-27)

Four players who have strong cases to be included in the Top 25.

Charlotte Checkers v Laval Rocket Photo by Stephane Dube /Getty Images

A bursting prospect pool with so much talent makes it so a few talented players couldn’t be part of the Top 25 Under 25 this year. Here’s a look at the players ranked #30 through #27 who just missed out.

30. Cameron Hillis - C - 19 - Guelph Storm (OHL)

Cam Hillis is a crafty, playmaking centre and was one of the many centres picked in 2018. Yet, his progression from his draft year to this year didn’t exactly go as planned.

Seen as a late bloomer by many heading into the draft, there were a lot of expectations that last year would be the year for him to break out and establish himself as a legitimate option at centre.

Almost nothing went right for Hillis. He was injured much of the 2018-19 campaign and the few games he did play he was uncharacteristically mediocre. It wasn’t the Hillis we witnessed the previous year. His plays were sloppy and his hustle wasn’t as present as it used to be. Something was amiss. With Nick Suzuki in the fold and Guelph gearing up for a big year, he was pushed down the lineup, and this may have affected his confidence from growing as the season went on.

It’s no surprise that we see him fall to #30 this year compared to #27 last year. He will be the captain of the Storm next year, and maybe that will be the incentive for him to get his game back on track.

29. Michael McCarron - C - 24 - Laval Rocket (AHL)

McCarron was in a similar position to Hillis; his 2018-19 season was mostly lost to injury. The biggest takeaway from his short season was how great he was playing before the shoulder injury became severe enough to knock him out of action. Twenty-one points in 32 games was his best total in the pro ranks.

His performance showed he can still have an impact when playing in a good system. Joël Bouchard helped McCarron become the player the Habs were hoping they would get. Before the injury, he was using his size to protect and cycle the puck in the opposing zone. He was a physical force while also maintaining a level of skill he had rarely demonstrated in the AHL.

He was given a qualifying offer by the Montreal Canadiens so they could retain his rights as a restricted free agent. He finds himself in an all-too-familiar position of having to prove that he has the makings of an NHL player.

With a summer dedicated to training and his mind set on proving to the organization that drafted him that he can have an impact, this year will be the make-or-break season for him.

28. Allan McShane - C - 19 - Oshawa Generals (OHL)

Allan McShane moved just one spot higher after debuting in last year’s T25U25 at #29. This isn’t to say McShane didn’t improve his play from last year. His ranking is due mostly to the influx of new talent and a few players who improved significantly over the year.

McShane wasn’t able to carve out a better spot in this year’s ranking simply because others impressed more in different ways. However, even though he has flown under the radar for most of his time in the Habs organization, he is a prospect that could end up surprising a lot of people.

He was one of the many centres that the Canadiens selected in the 2018 NHL Draft, and despite a marginal improvement over his draft year, McShane showed that he wasn’t just a playmaker. His improvement from 20 goals to 35 showed that he wasn’t as reluctant to use his shot to score. He also eclipsed the point-per-game mark, scoring 69 points in 62 games.

The best part of McShane’s game was how he applied pressure on the opposition with good positioning and forechecking to create turnovers. This newfound aggressiveness allowed him to exploit holes in the defensive coverage.

In turn, this helped him change things up in the offensive zone. He was getting better at moving into soft space. Instead of waiting around the net, he keeps moving to slip away from the opposition to find ways to get open for a pass or pounce on rebounds.

All in all, he still does project as a playmaker and his consistency isn’t perceived as an issue as it was in his draft year. His 14 points in 15 playoff games showed that he has another level of intensity to his game and knows how to elevate it when it counts. The Oshawa Generals were a good team this year, and McShane was a serious component to that success.

27. Cole Fonstad - LW - 19 - Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)

Fonstad is the only player in this tier to move up several spots. Last year, he was ranked #36 and jumped to #27 off a great season in the WHL. The Raiders capped things off with a thrilling 3-2 overtime win in Game 7 of the WHL championship against the Vancouver Giants.

Fonstad had 45 points in his last 30 games, finishing the year on a tear. He was one of the Canadian Hockey League’s hottest scorers in the final two-month span.

He started shooting more and not just purely relying on his playmaking skills. He was getting to the net more, making sure to use the rebounds to score goals. He also developed his shot, enabling him to score from distance and open up his offensive game.

His improved shot allowed him to deceive goaltenders, opening up new seams and wideing the angle from which he could put the puck on target. All of those helped him add to his toolkit and round out his offensive game.

This article only goes up to 27th in our list, and that’s because we have a tie for 25th; one of two ties in this year’s ranking. It is perhaps fitting that with so much talent in the pool we will have 26 players crammed into our Top 25 Under 25.