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2021 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: #10 Sean Farrell

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The diminutive playmaker rockets up our list after an incredible season in the USHL.

Dan Hickling / Hickling Images

Sean Farrell is part of a massive 2020 Montreal Canadiens draft class that features some head-scratching picks and others that look like absolute steals in hindsight. Farrell falls very much into that latter category as it stands right now. He was considered a second- to third-round talent in his draft year, and after a 101-point season with Chicago in the USHL, his stock only continues to rise.

Originally, Farrell was set to take the ice for Harvard in the NCAA but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all Ivy League winter sports were cancelled, forcing him to return to the USHL for another season. With things slowly returning to normal, Farrell will join the Crimson this year and we’ll see more about where he is in his growth as a prospect.

Elite Prospects

One thing is apparent when looking at Farrell’s stats in Chicago, he was clearly a step above the league. However, the fact that he produced at that clip is a good sign as it means he wasn’t coasting or not trying. Farrell went out there each night to ruin the mood of opposing defences and goalies with shocking regularity.

Voting

Farrell’s voting was clustered inside the top 10, just outside of it into the teens, and only one vote outside of the top 15 from Nathan. When I asked Nathan about his ranking, he mentioned that Farrell is quite old for the league he was in and was unsure if it was a late-bloomer situation or taking advantage of his age. A solid year in the NCAA will help confirm one or the other for him.

I was the highest vote on the panel, and while I have my reservations like Nathan, it’s not often that the Habs have had someone dominate a league scoring race as Farrell has in the USHL this past year. I think he’s got the tools to be a dangerous NCAA player, but that’s a wait-and-see situation right now.

Top 25 Under 25 History

Farrell made a very high debut last year as the final pick of the 2020 NHL Draft’s fourth round. He makes the second-biggest leap up the rankings — 11 spots — in 2021.

History of #10

Year #10
Year #10
2020 Jake Evans
2019 Noah Juulsen
2018 Charlie Lindgren
2017 Jacob de la Rose
2016 Michael McCarron
2015 Michael McCarron
2014 Charles Hudon
2013 Charles Hudon
2012 Sebastian Collberg
2011 Jarred Tinordi
2010 Dustin Boyd

Strengths

Farrell remains an outstanding playmaker on the wing, once again averaging over an assist per game for the Chicago Steel. While he was feeding Brendan Brisson in his draft year, this season saw Farrell teamed up with Matthew Coronato who compiled an incredible 48 goals to lead the league.

As good a finisher Coronato is, you don’t pile up that many goals without someone constantly feeding you the puck. Farrell delivers on that in spades, as he uses his outstanding vision and skating ability to pull defenders in every direction with ease. Once Farrell has drawn them where he wants them to be he has the uncanny ability to pick out his teammates and get them the puck in dangerous scoring areas.

Farrell’s knack for drawing the attention of multiple opponents allows so many opportunities for his linemates, and when combined with his vision makes him a dangerous threat whenever he has the puck on his stick.

While playmaking remains his strength, Farrell is still capable of putting pucks on the net on his own as well. He finished fourth in the USHL with 29 goals, funny enough behind three of his teammates and San Jose Sharks pick Daniil Gushchin. If he can continue to improve his shooting technique, Farrell has the talent to become a true dual-threat winger that the Habs haven’t had in a while.

Weaknesses

The biggest question mark around Farrell is how will he fare at tougher levels of hockey, as a smaller player. He stands at 5’9’’, the exact same height as current Montreal winger Brendan Gallagher and two inches taller than budding Habs star Cole Caufield. Size isn’t a limitation, but it does expose some flaws in Farrell’s game right now, namely that he isn’t big enough to battle through tough spots on the boards.

He does counteract this by putting himself in spots to avoid those battles, but as he advances up the hockey ladder, he isn’t always going to be able to do that with the same ease as he does now.

His shot is effective enough to be a solid goalscorer but the big issue is that he still doesn’t utilize it often enough. He scored 29 goals, on 143 shots, shooting at a 20.3% clip. That itself isn’t too crazy as many of the other top goalscorers in the league scored at a similar rate. If he can switch his mindset to be a bit more selfish with the puck, he might very well develop that scoring knack.

It’s also hard to know how well his skating and puck-handling will transition to the NCAA right now. In the USHL he can skate circles through the zone and never be slowed down. At the collegiate level, that time and space will be much less, and Farrell will have to adjust to that.

Projection

Farrell is an interesting case in the Canadiens’ prospect pool. He just completed such a dominant season that he was named “Best American Junior Player” and won the USHL scoring title by 16 points over his closest competitor.

However, he did so playing in a league he wasn’t expected to be in despite it being no fault of his own. It is good to see that Farrell was able to produce at nearly a two points-per-game pace showing that he took steps forward. Now, Farrell will have to make the step up to the NCAA with Harvard this upcoming season.

Luckily for him, he’ll be joined by his old linemate Matthew Coronato, in addition to talented forwards like John Farinacci and Nicholas Abruzzese. The pieces are all there to make Farrell’s adjustment a bit easier, but the question remains — can showcase the same skills he did in the USHL? A drop in point production should be an accepted reality, because nobody puts up 101 points in the NCAA anyway and because it’s a tough league where most freshmen aren’t given the bigger minutes.

Farrell has all the skills to be an absolute steal of a pick from the 2020 draft for the Canadiens. If he can adjust to the NCAA quickly then Montreal might have found another high-value piece that was passed over due to his size. If all goes as planned, the Habs might have someone who could very easily fit opposite of Caufield in the future, and that by itself is an extremely tantalizing thought.

As always, time will tell, but there’s a lot to love about the game of Sean Farrell and what he’s capable of on the ice right now.