It was obvious to anyone who had looked at the Montreal Canadiens’ depth chart once the Stanley Cup Playoffs concluded that the area in most need of attention was right defence. One of the biggest news stories heading into the 2021 NHL Draft was the potential career-ending injury for Shea Weber, and that really shone a light on what the NHL options were: Jeff Petry solidly at the top, then an off-side Alexander Romanov and Josh Brook, who is still developing at the AHL level. That position was going to get addressed in free agency, but there needed to be longer-term solutions than those stop-gap efforts.
Getting a defence prospect who could one day fill a top-four role is the aim of nearly every NHL club on draft day, and those who play the right side are in even greater demand. Picking second-to-last in the opening round after the post-season run, the top options were already going to be off the board, and indeed both Brandt Clarke (taken in the eighth spot) and Corson Ceulemans (25th) were gone when Marc Bergevin was called upon.
The general manager shocked a lot of people by going off the board to select Logan Mailloux — quite literally since the prospect had recused himself from the event following the details of a crime of a sexual nature getting revealed in the weeks leading up to the draft. Bergevin saw a chance to get the type of player the club had been targeting, and used his first-round selection on the most controversial player.
Criticism of the decision came swiftly from all corners, including this one. Many felt Mailloux should have been passed over in the draft as a consequence of his criminal actions from just months earlier, and at the very least not granted the honour of being a first-round selection. But things didn’t play out that way, and Mailloux is now a member of the Canadiens’ prospect pool.
It is important to separate the situation into its two parts. The first, of course, is the crime Mailloux committed; the second, which has been the greatest reason for the harsh criticism, is the decision to select him in the draft. He has been convicted of his crime and paid the fine from that sentence, so the legal ramifications have been dealt with.
It’s now a matter of him showing his maturity and taking vital lessons from this experience with him. I don’t believe he’s irredeemable as a person, and can still have a chance at a professional hockey career, even though that first step should have been delayed until next year. The guidelines for the Top 25 Under 25 voting were flexible enough to allow various opinions of Mailloux and his selection to be expressed, and with that in mind he was included on this year’s ballot.
One of our panellists chose not to rank him, leaving him off a ballot reported as one player short of what originally held 42 names. It wasn’t a unique decision for the project, as about five percent of community respondents had Mailloux either ranked last on a complete ballot or made the point to answer “41” for their ballot length with him left out.
The majority of panellists did choose to rank him, and that range was from 11 to 26. In the end, his ranking average was about one-tenth of a position ahead of Oliver Kapanen for the 15th place in the countdown.
History of #15
|2016||Jacob de la Rose|
At this stage in his development, Mailloux is a bundle of unfinished, loosely connected pieces. There are some promising talents he has to work with, and they mostly apply to the offensive game.
He has had a good deal of success scoring goals, and those come from a great wristshot. He has a strong release, using his whole body to get leverage on the puck. It’s quick and powerful, and could translate to the NHL level. Unlike his Junior-aged peers who typically blast slapshots to get their goals, he’s more adaptable to passes that are slightly off, accepting the puck well and moving up or back a foot or two to get it in good position to fire.
The mobility that allows for those quick adjustments also lets him walk the blue line easily, opening up shooting lanes. Using a wristshot rather than a slapshot, he gets the puck through traffic more easily, creating rebounds or making it more inviting for teammates to tip shots.
He is a good straight-line skater, capable of transporting the puck through the neutral zone to gain access to the opposition’s blue line. Doing that at 6’3” makes him a gifted offensive blue-liner who can’t be easily slowed when he has a chance to contribute. Combine that with a desire to use that frame for a very physical style of defence, he seems to have most of what you’d want in a defence prospect.
There is one critical omission from the box of parts, however, and that is hockey sense. He has a poor understanding of positioning in the defensive zone, losing his bearings in even the most routine defending situations. He will completely misplay a rush or abandon his place to chase a player well outside of a dangerous position. When he can’t just crash into his man along the boards to win the puck, he struggles to help his team out in his own end.
Despite the good feet and hands, he tries to force low-percentage breakouts when he could simply skate past a player or make a quick pass to an open teammate. Plays that seem obvious to observers go completely unnoticed by him, and that seriously hinders his effectiveness as a transition player.
They’re things that he will need to spend the majority of his development time addressing. Making sure he’s aware of his surroundings, by slowing down his game rather than racing headlong into each situation, and keeping track of his surroundings is the only way to correct this serious shortcoming for a player with designs on making it to the game’s top level.
This will all take time to work on, and in a competitive environment to make decisions while under pressure. For him, however, that playing time has been hard to come by, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.
Going through the NHL Draft unscathed by his criminal actions, Mailloux is now beginning to face career consequences, and they’re coming in the form of a lack of playing time. Geoff Molson announced shortly after the draft and the barrage of criticism that followed that Mailloux would not be taking part in development of training camp this year. That will prevent him from getting feedback on his game and how to improve it from the development staff, and also doesn’t let him see how he stacks up against other defencemen in the organization with their eyes on eventually making the team.
The bigger issue for him will be missing at least the first half of the 2021-22 season, as the Ontario Hockey League has suspended him indefinitely for “violating the league’s expectation of the appropriate conduct of an OHL player.” Instead of hockey, he will be undergoing various counselling and education protocols. By the time he’s able to apply for reinstatement to the London Knights, he will have four games of experience at the Major Junior level and 19 in the third tier of Swedish hockey from a season ago.
Offensively, Mailloux has the talent to be a top-four contributor from the back end and a key part of a power play. He’s in a prospect pool that has a few players with that ceiling, but he’s one of the few who plays on the right side.
Defensively, he may struggle to keep pace even in the OHL, especially if he comes in at the midpoint of the season. He needs to focus his efforts on improving how he plays on his own half of the ice, and requires a coaching staff dedicated to helping him make those adjustments.
He could become a top-four defenceman in the NHL if he can round out his game, or struggle to play hockey professionally if he can’t. The game will only get faster and more difficult as he progresses, and these are critical years for developing his fundamental game.
The Canadiens don’t have a strong track record of developing their first-round picks to become impactful NHL players, and out of all the prospects they’ve chosen in the last decade, he may be the one who had the greatest risk of busting when he was selected. The upside is there, however, and it’s up to him and the team that was so desperate to add his skill set to make sure he reaches his potential.
Anton Rasegård and Patrik Bexell discuss Kidney, Kapanen and Mailloux in the latest podcast of the Top 25 Under 25: