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2022 Montreal Canadiens Top 25 Under 25: The biggest rises and largest drops

Some unprecedented drops highlight this year’s list, but Joshua Roy was an exception.

NHL: SEP 22 Canadiens Camp Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Now that the full ranking of the top 25 Montreal Canadiens players under 25 years of age has been revealed, we’ll look at the biggest movers on the list from last year.

Usually the lists of risers and fallers are close to mirror images of one another; a few players making substantial moves in either direction, then quickly tapering off to shifts of just a few slots. This year, however, with 52 players to rank versus last year’s 41, the general trend is downward for those we ranked a year ago. Add to that the fact that six of 2022’s top 14 players and three of the top six were new additions to the organization, a lot of room needed to be made in the order to accommodate them.

Biggest Rises

Joshua Roy

2021: #22 → 2022: #7

That’s not to say there were no major advances from last year’s ranking. Joshua Roy had already had an impressive debut at 22nd after being selected in the fifth round of the 2021 NHL Draft, but in 2021-22 he really found his form, becoming a dual-threat offensive player with the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix, and just about to play with Team Canada at the World Juniors as the reward for that performance when we wrapped up the series’ voting.

Largest year-to-year rises

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
Alexander Romanov 26 (2018) 9 (2019) 17
Michael McNiven 29 (2016) 13 (2017) 16
Dustin Tokarski 29 (2013) 13 (2014) 16
Joshua Roy 22 (2021) 7 (2022) 15
Jake Evans 35 (2015) 20 (2016) 15
Morgan Ellis 25 (2011) 11 (2012) 14

Roy will eventually make his way back to Sherbrooke where he’ll face the tough task of improving upon a 119-point season, but first he’s getting to participate in Habs training camp to see how he stacks up versus NHL players following a season of major progress.

Michael Pezzetta

2021: #36 → 2022: #22

A year ago, Michael Pezzetta was working hard just to earn a bottom-six role in the AHL, nevermind putting himself on the radar for an NHL spot. Whatever he did in the 2021 off-season to prepare, he should open up a development school and teach it to other fringe prospects, because he arrived at Habs training camp a completely different player.

His effort and energy was channelled into creating offensive chances, and he stood out as one of the most effective players in the pre-season. At first the EOTP staff joked that he was playing his way onto the roster, but he kept hitting that level too consistently to not enter that conversation. In a season when players appeared to give up on the failure of a system employed by Dominique Ducharme, Pezzetta was called up after a month of action and played the only way he knew how, He finished the year with 11 points in 51 NHL games, and that surprising performance couldn’t be ignored by the voters.

Frederik Dichow

2021: #35 → 2022: #23

We tend to be very conservative when initially ranking goaltenders because you just never know if solid numbers as a teenager mean a player is destined to be good in the professional ranks. Some of the biggest rises we see are among the goalies; seventh-round selection Cayden Primeau holds the record for the greatest overall rise (30 places) throughout an under-25 tenure.

Is Dichow going to be another Primeau? He’s already up 19 spots from his debut at 42 two years ago, and has plenty of room to keep rising. This year’s ranking is based on a very impressive campaign in Sweden’s HockeyAllsvenskan in which he posted a .930 save percentage, and an excellent game at the Olympics that really boosted his profile. If he is to rise a fourth consecutive time in 2023, it will be the result of another great season in Sweden, this time with one of Europe’s top development clubs, Frölunda HC.

Jakub Dobes

2021: #33 → 2022: #28

We may not be very good at projecting goalie prospects, but someone in the Canadiens scouting department is/was, because Dobes is another netminder on the rise. He has gained 11 spots since debuting as a fifth-round pick in 2020, and while that hasn’t been enough to crack the Top 25, he did rank there on four ballots this summer.

His freshman year at The Ohio State University was a very good one, ending his 35 games with a save percentage of .934, which ranked sixth in the league. Something similar from him in year two in the NCAA would very likely give him his first spot in the official countdown when we do this all again a year from now.

All 2022 rises

Player 2021 Rank 2022 Rank Change
Player 2021 Rank 2022 Rank Change
Roy, Joshua 22 7 15
Pezzetta, Michael 36 22 14
Dichow, Frederik 35 23 12
Dobes, Jakub 33 28 5
Vrbetic, Joe 39 34 5
Farrell, Sean 10 8 2
Kidney, Riley 17 15 2
Simoneau, Xavier 32 30 2
Guhle, Kaiden 5 4 1
Harvey-Pinard, Rafaël 18 17 1

Biggest Drops

Brett Stapley

2021: #23 → 2022: #46

We heard well in advance of Brett Stapley’s rights expiring that the Canadiens wouldn’t be offering him an entry-level contract, and that had a significant effect on voters this year. Despite a season of 43 points in 41 games with the University of Denver, he dropped 23 places from his spot at 23; the biggest year-to-year drop in this project’s 13-year history.

Largest year-to-year drops

Player Rank (Year) New Rank (Year) Change
Player Rank (Year) New Rank (Year) Change
Brett Stapley 23 (2021) 46 (2022) -23
Alexander Gordin 29 (2021) 51 (2022) -22
Dmitri Kostenko 28 (2021) 45 (2022) -17
Cam Hillis 24 (2021) 41 (2022) -17
Luke Tuch 14 (2021) 31 (2022) -17
Daniil Sobolev 31 (2021) 47 (2022) -16
Andreas Engqvist 15 (2011) 31 (2012) -16
Alexander Avtsin 11 (2011) 27 (2012) -16
Joni Ikonen 20 (2019) 35 (2020) -15

Now Stapley finds himself in the organization anyway, signing a minor-league deal with the Laval Rocket to begin his professional career. He’ll have to work his way up from the bottom through the depth at centre that prevented him from earning an NHL contract out of his college career.

Alexander Gordin

2021: #29 → 2022: #51

The second-largest drop ever belongs to Alexander Gordin, likely for several reasons. We had always known that he possessed an incredible shot but didn’t have the skating ability that would let him make the most of it. Now 21 years old, his inability to translate his offence in 14 KHL games only heightened concerns about how his game would translate to the pro ranks.

His relatively high standing may also have been due to his unique trait as a goal-scorer in a prospect system that was mostly two-way players and playmaking types. Someone had to put the puck in the net, and there was an outside chance that one of those players could be Gordin. With Roy’s emergence, the in-season acquisition of Emil Heineman, and a group of skilled players selected in the draft, the Canadiens don’t need Gordin to work out, and he’s been supplanted by players with more complete skill sets.

Dmitri Kostenko

2021: #28 → 2022: #45

There was potential in Kostenko to become a solid pro defenceman, and since he shoots right, his value was boosted in the organization. Like a lot of the players featured in this section, that long-shot hope isn’t enough to maintain the interest of panellists when so many others look more likely to complete a path to the NHL.

It’s also probably not a coincidence that two of the top three players here are Russian. There had always been some uncertainty about Russian prospects ever actually making their way to North America, and now Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has added a completely different dimension to that situation. If we’re never going to see these players actually play in the Canadiens organization, it’s difficult to assign them much value over players with no such obstacles.

Cam Hillis

2021: #24 → 2022: #41

Cam Hillis was a key target for Trevor Timmins in the 2018 NHL Draft, as witnessed in a video of him getting a bit upset that Marc Bergevin had traded the pick the team was planning to use on the forward. However, Hillis was still available when the Habs’ turn came up again, and he was selected 66th overall.

The centreman had a great finish to his OHL career with an 83-point effort in a pandemic-shortened 2019-20 season, but that offence didn’t carry over to the AHL the next year, earning just one point in 18 games. He did improve to nine points in 24 games with the Laval Rocket last year, but not even a stint in the ECHL could unlock the great playmaking talent that featured in his Junior career.

Like Stapley, he faces the daunting task of leapfrogging an army of centres ahead of him, and now Kirby Dach is pencilled into one NHL position, and new draftee Owen Beck looks poised to take another in the future. Hillis will need to show a lot this year to put himself back on the radar to earn a new contract with the team, let alone to stop his fall down the order in this project.

Luke Tuch

2021: #14 → 2022: #31

Since being drafted in 2020, Luke Tuch has played a total of 42 NCAA games, a combination of pandemic cancellations and injuries. He remained high on the list because he did manage to contribute 11 points in 16 games during his freshman season, but his production dropped a point last season despite playing 26 games as a sophomore, leading some voters to question how much offensive potential he has.

He was also one of the few big-bodied forwards in the system a year ago. That all changed in the opening 13 picks on the 2022 NHL Draft when the Habs selected Juraj Slafkovský and acquired Kirby Dach; two young forwards with top-six projections. Forwards 6’2” or taller are no longer a rarity in the organization — there are seven of them in training camp with Tuch not present — so he is no longer a unique talent in the prospect pool.

All 2022 drops

Player 2021 Rank 2022 Rank Change
Player 2021 Rank 2022 Rank Change
Stapley, Brett 23 46 -23
Gordin, Alexander 29 51 -22
Kostenko, Dmitri 28 45 -17
Hillis, Cam 24 41 -17
Tuch, Luke 14 31 -17
Sobolev, Daniil 31 47 -16
Fairbrother, Gianni 21 33 -12
Norlinder, Mattias 4 16 -12
Henrikson, Arvid 41 52 -11
Gorniak, Jack 38 49 -11
Smith, Jack 40 50 -10
Teasdale, Joël 19 29 -10
Kapanen, Oliver 16 25 -9
Mysak, Jan 12 19 -7
Struble, Jayden 11 18 -7
Pitlick, Rhett 30 35 -5
Trudeau, William 27 32 -5
Mailloux, Logan 15 20 -5
Ylönen, Jesse 8 12 -4
Primeau, Cayden 7 11 -4
Biondi, Blake 34 37 -3