All Habs Hockey Magazine is proud to provide a platform for young guest writers to express their views on important issues. Today, we present a fan piece looking at some of the options the Canadiens will have at the NHL Entry Draft in Sunrise, Florida. See below for your chance to attend the 2015 Draft with the All Habs team.
Posted by Christopher Nardella, Guest Contributor, All Habs Hockey Magazine
POINTE-CLAIRE, QC. — Like most, this draft is a big one for the Canadiens. With talk about a lack of scoring, particularly in the playoffs, and the apparent sparse number of quality forwards in the Habs prospect pool, there is no doubt in my mind that there will be pressure for the Canadiens management to select an offensive forward with the 26th overall pick (and perhaps in subsequent rounds as well.)
Forwards Nikita Scherbak and Sven Andrighetto provide the Canadiens with much needed flexibility on the wings. Andrighetto has played at all three forward positions in his young career, while Scherbak has been quoted that he is open to playing either wing. Even Christian Thomas can play his off wing. The flexibility that these players offer the Canadiens brass is extremely important as it opens up their options when it comes to drafting players.
Paul Bittner, LW, Portland (WHL)
6-4, 194 lbs.
CSB: No. 26 | ISS: No. 17 | THN: No. 17
In a draft as deep as this one, the 26th spot could give the Canadiens a very special player. Portland Winterhawks winger Paul Bittner was overshadowed by star players like Nick Petan, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Chase De Leo and Brandon Leier who were all given more ice time. Before the 2014-15 season, the Crookston, Minnesota native averaged just under 0.7 points per game. This season was a breakout for Bittner (of sorts), as he racked up 71 points in 66 games while assuming a larger role. This player doesn’t match the skill of the top players in the draft, but he has a cannon of a shot and gains inside positioning with ease. The left winger has enough speed to play the Michel Therrien chip and chase style but by no means will he be blowing by anyone.
Ryan Pilon, D, Brandon (WHL)
6-2, 212 lbs.
CSB: No. 24 | ISS: | THN: No. 100
The only defenceman that will be featured in this article goes by the name of Ryan Pilon (pee-lawn) who is ranked 24th by CSB. There are many defencemen near the 26th spot, but Pilon is the only one intriguing enough to be featured on this list comprised mostly of forwards. The former 3rd overall pick in his Bantam Entry draft was on an abysmal Lethbridge Hurricanes team for his first two and a half seasons of junior hockey. When the 6-foot-2 defenceman was finally traded to a contender, the Brandon Wheat Kings, 17 games into the 2013-14 season, he collected 29 points in 49 games, surpassing the previous season’s total points in eight fewer games. This smooth-skating defenceman is also not afraid to drop the mitts once in a while. He wont go into his NHL career blind as his cousin Rich Pilon played in the NHL for 14 years.
Nick Merkley, RW, Kelowna (WHL)
5-10, 187 lbs.
CSB: No. 23 | ISS: No. 19 | THN: No. 15
Kelowna Rockets forward Nick Merkley is probably the most unique player on this list, with a combination of grit and skill. According to scouts, Merkley is the best passer beyond the top two picks, as he sees the ice like few others. Whenever there is a hit available, Merkley takes it and he doesn’t miss often. He cuts right to the middle of the ice and crashes the net hard. For comparison think of a more skilled J.G. Pageau with physicality — a Gallagher type. Merkley jumped from 58 to 90 points and 33 assists to 70 in his first two years of junior hockey. Even though he is a pass-first type of player, Merkley still managed 20 goals this past season, a five goal decline from the year before. The 2013-’14 WHL rookie-of-the-year plays centre but lately has been moved to right wing on a stacked Kelowna team and has adjusted nicely.
Tom Novak, C, Waterloo (USHL)
6-0, 181 lbs.
CSB: No. 28 | ISS: No. 44 | THN: No. 35
Being ranked 28th by central scouting, Tom Novak could potentially be an absolute steal. Some scouts have even gone as far to compare Tom to Calgary Flames phenom Johnny Gaudreau. The Black Hawks centre is very shifty, has excellent speed and has a laser of a shot. Although presently he doesn’t have the size to make the jump to the NHL, Novak has the potential to be a number one centre in the NHL. In my opinion, the only reason the River Falls Native is not ranked higher than 28th by Central Scouting is that he plays in the USHL, a league that is not easily accessible and is not as heavily scouted. Committed to the University of Minnesota for the 2015-16 season, Novak had 48 points in 46 games in his first season with the Waterloo Blackhawks.
Brock Boeser, RW, Waterloo (USHL)
6-1, 192 lbs.
CSB: No. 27 | ISS: No. 35 | THN: No. 14
There is not one player in this draft class ranked near the Canadiens draft spot that is more perfect for the team. Brock Boeser has been through a lot for an 18-year-old. The story of Brock Boeser starts in his hometown of Burnsville, Minnesota where he played minor hockey for Burnsville high school. In 2014 Boeser’s childhood friends were in a car accident. One of his friends died, another one had major brain damage and only recently began talking again. Boeser was told about the tragedy after practice while he was in the Czech Republic. Boeser’s father was close to dying when struck by a car; that is on top of suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Needless to say that Boeser been through a good deal of adversity. The 6-foot-1 right-winger is a pure sniper. Boeser scored 35 goals for the Waterloo Black Hawks, one less then former Black Hawk Joe Pavelski. Boeser has a great shot with tremendous accuracy and he can get it off quickly but, he also has a passing ability to open up shooting lanes. Boeser had 35 goals, 33 assists for a total of 68 points in 57 games. Similarly to Novak, he may have received less notoriety given that he plays in the USHL.
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