WINNIPEG, MB. — With the draft just days away the Canadiens brain trust is most likely sequestered in a room, trying to figure out which player will be available to them at the 26th overall spot. While this draft is being discussed as one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, outside of the top 10 or so picks not much is set in stone.
In recent years, thanks to the excellent vision of Trevor Timmins, the Habs have done a superb job of picking up talent at all points in the draft. Since the 2000 NHL Draft, the Canadiens organization has draft in the Top 10 only four times: Mike Komisarek (7th overall, 2001), Andrei Kostitsyn (10th overall, 2003), Carey Price (5th overall, 2005), and Alex Galchenyuk (3rd overall, 2012).
This year, the team has a very late pick. Timmins has been able to find some great players near the end of the first round, with Nikita Scherbak, Michael McCarron, Jarred Tinordi, and Max Pacioretty all being taken in the last ten slots of the first round (26th, 25th, 22nd, and 22nd respectively). With late first round picks, fans need to be prepared for a “project” player.
Obviously, the talent level available at the draft changes every year, and our perceptions change of the players taken over time. If you want a recent example of this, please listen to Pierre McGuire’s instant reaction to the Carey Price selection in 2005. Admittedly the pick was not clear cut at the time, as the Habs looked fairly deep in net, but in retrospect, questioning this pick seems absurd.
Looking at Price’s draft year, few other players taken in the first round are comparable to the talent level that Price has shown game in and game out. Sidney Crosby, Bobby Ryan, Anze Kopitar, Mark Staal, Tuuka Rask & T.J. Oshie stand out, but I feel Price was still the right pick for the Canadiens. Again, this is all in hindsight, but it bears mentioning that drafting NHL talent is a difficult task, and the Habs have been one of the better teams in place at finding that talent.
Corey Desormeaux took a look at some of the players likely to be available to the Canadiens at the end of the first round, and Jordan Lambe has posted a mock draft, so my goal is to take a quick look at the organizational depth, and attempt to identify a few prospects who may still be available at the end of round one. The All Habs team plans to have some great pieces during the draft, so make sure to check in over the weekend for more coverage.
Using some of the speculation provided by Corey, and looking at the above depth chart, I tend to think that the Canadiens should use this pick to grab a defenseman. In my opinion, with the players likely available to the Habs, they should focus almost solely on the defense position in this year’s draft. While there are certainly needs at forward, unless the Canadiens manage to snag a late round stud in the vein of Henrik Zetterberg or Pavel Datsyuk, there’s not much there to suit the team’s holes in the roster. They would most likely be drafting a player with a bottom 6 ceiling, and right now, and for a couple of years to come, the Canadiens are fairly set at the bottom of their roster.
When we look at the organizational depth of the Canadiens, outside of the defensemen who have already seen some time in the NHL, there is not a lot of depth waiting to be called up. One of the things you see frequently in professional leagues is the concept of drafting the best player available. While this makes some sense, it’s a bit of a flawed approach. The Edmonton Oilers spent years drafting the best player available, but it didn’t necessarily address the needs of their time. A more prudent approach may have been trading down to get a player that better suited their team. Instead, they’re now stuck with no goaltending and very little on defense, the latter of those partly due to some shrewd moves by Marc Bergevin.
When looking at some of the draft information available, there seem to be a number of excellent defensemen who might fall to the Canadiens at the end of the first round. The biggest need for the Habs is a left shooting defensemen, and there are a couple of good options around the 26th pick. Thomas Chabot, Oliver Kylington, and Jacob Larsson are all generally thought to be drafted between 20th and 30th overall. The scouting on Chabot is the most in depth, due to playing in the QMJHL. All three players seem to fit a similar mold, as puck-moving defensemen.
My personal pick would be Kylington, but that is mainly because of his name. I’m a sucker for athletes with names that translate easily into puns or headlines. “Oliver ‘Kyls’ the competition” makes me smile. None of these three are big, bruising blueliners, but all three stand at six feet or taller, and should fill out to be around 200 pounds If Chabot falls to them, he looks like a great fit for the Habs. All three of these potential NHLers would look great in the bleu, blanc, et rouge. Taking into consideration that defensemen have a tendency to take a little bit longer to develop, any of these prospects would provide depth to the organization for the next few seasons.
The Canadiens have no second or fourth round picks, and will only have five selections through the seven rounds of this year’s draft. It is fairly important for the Habs to draft well, especially due to missing out on two rounds. Luckily for the team and the fans, Timmins and his team are some of the best in the business.