MONTREAL, QC. — The 2014 NHL Entry Draft will begin on Friday night and fans can expect a lot of activity on the draft floor. First round draft picks have traditionally been the most successful prospects to crack the National Hockey League and are therefore the most valuable commodity going into Friday’s draft. There have been rumblings of some NHL teams trading up or down the draft order, yet the Montreal Canadiens have been mum on their plans.
Habs General Manager Marc Bergevin continues to stockpile the cupboard with exciting young prospects after drafting Alex Galchenyuk two seasons ago. Last year’s draft saw the Habs select hulking American forward Michael McCarron with the 25th overall pick. The team also did well in selecting Jacob de la Rose, Zachary Fucale, Sven Andrighetto and Martin Reway in later rounds. Knowing Bergevin’s draft history, the Habs aren’t likely to make bold trades but rather retain their draft picks.
Bergevin, and his head of scouting Trevor Timmins, have six selections outside of the first two rounds and may find some more hidden gems. The Habs will not be selecting in the second round since the pick was traded to the New York Islanders, along with prospect Sebastian Collberg, for Tomas Vanek.
The 2014 draft class may not have similar superstars in waiting from previous years, but certainly many prospects carry a great deal of potential. The NHL’s Central Scouting Bureau has released its final rankings, giving Habs fans some sense of who might be available for the team to draft. Considering Bergevin has chosen skill and size as qualities worth drafting, this year’s prospects can be analyzed as to which players the Habs may select.
The last time the Canadiens drafted 26th overall, the team selected Claude Lemieux, who became a key cog in their 1993 Stanley Cup win. Other notable players selected at number 26 include current NHL players Dan Boyle, David Perron, Martin Havlat, Tyler Ennis, Kyle Palmieri and Evgeni Kuznetsov. Former players Ziggy Palffy, Mike Van Ryn and Dan Cloutier were also selected at 26. Therefore, the Habs stand a good chance of landing a prospect with enough potential to be an impact player in the future.
Considering that the Canadiens have selected forwards in previous drafts, the club may be looking to nab a defenseman in the first round. With top prospects Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi and Greg Pateryn close to playing in the NHL combined with aging veterans on the blueline, the Habs could be in need of defense.
The Canadiens are blessed with offensive defensemen in the form of P.K. Subban, Beaulieu and Andrei Markov. Alexei Emelin and Josh Gorges, while capable of being offensive, stick to playing responsible defense. The Habs have experimented with physical defensemen in the form of Douglas Murray and Mike Weaver. Besides having Tinordi and Pateryn as well as prospects Dalton Thrower and Darren Dietz in the system, the Habs do not have an abundance in their pipeline in terms of gritty defenders.
If the team retain the 26th overall pick the Habs will have plenty of options to choose from. The 2014 NHL Draft has an abundance of defensive prospects. North American skaters such as Roland McKeown and Anthony DeAngelo could still be available when the Habs are called to the podium. European defensemen Marcus Petterson and Andreas Englund also fine choices who could still remain undrafted at 26. These four players each play a style similar to how the Habs’ defensive core currently operates: offensively minded, two-way defending, and the ability to throw out big hits.
McKeown, who is listed at 6’0” and 195 lbs., is a smooth skating defenseman who plays for the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League. He scored 43 points in 62 games but had a whopping 38 plus/minus. McKeown has good size is a smart hockey player. He would fit the mould of what the Canadiens are looking for in this year’s draft: smart players with size and skill. McKeown is a two-way defender who is more than capable of chipping in at both ends of the ice.
Anthony DeAngelo, who played for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, had a more productive season scoring 71 points in 51 games. The nineteen-year-old plays with an offensive flair similar to Subban. However, DeAngelo is undersized at 5’11” and was a minus-34. Considering the Sting finished this past season dead last in the OHL standings, DeAngelo is a player with a bright future ahead of him. If the Canadiens are interested in landing more offensively minded defenseman, DeAngelo would be a fine choice.
Marcus Petterson, ranked the 7th best European skater by the NHL’s scouting bureau, is a player with arguably the most upside available at the draft. Habs fans would adore his style of play. At 6’4”, Petterson brings a big frame that would need to fill out from the 161 lbs. he currently weighs. Petterson has the least impressive stats, 18 points in 38 games while playing in Sweden’s junior league, but his potential is what should spark some Habs interest. Similar to drafting McCaron, Petterson has a size and potential that is too good to pass up. Making Petterson bulkier and stronger will only help the Habs in developing their next shutdown defender.
Englund is a lesser known defenseman from Sweden. At 6’3” and 189 lbs., Englund’s game is comparable to Alexei Emelin. Englund was ranked by the Central Scouting Bureau as Europe’s thirtieth top ranked skater, however, should not be underestimated. Englund has great size for his age and plays a very gritty style of defense. Englund loves to dish out big hits and most opposing players are aware of when he’s on the ice. Much like Emelin, Englund has a physical presence that most NHL teams look for in a shutdown defenseman. Englund could be an excellent selection in this year’s draft as he is currently flying under the radar but already has tools that make him a force to be reckoned with.
For the Canadiens, having no other selection in this year’s draft until well into the third round, their use of the 26th overall pick is worth keeping an eye on. Marc Bergevin certainly does have many intriguing options to consider. The Canadiens may even surprise and select the best player available, be it a skater or a goaltender. The Canadiens have made mistakes in the first round before, selecting Andrei Kostitsyn over Jeff Carter for example. Outside of the first round, however, the Canadiens have done exceptionally well at drafting players. While the team has begun to see success in selecting players such as Beaulieu and Tinordi, there remains heavy pressure on a first round draft pick to make the NHL, otherwise be considered a wasted pick.
Considering Marc Bergevin’s drafting record as general manager of the Montreal Canadiens, the Habs will leave the NHL draft with more promising prospects and a brighter future.