TORONTO, ON — Recently TSN’s prospect guru Craig Button released his top 50 NHL-affiliated prospects along with each Canadian team’s top 5 prospects. Button’s rankings had caused a bit of a stir as first year professional and AHL all-star Michael McCarron didn’t appear in the overall top 50 list.
The Canadiens only prospect to crack the top-50 was Artturi Lehkonen at number 34. The Maple Leafs William Nylander was the number one ranked prospect.
Canadiens top 5 prospects
- Nikita Scherbak – AHL – St.John’s IceCaps
Nikita Scherbak has had a bit of a hard first season down in the AHL, he’s been injured for most of it. He hasn’t truly been able to get into a groove, however an interesting note about his year is that he has been used in a centre role recently. He is a strong winger however it never hurts to be versatile enough to play centre in case of an emergency. So far this season in St. John’s he has only played in 21 games, registering five goals and three assists for eights points. His struggles to stay healthy this season have been a major reason in his production drop early. If he can stay healthy for the remainder of the season, he’ll likely start to light it up.
- Michael McCarron – AHL – St.John’s IceCaps/Montreal Canadiens
Michael McCarron’s first professional season couldn’t get off to a better start. He impressed at the rookie tournament in London, Ontario in September, he got off to a solid start in the AHL playing alongside Daniel Carr and Christian Thomas. McCarron is perhaps the Canadiens most interesting prospect as he struggled in London in his first OHL season however mightily turned it around in his second season in which his strong start in London saw him moved out to Oshawa for a championship run. He helped the Generals win the Memorial Cup and his development took a gigantic step forward. In this, McCarron’s first AHL season he has 30 points in 47 games and was named as an AHL All-star. Since the all-star break, McCarron has been solid however he simply isn’t showing up on the score sheet as his scoring totals took a bit of a hit since his pointless two game stint for Michel Therrien and the Canadiens. All in all, McCarron’s been fantastic this season which is a huge plus for the Canadiens, long term.
- Morgan Ellis – AHL – St.John’s IceCaps
Twenty-three year old Morgan Ellis is having a fantastic bounce back season in the AHL after a tough few seasons with the Hamilton Bulldogs and even the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers last season who were a joint Canadiens/Penguins affiliate. Ellis’ offensive game didn’t transition to the professional level and he looked to be nearing bust territory as his game had taken a turn for the worse. Ellis came into this season looking like a much more determined player, he became a strong leader for the IceCaps, his all-around game was very much rounded out and his offensive game had finally translated to the professional game. Ellis was named to the AHL All-star team in place of Mark Barberio who was selected however called up and earned a spot with the Canadiens. Ellis continues his fine campaign with 28 points in 49 games along with 11 goals to top it off. Ellis has slowly played his way back into the conversation for one of the Canadiens better defense prospects this season.
- Noah Juulsen – WHL – Everett Silvertips
The Canadiens first round pick in the 2015 NHL entry draft, Noah Juulsen is widely regarded as the Canadiens top defensive prospect and one of the Canadiens top prospects. Juulsen this season has been solid all-around. His offensive numbers have taken a bit of a hit but are likely to bounce back. Juulsen was also cut from team Canada’s WJC camp this year however that Canadian team did not medal at the WJC. Juulsen’s development looks on track under coach Kevin Constantine in Everett. Juulsen has 21 points and a plus-2 rating in 46 games this season with the third place Silvertips.
- Artturi Lehkonen – SHL – Frolunda Indians
One of the Montreal Canadiens few prospects over in Europe, Finnish Artturi Lehkonen was rated by Craig Button as the organizations number one prospect for many reasons. Lehkonen was the captain for Finland at the 2014 WJC, his drive to be the best player on the ice game in and game out, his slick hands and heavy shot are just a few of his fantastic qualities. Lehkonen is tied for fourth on the Indians with 29 points (15 goals) in 42 games and only 10 penalty minutes in that time. The Canadiens lucked out in Lehkonen being available at pick number 55 in the 2013 NHL entry draft.
One notable omission from the list is second year professional Charles Hudon who is having a stellar year and since his professional debut has vaulted himself in my opinion to the top of the Canadiens prospect list. Do you agree with Craig Button’s assessment of the Montreal Canadiens top 5 prospects? Why or why not? Let us know at @CHatzitoliosMTL and @AllHabs