In part one of this series, my Habs Unfiltered co-host, Blain Potvin, covered six up and coming prospects in an article titled “A Look at Habs Mete, Juulsen, Scherbak, Poehling, Kotkaniemi, Ylonen.” Some of these prospects, namely Victor Mete, Noah Juulsen, and Nikita Scherbak have already made their NHL debuts with the Canadiens. It’s reasonable to expect that they will improve their games this upcoming season.
On the other hand, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jesse Ylonen, and Ryan Poehling are a step or two away from the NHL but offer hope for the future of the franchise.
In this followup article, I will be looking at five more prospects who could join the Habs roster in the near future and one who has already made an impact. The Canadiens have added 24 picks in the past two drafts which should provide good depth and a positive future.
Cayden Primeau had a superb rookie season with Northeastern, posting a 1.92 goals against average and a .931 save Percentage in 34 games. Primeau was named to the NCAA Hockey East All-Rookie team, the First All-Star Team while winning rookie of the year and goaltender of the year. The son of former NHL’er Keith Primeau also has a gold medal from the IIHF U18 World Championships in 2016-17 as part of Team USA.
This seventh-round pick (199th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft was expected to be taken in the third or fourth round. After not seeing eye-to-eye with the Lincoln Stars (USHL) goaltending coach, Primeau was tagged as uncoachable and his stock fell at the draft.
Primeau is still several years away from the NHL, if he makes it at all. But with Carey Price, Charlie Lindgren and Michael McNiven filling the goaltending pipeline, the Canadiens can afford to be patient with Primeau.
Charlie Lindgren is another US-born goaltender who had great success in the NCAA. Lindgren played in 88 games over three seasons for St.Cloud State University where he won a National Championship in 2015-16. That same season, he was voted NCAA goaltender of the year, First Team All-Star and First All-American Team. It was also the same year he made his NHL debut with the Canadiens where he stopped 26 shots in a 4-2 win over Carolina.
Last season, Lindgren had 14 starts for the Canadiens making a statement that he is indeed an NHL-caliber goaltender. The 23-year-old made 38 saves on November 5th for a very memorable first shutout in the NHL at the United Center. Lindgren added his second career shutout last February at the Bell Centre in a 33-save effort.
In my view, Lindgren has the ability to stay square to the puck, is very quick going post-to-post and covers the bottom of the net very well. To cover any mistakes, Lindgren has an extraordinary glove hand.
While Lindgren has great potential to at least share starting duties in the NHL, his future with the Canadiens is not certain in my estimation. He could be a good trading chip in the future.
Josh Brook is a defender who, in my opinion, has the potential to become a very good all-around defenseman for the Habs. Brook is strong on the puck and could contribute to special teams. He is a very good rushing defenseman who has a can create offensive chances.
Drafted in the second round (56th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, Brook isn’t flashy but makes smart moves and works both ends of the ice well. Brooks isn’t elite but he does all the right things and rarely makes mistakes.
It’s not easy to project Brook’s ceiling. If he fulfills his potential, Canadiens fans could see him in a top-four role. But if the consistency problems that plagued him last season be the norm, his development could stall.
Cale Fleury was drafted in the third round (87th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He is a smooth skater with an ability to move the puck. Fleury is offensive minded and possesses a solid shot. On the defensive side of the ice, positioning can be a problem at times.
While Fleury could play in Laval this season, I expect him to be back in Regina. Long-term projections are difficult but don’t be surprised if he reaches the NHL ahead of Josh Brook.
Jacob Olofsson was the 56th player taken at last June’s NHL Entry Draft. Olofsson has skilled hands, smart hockey sense and decent puck skills but has yet to break out offensively. He has some flash and grit, seems to do everything well but doesn’t have the confidence to excel.
Olofsson is projected to be a solid two-way centre and should be an effective penalty-killer.
Joni Ikonen is an offensively gifted, high-skilled, smooth skating center who can also play right wing. In the past two seasons in Finnish U-18 and U-20, Ikonen has 42 points in 48 games with 21 goals.
Last season playing for KalPa in the Finnish Liga league he scored 14 points in 52 games four of those being goals. This past June provided more problems for Ikonen. After injuring his knee during a practice in May he had surgery to repair this June and will be sidelined for up to six months.