Montreal Canadiens Off-Season and Draft Review

This Montreal Canadiensoff-season has been as crazy as it’s ever been in the city of Montreal.  The last time a general manager took this much heat for the Montreal Canadiens was when Pierre Gauthier told Mike Cammelleri to pack his bags mid-second period versus the Boston Bruins in 2012.

Montreal Canadiens Off-Season and Draft Review

The Trade

The shocking departure of P.K. Subban still seems unreal to most Montrealers. General manger Marc Bergevin‘s explanation of needing a “culture change” fell on deaf ears after he signed Alex Radulov of the KHL on July 1st.

Though the team did acquire a terrific defenseman in Shea Weber, the initial feedback from across the hockey spectrum is that the trade has already cemented into the history of the franchise, and not for the right reasons. The initial water-cooler talk among Habd fans was whether this, the Chris Chelios trade, or the Patrick Roy trade were the worst of all-time.

(Fun fact: Chris Chelios was traded from the Canadiens to the Chicago Blackhawks 26 years prior, to the day Subban was dealt)

Draft Day Trades

“Bergy” wasn’t stagnant at the draft table either, trading away two 2016 second-round picks in exchange for Andrew Shaw (Blackhawks). He followed this up by shipping out Lars Eller and recouping similar assets from the Washington Capitals (2017, 2018 second round picks).

Ignore all the talk, and what do you have? A general manager and coach who think they now have a team more capable of executing their system; and that’s all that matters.

The Draft

The trade market wasn’t the only thing that affected the Canadiens plans heading to September. Picking ninth overall, vice-president of player personnel and director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins nearly sprinted to the podium when Windsor Spitfires defenseman Mikhail Sergachev was still on the board for their selection. A potential top D-man down the line, Sergachev has a legitimate shot at making the Habs from day one. His performance at development camp was one to be remembered.

The Picks

1st round / 9th overall : Mikhail Sergachev

The man-child was an absolute beast at camp. Measuring in at just over 6-2 and 221 lbs at the NHL combine, the Russian blueliner possesses a complete skill-set that had scouts drooling over his potential. He’s a former forward who looks dynamic when he’s dangling opponents up-ice, and more often than not shows the composure to hold on to the puck and not make a panic play that jeopardizes his team defensively. He’s a strong skater, has a heavy shot, and can definitively deliver the boom.

Two-Way Play

Never one to back down from physical play, Sergachev drives the net with the puck but can also lay that game-changing open-ice hit that riles everybody in the arena right up. A real game-changer at the position, it wouldn’t surprise me if he got a few games in with the Habs this year, while a full-time spot is without a doubt on the minds of management. No one will have more eyes on them at training camp some September, and he has the character to handle it.

3rd Round / 70th overall: Will Bitten

Snagging Bitten this far down cushions the blow of losing out on a Alex DeBrincat type (Shaw trade). Undersized, but skilled enough himself, his wheels get the most attention. The 30-goal scorer is uses his smarts to pick his spots, and hit the gas pedal to create chances for himself up the centre of the ice. He uses his quick hands to protect the puck and drives the blue-paint, scoring the majority of his goals within 10-feet. He has a nice set of mitts and certain level of creativity, but the key to his game is his quickness (shot release, lateral movement, breakaway speed) and effort level.

4th round / 100th overall: Victor Mete

The quick-footed Knights defenseman is offensive by nature, but is no slouch defensively. At just 5-10, 174 lbs, he doesn’t have the strength to suppress the attack, but excels at the finer points of the game to balance it out. His skating and passing skills are in the upper-tier, as is his awareness. Executes very well with the puck at high speeds and isn’t afraid to carry the puck over the blueline or into traffic to make a play. Has a great level of poise which is perhaps his most developed trait at this point. It’s what makes it all come together for the 18-year-old.

5th round / 124th overall (from VAN via Prust trade): Casey Staum

Double-dipping in the style category, the Habs selected another puck-moving defenseman fifth round when they drafted Casey Staum. An effective puck-moving defenseman, he doesn’t have elite skill or size, but proves able in many situations. The ability to break the puck out of the defensive zone is his strong suit, which has never been more important in the NHL, as that skill earned the spotlight in the midst of a championship run in Pittsburgh. Skating in just 29 games this season due to a broken foot, Staum impressed scouts enough in the time they did see him to warrant a selection. But, most of all it means the scouting staff believes in his long-term development, even though his ceiling is capped to that of a second or third-pairing D-man.

6th round / 160th overall: Michael Pezzetta

Sometimes you draft a player late with the hopes that they can overcome a few obstacles and become the next Pavel Datsyuk. This is not the case with Pezzetta, as the Canadiens are well aware of what they are getting now, and potentially at the next level. Producing just 15 goals and 40 points in over 120 games, he’s no scoring machine, but he certainly can be one on the forecheck. He didn’t hesitate to throw his shoulder at camp, punishing anyone who touched the puck behind their own blueline upon strong pursuit due to his strong skating and solid frame. Pezzetta thinks the game well in terms of structure and positioning, and has the motor to match. He will work on his offensive game over the next two years in Sudbury, he already wears an “A” on his jersey.

7th round / 187th overall (from WPG for 2017 7th rounder): Arvid Henrikson

The big hulking defender was always the first one on the ice for practice at Habs camp, while his play also introduced his blue-collar attitude. He’s a cerebral stay-at-home defenseman, and though he scored 20 points in 21 games skating in the Swedish J18 Elit, he isn’t going to be a scorer throughout his career. He will gather points through smart, structured hockey, but he’s constantly thinking defense first. He is by no means fleet of foot, but may be even better laterally than going forward. Combine that with his length, an active stick and the strength to plant, and you have yourselves a tough one-on-one defender in space.

Camp Notes:

Nikita Scherbak

Nikita Scherbak was named MVP of development camp, though Sergachev and Charles Hudon were certainly the better performers. Scherbak is the one in most need of a confidence boost, so that may have something to do with it, or maybe it’s just because they liked his effort level. He certainly tried to make things happen, and threw a couple of checks, but he’s still too inconsistent and needs to bring a greater sense of urgency to every shift.

Mike McCarron

Mike McCarron had a good camp as well, looking like a leader out there. He and Sergachev got into a little rough stuff on back-to-back days. However, it was all positive vibes from the two competitors.

“I think he just helped me because I’ve got to go through it. We’re just chirping each other. That’s o.k. That happens sometimes. Mike’s a great guy,” said Sergachev “It’s just hockey. Everybody has emotions. Nothing bad happened. He’s a forward. I’m a defenseman. We’re not enemies. We’re friends.”

“He’s a Top 10 pick, he’s amazing. He can play both sides of the puck. (Sergachev) is a special player to watch. He has got a good stride, he’s got a good shot, he’s a good defender and he hits. He’s got all of the attributes. He’s a tough kid,” said McCarron, responding to a question about Sergachev’s hat-trick. “I was trying to slow him down, but he was too good today.”

Martin Reway

Reway showed his supreme vision over and over again. He was a possession beast, corralling loose pucks all over the ice and resetting the attack for his squad. He won’t make the team out of camp, but should quickly become one of the AHL’s top scorers.

Goaltenders

Zach Fucale was the best goaltender over the week. He was consistent and sometimes spectacular.

Charlie Lindgren was expected to dominant, but needed to be better. He had his moments, but far too many gaffes for someone who was thought of as capable of competing for a backup role in the NHL this season.

Best Invite

Free Agents

G Al Montoya (1-year, $950,000)
RW Alex Radulov (1-year, $5.75M)
D Zach Redmond (2-years, $612,000)
F Chris Terry (1-year, two-way)
D Philip Samuelsson (1-year, two-way)
F Bobby Farnham (1-year, two-way)

For a full list of transactions you can click here.

Main Photo

NASHVILLE, TN – APRIL 10: Shea Weber #6 of the Nashville Predators skates against the Phoenix Coyotes at Bridgestone Arena on April 10, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)


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