Welcome to the 2021 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2021 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2021 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the 2021 Montreal Canadiens Prospects.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2021-22 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2021 Montreal Canadiens Prospects
Playing in the North Division, the Montreal Canadiens got off to a red-hot start. However, they faltered a bit and then had a number of games postponed due to a Covid outbreak. This led to some midseason struggles and the firing of head coach Claude Julien, replaced by Dominic Ducharme. The Habs would eventually right the ship and qualified for the playoffs. Things looked bleak when the Toronto Maple Leafs took a 3-1 series lead in the first round. However, the Habs would win the next three games, and sweep the Winnipeg Jets in the second round, never trailing in those seven games. Things would get tougher in the semi-final, but the Habs would prevail over the Vegas Golden Knights in six games. The magical run ended in the Stanley Cup Final as the Habs fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games.
The off-season has been one of massive change in Montreal. Captain Shea Weber is out and may never play again due to foot and knee injuries. Phillip Danault, Tomas Tatar, Corey Perry, Jon Merrill, and Charlie Lindgren found new homes in free agency. Eric Staal and Erik Gustafsson were also not brought back. Jesperi Kotkaniemi was allowed to leave after receiving an offer sheet from the Carolina Hurricanes. Cale Fleury was taken in the expansion draft.
The team also had coaching staff changes, with Trevor Letowski taking a job as an assistant on the NHL team and Jean-Francois Houle taking over for Joel Bouchard in developing prospects in Laval. Free-agent additions include David Savard, Mike Hoffman, Mathieu Perreault, Cedric Paquette and Sami Niku. Meanwhile, depth up the middle was improved with a trade for Christian Dvorak. The Canadiens will also have to make due early in the year without star goaltender Carey Price, who is in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. The Habs claimed Samuel Montembault on waivers to fill in while Price is out.
2021 NHL Draft Picks (F/B): Logan Mailloux, Riley Kidney, Oliver Kapanen, Dmitri Kostenko, William Trudeau, Daniil Sobolev, Joshua Roy, Xavier Simoneau, Joe Vrbetic
Graduations: Alexander Romanov, Jake Evans
2021 Top Montreal Canadiens Prospect: Cole Caufield
Right Wing/Left Wing — shoots Right
Born January 2nd, 2001 — Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Height 5’7″ — Weight 165 [170 cm/75 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1st Round, #15 Overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Caufield had a tremendous season. He put up two goals and five points in seven games with Team USA at the World Juniors, winning a gold medal. He also put up 30 goals and 52 points in 31 games with the Wisconsin Badgers, helping the team win the regular-season Big 10 Championship, and bringing home the Hobey Baker as the top player in college hockey. His dream season continued after he signed a pro contract. He dominated in two AHL games, scoring three goals and four points and was quickly called up to Montreal. Caufield scored his first NHL goal as an overtime winner against Ottawa and finished the regular season with four goals and five points in 10 games. He was also a key player in the Habs playoff run, with four goals and 12 points in 20 playoff games.
Caufield is a very good skater. While he has very good top-end speed, his best attributes are his acceleration and agility. Caufield can dart in and out of open space quickly. He changes speeds and fools defenders as a result. He uses his edges very well and moves laterally with ease. This helps him to beat defenders in one-on-one situations, both with and without the puck. As mentioned Caufield lacks size. However, he has a very strong lower body and powerful stride. This gives him excellent balance and he is tough to knock off the puck or beat in battles in front of the net.
Caufield has an excellent arsenal of shots. His wrist shot and snapshot are both deadly accurate and have good power. They also have very quick releases which fool goaltenders. Caufield also has a very good one-timer. He has a knack for finding soft spots in the defence and getting his shot off. Caufield can even score on his backhand. He is not afraid to battle in the dirty areas of the ice and goes hard to the net. When he is there, he can score on rebounds and deflections due to his soft hands and excellent hand-eye coordination.
He also shows the ability to make passes through tight spaces and the vision to find teammates but is better known for his goal-scoring. Caufield can show flashes of brilliance as a playmaker though. He also controls the puck well, even when moving at top speed. He can get by a defender with a quick fake or toe-drag. His vision and hockey sense are very good. Caufield reads the play well and anticipates the movements of teammates and opponents. When a teammate is open, he can hit them with a pass to set up a scoring chance. Overall, he has all the offensive tools one looks for in a player, with the exception being his lack of height.
Caufield’s quickness and anticipation have helped him in the defensive end. He is very good at intercepting passes and creating turnovers. Once these happen he transitions quickly to offence. This has made him an effective penalty killer at the college level and a threat to score short-handed goals. However, his lack of size has had a bigger effect in his five-on-five defensive game. He does not really do well in supporting the defence down low as he has a tough time containing bigger opponents in the cycle game. He will need to continue to add strength to be able to compete against bigger opponents.
With more and more diminutive NHLers succeeding in the modern game, there is hope that Caufield’s immense offensive talent will help him to be the next small superstar story. Caufield has already shown that his offensive skill will translate at the NHL level. He is going to play a big role on the Habs this season and is currently on the team’s first line with Nick Suzuki and Tyler Toffoli. Caufield should have a strong rookie season and compete for the Calder Trophy.
#2 Prospect: Kaiden Guhle
Left Defence — shoots Left
Born January 18th, 2002 — Sherwood Park, Alberta
Height 6’2″ — Weight 186 lbs [188 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1st Round, #16 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
Guhle put up two goals and an assist in seven games with Team Canada at the World Juniors, coming home with a silver medal. He then played three games with the Laval Rocket before the WHL season got started. In two games with Prince Albert, he scored one goal and one assist. However, a hand injury suffered in his second WHL game would keep him out the remainder of the season.
Guhle is an excellent skater, with very good speed and acceleration in both directions. He is able to push the play offensively as well as pinch in at the opponent’s blue line and still get back to his position in the defensive end. He also has very smooth pivots, allowing him to transition quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. Guhle shows good agility and edgework as well. He is already strong on his skates and has good balance. As he matures and increases his lower-body strength, this area of his game should continue to improve. He will also be better on the boards and in front of the net, areas that he already excels.
Guhle is a strong stick handler. He can go back in his own zone, retrieve pucks, avoid forecheckers and move it up the ice. He can make a good first pass to start the rush. Guhle can also lead the rush through the neutral zone and has the passing skills to create chances. He weaves through defenders and finds the open space to generate efficient zone entries. He can also play the point on the power play. Guhle has decent vision and can put the puck through seams and passing lanes. However, Guhle could stand to be a bit more creative in order to maximize his offensive potential.
Guhle also has a good wrist shot and slap shot from the point. He does a good job of keeping his shot low and on the net, getting it through traffic and creating rebound and deflection opportunities for teammates. He also likes to sneak in from the point and let go of his wrist shot from the top of the faceoff circles or sneak in and get his shot off as the trailer. Guhle’s shot features a quick release, and he can toe drag and change the angle just before letting it go. His agility allows him to walk the line and open up shooting and passing lanes. His quick hands also allow him to subtly change angles and create that lane.
While Guhle can bring offence, the bread and butter of his game is his defensive play. His strong skating leads to excellent gap control and he is very difficult to beat in one-on-one situations. If attackers come down his side of the ice with their heads down, Guhle can throw a big hit but he is disciplined and does not get himself out of position looking to make that hit. He also plays physically along the boards and in front of the net. Guhle is a smart positional player who cuts down passing lanes with his long stick and is willing to block shots. He anticipates well and creates turnovers which leads to a quick transition.
Guhle has the potential to be a top-pairing defenceman and play big minutes in the NHL. If he reaches his potential, he can be an elite shut-down defender. His offensive game may not reach that level, but he can still move the puck and play on the second unit of a power play. Guhle has been excellent in training camp and pre-season with the Habs and may get a nine-game look at the NHL level this season. However, he should spend another year in the WHL. He can dominate defensively at the junior level and this will give him the opportunity to continue to grow offensively. Guhle should also be in the running to be the captain for Team Canada at the World Juniors.
#3 Prospect: Mattias Norlinder
Left/Right Defence — shoots Left
Born April 12th, 2000 — Kramfors, Sweden
Height 6’0″ — Weight 185 lbs [183 cm/84 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 3rd round, #64 overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Norlinder played for Frolunda in the SHL last season, his first year in Sweden’s top pro league after two excellent years in the Allsvenskan. He put up five goals and 10 points in 37 regular-season games. He also added three goals and five points in seven playoff games. Norlinder was selected to play for the Swedish National Team for the European Hockey Tour.
An undersized defenceman, Norlinder makes up for this with excellent skating ability. He has a very good stride, giving him speed and power in both directions. Norlinder has a good first step and excellent acceleration. This allows him to push forward on offence, being part of the rush or pinching at the blue line and still get back defensively. He also has very good agility and edgework. He can avoid forecheckers and make plays with the puck in the offensive zone thanks to the strong lateral movement. It also helps him to maintain gap control in the defensive end. Norlinder’s pivots are crisp and this helps him to transition quickly from defence to offence and vice-versa. He could stand to add muscle to his frame though, as Norlinder has issues in winning battles on the boards and clearing the front of the net.
Norlinder pairs his strong skating with good stickhandling ability. He is able to move the puck, avoiding forecheckers and getting the puck out of danger in his own zone. Norlinder moves the puck well through the neutral zone, generating clean zone entries and setting things up in the zone. He also has very good vision and passing skills. His lateral movement on the blue line helps Norlinder to walk the line, opening up passing lanes. He has poise with the puck at the blue line and can quarterback the power play. Norlinder can make smart passes with the puck, finding open teammates and setting them up for scoring chances. He is a creative player and not afraid to carry the puck deep in the offensive zone to drive the net or make a play in the dirty areas of the ice.
Norlinder also has a good arsenal of shots. His slap shot and one-timer are powerful. He can get them off even if the pass isn’t perfect, adjusting with good foot movement. He also opens up shooting lanes with his lateral movement. Norlinder likes to sneak down and let off his wrist shot from the top of the circles. He also joins the rush as a trailer, letting that shot go. Norlinder does a good job of getting his shots on the net, keeping them low and allowing teammates the opportunities to get deflections, screens, and rebounds. Norlinder must learn to be a bit more careful with his breakout passes though. While most are good, he can sometimes give the puck away in bad areas.
Norlinder’s defensive game is a bit of a work in progress. It is also based on his skating ability. Norlinder is tough to beat one-on-one off the rush. However, he needs to work on playing in his own end. Norlinder can work on maintaining coverage of his man away from the puck. He can sometimes get too focused on the puck, letting go of his man to try and make a play on the puck carrier. He needs some work on his positioning. Norlinder could also stand to bulk up to improve his work along the boards and in front of the net. When a turnover is created, Norlinder is able to get to the loose puck and quickly transition to offence.
Norlinder has shown his offensive skills in Canadiens training camp and pre-season. However, his defensive game still needs work and he is not yet NHL ready. He is currently injured, but as soon as he is ready to get back on the ice likely heads back to Frolunda for another season in the SHL. Following the completion of the Swedish season, he could join the Laval Rocket. With some improvements at the defensive end and added muscle to his frame, he could compete for an NHL job in 2022-23. The versatility to play both left and right defence is an asset for Norlinder, particularly so since the Habs system is much stronger on the left side going forward.
#4 Prospect: Jordan Harris
Left Defense — shoots Left
Born July 7th, 2000 — Haverhill, Massachusetts
Height 5’11” — Weight 185 lbs [180 cm/84 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 3rd round, #71 overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft.
Harris had a strong junior season with Northeastern University. He put up six goals and 13 assists for 19 points in 19 games. It was enough to see Harris named to the Hockey East Second All-Star Team. Following the season, Harris announced that he would return to Northeastern for his senior campaign.
Harris is another excellent skater. He seems to almost glide on the ice with a textbook stride. His strong skating is the basis of his excellent two-way game. Harris has a very good first step and good acceleration in both directions. His top-end speed is also very good. This allows Harris to play an offensive game and still get back in the defensive end of the ice. His agility and edgework help Harris to maintain good gap control in the defensive end and also help him to make offensive plays. Harris also has good pivots, and transitions from offence to defence quickly. Harris is slightly undersized and could add a bit more muscle to his frame to play physical at the pro level but does a good job on the boards and clearing the front of the net in college hockey.
Harris is a very smart player. He sees the ice very well and reads the play. This allows him to make smart plays with the puck. He is very good at starting the transition game as his stickhandling and skating ability allow him to retrieve pucks in his own end and avoid forecheckers. Harris can skate the puck up the ice or hit a teammate with a good first pass. He also has the vision and passing skills to hit a forward with a long breakaway pass if they manage to get behind the opposing defence. Harris has the poise to stickhandle and control the puck on the rush as well as to make plays at the blue line in the offensive zone. His skating and stickhandling create efficient zone entries. He also can make plays at the blue line, setting up teammates for scoring chances on the power play.
Harris is more of a power-play quarterback than a trigger man at the point. His slap shot is good but is not great. One thing he does well is walking the line to open up shooting lanes. This allows Harris to get his shot through and on the net. He also does a good job of keeping his shot low and allowing his teammates to get in front of the net for a screen, deflection, or to pounce on rebounds. Harris makes smart reads and joins the rush at good times. He also does a good job of pinching in from the line to keep the puck in the offensive zone and keep the play alive. Harris sneaks in for a back door pass at times, letting go of a wrist shot or snapshot from closer to the net in order to beat a goalie.
Harris is also strong defensively. His skating ability helps him to maintain good gap control and force attackers to the outside and away from good shooting areas. He is tough to beat in one-on-one situations. Harris is not a huge hitter but is willing to rub his man out along the boards as well as to play physically in the corners and in front of the net. He uses his stick effectively, cutting down passing lanes and poke-checking the puck away from opponents. Harris is also willing to put his body on the line to block shots. His skating helps him to retrieve dump-ins and loose pucks. As mentioned, once he has the puck, he makes the smart play to start the transition game.
Harris will look to compete for the Hockey East and National Titles in his final year at Northeastern. Once his college season is complete, the Habs will try to get Harris under contract. If he signs in the spring, he could get a few games at the AHL or even the NHL level. A little more mature than most prospects, as Harris is finishing a full four years of college hockey, Harris may not need much time with Laval before he is ready for a full-time NHL job. Expect to see him in Laval in 2022-23 and as an injury call-up, with full-time NHL duty coming as early as 2023-24. One thing to keep in mind though, if the Habs can’t get Harris signed, he could become an unrestricted free agent in August 2022.
#5 Prospect: Logan Mailloux
A controversial pick, the Montreal Canadiens drafted Mailloux with the 31st overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Prior to the draft, we took an in-depth look at Mailloux. As there has not been a significant sample size of games played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here. Mailloux will not play before January as he has been suspended indefinitely by the Ontario Hockey League.
#6 Prospect: Jesse Ylonen
Right Wing/Left Wing — shoots Right
Born October 3rd, 1999 — Scottsdale, Arizona
Height 6’1″ — Weight 172 lbs [183 cm / 78 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2nd Round, 35th Overall at the 2018 NHL Draft.
With the start of the North American season delayed due to Covid-19, Ylonen began the year in Finland where he played in the SM Liiga for Pelicans. He put up five goals and seven points in 21 games. Once the AHL got up and running, Ylonen began his first professional season in North America. Fueled by a hot start, Ylonen put up nine goals and 17 points in 29 games. He also made his NHL debut, playing for the Canadiens in their final game of the regular season.
Ylonen is a very strong skater. He has excellent speed and acceleration. His smooth stride generates plenty of speed and does so in just a few steps. Ylonen has the ability to take a defender wide and cut to the net. He also uses changes in speed as a weapon, slowing down to create a passing or shooting lane. He also has the agility to make quick cuts and changes of directions, allowing him to weave through traffic and make plays. Ylonen improved his muscle mass over the past season but could still add more lower-body and core strength. This would help him to be stronger on the puck, and better in battles along the boards. This will be necessary as he looks to make the transition to the NHL.
Ylonen couples his strong skating with good stickhandling skills. He protects the puck well and can make moves while at top speed. He combines his quick cuts, with strong dangles and toe-drags. This makes him dangerous off the rush. It also helps him to generate effective zone entries. While he works to protect the puck down low and does a decent job in the cycle game, he could be even better with added muscle mass. Ylonen is getting stronger on the puck and this has improved his game but there is more room to go. He has the patience and poise to wait for an opportunity to make a play and then hit a teammate with a tape-to-tape pass.
Ylonen has a very good wrist shot and release. It features both power and accuracy. His release is quick and deceptive and can fool goaltenders. Ylonen can toe-drag just prior to letting the shot go, changing the angle of the release. His slap shot needs some work though, as it lacks some power. This might improve as he gains strength.
Ylonen is a bit of a perimeter player though, he does not do well in traffic or in front of the net. He needs to get stronger to be able to compete in the key areas of the ice. This may come in the next several years. He pressures defensemen on the forecheck due to his speed but doesn’t really play a physical game on the boards and can get stronger in front of the net. It will also help him to maintain his balance and be able to fight through checks when carrying the puck.
Ylonen’s defensive game continues to improve as well. He has shown a better work ethic in his own end supporting the defence down low and not flying the zone as often. He has also done a better job of keeping his feet moving and avoiding puck watching. There really have been big strides this season but there are still other areas to improve. Future coaches will need to continue the work on his defensive fundamentals especially as he continues to adjust to the smaller-sized North American ice surface. Just like the offensive zone, he struggles to play a physical game and can have trouble containing forwards against the cycle.
Ylonen had a strong training camp but was one of the Canadiens final cuts, recently being assigned to the Laval Rocket in the AHL. If there are injury issues on the wing, especially in the top-nine, he could receive a call-up to the main squad. He might need a season in the AHL in order to continue to work on his strength, as well as improving his game at both ends of the ice. There is real talent here though, and he is a potential top-six winger in the future. Ylonen could be a full-time NHLer in 2022-23.
#7 Prospect: Ryan Poehling
Centre — shoots Left
Born January 3rd, 1999 — Lakeville, Minnesota
Height 6’2″ — Weight 185 lbs [188 cm / 84 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1st round, #25 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft.
Poehling’s season started slowly after he was cut by the Habs in their January training camp. He seemed to take things hard and took a little bit to get going in the AHL. However, he would soon turn things on and finished the year very strongly. Overall, he put up 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points in 28 AHL games.
Poehling is a good skater. He has decent speed and acceleration, which has really improved as he cleaned up his stride over the last two years. He has good size and uses his speed to get in quickly on the forecheck, looking to pressure defenders and cause mistakes. His agility and edgework have also improved, allowing him to weave through traffic both with and without the puck. Poehling also has good lower body strength and balance. He is tough to knock off the puck, especially when working down low. He also is very good in puck battles. Poehling has the power to fight through checks and continue to the front of the net. His lateral agility and edgework are decent for a player with his size.
Poehling plays a gritty game, battling in the corners and in front of the net; as well as being effective on the forecheck. He also has a decent wrist shot and release. Poehling started to use that shot more in the AHL last season and this has helped lead to more consistent goal-scoring production. He has improved his release since being drafted. It is quicker and helps him to really generate power on his shot. Poehling gets to the front of the net. He needs to be a bit quicker at pouncing on rebounds and getting deflections though. This would really help him take his game to the next level.
Poehling’s stickhandling is decent, but he plays a very straightforward north-south style of game and isn’t the type to take on defenders in one-on-one situations. Instead, he looks to move the puck to an open teammate and then try to find an open area on the ice. He loves to run the give-and-go style plays with his teammates. His vision is very good, and he seems to almost always make the smart play with the puck. Poehling is especially strong in the cycle game. He protects the puck well and extends plays, giving time for his linemates to get open. When they do, he is able to make a smart pass to set up a scoring chance.
Poehling’s offensive game has taken the next step at the AHL level, but he still needs to find a way for it to translate against NHL opponents. Despite the big numbers that he put up in the AHL last season, there are still some questions if his offensive game will be enough to play a middle-six centre role for the Canadiens.
Poehling is already a reliable defensive player at the AHL level. He reads the play well and anticipates what opponents will do with the puck, to create turnovers, and start the transition game. His positioning is solid and he uses that in combination with an active stick to cut down passing lanes. Poehling is willing to put his body on the line and block shots. Poehling back checks effectively and supports the defence down low.
He continues to play his gritty style in his own end of the rink, getting involved in puck battles in the corners, and helping to keep the front of the net clear. However, the game still seems a little too quick for him when playing against NHL opponents. As he gets more experience in the league, he should be able to bring a strong defensive game but is a bit inconsistent right now. He is already good in the faceoff circle.
Poehling has been fighting for a job on the bottom two lines in the Canadiens training camp. He seems very close to NHL ready, but there are times when it seems that another year in the AHL might do him some good as well. As of this writing, he remains with the team. The injury status of Cedric Paquette and the ability of Mathieu Perreault to play centre remain up in the air though. It would not be a surprise for him to play big minutes in the AHL for at least part of this season, before eventually earning a spot on the Canadiens before the end of the season. The question here is about his upside. Habs fans will need to recognize that despite his historic first game, Poehling projects as more of a two-way centre than a big-time point producer.
#8 Prospect: Cayden Primeau
Goalie — shoots Left — catches Left
Born August 11th, 1999 — Voorhees, New Jersey
Height 6’3″ — Weight 198 lbs [191 cm / 90 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 7th round, #199 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft.
Primeau played his second professional season, mostly appearing with the Laval Rocket. In 16 AHL games, he went 11-4-0 with two shutouts, as well as a 2.10 goals-against-average and a .909 save percentage. He also played four games for the Canadiens while Carey Price was out with a concussion. However, Primeau struggled a bit at the NHL level. He was 1-2-1 with a 4.16 goals-against-average and .849 save percentage.
Skating and Talent Analysis
At six-foot-three Primeau has good size for a modern goaltender, and he takes full advantage of it. He comes out of his crease to challenge shooters and maximize the amount of space that he takes up. Primeau is a strong skater, who can back up quickly, or get post-to-post in a flash. This makes it hard to deke him, even with his aggressive nature. He also does a good job when there is a cross-ice pass. Good butterfly technique and quick legs take away the bottom of the net. He has very good rebound control for a younger goalie. While this can still improve, he’s already ahead of where most goalies are at his age. When a rebound is given up, Primeau has a knack for staying square to the puck and being ready for the next shot.
In his draft year, Primeau was criticized for having issues with rebound control with his blocker, and for not having a good enough glove hand. These issues seemed non-existent in his time at Northeastern and with the Rocket. He made a big jump in both areas and showed big-time improvement. His size allows him to cover the top of the net even when he is down in the butterfly. His glove had is particularly good at the AHL level. Primeau also has the athleticism to get back into the play and make spectacular saves on the few times where he does get caught out of position.
Primeau can also get out of his net and handle the puck. At times he acts like a third defender, moving the puck up quickly to his defencemen and starting the transition game. Primeau can also make a long pass to a teammate in order to take advantage and catch the other team on a line change. He is also quick to move the puck up the ice when retrieving an icing on the power-play, helping his team to regain the offensive zone quickly. He knows when to cover the puck to get a faceoff, as well as when to keep it moving to help his team get into transition and take advantage of a favourable line matchup or an opponent caught on a long shift.
The son of Keith Primeau, Cayden Primeau grew up around hockey. He experienced the pressure and expectations that come from being an NHLer’s son while playing minor hockey from a young age. This has helped him as he goes through his hockey career. Primeau is very good at keeping his emotions under control. He is able to continue to stand tall, even in the face of heavy traffic. He also is quickly able to shake off a goal against and is ready to make the next save. Even though he was still a teenager, Primeau showed leadership, as a steady presence in the net that his defence could rely on.
While he has done well in the AHL, the fact that there have been two shortened seasons due to COVID has not exactly helped his development. He heads to Laval where he should split the net with Michael McNiven. Primeau is the favourite to be the number one goalie and take the majority of starts. He needs a full season of facing pros and continuing to develop as a goalie. It may even be two years before Primeau is ready for a full-time job in the NHL. That said, he has all the skills to be the Habs goalie of the future if that development goes well.
#9 Prospect: Jan Mysak
Left Wing/Centre — shoots Left
Born June 24th, 2002 — Litvinov, Czech Republic
Height 5’10” — Weight 175 lbs [178 cm/79 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2nd Round, #48 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
With the OHL season never really getting started, Mysak bounced around a bit last season. He started in the Czech League with HC Litvinov, where he picked up one assist in 11 games. Mysak played limited minutes as an 18-year-old in a Men’s League. He also played for the Czech Team at the World Juniors, scoring two goals and three points in five games. Mysak played for the Czech National team on the European Hockey Tour, picking up one assist in two games. He also joined the Laval Rocket, scoring two goals in 22 games. Overall, Mysak had a tough time adjusting to older, bigger and stronger competition, but this was where he was forced to play due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mysak’s overall stride and skating style are unorthodox. In fact, his stride and first few steps are a bit herky-jerky. This can be a problem with his first few steps. However, once he gets moving he shows decent acceleration and above-average top-end speed. There is certainly room for improvement as Mysak needs to work on lengthening and smoothing out his stride to improve his speed and power. That said, it is not a weakness either. Mysak has shown good balance though. He is tough to knock off the puck and can battle through checks to get to the dirty areas of the ice. His agility and lateral movements are not bad, but they don’t stand out either. It is enough to get by right now, but like his top-end speed, it could be improved with a high-end skating coach.
Mysak has an excellent wrist shot and a very quick release. It is deadly accurate and he generates a ton of power. He is also strong with his snapshot and one-timer. Mysak is a pure sniper. He gets himself into good positions without the puck, finding open space in the defence and setting himself up to let go of that deadly shot. Mysak needs to shoot more though. With all of his shots showing such quality, and with the quickness that he can get them off, there is real room for him to score even more goals in the coming seasons. He could also work to get to the front of the net more often, adding goals by scoring in tight to the net, with rebounds and quick one-timers on passes from teammates.
Mysak can play the role of a playmaker as well. He has excellent vision and his quick hands can change positions for the puck and create passing lanes. Mysak has the skill to get the puck through those tight lanes and on a teammate’s stick. He also has the hands and stickhandling skills to slow down the play or speed it, helping his linemates to get open and making plays. He controls the puck down low, extending possession, and waiting for a scoring chance to appear. Mysak has played the point on the Hamilton power play, showing the skill and vision to be a quarterback, as well as taking advantage of a strong slap shot. He also does a good job of getting in on the forecheck and creating turnovers.
Against the junior-level competition, Mysak wins plenty of battles on the boards but has struggled to do the same against men. This may come as he gets stronger and more mature.
Mysak is well advanced defensively for his age. He uses an active stick, his ability to read the play, and his anticipation to break things up in the offensive zone. Whether this is intercepting passes or knocking the puck away from his man, he is a constant pest in all three zones. Mysak is strong positionally, keeping himself in a position to limit scoring chances, helping effectively with backpressure and supporting the defence down low. He is not a physical player, instead, he defends using his smarts and ability to create turnovers. He is also effective as a penalty killer and quickly took to that role in Hamilton. Mysak has enough offensive skill that he can be a threat short-handed as well. When turnovers are created, he is quick to transition to the offence.
Projection and Comparison
Mysak has many of the tools necessary to be an effective top-six forward at the NHL level. With his skating needing improvement, he projects as more of a winger going forward. However, if he is able to improve his first few steps and his agility, he could be even more valuable as a 200-foot centre. This appears to be the development plan the Habs have for him. He could grow to be effective at both ends of the ice. Mysak needs time though and has been sent back to Hamilton. A season in the OHL, followed by at least a year and maybe two in the AHL won’t hurt him going forward. He is a bit of a longer-term project. Expect Mysak to also play for the Czech team at the World Juniors.
#10 Prospect: Josh Brook
Right Defence — shoots Right
Born June 17th, 1999 — Roblin, Manitoba
Height 6’1″ — Weight 192 lbs [185 cm / 87 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2nd round, #56 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft.
Brook took a real step forward in his second season with the Laval Rocket. He put up more points than he did as a rookie, despite playing 27 fewer games. Overall, Brook put up two goals and thirteen assists for 15 points in 33 games played. Brook also improved his defensive game. Late in the season, with the Rocket facing a shortage of forwards due to injuries and call-ups, Brook even spent some time on the wing due to the fact that he was considered the most offensive of the available defenders.
Josh Brook has a very good first step and strong acceleration. This helps him to retrieve loose pucks and to dart into openings. He is more quick than fast though. This is true in both directions. While his top-end speed is good, he is not a speedster. Brook also has very good edgework and agility. His pivots are crisp and clean. His agility makes him difficult to beat in one-on-one situations, and his overall mobility is a strong asset in his game. Brook also has a strong lower-body. He has good balance when battling for pucks in the corners or fighting for position in front of the net. He also is strong on the puck when carrying it. This continues to improve as he gets stronger and more mature.
Brook transitions the puck from defence to offence quickly. He can stickhandle and skate the puck out of danger. Brook also has good skills in making the first pass or controlling things at the blue line. He tends to be a bit of a risk-taker though, and this can lead to some inopportune turnovers. It is an area of his game that he will need to refine going forward. Overall though he makes many more good offensive plays than giveaways and helps his team maintain possession and drive the play forward. Brook has even been known to take the puck end-to-end to create an offensive chance. He can also play the role of power play quarterback, setting things up on the blue line. His poise allows him to control the puck and his good vision and passing skills help him to set up teammates for scoring chances.
Brook also has a decent shot. His slap shot is accurate and he keeps it low and on the net. Brook does a good job of moving his feet and adjusting to the pass in order to get his one-timer off, even if the pass is not perfect. He also has a very good wrist shot and will pinch in from the point to get it off. He also does a good job of using his wrist shot when joining the rush as a trailer. Brook’s quick hands help him to change the angle on his wrist shot before letting it go. His strong lateral agility allows Brook to walk the line, and to open up passing and shooting lanes. He can also make a quick move with his hands to do so as well.
Brook’s defensive game is still a work in progress but improved last season. He maintains very good gap control and can be very hard to beat one-on-one thanks to his excellent agility and edgework. He also clears the front of the net effectively and battles hard in the corners. Brook is not afraid to fight for pucks and to use his frame to contain an opponent, but he is not the type to go looking for a big hit. Instead, he looks to get the puck and quickly transition to offence. From time to time he can be a bit overaggressive in puck pursuit though, pulling him out of position and getting him into trouble. He also could stand to keep bulking up as he sometimes has issues with bigger and stronger opponents.
Brook was hoping to compete for a spot on the Canadiens blue line in training camp this year. However, an injury means that he will be out until at least January and has set him back a bit. Brook will likely join the Laval Rocket when he is healthy. If he can continue to build on the improvements he made in 2020-21, he could be one of the better defencemen on the Rocket when he returns. This could put him in position for a late-season call-up if injuries hit in Montreal as well as allow him to compete for a spot in 2022-23.
#11 Prospect: Jayden Struble
Left Defence — shoots Left
Born August 9th, 2001 — Cumberland, Rhode Island
Height 6’0″ — Weight 194 lbs [183 cm/88 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2nd Round, #46 Overall, at the 2019 NHL Draft.
Struble put up two goals and 10 assists for 12 points in 18 games during his sophomore season with the Northeastern Huskies last year. Like teammate and fellow Habs prospect Harris, Struble is headed back to Northeastern where he will play his junior season this year.
Struble is a highly athletic player who plays a two-way game. This is based on his high-end skating ability as he gets up and down the ice extremely well. Struble has an excellent stride and this helps him to generate both speed and power. His first few steps are very good, and his acceleration allows him to reach his top-end speed quickly. Struble is a fast skater in both directions.
His agility and edgework are also good. Struble has good crossovers that allow him to gain speed and power as he comes out of his turns. His lateral movement also helps him to maintain gap control as well as to create offensive chances in the zone. Struble pivots well which allows him to transition quickly from defence to offence and vice-versa. He is also strong on his skates, with the balance and power to fight through checks and keep the puck. He also does a good job of winning battles in the corners and in front of the net.
Struble is willing to push the pace and generate offensive opportunities. He marries his skating with strong stickhandling and uses this to skate the puck out of his own end as well as carry the play through the neutral zone. Struble is able to avoid defenders and create good zone entries. He also has strong passing skills, head-manning the puck in transition and then following up as the trailer. His vision and stickhandling allow him to control the play at the blue line and his passing lets him set up teammates in the offensive zone. Struble is not afraid to really get deep in the offensive zone, going to the net when he gets the opportunity or pinching to keep the play alive. He needs to be sure to pick his spots though as there are times where he can be over-aggressive.
Struble also has a good shot. His slap shot is powerful and he can really fire from the point, both when controlling the puck and as a one-timer. There are times that Struble is a little wild though, as he needs to work on keeping his shot lower and on the net to give his teammates more opportunities to get to the net and create chances. Struble also has a very good wrist shot and a quick release.
Struble is aggressive in the defensive end of the ice. He loves to hit and will certainly do so if a forward comes on his side of the ice with his head down. He also battles hard in the corners and in front of the net. Struble uses his strong skating in order to defend one-on-one situations. He sometimes gets a bit too aggressive. This can lead to Struble getting caught out of position. He certainly has improved that this season as he does it less often. Struble uses his active stick to cut down passing lanes and to poke-check the puck away from opponents. Struble is also quick to get to dump-ins and loose pucks. Once he has control of the puck, he looks to transition out of the zone.
Struble is also looking to have a big season with the Huskies where he will be one of the team’s leaders. With a good year, the Habs will likely try to sign him in the spring and get him into the AHL. Struble is extremely talented but a little raw. He is also still just 20 years old. Struble may need a year or two in the AHL before he is ready to join the Canadiens. His athleticism gives him high-end potential though and Struble could develop into a top-four defenceman given time and good coaching support.
#12 and Sleeper Prospect: Sean Farrell
Left Wing/Centre — shoots Left
Born November 2nd, 2001 — Hopkinton, Massachusetts
Height 5’9″ — Weight 175 lbs [175 cm/79 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 4th Round, #124 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
Farrell was set to attend Harvard last season, but the Ivy League cancelled their season in response to the Global Pandemic. He returned to the Chicago Steel where he led the USHL in points and was the Player of the Year. Farrell scored 29 goals and 72 assists for 101 points in 53 games with the Steel. He also added two goals and 10 points in eight playoff games as he helped the Steel to win the Clark Cup.
Undersized, Farrell needs to use his skating to make up for this deficiency. He is explosive, with a great first step and excellent acceleration. Farrell also has outstanding edgework and agility. He can make quick cuts and changes of direction. This allows him to successfully make zone entries with the puck, as well as to get past defenders on the rush, or when working off the boards. He also has a low centre of gravity and a powerful lower body. This helps him to be strong on the puck. It also makes him surprisingly strong in battles along the boards for loose pucks. As he continues to move up the hockey ladder, he will need to continue to add muscle to his frame.
Farrell is best known for his playmaking ability. He moves the puck quickly and finds open space, as he is very good at running a give-and-go with a teammate. Farrell sees the ice well and can thread a pass to an open teammate. His ability to make quick moves with his feet and his hands also help to open up passing lanes. He sees the ice extremely well, anticipating the movements of his teammates and getting them the puck when they get open. Farrell protects the puck well with his strong stickhandling. He can extend the play and buy time for his wingers to get open.
Farrell is relentless in puck pursuit. He is effective at forcing turnovers on the forecheck. Once an opponent makes a mistake, he is able to transition it into a scoring chance. Farrell is surprisingly good in battles for loose pucks despite his lack of size.
While Farrell is best known as a playmaker, he can also be a goal scorer. He has an excellent array of shots. He can score with wrist shots, snap shots, slap shots and one-timers. Farrell is even dangerous with his backhand. His soft hands give him a quick and deceptive release on those shots. He is also very accurate, able to pick corners. Farrell generates good power with his shooting arsenal as well. His hands also give him the ability to beat a goaltender in close to the net. He can deke a goalie, bang in a rebound, or one-time a pass to the back of the net. Farrell is not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice, getting himself into a position to take a pass and fire it on the net. With his stickhandling and speed, he is also able to create his own shot.
Farrell brings his high-energy game in all three zones. He is also relentless in tracking down the puck in his own end. A quick stick is able to create turnovers and cut down passing lanes. Farrell will attempt to play physical, but lack of size can be a limiting factor when facing bigger and stronger opponents. He reads the play well and can get himself in positions to intercept passes. Farrell is effective on the penalty kill. He also brings good backpressure when helping the defence to defend against the rush.
Farrell could develop into a top-six forward at the next level. His move to centre in the USHL was intriguing and will be interesting to see if he stays in that position this year in college hockey. He will need to continue working on adding muscle to his frame in order to be effective at the next level. While his skating is very good, he could add a step or two to that top-end speed as well. Farrell should spend a year or two at Harvard, where the lighter schedule will give him plenty of time to work out and add that muscle.
#13 Prospect: Luke Tuch
Left Wing — shoots Left
Born March 7th, 2002 — Baldwinsville, New York
Height 6’2″ — Weight 203 lbs [188 cm/92 kg]
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2nd Round, #47 Overall, at the 2020 NHL Draft.
The Habs second pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Tuch joined Boston University where he had a solid freshman season for the Terriers. He scored six goals and five assists for 11 points in 16 games.
Tuch is 6-foot-2 and 203 pounds. He has the size and skill necessary to be a power forward and is still growing. His skating stride is a little unconventional and awkward, but it doesn’t hold him back as he generates decent speed and has a good first step and adequate acceleration. He’s not a speedster but he can keep up with the play.
Tuch also has good balance and is strong on the puck. Tuch wins a ton of puck battles using that good balance, and leverage, along with his size. He will need to continue to add weight to his frame as he moves up to the NCAA and eventually the pros. He also uses his balance to fight through checks and get to the dirty areas of the ice in order to put up points. Tuch has good agility for a man his size and can slip through openings when he sees them.
Tuch uses his size and strength to establish his position in front of the net or to win board battles. He also is an effective forechecker and will use his body to get the puck. Tuch plays a more physical game than his brother and is a threat to hammer a defenceman if they take to long to move the puck. He is also good at controlling the puck in the cycle game and at driving the net when an opening appears. If an opening doesn’t appear, he drives the net bowling right over the man defending him.
Tuch has soft hands to tip in pucks, pounce on rebounds, and score from in tight when driving the net. He also has a very hard wrist shot and a very good release. Tuch adds to that powerful wrister, with a cannon of a slap shot which he can unleash in one-timers. He is able to control the puck in the cycle game and make smart passes to teammates leading to the majority of his assists. His hockey sense is very good, as Tuch seems to almost always make the smart play with the puck, and he is able to find openings in the defence without it.
Tuch shows good defensive instincts. His hockey IQ is very apparent as he anticipates plays well leading to turnovers and starting the transition game. He is hard on the backcheck and supports the defence down low. Tuch wins battles along the boards in all three zones. His hard-nosed and gritty style helps in his own end of the ice. He is a very good all-around type of player. Tuch can be used on the penalty kill.
Some time in the NCAA, with the shorter schedule, will be good for Tuch. It will allow him time to continue to add muscle to his frame, getting ready to play his physical style in the NHL. If he develops well, he could become a top-six forward in the NHL but one would like to see him increase his offensive production in college. Even if Tuch doesn’t become a top-six player, with his size, skating, and defensive responsibility he still has a good chance of carving out an NHL career, making him a somewhat safe prospect.
Other 2021 Montreal Canadiens Prospects
The Canadiens prospect pool is exceptionally deep. As a result, this article featured a few extra prospects than the rest of our TSP series. In addition to the 2021 Draft Picks and the prospects detailed above, there are some long shots worth keeping an eye on. In goal, Montembault qualifies as a prospect by our criteria and the team also has Michael McNiven, Jakub Dobes and Frederick Dichow. On the blueline, Gianni Fairbrother makes his way to the AHL and Otto Leskinen was given a qualifying offer to keep his rights going forward. Upfront, prospects to watch include Joel Teasdale, Raphael Harvey-Pinard, Blake Biondi, Jack Smith, Brett Stapley, Michael Pezzetta, Jacob Olofsson, Cameron Hillis, Lukas Vejdemo, and Rhett Pitlick.
2021 Montreal Canadiens Prospects Main Photo:
MONTREAL, QC – MAY 03: Montreal Canadiens right wing Cole Caufield (22) shows pride after scoring the winning goal during the Toronto Maple Leafs versus the Montreal Canadiens game on May 3, 2021, at Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)