The NHL Entry Draft was held this past weekend in Dallas, Texas. With 11 picks in this years draft, the Habs were able to restock the cupboards with some talented young men and address some holes in the prospect pool in hopes to return to Stanley Cup contention. We are going to review the Montreal Canadiens draft pick by pick and provide some analysis of each player.
Montreal Canadiens Draft Review
The most obvious need for the Habs going into the draft was at the centre position. There has been a gaping hole at the position since Saku Koivu left the team as a free agent in 2009. The Habs addressed this is a big way by drafting seven centremen this year. Most notably top-ranked centre Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
Round 1, 3rd Overall: Jesperi Kotkaniemi C
Kotkaniemi was the top-ranked centre in the draft. He jumped up into the top 5 rankings by both TSN’s Bob McKenzie and Last Word’s own Ben Kerr. Kotkaniemi is a 200-foot centre. While he is best known for his defensive play and playmaking abilities, Kotkaniemi possesses a very hard wrist shot and has a quick release. He has a knack for finding the open areas to get open for one-timers or quick wrister. He has a big frame and is not afraid to use it. Kotkaniemi loves to work down low as well as take the puck hard to the net. He is the centre the Habs have been missing for a very long time.
Round 2 35th Overall: Jesse Ylonen RW
Ylonen was projected to go in the first round on a lot of people’s draft boards. An excellent skater with great vision and stick handling skills, Ylonen is a very dangerous offensive threat. Ylonen has an outstanding shot which is not only hard but accurate. While he is said to play a little too much around the perimeter, we have to remember he is an 18-year-old playing against men. With some added muscle, he may start to head into the dirty areas.
Round 2 38th Overall: Alexander Romanov D
Romanov may seem like a bit of a reach at 38th overall but Timmins is obviously very high on him. His agent said if he was playing in Canada, he’d be drafted in the top 10. Biased opinion, but Romanov does have the tools to back it up. Timmins describes him as Alexei Emelin with offence. He is a good skater who moves the puck well but also has a blistering shot. Romanov loves to take the body, which makes him a threat in almost every aspect of the game. He could turn out to be the steal of the draft.
Round 2 56th Overall: Jacob Olofsson C
Olofsson much like Ylonen was projected as a first-round pick. Olofsson plays a strong two-way game. He has good puck control and uses his big frame to win puck battles along the boards. While his offensive ceiling is questionable, his defensive abilities are not. Olofsson plays a very strong shutdown game. Olofsson has great positioning and the ability to read plays. He is an effective shot blocker and penalty killer as well. He projects as more of a third line centre with second line upside.
Round 3 66th Overall: Cam Hillis C
Hillis is a superb skater. He has the speed to beat defenders wide and also create breakaway chances as he cuts through the middle of the neutral zone. Hillis is an outstanding playmaker with great vision and puck handling skills. His defensive game could use some work and he could use some added muscle to compete at the NHL level.
Round 3 71st Overall: Jordan Harris D
Harris is your modern day defenceman. He is a good skater who moves the puck well and has good hockey sense. Harris has good puck handling skills as well. He is set to attend Northeastern next season where he should have to steeper competition.
Round 4 97th Overall: Allan McShane C
McShane fell to the fourth round after being projected to go in the second. It’s believed that this has to do with his skating ability. His acceleration needs a bit of work which doesn’t allow him to be as explosive as some would like. The rest of McShane’s game, however, is strong. He’s a solid two-way player with great playmaking ability. He also possesses a hard and accurate wrist which he can get off rather quickly. He plays a strong defensive game and works extremely hard. If McShane can develop his skating, the Habs could have another steal in this draft.
Round 5 123rd Overall: Jack Gorniak C
Gorniak played with his high school team in West Salem where he posted a ridiculous 120 points in 46 games. He’s a great skater who possesses a great shot. A University of Wisconsin commit, it will be interesting to see how he fairs against the stiffer competition at the University level.
Round 5 128th Overall: Cole Fonstad C
Fonstad was a point-per-game player for the Prince Alberta Raiders this past season. Another quick playmaker added to the Habs prospect pool, he could end up being a complete steal much like McShane and Romanov. He needs to bulk up a bit to be able to compete at the NHL level, as he is easily knocked off the puck due to his small stature.
Round 5 133rd Overall: Samuel Houde C
Another smallish centre, Houde is playmaking centre with good vision. His defensive game could use some work, however. He will be a project for the Canadiens moving forward.
Round 7 190th Overall: Brett Stapley C
The Canadiens used their final pick of the draft on skilled forward Brett Stapley. Stapley played in the BCHL for the Vernon Vipers this past season and scored over a point per game. He possesses a good two-way game but could use some work on his skating. If his skating improves, he could become a dynamic player. He’s a low-risk high reward pick.
Overall the Habs had a very successful draft. They loaded up on centres and defence using every pick but one on those positions. They went with mostly speed and skill with their picks which is the way the NHL is headed. With the right development, a lot of the late round projects could turn into quality NHLers given their skillset. In terms of grade, Last Word’s own Ben Kerr graded them an A-. It’s definitely a step in the right direction, for a team who is considered to not have many prospects in the pool.