Draft Day. June 30th, Newark, New Jersey. Marc Bergevin and his super side-kick Trevor Timmins (pictured with 2012 draft pick and WJC standout Charles Hudon) will wake up with one goal in mind: supplementing one of the NHL's deepest prospect pools. with a late first rounder (25th overall, to be exact) and three 2nd round picks in a very deep draft (the best in a decade), something has to give.
June 30th will be a busy day for all 30 organizations, from Colorado to Chicago, all looking to acquire top prospects. Who will go number 1? Seth Jones? Nathan Mackinnion? Jonathon Drouin? I don't really care. All I really care about is who goes #25 to Montreal.
Don't get me wrong, I love the draft. It is my favourite day of the year. Although I am particularly interested in who is selected by Montreal more than I am the others.
Today I will be bringing you a list of 5 prospects the Habs would love to select.
1) Anthony Mantha
Mantha is a 6'4", 201 lb power forward who has charged up most draft boards this year due to his QMJHL-leading 50 goals. Mantha's best asset is likely his elite skating, but his shot isn't far behind. Despite his stature, Mantha isn't a prototypical power forward in that he generates a large percentage of his offense from outside the hash marks. He can be a physical presence, but he doesn't need to be to succeed. He can snipe from just about anywhere on the ice, and he's not afraid to shoot, leading the Q this year in shots, with 323, or 4.8 per game. It would be one thing to see a player jump from 22 to 50 goals because of a high shooting percentage, but the development of his overall game mixed with his tendency to choose shot over pass leads me to believe that he can be a dominant scorer in the NHL for years to come. I don't see him being available at #25, so it is likely that Montreal would have to trade up a few selections to get this man-child.
2) Ryan Hartman
A scrappy player, Hartman can put pucks in the net and will drop the gloves with any body. He is exactly the player Montreal needs and you can bet that if he is available at 25 the Habs will select him.
3) Kerby Rychel
Rychel is a 6'1", 205 lb winger whose best attributes are his puck control, his grit, and his shot. He's a hard worker who will go to the corners, drive the net, and pot a lot of goals from close in. His wrist shot, however, also allows him to score from mid-range when given the chance. His biggest weaknesses are likely his skating and his lack of creativity. Scouts differ on exactly how much of both a possession-driver and a goal-scorer in the NHL he can be, but the more popular opinion seems to be that he lacks the upside to be a top-6 forward. He is an imposing figure, often appearing even bigger than his frame, which will make him an appealing pick for some teams.
4) Valentin Zykov
Zykov is a Russian-born power forward - measuring 6'1", 215 lbs - who won rookie of the year honours in the QMJHL this past season. Although not the tallest player, has a large body and uses it effectively to drive to the net, with a goal scorer's instinct. He also possesses a very quick release, which has fooled Q goalies all year long. Scouts deviate on how good of a skater he is, with some praising his lateral quickness and ability to go east-west, and some saying that his hunched-over style means that his top level quickness and first few strides aren't as fast as they should be for a player of his talent level, and that if he doesn't adjust that could hold him back from being a top-6 forward at the NHL level. Nobody will question Zykov's puck handling or ability to take on a defender 1-on-1 however, as he does a great job shielding the puck with his body and can muscle past defenders.
5) Samuel Morin
He stands at 6'6", 205 lbs, and uses that size to his advantage, both in terms of a physical presence and in terms of long reach to break up plays. He is a dominant defensive defenseman whose greatest advantage, besides his size, is his fluid skating ability, something which can set him apart from other big men at the highest level. Morin came into the year as a potential mid-round selection, but has charged up the rankings thanks to a strong showing at the U-18s with Canada - winning a gold medal - and a solid regular season in which he doubled his points, but most of all, an incredible playoff in which he tied for second in team scoring with seven points in six games. Many scouts believe there is untapped offensive potential here, and at that size, Morin could become something special.
Honourable Mentions: Adam Erne, Jordan Subban
So there we have it folks. I certainly believe that Montreal will leave the Prudential Centre this Sunday with one, or maybe two of these prospects. I would be a very happy camper if we got any one off of this list. But for now, we can only speculate.
The cheque is in the mail, and I'm out of here. See you Sunday.