Prepare yourself, this is going to be a very long blog. I thought about splitting it into two parts, but I'm not sure when I will be logging on again. Anyways, hope you enjoy.
2013 NHL Entry Draft:
25th overall pick: Michael McCarron
2014 Team: London Knights(OHL)
I cannot say I was very impressed by this pick when it was announced. With Valentin Zykov, Morgan Klimchuk and Ryan Hartman on the board, I envisioned a selection of a player that had a much higher offensive ceiling. While McCarron obviously brings a physical aspect to the game that most can't match, will he be bringing the puck skills to make himself a Top-6 player?
McCarron's scoring in lower levels of hockey doesn't inspire much confidence; one can hope he is a late developer in this area, but precedent for such players is not overly strong. This isn't to say it's impossible, and analysis suggests his upside is better than I originally expected, but his scoring numbers are underwhelming so far. There is the probability he will be able to mix his physical brand of hockey into the game to help him create offensive opportunities most can't, but the ability to finish on a chance will need to be there.
We should not discount Timmins is ahead of the curve though. He's spotted talent that most people completely ignored or underrated, to the great benefit of the Canadiens. Some of his best work has gone unappreciated before it was lost (see Ryan McDonagh, Mark Streit, Mikhail Grabovski) so for now, we will see what McCarron does. He has made the choice to play for the Hunter Brothers in London rather than playing for Western Michigan University this upcoming season, which won't hurt his game a bit. My preference would be to the Knights due to the solid reputation of the Hunters in developing NHL-quality prospects.
Personal Projection: He will start auditioning for a NHL spot in 2016 at the earliest.
34th overall pick: Jacob De La Rose
2014 Team: Leksands IF (Allsvenskan)
I'll be quite honest I felt a lot better about the selection of De La Rose than I did of McCarron. I still had Valentin Zykov on the board ahead of him, but De La Rose does bring his own skill set to the table.
De La Rose has already displayed an ability to match against professionals thanks to his season in the secondary Swedish professional league, the Allsvenskan, this past year. Given that he both managed to produce in a men's league as a 17-year-old while playing a responsible two-way game and delivering a physical impact, it speaks very well to his pro prospects.
The concern of course is De La Rose's scoring impact. There isn't a ton of praise for him as being either creative or having a particularly accurate shot; there is a compliment for power in it, but no scouting group will come out and say he's a decent finisher. Granted he has just turned 18 and was playing against men this past season, his career numbers in Swedish hockey do not show much of a scoring touch, especially compared to say Sebastian Collberg. If he puts in a ton of work, he could make his offensive tools useful enough to be a complementary winger, but I imagine he would need to benefit from a creative centre to really generate any solid offensive numbers.
De La Rose I think projects well for a Top-9 role, but he would really have to max out his tools to warrant as a full-time Top-6 skater.
Personal Projection: Starts auditioning for a roster spot in 2016.
36th overall pick: Zachary Fucale
2014 Team: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
55-45-8 GAA 2.35, Save % .909
Fucale was exactly the name I was hoping to get called at this stage in the Draft. Fucale has a pretty good championship pedigree from this past season with a QMJHL and Memorial Cup Championship on his resume, but he also played on what was likely the best team in the whole CHL. He had to be good enough to help the Halifax Mooseheads win of course, but junior championship success has not folded well into NHL success. From 1998 to 2008, the only active NHL goalies who can be credited with a championship in the QMJHL, OHL or WHL are Roberto Luongo (2 titles), Michal Neuvirth (1) and Jonathan Bernier (QMJHL title, Memorial Cup Championship). Montreal's No. 1 goaltender in Hamilton, Dustin Tokarski, also has a WHL championship and a Memorial Cup win, but he has yet to prove he is NHL material. It should be noted Michal Neuvirth's championship pedigree is further enhanced by twin AHL Championships and an AHL Playoff MVP award. Of the five goaltenders who backstopped Canada's incredible run of five gold medals from 2005 to 2009, only Carey Price is considered a true quality starter among them. Overall, there is not a lot of evidence of championship experience from the junior level transitioning to the NHL.
This is not to say Fucale can't be an exception to recent history given he won the QMJHL title in his draft year, which is not very common among goaltenders in the junior level. Typically junior teams stack an experienced goaltender to bring them the title, but Fucale got the job done, going 16-1 in the post-season and raising his regular season save percentage from .909 to .918 during the playoff run. He lived up to what his team needed him to do and arguably more.
Fucale does have the compliments from the scouts of a sound mental game and solid maturity, which are pretty much demanded for any goalie who might think of playing under the bright lights of the Bell Centre. He has two more years left at the junior level to further hone his game and will likely have an opportunity to represent Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2014 or 2015. He also has the advantage of being able to develop further in the AHL without the pressure of having to be the saviour at 20, as was foisted upon Carey Price. However the thought remains, will he transition? Many of the favoured goalies in the NHL these days were unheralded picks, not top-ranked goaltenders in their draft year, and they have not had an overly strong record of success in the last decade.
I think given the uncertainties surrounding goalies, a later pick could have been used for a goaltender such as Eric Comrie or Spencer Martin. Will they be better goaltenders? Impossible to say. This could be a very good pick but I would think this is a long-term project, and it will be a long time before we have a good idea of what Fucale is truly capable of. That is probably what bothers me most about the pick, even goalies taken very highly can take a long time to develop and the results can still be disappointing. We should see a solid test of Fucale next season though as the Halifax Mooseheads will see a heavy talent depletion as MacKinnon and Drouin move on to the NHL, and will put pressure on Fucale to possibly be the difference for Halifax. It will be an interesting challenge after a year of arguably relaxed play for Fucale.
Personal Projection: Begins pushing for a roster spot in 2017.
55th overall pick: Artturi Lehkonen
2014 Team: KalPa (SM-Liiga)
45-14-16 (12 PIM's)
I cannot say I was particularly pleased with MTL waiting until 55th overall to select a prospect with a good potential for a Top-6 offensive ceiling, but Lekhonen may end up being their best move out of this draft.
At 17, Artturi Lekhonen was one of the most productive young players in the Finnish SM-Liiga, the top professional league in the country. With 30 points in 45 games, Lekhonen bowed only to fellow draft-eligible Aleksander Barkov, the 2nd overall pick, Joel Armia from the 2011 Draft and 2012 selection Teuvo Teravainen for players under 20 in the men's league. Given that Lekhonen is only turning 18 on July 4th, his potential is very promising given his youth, and he may not even be finished growing yet either. He displays the instincts of a goal scorer, good vision, puckhandling and speed and that is never a bad thing to add to a team's system. The Canadiens still find themselves short of pure scoring in their farm system between Christian Thomas, Sebastian Collberg and Tim Bozon as the only players who seem to have projectable ceilings as goal scorers. Given that not all of these players will work out either, it is convenient to add another name to the list. Lekhonen also brings some International experience with him: he scored three goals and an assist in six games at the 2013 World Junior Championships, and would later score three goals and six assists to help Team Finland earn a Bronze at the World Under-18 Championships.
Concerns, of course, rest on that frame and his health. At 163 pounds, it will obviously take some time for Lekhonen to add the muscle to his frame that will allow him to handle the potential grind of the NHL season. It is possible Lekhonen may not develop physically enough to handle the NHL game, and his frame will not be up to the rigors of it. There is also the consideration of the two concussions Lekhonen suffered playing this past season. While he does not appear to be suffering ongoing ill effects, brain injuries can always become an issue. He could theoretically never suffer another one, but it can raise questions about whether future concussions could quickly complicate or damage what could be a very promising career.
Lekhonen was easily one of the most talented players available at this stage of the draft and as I so often argue, a team's drafting philosophy should always focus on Best Player Available, in my view this is the first time they did so in this draft.
Personal Projection: Begins pushing for a roster spot in 2017.
77th overall pick: Conner Crisp
2014 Team: Erie Otters
62-23-24 (139 PIM's)
This is the pick that still leaves me shaking my head. Connor Crisp was passed over in the 2012 Draft and scored less than 40 points, even on a weak junior team that is not what we call encouraging for being a scorer at the NHL level. Crisp can be argued to be a 'man amongst boys' in physical stature in the OHL but didn't seem to be able to employ that advantage to help his numbers.
While Crisp did essentially miss the 2011-12 season due to injuries and that no doubt affected his development, one has to wonder what his ultimate upside is when Future Considerations, McKeen's and even the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau didn't seem to consider him worthy of being ranked.
At this stage I feel this is a wasted pick, and Crisp will have to make a pretty dramatic jump in his production to gain any relevance as a prospect. Without a consensus of scouting data from other sources either, it is hard to gauge just how accurate HockeyProspect's scouting data on Crisp is as well. He reads as a fringe candidate for any serious work in pro hockey given the knocks on his skating and low numbers in his 18-year-old year in the OHL.
Personal projection: Begins challenging for a roster spot in 2018.
86th overall pick: Sven Andrighetto
2014 Team: Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)
53-31-67 (45 PIM's)
While the size isn't ideal for most, this is a much more reasonable selection in the risk/reward column in my view. Hockey Prospect seems to think the world of his offensive skills and he certainly has a production level that backs it up, especially doing better than two points per game in the QMJHL playoffs. He was 6th in the QMJHL in regular season scoring and 4th in playoff scoring. While obviously this does have a lot to do with his age and development compared to 17/18 year old prospects, if he had been drafted in 2011 this would read as excellent production from a player finishing his junior hockey career.
There are concerns, of course. Why is it that despite his great production, Andrighetto went unranked? We have seen players posting exceptional overage years get ranked for draft consideration but Andrighetto seemed to go unnoticed by Future Considerations and McKeen's as well as the NHL Central Scouting Bureau. His size is not ideal either, but his skills package seems built to bypass the issues typically surrounding smaller players.
Can't see him jumping on to the Canadiens roster right away, and since he has just turned 20, he is likely destined to be playing with the Hamilton Bulldogs as he adapts to pro-level hockey and works on adding more muscle. Not a player I was coveting, but his scoring and skills package does offer the promise of being a potential contributor at the pro level.
Personal Projection: Begins challenging for a roster spot in 2016.
116th overall pick: Martin Renway
2014 Team: Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
47-22-28 (56 PIM's)
The Canadiens go back to selecting 1st-time eligibles here, and Reway does have some appealing attributes. He displays high-end vision and top playmaking skills, and this was his transition year to the North American rink so he could show a notable improvement in 2013-14. His skating fits in well with his small frame, although like any smaller player he will likely have to get even faster to help his pro prospects along.
What disturbs me is the notes that he seems to be unwilling and is perhaps even afraid of contact. Even small players need to be able to willing to take some kind of physical toll to play in the NHL, and if Reway will not show a willingness to get into the physical side of hockey, then I would severely doubt his pro prospects and deem him a long-term project as this is unlikely a stage of his game that will change overnight, if it can change at all. I suspect his unwillingness to deal in contact may have been why he was left unranked by other services.
Personal Projection: Begins challenging for a roster spot in 2018.
176th overall pick: Jérémy Grégoire
2014 Team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
62-19-13 (100 PIM's)
Grégoire was taken right at the back of the draft and while his rankings would argue he fell, falling at this point any draft year can be a little irrelevant given the probability of such a player reaching the NHL. While there are good compliments to his defensive and physical game, it was hard to get many remarks about his puck skills and the talk on his skating abilities was divided, but mostly in the negative which never bodes well for an NHL player's prospects.
It is hard to really argue against a 6th-round selection except to say he is not likely to make the NHL, and it is the longshot area of the draft. His display of defensive acumen is a good sign that he has a skill set he could develop that would make him a useful player at higher levels, but there will be a lot of work between now and that time before it can happen, with some breaks along the way as well. He will need to improve his skating and likely his puck skills to fold into further defensive improvements to make the professional levels of hockey.
Personal Projection: Can start challenging for a roster spot in 2018.
Free Agent Frenzy
Additions: Daniel Briere(2 years, 8M) George Parros(Trade w/Florida)
Subtractions: Michael Ryder(NJD), Colby Armstrong(FA), Jeff Halpern(FA), Petteri Nokelainen(FA), Tomas Kaberle(FA), Yannick Weber(VAN)
Wow, looking at that list, we lost 3 players that played a big role in last seasons run. Ryder was the leading goal scorer while Armstrong and Halpern played key roles on the 4th line. They will be replaced by Daniel Briere and George Parros respectively. Also look out for some rookies to emerge from Hamilton, like Michael Bournival and Christian Thomas.
Starting with Briere, I'm not sure if he can replace the goal scoring that Ryder gave us. He will definitely be a positive presence in the locker room, and should add 40 or so points, which isn't great, but he will be a leader in the room and that's what sold him to Bergevein.
Parros is a player I've called out specifically () that I would want Montreal to acquire. He is among the NHL's toughest heavyweights, no matter what Georges Laraque says (guy was as useless as a white crayon) and will be able to handle rivals like Milan Lucic, David Clarkson and Jordan Tootoo, guys who may have been out of Brandon Prust's weight class.
Projected Line-Up(As of July 25th 2013)
LW C RW
Max Pacioretty Tomas Plekanec Daniel Briere
Brian Gionta David Desharnais Alex Galchenyuk
Brandon Prust Lars Eller Brendan Gallagher
Travis Moen Ryan White George Parros
P.K Subban Josh Gorges
Raphael Diaz Andrei Markov
Alexei Emelin(INJ) Francis Boullion/Jarred Tinordi/Nathan Beaulieu
Back Up Goalie
Honours and Awards
P.K Subban: 2013 NHL 1st team all star, 2013 Norris Trophy winner, Team Canada Olympic Orientation Camp invitee
Brendan Gallagher: 2013 NHL All Rookie all star, 2013 Calder Trophy finalist
Carey Price: Team Canada Olympic Orientation Camp invitee
That's all folks. Hope you enjoyed. Sorry for the long blog, wanted to split it up into two parts but I wasn't sure when I'd be able to log on again.