With the best goalie in the world in Carey Price in his prime, the Montreal Canadiens are a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Montreal has a nice blend of veterans and youth throughout the roster. In order to continue to improve and sustain not only a competitive team, but a contending team, they will need their prospects to continue to develop and start contributing to the big club.
Montreal has a pretty good track record at the draft, hitting on both early and late round prospects with varying degrees of success. Alex Galchenyuk, Nathan Beaulieu are examples of first round hits and Brenden Gallagher in the fifth round is a gem of a find.
However there have been some misses as well with first round picks Jared Tinordi and Louis Leblanc, two first round picks combining for a total 103 career NHL games played. The jury is still out on recent first round pick Nikita Scherbak, but Mike McCarron and Noah Juulsen are trending in the right direction.
Top 10 Montreal Canadiens Prospects
1. Mikhail Sergachev, Defence
2015-16: Windsor (OHL)
Drafted: Ninth overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Montreal
Montreal drafted a blue chip defenceman prospect in Sergachev. The 18-year-old made an immediate impression this summer at the rookie tournament and the preseason that carried him onto the opening roster to start the season. Sergachev played in three NHL games before being returned to junior where he will anchor the back end for Windsor as they will be the Memorial Cup hosts.
Expect Sergachev to also be the top defenceman for Russia at the World Juniors which is in Toronto and Montreal, where he will be front and centre for Habs fans. With the changing of the guard on Montreal’s defence from the enigmatic P.K. Subban to the older Shea Weber, the future of the Montreal defence will surely be in the competent hands of Sergachev.
2. Michael McCarron, Center
2015-16: St. John’s (AHL)
Drafted: 25th overall in the first round of 2013 by Montreal
The Hulking centre played in 20 regular season NHL games for Montreal last year and while he only managed to post two points, he brought some much needed size down the middle to the Habs roster. McCarron was converted from the wing to center late in his OHL career in Oshawa and has been dominant on face-offs.
McCarron started the year back in the AHL where he will continue to round out his game and develop some offensive upside. His ability to play in the top six may be questionable, but he looks to be a sure-fire NHL player and an ideal third line grinding two-way center who can keep the other team honest.
3. Artturi Lehkonen, Left/Right Wing
Ht/Wt: 6-0, 174
2015-16: Frolunda (Swe)
Drafted: 55th overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Montreal
After breaking Daniel Alfredsson’s SHL scoring record and leading his team to a SHL Championship, he came to North America and made the Canadiens out of training camp. In his first 12 NHL games he posted two goals and three points before an injury.
He can be an impact player after playing pro hockey for the past four years in Finland and Sweden. He is accustomed to the pro game and playing against men already. Lehkonen has an excellent shot, is a very god skater and has a high compete level.
4. Noah Juulsen, Defence
2015-16: Everett (WHL)
Drafted: 26th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Montreal
After seeing his point total plummet from 52 to 28 in his post draft year in the WHL, Juulsen has returned for his fourth season and has rebounded offensively with 18 points in the first 20 games. Juulsen has been named the captain for Everett and was also the captain of Team WHL in the Canada Russia series where he also scored a goal and was a plus -3 in two games.
Juulsen should be a lock to play for Canada at the World Junior Championship in Montreal. Juulsen has all the tools to play big minutes in a top four role in the NHL, but probably needs a year or two of seasoning in the AHL before he is ready.
5. Nikita Scherbak, Right Wing
2015-16: St. John’s (AHL)
Drafted: 26th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Montreal
Scherbak endured a difficult rookie season in the AHL as a 19-year-old posting disappointing totals of seven goals and 23 points and a minus -26 in 48 games. This year is a different story and Scherbak appears to be a prospect on the rise with eight goals and 15 points already in only 19 games and has an even plus/minus.
Scherbak has the size and skill to be a top-six winger in the NHL, but needs to refine his defensive game and consistency, which are common development needs. Scherbak is trending in the right direction and should compete for a NHL job next year.
6. Charles Hudon, Left Wing
2015-16: St. John’s (AHL)
Drafted: 122nd overall in the fifth round of the 2012 draft by Montreal
Hudon may be one of the more underrated prospects in hockey. Perhaps because he is undersized or maybe because he was not a high draft pick? The 22-year-old was the AHL goal scoring leader this year prior to his latest NHL recall.
Hudon is an energetic player with a high compete level who has endeared himself to the fans and coaches alike. While his offensive output may not translate to a NHL top six player, he would make an excellent bottom six energy player with offensive upside. History has shown teams need offensive support from their bottom six to go deep in the playoffs.
7. Martin Reway, Left Wing
2015-16: Gotteron (SWI)
Drafted: 116th overall in the fourth round of the 2013 draft by Montreal
The undersized winger has been an electric offensive player wherever he plays, QMJHL, Europe, and the World Juniors. Reway was poised to make his AHL debut and all signs were pointing towards his ascension up the ranks towards being an offensive impact player for Montreal.
Unfortunately, Reway will miss the entire season with a mysterious ailment. He was in hospital in intensive care for several weeks. Missing an entire year at 21-years-old will be detrimental to his development and career, but at this point the only concern is his health.
2015-16: St. Cloud State (NCHC)
Undrafted: Signed as a free agent in 2016
Montreal signed Lindgren as a free agent out of the NCAA at the end of last season. The signing shows a lack of confidence in prospect Zach Fucale and Lindgren has been the starting goalie for St. Johns in the AHL in his rookie season. He has been impressive posting a 8-4-0 record with a 2.17 GAA.
With Carey Price holding the fort in the NHL and Al Montoya as a suitable backup for now, there is no sense of urgency with Lindgren. The Habs can allow him to adapt to the pro game and develop in the AHL for the immediate future.
9. Daniel Carr, Left/Right Wing
2015-16: St. Johns (AHL)
Undrafted: Signed as a free agent in 2014
Another undrafted College free agent, Carr is already 24-years-old and has essentially reached his development peak. The undersized winger plays a hard game for a player his size. He played in 23 NHL games last year and has seen action in nine this season with a total of 11 points in 32 games.
Carr will never crack the top six and may never crack the lineup on a regular basis, but if he does he could be a energy player on a checking line with some offensive upside. A depth player at best, but one the fans will love.
10. Will Bitten, Right Wing
2015-16: Flint (OHL)
Drafted: 70th overall in the third round of the 2016 draft by Montreal
Another undersized winger for the Canadiens. Bitten is a polarizing prospect that some scouts love, and others don’t think his game will translate to the NHL very well or at all. He is a good skater which bodes well and he has speed that will serve him well at higher levels. He has a good compete level and is willing to play a physical game against bigger opponents and is an effective forechecker.
He is a proven scorer at the OHL level and scored almost at a point per game pace in his draft year. If his offence will translate to the pro level will be the question going forward with Bitten, but the tools are there. With one or two more years of OHL development and likely some AHL seasoning ahead for him, the wait time is several years on this prospect.