The off-season might not be underway just yet, but now is the time to evaluate and rank the top ten prospects in the Montreal Canadiens farm system.
Over the years, the Canadiens have had various stars come up through their system and become household names in the NHL including Patrick Roy, PK Subban, Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Maurice Richard, Carey Price and Yvan Cournoyer.
The Canadiens have done an excellent job in stocking their farm system over the years and they have a great farm system yet again.
Let’s take a look at their top ten prospects.
2018-19 Top 10 Montreal Canadiens Prospects
1. Nick Suzuki – Centre – Guelph Storm (OHL)
HT/WT: 5’11/183 lbs
Drafted: #13th overall in the 2017 draft by the Vegas Golden Knights
While some might argue that Ryan Poehling is the best Canadiens centre prospect, Nick Suzuki still has the edge. The London, Ontario native had a phenomenal season in the Ontario Hockey League with both, the Owen Sound Attack and the Guelph Storm. Suzuki had a combined 34 goals and 60 assists in 59 games played. At the trade deadline, the Storm acquired Suzuki along with Los Angeles Kings prospect Sean Durzi as they looked to bolster their roster for the playoffs. It’s safe to say that the trade with Owen Sound paid off. Suzuki was outstanding down the stretch and led the Storm in goals and assists in the 2019 OHL Playoffs. He also helped bring the Storm to the Memorial Cup in Halifax, but they had difficulty getting past the competition at the big stage.
With Suzuki’s elite play-making skills, he has the potential to be a top-six centreman. He’s got an incredible wrist shot, great speed, impressive stickhandling and is an excellent passer. When you watch Suzuki, he quickly reminds you of Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders. They both have similar body types but have proven that just because you might be a tad under-sized doesn’t mean that you can’t have the skill-set of the top six centre.
2. Cayden Primeau – Goalie – Northeastern University (NCAA)
HT/WT: 6’3/198 lbs
Drafted: #199th overall in the 2017 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
Primeau, the son of former NHLer, Keith Primeau has truly blossomed into an outstanding goaltender prospect. He’s been exceptional at both the collegiate level and at the international level.
Last season with the Northeastern Huskies, Primeau played in 36 games and posted a 2.09 GAA and a .933 SV%. His GAA slightly rose in comparison to the previous season, but the increase was a slight one. In addition, his play this past season helped Northeastern capture the Hockey East Tournament title and he was awarded the Mike Richter Award.
On the international stage, he played in net for the US World Junior team. He shared the net with Boston Bruins’ prospect Kyle Keyser, but he made it clear that he was better goaltender and played in 5 games for the Americans. In his World Juniors play, he dazzled fans across the globe. He registered a 1.61 GAA and a .936 SV%.
Primeau will likely see quite a bit of time with the Laval Rocket next season. He’ll need some time at the AHL level before making the jump to the NHL. Fans should be patient with Primeau. He’s a talented net-minder. Primeau is always composed. No matter how fierce the competition is, Primeau always looked poised in net. Plus, he’s got quite a glove save.
3. Ryan Poehling – Centre – Montreal Canadiens (NHL)
HT/WT: 6’2/185 lbs
Drafted: #25th overall in the 2017 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
Ryan Poehling is the second-best centre prospect in the Canadiens organization and Habs fans got a chance to check out Poehling at the end of last season. He made his NHL debut and he made it a memorable one. He had an Auston Matthews-like debut and tallied three goals to give him his first NHL hat-trick.
Prior to making his NHL debut, he had finished his junior year at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Poehling had recorded 8 goals and 23 assists in 36 games played. Unfortunately, Poehling and his teammates failed to get too far into the NCAA Tournament as they lost to American International College in the Regional Semi-Finals.
Nonetheless, Poehling is a stud. He does most of his damage from in front of the net. He loves to go right to the opposing goaltender and look for a hole. In addition, he’s got an exceptional no-look pass that can and will fake out NHL defensemen. He’s also a workhorse on the power-play. He’ll often position himself to the left of the goaltender, but he isn’t someone to rely on in a snipping situation. He’s more of a quarterback and looking to set-up his teammates on the power-play. He’s also a solid penalty killer and has shown at the collegiate level that he’s capable of causing some impressive break-ups when his team is a down a man.
There is no doubt that Poehling can and will be a stud in the NHL.
4. Josh Brook – Defense – Laval Rocket (AHL)
HT/WT: 6’1/192 lbs
Drafted: #56th overall in the 2017 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
Josh Brook is coming off an electrifying over-ager season with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Brook was an offensive powerhouse. In 59 games played, the native of Yorkton, Saskatchewan tallied 16 goals and 59 assists. Unfortunately, the Warriors didn’t have much success in the WHL playoffs, but Brook did manage to grab three assists in four playoff games. After the WHL playoffs, Brook joined the Laval Rocket. In 7 games played with Rocket, he had one assist and 10 PIM.
Brook has an outstanding spin move. He can fake out his opponent with his spin move and use it to create scoring chances in high traffic situations. He’s exceptional passing through traffic and he’s got a lovely wrist shot. Plus, he’s not timid about carrying the puck all the way to the net-minder to spark a scoring chance. Brook will also be effective at quarterbacking a power-play in the NHL. But, his only flaw is that he’s not a puck-carrier. He won’t go zone-to-zone with the puck on his stick. He’ll look to create zone exits by passing the puck. So, don’t expect him to skate with the puck across the blue-line very often.
5. Joël Teasdale – Left Wing – Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (QMJHL)
HT/WT: 6’0/203 lbs
The undrafted prospect has truly blossomed into a solid prospect.
This past season, he split his time between the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The Huskies had acquired him prior to the deadline and it’s fair to say that the acquisition of Teasdale was just what the Huskies needed to surpass the competition in the QMJHL playoffs. Teasdale managed to post a combined 43 goals and 37 assists in 66 games played. In addition, he was unstoppable in the playoffs. He mustered up 14 goals and 20 assists in 20 playoff games.
Teasdale is a natural goal scorer and he’s a great backhand pass. He’s proved to be impossible to take down. Teasdale is a menace. When he’s on the ice, the opposition can’t shut him down. Based on his performance over the last couple of seasons in the QMJHL, it’s surprising that he went undrafted. He looks like he could be a steal for the Canadiens.
6. Jesse Ylönen – Right Wing – Lahden Pelicans (Liiga)
HT/WT: 6’1/172 lbs
Drafted: #35th overall in the 2018 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
The Scottsdale, Arizona native looks like he could be the next Jere Lethinen. Ylönen’s father is former Arizona Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Ottawa Senators centreman Juha Ylönen. Jesse Ylönen has shown throughout his time with the Lahden Pelicans that he’s an exceptional two-way forward. He’s got exceptional speed, a great shot and he is a magician when it comes to finish one-timers. In addition, he’s been a line-mate of Canadiens centreman Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the past. They played on the same line together at the 2017 IIHF U18 World Juniors and perhaps they might be paired yet again in the NHL.
Last season with the Pelicans, he proved to be one of the most efficient two-way forwards in Finland. In 53 games played, he tallied 13 goals and 14 assists. While you might consider his numbers to be a tad low, you shouldn’t. The ice surface in Finland is larger than what you are used to in North America. With the bigger ice surface, you tend to see less offensive production.
When he’s ready to come over to North America, Habs fans might see Ylönen spend some time in the AHL as he gets accustomed to the North American style of play. But, it shouldn’t be long after that when he makes the leap to the NHL.
7. Cole Fonstad – Centre/Left Wing – Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
HT/WT: 5’10/165 lbs
Drafted: #128th overall in the 2018 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
The under-sized forward from Estevan, Saskatchewan has turned from being a bottom 6 forward into one of the best forward prospects in the Montreal Canadiens’ organization. In his first full season in the WHL, he failed to crack the 30 point plateau. But, he’s managed to post back-to-back 73 point seasons since. Plus, last season, his shot improved significantly and he was able to post 29 goals in 67 games played.
While he was fairly impressive during the regular season, his performance in the playoffs was atrocious. In 21 games played, he tallied 2 goals and 4 assists. For a player who was a point per game player during the regular season, 6 points in 21 playoff games is a concern.
Even though his playoffs weren’t great, he’s got a great wrist shot, and loves finishing one-timers. He’s has an electric backhand shot and he’s outstanding at creating break-ups in the offensive zone.
If he manages to play a tad more consistently, he could be a solid bottom 6/top 9 forward in the NHL.
8. Scott Walford – Defense – Victoria Royals (WHL)
HT/WT: 6’2/198 lbs
Drafted: #68th overall in the 2017 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
Scott Walford has slightly improved year-to-year in the WHL with the Victoria Royals. As each season goes by, the over-ager seems to get a tad better in the offensive zone. This past season, Walford appeared in 62 games and tallied 9 goals and 38 assists. In addition, he played in 10 playoff games and registered 7 assists.
Walford projects to be a second pairing defenseman. He’s great at stretch passing. When he’s got a teammate, who is in the neutral zone, he’s capable of getting the puck to his teammate from his own zone without difficulty. Plus, Walford has a laser of a shot from the point and he’s proven to be excellent at cross-ice passing.
9. Allan McShane – Centre – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
HT/WT: 5’11/190 lbs
Drafted: #97th overall in the 2018 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
The Collingwood, Ontario native is a solid depth centreman prospect for the Canadiens. If his development continues to go well in the OHL and the AHL, he could be a solid top 9 centre. McShane has a great wrist, but when he’s not hammering home goals, he looking to create scoring chances left and right. He’ll often try to form a 2 on 1 in front of the net and pass across the ice to his open teammate.
In his last two seasons with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, he’s managed to tally 65+ points. But, this past season, his goal totals skyrocketed. In 62 games played, he managed to score 34 goals. If you compare it to the previous season, McShane was able to score 14 goals more. If he continues at this rate, he could be a dominant force in the NHL.
10. Alexander Romanov – Defense – CSKA Moscow (KHL)
HT/WT: 5’11/185 lbs
Drafted: #38th overall in the 2018 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
This past season, Alexander Romanov played in 43 games with CSKA Moscow. He tallied 1 goal, 3 assists and 12 PIM. While his numbers aren’t substantial, he’s not going to be an explosive offensive defenseman, but he can be effective in creating plays that lead to scoring chances. He proved that at the international stage for Russia when he played in 7 games for Russia at the World Juniors in British Columbia.
Romanov has been rather effective when he’s playing in North America, but when he’s back home in Russia, he’s not the same defenseman. After watching many of his shifts from this season with CSKA Moscow, I’ve noticed that he has a lot of trouble getting the puck out of his zone in high traffic situations. Also, Romanov needs to work on his stretch passing. He’ll try to complete a stretch pass, but often it’ll get intercepted. While he has a lot to work on, he’s shown to be of value. He’s your classic stay at home defenseman, but he’s shown to be more of a two-way defenseman at times. He’ll look to set up a pinch in the offensive zone and try to spark scoring chances.