Team Recap: Montreal Canadiens
Steve Kournianos | 11/13/2020 | Nashville | [hupso]
There was a point before the draft when the Montreal Canadiens owned a mind-blowing total of 13 picks; so the fact that they ended up with “only” eight requires a detailed attempt at explaining why general manager Marc Bergevin decided to thin out his draft-day options. For starters, the Canadiens were expected to be a lottery team with a shot at a top-five pick before the COVID shutdown, then goalie Carey Price’s heroics against Pittsburgh made them an official playoff team without a shot at a top-15 selection. Additionally, they owned three second-round choices, which meant they would either load up on near-first-round quality, have the flexibility to either trade up, or make moves centered on the addition of NHL-proven talent. Bergevin chose the latter, but only after he spent his first pick on big defenseman Kaiden Guhle and used his first two second rounders on quality wingers Luke Tuch and Jan Mysak at 47th and 48th overall, respectively.
By shipping his 56th to Tampa, however, Bergevin was able to acquire a second-rounder in 2021 in addition to a 5th, which he used to take undersized playmaker Sean Farrell. You have to figure that 2021 pick will be late in Round 2 since Tampa is expected to contend again, but the addition gives the Habs anywhere between 12-14 picks in 2021, including multiple choices in several rounds. Keep in mind that Bergevin prior to the draft traded a 2020 third rounder to St. Louis for goalie Jake Allen and a fifth-round pick to Carolina for defenseman Joel Edmundson. In summation, Bergevin traded 2020 picks for 2021 selections in Rounds 2, 3, and 7, plus added solid veterans in Allen and Edmundson. And although you can file this under the useless information department, it is quite surprising that the Habs went through the entire draft without taking a single QMJHL prospect. In fact, you have to go all the way back to 2011 when the Canadiens drafted a Quebec-born skater higher than the second round.
Kaiden Guhle, Defenseman (16th overall)
Sooner or later we’re all going to accept the fact that Marc Bergevin was a physical defenseman during his NHL playing days which makes the selection of similar players at the draft far more negotiable than if the Habs’ GM was a playmaking center or scoring winger. That’s why the selection of Guhhle at 16th overall will remain problematic for a sizable chunk within the fan base; regardless of the fact that Bergevin and scouting director Trevor Timmins agreed on forwards with each of their three previous first rounders. But even the impressive developments of recent Canadiens’ draftees shouldn’t have precluded the Canadiens from benefitting from a deep collection of high-end forwards that included Hendrix Lapierre, Lukas Reichel, and Dawson Mercer. Nonetheless, selecting a big-bodied, minute-eating defender like Guhle simply adds to an already impressive blue line group with the likes of Alexander Romanov, Mattias Norlinder, Josh Brook, Jayden Struble, and Jordan Harris. I like Guhle’s potential but in my book he was over-drafted by close to 10 spots and didn’t do enough to be the centerpiece for a team that had the eighth worst record in the NHL.
Luke Tuch, Left Wing (47th overall)
We’ve heard for several years that the Canadiens want to be a tough team to play against, so the decision to draft one of the more physical left wings should not have surprised anyone. A quick look at Tuch’s production (15 goals and 15 assists in 47 games) may seem pedestrian for junior-age standards, but the future Boston Univ. Terrier played in a team-first system fueled by an aggressive, physical forecheck and three-zone responsibilities. In other words, had Tuch played in a wide-open circuit like the OHL or the Superelit, you’re probably looking at a 30- or 40-goal scorers, or at least at that sort of pace.
Jan Mysak, Center/Wing (48th overall)
There seems to be a collective sentiment that this pick was nothing short of a home run, mostly because of Mysak’s reputation as a potential top-15 pick for most of his draft season. The reality, however, is that Mysak did not produce as dominant a campaign in either the Extraliga or OHL as we had initially expected, plus his international showings were inconsistent. Nonetheless, he still possesses game-breaking skill and has significant upside that could end up placing him in a top-six NHL role for many years to come.
Jack Smith, Center (102nd overall)
The Habs haven’t been shy abut drafting Minnesota kids the last few seasons, so it made perfect sense that they took one of the state’s top forwards in Smith, who was supposed to play for the NTDP but turned down the invite to try and win a state crown with St. Cloud Cathedral. He’s got a sturdy frame (5-foot-11, 182 pounds), but what makes Smith a dangerous dual threat is his competitiveness and silky-smooth playmaking style. On top of that, he can absolutely whistle pucks with authority. Smith is committed to Minnesota-Duluth.
Blake Biondi, Center (109th overall)
Much like Smith, Minnesota’s reigning Mr. Hockey is a UMD Bulldog recruit who also earned a spot on the NTDP but chose for a shot at a Class 1A title in Minnesota, which Biondi’s Hermantown Hawks lost in a heartbreaking overtime to Mahtomedi. He’s a competitive kid who can wear many hats, but driving possessions and creating open shooting lanes are things Biondi does extremely well. He played for Team USA at the Ivan Hlinka, where he showcased a blistering wrist shot and battled hard off the puck.
Sean Farrell, Center/Wing (124th overall)
It’s a shame that a dominant wire-to-wire draft season and an NTDP pedigree aren’t enough for NHL teams to overlook a small frame, but bet on the 5-foot-8 Farrell to be one of the candidates to make teams regret passing on him. Remember, Farrell as a late birthday was on the 2019 U.S. U18 program that smashed all sorts of draft records, so clearly the kid knows how to play. He validated his performance on that squad with outstanding dual-threat performances for the USHL’s Chicago Steel this past season, but Farrell also is an energetic forward off the puck whose hard work on the forecheck and in the corners can be overlooked by his point production. He’ll be attending Harvard this season.
Jakub Dobes, Omaha (136th overall)
There weren’t many standout USHL goalie prospects this past season, so the Habs must have liked Dobes’ first-half play since he was up and down after a solid World Jr. “A” Challenge with the Czechs last December. You probably get tired of hearing every goalie assessed as “big and athletic”, but that’s exactly the kind of style you’ll get from the 6-foot-4 backstop. He’s headed to Ohio State, where he should be expected to remain all four years and attempt to improve some mechanical issues.
Alexander Gordin, Right Wing (171st overall)
After being passed over last season, Gordin went out and had himself an outstanding overage campaign as a top-line winger on a deep SKA-1946 squad. Big, sturdy, and incredibly deft at threading the needle, Gordin made the most of his favorable zone starts and power-play time by being a bull along the boards and wearing down defenders while keeping the puck glued to his blade. He isn’t very fast in open ice, but boy does this kid have a knack for winning puck battles and jumping into openings with cat-like reflexes. Gordin also blisters the puck from that right circle, but his pinpoint passing also helps keep opposing goalies honest.