Mar 14, 2012; Montreal, QC, CAN; Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson (65) and Montreal Canadiens center Lars Eller (81) fight during the third period at the Bell Center. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-US PRESSWIRE

Montreal Canadians Future: 25 under 25 vs Northeast division


Some of you who have followed my work at know of the collective work done to break down the Habs future based on a top 25 under 25 list. This is just coming to a close with the final player profile released on Monday for the Habs brightest young star.

But a list is useless without context and comparison. Thus I have assembled rankings for the Habs immediate peers, the 4 teams that it shares the NE division with.

For convenience I have paired down a the U25 list to a more manageable 15, beyond that point my opinion is largely worthless for a general NHL team depth chart. The rankings are based off of EOTP’s and Pension Plan Puppets U25 rankings for Montreal and Toronto and my own personal rankings for the other 3 teams.

Canadiens Leafs Sabres Senators Bruins


Subban Kessel Myers Karlsson Seguin


Pacioretty Van Riemsdyk Ennis Zinbanejad Lucic


Galchenyuk Gardiner Grigorenko Turris Marchand


Eller Kadri Hodgson Silverberg Hamilton


Beaulieu Riemer Girgensons Cowen Caron


Leblanc Franson Armia Stone Khokhlackev


Gallagher Frattin Foglino Ceci Knight


Tinordi Rielly McNabb Lehner Spooner


Kristo Blacker Adam Smith Subban


Collberg Percy Enroth Prince Sauve


Ellis Colborne Pysyk Da Costa Griffith


Bournival Holzer Catenacci Noeson Krug


Weber Finn Gauthier Wierioch Camper


Palushaj McKegg McCabe Puempel Ferland


White Ashton Sundher Petersson Bartkowski

First glances seem to show a broad parity. Each team has a current or future positional star player at the top, either their teams top defenseman or a ~30 goal scoring winger. Karlsson seems the cream of the lot based on his previous season but long term any of these five could be the best player in the division in a given season. Each team also as certain share of blue chip prospects near the top. Zinbanejad, Hamilton, Rielly, Grigorenko and Galchenyuk with either Hamilton or Galchenyuk seen as the top prospects according to most prospect pundits.

Bruins and Habs are the kings of the top young NHLers to my eyes, Lucic and Marchand, Pacioretty and Eller outclassing the likes of Van Reimsdyk, Turris etc.

Toronto’s group is the oldest, which reflects a general trend for their organization. They have few over 30 veterans which lowers their average age, but by and large they are a team whose talent is concentrated in their prime years (23-28). Generally speaking they have nothing to fear from diminishment of age but neither can they expect overall grand improvements from maturity.

Boston is in an interesting situation with age, their average is pretty low and they have two very young potential stars in Seguin and Hamilton. But the strength of their system is at the top and its cut in half with Lucic and Marchand moving up. Overall this is not a team that expect heavy internal improvements or a large number of effective new graduations. Keep in mind that their depth is very poor, not much to speak off past the first nine.

Ottawa and Buffalo are generally the youngest groups here and the deepest in terms of non-established NHL players (many close to making the jump). Ottawa’s group is particularly strong on potential put not very good with proven NHL ability past Karlsson. But Buffalo has the most worrisome questions surrounding them. Myers has lagged behind Karlssson and Subban, while Hodgson, Armia and Grigorenko have major concerns about translating their game to the NHL. Buffalo can boast of a terrific 08 draft group with Myers, Ennis, Hodgson and Adam.

Montreal has the best top three in my opinion but is generally somewhat older. However, that is due to the dominance of their 07 cohort. Notable in their absence is the 06, 08  and 09 drafts. Montreal’s group is strongly bimodel, with one peak of ability around 07 and another centered on 4 years later at 11.

Tags: Montreal Canadiens Northeast Division Top 25 Under 25

  • The Bear

    You seem to always diss DD in your articles….why is that? The other day, you had DD being moved to the wing….what’s up with that nonsense? DD is the most talented center we have. Stop trying to dismiss the l’il guy….he is a bona fide budding star and we need to stop looking at him for his height only. His height makes zero difference. His 60 points makes all the difference, espcially for a second yr player.

    • Stephan Cooper

      I think expectations on Desharnais have gotten far out of line of his ability and that his results were linemate driven. The 60 point season he got was more a reflection on Pacioretty and Cole than Desharnais position in the league hierarchy.

      Not that I hate him. I just think he’s a supporting cast top six forward rather than the 1st line center people have cast him as. Plekanec is the superior all round talent. Not as good of a playmaker but clearly superior in everything else.

      In other terms, Desharnais is a 60 point center the same way Ryder is a 30 goal scorer. He can do it but only in managed circumstances that are tailored to favour his production and not solely on his own talents.
      I welcome any one that has a good argument to show that I’m wrong though.
      Not that he’s relevant to this article because he’s over 24 years old.

      • The Bear

        I totally disagree. look back through his career numbers. He has not only succeeded at every level, but he has EXCELLED at every level. His numbers almost always get better after each year. Once he adjusts, then his numbers start to take off…and you say its linemate driven? BS. look at last yr…he had what- 22 pts in 43 games, playing with people other than paccioretty or cole, and at that, it was in his first yr. What did eller do in his first year? pleks first yr? 29 pts in 67 games.
        I’m sorry buddy, but you’re wrong. Pacc said he was the best center he’s ever played with….cole loves him…guy boucher says he is a natural who just “gets” the game and sees the ice like most others don’t. He has what you can’t teach…an ability to slow the game down and intuitively feel the play….
        maybe you don’t like him for other reasons? I just can’t figure out why some people are anti DD…it makes no sense at all. I love pleks, but logically, he’s the guy to trade…at his age, making 5 plus and with eller needing to play number 2 minutes, pleks is the odd man out and logically, the one who get us the most value back in a trade….why? because as you rightly say and I agree, pleks is a good defensive player with some decent offensive skills. He is not a 3rd line center and hes not a first line center…and at 5.5 he’s too much for our salary structure/needs right now. I think for now, its DD at 1, eller at 2, and galchenyuk starting at 3 eventually becoming a 1 with DD 2 and eller or leblanc 3….
        Leblanc needs to add 15 lbs of muscle now to be our 3 replacing pleks for the next yr or two until galchenyuk proves himself to be our 1…..dd2, eller 3….leblanc either moves to wing or we then trade leblanc or eller….but dd is a keeper…his size means nothing…if he produces, size doesnt matter. I mean, look at eller…he’s got size and underproduces next to dd….so?
        layter bud…. :-)

        • Stephan Cooper

          Desharnais has produced well once he was a relatively old player for his leagues. Really on his AHL production is impressive, there are plenty of Q stars that fizzle and scoring in the ECHL means pretty much nothing, that’s a league almost everyone with an NHL future is too good to ever play in.

          Even then, 23 AHL scoring phenoms aren’t that special. There is a meme going around about Desharnais scoring in every league. Its factually accurate, but ignores that this is not special at all for players that make it to an NHL top six. Top sixer NHLers largely dominated their leagues on the way to the NHL. For example, you typically need to be about .75 PPG at 20 in the AHL to make it as a .5 PPG second liner in the NHL.

          There is simply no player on the Habs team that can do what Plekanec does. His kind of defensive acumen is rarer that you think and to find it attached to good offense is rarer still. He’s irreplaceable in the short term. Maybe someday Eller manages it, but not next year and probably not the year after either.

          Trading Plekanec is a short path to getting absolutely crushed the next time the Habs plays. He also makes 5 million not 5.5, which is hardly a burden for a player of his rank.

          Leblanc is a RW in the NHL. Full stop. He’s not a center at the NHL level.

          Desharnais scored in his first year on an offensively oriented bottom six line and with a fair amount of powerplay time. Basically they were sending him out to outplay the oppositions thugs. It was impressive but he wasn’t outpacing the likes of Pouliot or Halpern in that role on even strength. He was good enough to deserve a promotion but lets not oversell it.

          Eller on contrast is used as a defensive specialist, plays exclusively in a shutdown role. When he had half-way competent linemates in Moen and Kostitsyn they were very effective in a shutdown role. Maybe he didn’t score all that much but he also prevented goals against.

          Plus he’s 4 years younger. Eller hasn’t hit his prime yet, Desharnais is right in the middle of his. Age wise these should be Desharnais peak seasons.

          Player evaluation goes far beyond just counting points. There are a lot of factors that go into results.

          Most people aren’t against DD (although there are a few that are irrationally so for size reasons). But guys like you have totally overhyped him into something he’s not.

          • The Bear

            Once more, I totally disagree. I really dont think you know your hockey very well. try sticking to biochemistry.
            habs arent winning anything for at least 3 yrs…pleks is not our number 1 anymore, eller needs number 2 time, and galchenyuk is on the way…pleks just dont fit in given where this team is at and what our needs are, going forward. And yes, you are right, in the short term, we are worse off without pleks, and that works fine for me. I want to finish lower again and draft higher again….I repeat, we are not winning the cup this year or next. Paying pleks number 1 money to be a number 2or 3 center just makes no sense.
            I’m looking for DD to put up 65-90 pts per/year over the next 5 yrs. He is absolutely not yet in his prime. He will be in another 3-4 yrs. He also is one of the best bang for buck players in the whole league. Salary cap wise? We need to move pleks, gio, kaberle, gomez, bourque(25 million a year in savings). Once we do that, we can use some big bucks to really fill in this team with top notch free agent wingers over the next 2 yrs. With a core of price,paccioretty, DD, cole, subban, galchenyuk, and maybe’s like eller and leblanc, throw in some of beaulieu, tinordi, collberg, gallager, holland, bennet, thrower, bozon, dietz, kristo, pribyl, ellis, schultz… and we are a cup bound team in 3-4 yrs time. pleks will not be a part of that nor should he be. He has been a valuable canadien…its time for him to move on for the good of the future team.
            I like Eller, a lot, BUT, if he doesn’t start to show it this year and next, there is no reason Leblanc can’t take over the number 3 center role if he puts on another 15 lbs of muscle.

          • Stephan Cooper

            Prime age for offensive players is 23-28. That’s a well established statistical reality. Just because Desharnais has similar stature and background does not make him St. Louis. Desharnais had the most favourable circumstances possible last year with linemates, icetime and usage and put up 60 points. Having a 70 point season at some point is a stretch, let alone doing it consistently.

            If you’re expecting him to get anywhere close to 90 in the modern NHL you’re deluded. Plain and simple. Just another homer who doesn’t understand that their guy isn’t a special unicorn, just another horse. How great would you have thought Ville Leino was if you followed the Flyers?

            Average of 65-90 is 77 points. If Desharnais gets a 77 point or better season next year I’ll put up an article proclaiming how great you are. Because I’m very confident your completely wrong.

            Also, just cause you have cap space doesn’t mean you can get the players you want to fill it. You pay a premium on free agency and your not going to get an established forward to a more cap efficient contract than the one Plekanec has now. If you want wingers in Montreal by UFA, your not going to do better than what Gainey got with Cammalleri and Gionta on big contracts.

            Dumping Plekanec for cap is a losing strategy in terms of cap space. Anyway. the team is going to find all the cap they can use with other contracts being dumped or expiring.

            The reason Leblanc can’t do what Eller does is that Eller is a strong defensive center while Leblanc probably isn’t a center in the professional game.

            Now if you can get a quality young LW to rebalance the lineup, then it might be worth it to move Plekanec. But thinking he’s got to go right now is crazy talk. Plekanec has big value to the club right now and for the next 4-5 years. Defensive centers like him are gold.

          • The Bear

            peak yrs is more like 26-30 these days.
            your conjecture about leblanc is unfounded, as is your misplaced love for eller…he’s good, good potential, hasnt shown much yet.
            As for DD, I dont think he’ll replicate this year as the whole line really clicked and was mostly injury free last yr…but, he should have a good season and a better one the year after…I expect bigger things from him. I think he is a natural who just finds the way to excel and make those around him better. Players llike that are rare.
            ville who? lol…
            per gainey…he chose the wrong free aganets to sign and I said it at the time. With enough cap space, and a positive new management and on ice group, the right free agents will want to come to montreal. Gainey should never have gone for gomez, nor gio …cammy was an ok acquisition that was ruined by the pathetic martin. cammy with gio and gomez made us too small all at once. Its also why we now cant afford to have all of dd, gomez, gio, and pleks…too small…hurts the balance on the team…at most, we keep DD and gio(for now)….
            pleks is the guy to go however…your idea of keeping him another 5 yrs is LUDICROUS. I would rather trade him now, get good value back, maybe be worse this year, finish lower and draft higher next year. we win nothing with pleks this year or next. he is not a 2 or 3 center for 5 million. no way.