Montreal Canadiens Depth Chart: Indefinite Defensemen (2)

Feb 17, 2012; Buffalo, NY, USA; Montreal Canadiens defenseman Raphael Diaz (61) during play in the game against the Buffalo Sabres at the First Niagara Center. The Canadiens beat the Sabres 4-3 in a shootout. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE

The Young NHLers:

The Habs broke in three defenseman as full time NHLers next season. None look to take the league by storm any time soon, but if the top 3 has already been established then these guys can provide value beneath them.

Emelin is probably the gem of this group. He had a horrid year in terms of results, with an ugly -21 on ES.  A lot of that was out of Emelin’s hands though, as the goaltending he got behind him was a simply brutal .898. Almost no defenseman could break even with that save percentage. Unless Emelin is uniquely bad at allowing high quality chances this should revert to team means. His shots data is far more encouraging. Emelin had the best shot metrics/puck possession stats of the non-top 3 regular defenders and did it as the being on the team’s second pairing more than any other. Beyond his good puck possession play, Emelin is a top notch on-ice hitter and the league’s best defenseman at drawing penalties. Emelin’s tools are that of a solid all round 2nd pairing defender and top level physical threat. It’s pretty easy to see him living up to that next NHL season. One only has to look at how well he’s played for Team Russia over the years to appreciate what Emelin can be for the Habs. Emelin was also a top-notch powerplay shooter in the KHL, it will be interesting if he starts to get the chance to play with the man advantage, especially with one of Markov or Kaberle feeding him passes. He was a fairly weak penalty killer though.

Raphael Diaz has the least flash of this group, there’s pretty much nothing spectacular about him. But he did play like a reasonably solid bottom pairing defenseman in 2011-12, his only issue being that he was playing on the 2nd pair most of the time. Diaz’s stats largely mirror Emelin’s, being basically what Emelin’s would look like if he had consistently average goaltending behind him. Diaz is a good passer with a reasonably competent transition game. Even if he doesn’t become anything special its easy to see him as a fixture of the Habs bottom pairing going forward.

The one thing I can say about Yannick Weber is that he probably shouldn’t have been in the NHL last season. His on ice results were the absolute pits even in soft minute usage. The team had no way to shelter him with a solid partner like he was the year before with Spacek and as a result Weber crumbled.  The only thing he was competent at was the powerplay, but not so much that a good team would have kept him in the lineup. Yannick seemed too young, inexperienced and weak for the NHL at 22, but his age is his saving grace. Most young defensemen stink. There is plenty of time for Weber to develop into something useful. But in the meantime he should’t be counted on to do anything important.

The System:

This is a Stephan Cooper article and 500 words have gone by without a chart. This lapse clearly must be rectified.

Habs Defenseman Prospects
Left Defense

Age

Experience

Projection

ETA

St. Denis

26

3 Years AHL

Depth Defenseman

2012-13

Bennett

21

2 Years NCAA

3rd Pairing Puckmover

2014-15

Tinordi

20

2 Years CHL

2nd Pairing Physical Force

2013-14

Beaulieu

19

4 Years CHL

#3 Offensive Defenseman

2013-14

Didier

19

1 Year NCAA

Depth Defenseman

2016-17

Right Defense

Age

Experience

Projection

ETA

Nygren

22

2 Years SEL

PP Specialist

2012-13

Patyrn

22

4 Years NCAA

Depth Defenseman

2014-15

Ellis

20

4 Years CHL

4-6th Defensive Defenseman

2014-15

Dietz

19

4 Years CHL

2nd/3rd Pairing Defenseman

2015-16

Thower

18

1 Year NCAA

2nd Pairing Two-way Defense

2015-16

While this group doesn’t project to have a top level defenseman like Subban in it (although one could emerge from this strong a pack) its deep and diverse.  Plus with equitable balance between left and right sides. There are offensive wizards like Beaulieu, quiet stay at homes like Ellis, physical monsters like Tinordi and all round two-way players like Thrower.  The core of the system is these 5 highly regarded CHL defenders.. I’d bet on getting at least 4 top 6 NHL bodies from this group, 2 of which at a 2nd pairing level.

No one looks NHL ready yet, but in a year’s time expect some of the bluechippers to start filtering in to the bottom pairings. Beaulieu and Tinordi are seen as the best bets.

The Future:

The depth chart for 2012-13 looks something like this:

Left Right
Gorges Subban
Markov Emelin
Kaberle Diaz
Boullion Weber
St. Denis

The first pairing is strong and the third pairing is decent but there are a lot of question marks on the second pair, whether the Russian duo can live up to expectations.

Here’s how I think things turn out in two years:

Left Right
Gorges Subban
Markov Emelin
Tinordi Diaz/Weber
Beaulieu Ellis
 ——– ————-
Bennett Dietz/Thower

The top 4 solidifies in its current configuration although the pairings may fluctuate according to need and availibilty. I feel pretty good about Markov and Emelin living up to their futures. Diaz and Weber have fought it out for the 3rd right pairing job and the better one remains. Tinordi is the first prospect to make the team, playing as a depth physical defenseman beside the steadying experience of a two year older Diaz or Weber. Beaulieu is coming behind him, apprenticing in the AHL to be Kaberle’s and eventually Markov’s replacement. There is a steady push from the bottom as new prospects begin training in Hamilton to compete for future spots.

On the whole it looks like Montreal has the pieces it needs to build a well balanced defensive corps from internal growth.

Topics: Alexei Emelin, Montreal Canadiens, Raphael Diaz, Yannick Weber

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