The NHL Draft was always a great way for NHL executives to stockpile young talent, but in the salary cap era, it has become the most important tool and best way to build a Stanley Cup winning roster.
Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin and Director of Scouting Trevor Timmins, went to work yesterday, seeking as they said, size, character, hockey sense and grit. They got all these tools in abundance with their first pick alone.
With the 25th overall pick, the Canadiens selected the biggest forward in the draft when they nabbed 6’5 and 238 pound Michael McCarron. McCarron was seen as a bit of a reach at 25, but he fills the biggest need of the Canadiens, with his large frame and physical style.
Bergevin noted that the United States National Development Team would use McCarron in 5 on 3 situations and noted that his coach showed plenty of confidence in his hockey sense by using him in difficult situations.
McCarron is yet to choose between playing NCAA next season with Western Michigan University under the tutelage of former NHL Head Coach Andy Murray, or reporting to the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, where he would learn the ways of the game from Dale Hunter.
Hunter was known for his abnormally physical style and will do everything he can to get his hands on McCarron, and judging by the Knights record of pushing out NHL talent, that may be the best fit for the power winger.
With the 34th pick, the Canadiens went with Swedish winger, Jacob De La Rose. De La Rose played for Leksands in Sweden’s second division this past season. He projects to be a two way forward and a very safe pick, as his defensive game will help him to translate to the NHL game with ease.
De La Rose future is still up in the air for next season as well. He is likely to return to Leksands, who he helped get promoted to Sweden’s Elite League next season. He could also be picked by a CHL team in the upcoming CHL Import Draft and if a deal can be made with Leksands, he could make the trek to North America as soon as next season.
Montreal used the 36th pick to grab goaltender Zach Fucale from the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Fucale has been an absolutely dominant goaltender the past two seasons in Halifax, winning 77 regular season games in his young QMJHL career.
Fucale became the undisputed starter with the Mooseheads as a 16 year old in the 2011-12 season and started an astounding 58 games as a 16 year old goaltender in a league dominated by players aged 19 and 20. He put up impressive numbers, with a 32-18-6 record and then stepped up in the playoffs, leading Halifax to the league semi-finals.
Fucale would be even better as a sophomore, helping the Mooseheads to establish dozens of league records with a personal 45-5-3 regular season record. Fucale kept it up en route to winning the President’s Trophy with a 16-1 playoff record, before capturing the Memorial Cup as Canadian Junior Champions.
The Habs next picked at 55th and used it to select offensive winger Arturri Lehkonen from Kalpa in Finland’s best league. Lehkonen played the entire season against much older competition in SM-Liiga, the Finnish Elite League. He established himself quite well, posting 30 points in 45 games, exceptional numbers for an underager in a mens league.
Lehkonen represented his country at both the Under 18 and World Junior Tournaments this past year. He was, according to Timmins, “the best forward at the Under 18 Tournament.” He also scored 3 goals and added an assist in six games for an underwhelming Finland team at the World Junior Tournament at Christmas.
Now in the third round the Canadiens elected to take Connor Crisp with the 71st pick of the draft. Timmins said that Crisp certainly filled a need for the Habs, and that need was for a big, gritty, character forward. Crisp’s character and mental toughness can quickly be described by the night he agreed to play a game in goal for his Erie Otters when they ran out of other options. The big center was coming back from injury and with their only goalie dressed suffering an injury two minutes into a game, Crisp volunteered to suit up for the first time in his life.
The Otters lost decisively that night, but Crisp showed he would do whatever it took to help his team. He also potted 22 goals this past season for Erie, a very young team struggling in the competitive OHL.
The Habs brass suddenly switched gears and used the next two picks on smaller, more offensive wingers from Europe, who play in the QMJHL.
With the 86th pick, Montreal grabbed Sven Andrighetto, from the Rouyn Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL. Andrighetto was passed over in last year’s draft and promptly put up 98 points in 53 games, good for sixth highest in the league. The native of Sumiswald, Switzerland, is well known for speed, speed and more speed sprinkled with plenty of skill. He was very impressive for Switzerland at the World Junior Tournament last year, posting 5 goals and 8 points in 6 games.
Andrighetto is slated to return to Junior next season for his overage year, but could very well play himself into a scoring role with the Hamilton Bulldogs as soon as September.
With their next pick, at 116th overall the Canadiens would pick Martin Reway, from the Gatineau Olympiques of the QMJHL. Another slightly undersized winger born in Europe, Reway also impressed offensively by scoring 50 points in 47 games in his rookie campaign in Gatineau. Born in Praha, Slovakia, Reway is extremely talented offensively and will return to the QMJHL next season, poised to challenge for a scoring title.
Montreal’s final pick would be Jeremy Gregoire, from the Baie Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL. Continuing the trend of selecting out of their own back yard, Montreal nabbed the Sherbrooke native and found themselves a good sized center who scored points in bunches last year in the QMJHL.
Following a midseason trade from the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Gregoire would finish the regular season with 32 points in 62 games.
Gregoire stepped it up offensively in the postseason, scoring 16 points in 18 games and helping the Drakkar all the way to league final before bowing out to Fucale’s Mooseheads.