The Hockey News released their annual Future Watch magazine, which ranks all 30 NHL teams by their group of prospects, and ranks the 75 best prospects in the world.
THN interviews a panel of anonymous scouts who currently work for NHL teams to come up with the prospect rankings for each team. They get each team to rank their own top 10 prospects, and then use this to come up with the list of 75.
The Montreal Canadiens current prospect pool was given a B+ and ranked the 7th best crop of future NHL talent. This includes all prospects as well NHL players aged 21 and under. So while Alex Galchenyuk was not ranked among the top 75 prospects, he did help pull the Habs ranking of youngsters up to 7th overall.
The Canadiens had three of their prospects in the top 75 world ranking. First off the list was Jacob de la Rose who came in at 26th. He was selected 34th overall by the Habs in the 2013 NHL Draft and has scored 13 points in 43 games with Leksand in Sweden’s top league.
The magazine notes that any concern over his lack of offense was erased due to his excellent performance at the World Junior Hockey Championships in his home country of Sweden.
Martin Lapointe, the Canadiens Director of Player Development said of de la Rose, “There is so much maturity in his game, really smart, good discipline off the ice. Good skater, defends teammates, kills penalties. Needs to play a physical game more consistently and drive to the net.”
Zach Fucale was the next highest ranked Habs prospect at 33rd overall. Fucale is just eighteen years old, but has the third most wins in the history of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 112. He is just 30 away from breaking the all time record for wins in the historic league and has another season with the Halifax Mooseheads ahead of him before he is eligible to join the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Lapointe said that Fucale “Is an athlete, very agile, great reflexes. A great kid off the ice and it shows in his play. He battles a lot, never gives up, but his demeanor is very calm.”
Sounds an awful lot like a current Canadiens goaltender who just won a gold medal at the Olympics doesn’t it?
The next and final Hab on the top 75 prospect list was Jarred Tinordi. Tinordi was eligible for the prospect ranking because he had been in the AHL leading up to the magazine’s publishing. Nathan Beaulieu on the other hand was with the Canadiens so he counted in the 21 and under team category, but not the individual prospect list.
Lapointe said about Tinordi being demoted after starting the year with Montreal, “I am not worried about him. He is coming along well, skating has gotten a lot better since he was drafted.” Lapointe also mentioned that Tinordi is at his best when he uses his size to his advantage. He is 6’6” and 227 pounds and needs to be more physical on a consistent basis to excel at the NHL level.
Rounding out the top five Habs prospects were 2013 first round pick Michael McCarron and Artturi Lehkonen who was a second round pick by the Habs in last June’s entry draft.
Lapointe talks about how McCarron has taken time to adjust to the Ontario Hockey League as a rookie with the London Knights this season. He says that the big winger will need time to work on his skating and that this offseason will be crucial for him to strengthen his legs and become a quicker player.
Lehkonen is described as a two way player with great hockey sense. Lapointe says he has great skill and anticipation and likes the way he killed penalties and blocked shots at the recent World Jr Tournament, but also played a key role on the first line for gold medal winning Finland.
The bottom five ranked Habs prospects are Sebastien Collberg, who obviously has been dealt to the New York Islanders for Thomas Vanek. Seventh is Charles Hudon followed by Sven Andrighetto, Martin Reway and Tim Bozon.
Jonathan Drouin of the Halifax Mooseheads took home the honors as the number one ranked prospect in the world by The Hockey News. The Halifax Mooseheads forward was taken third overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2013 draft, and is putting the finishing touches on his second consecutive 100 point season in the QMJHL. Drouin has 98 points in just 44 games this season after scoring 105 in 49 regular season games last season, before leading the Mooseheads to a Memorial Cup title with 35 playoff points in 17 postseason games.
Drouin is well deserving of the top ranking, and will soon move to Tampa Bay where he will make a very suitable replacement to Martin St. Louis as Steven Stamkos wingman. It is just unfortunate for Habs fans that the native of Ste-Agathe, Quebec will be playing against them as an Atlantic Division rival.
The 7th place ranking is a tip of the cap to General Manager Marc Bergevin and especially Trevor Timmins who is the Habs head man at the NHL Draft. Just two years ago the Canadiens were ranked 28th by the same magazine, but have quickly stocked their cupboards and have the 7th best group of prospects and 21-and-under players in the NHL.
Should be bright days ahead once again for the most historic franchise in the NHL.