Montreal Canadiens Will Fill Biggest Organizational Need At NHL Draft

DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
DALLAS, TX - JUNE 23: Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens have a plethora of picks in the upcoming draft in October. They will fill their biggest need.

The Montreal Canadiens have loaded up on draft picks for the past three years. Every chance Marc Bergevin has had to add another draft choice, no matter what round, he has taken advantage. This strategy was on full display at the 2020 trade deadline.

Pretty much every player in the organization who was scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent was traded away for a draft pick. Marco Scandella was traded for second and fourth round picks. Ilya Kovalchuk went for a third rounder. Nick Cousins was dealt for a fourth round pick. Nate Thompson moved to Philly for a fifth and Matthew Peca was dealt for a seventh rounder.

This armed the Habs with 14 picks in the 2020 NHL Draft, which they were supposed to host in June.

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Things have changed around the world since the trade deadline in late February. The draft was not held yet and the Stanley Cup Final just began in the middle of September. The Habs moved three of their picks in trades for Jake Allen and Joel Edmundson but still have 11, including three in the second round.

They also saw their first round pick move down from what was originally going to be 9th overall, to 16th when they beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the play-in series.

Still, even though their first round pick isn’t as early we thought it would be and they moved a couple later picks, the Canadiens will definitely be able to fill their biggest need at this year’s draft.

NHL teams don’t often target specific needs at the draft, they elect to just take the best player available. However, the Canadiens have focused in one some pretty specific organizational needs the past two years when they had 21 picks in total.

At the 2018 event, the team clearly decided to target centres as they were weak down the middle for many, many years. Of their 11 picks, six of them were centres. Jesperi Kotkaniemi was taken third overall, and later on the Habs took Cam Hillis, Jacob Olofsson and Brett Stapley who all look to have a decent chance of making the NHL some day.

Last year, the Habs had 10 picks and this time seemed to really drill down on left defencemen. This has been a huge need since 2017 when the Habs lost Andrei Markov to free agency, Alexei Emelin in an expansion draft and Mikhail Sergachev and Nathan Beaulieu to trades.

So, at the 2019 draft they selected Jayden Struble, Mattias Norlinder, Gianni Fairbrother and Jacob LeGuerrier with four of their first five picks. Struble and Norlinder took huge strides last year and have the potential to turn into NHL regulars in a year or two.

So, the Habs have filled their two biggest needs with exciting prospects. They could use another young right defenceman or two, but there is a lot of potential in Cale Fleury, Josh Brook and Noah Juulsen to turn into solid pro players. That leaves their biggest needs on the wing, specifically the left side.

Cole Caufield and Jesse Ylonen are two great prospects, but they both play the right side. Beyond them, the top winger prospects are Rhett Pitlick, Joel Teasdale and Rafael Harvey-Pinard. They aren’t exactly blue chip prospects who are ready to make the jump to the top six soon.

Luckily for the Canadiens, there is a long list of great wingers available in this year’s draft. The Habs may have dropped from 9th to 16th in the first round, but that won’t stop them from finding a great winger in the opening round.

The top pick of the drat is going to be Alexis Lafreniere. Also sure to be gone by the time the Habs pick are Quinton Byfield, Tim Stutzle, Jamie Drysdale, Jake Sanderson, Marco Rossi, Cole Perfetti, Yaroslav Askarov, Lucas Raymond and Alexandre Holtz.

Had the Habs kept the 9th overall pick, they’d have grabbed someone from that list. But they are going to have to reach a little deeper than that. When they do, they will find some tremendous wingers.

Jack Quinn is probably going to be taken before 16th, but most have him ranked somewhere around the middle of the first round. He scored 52 goals and 89 points in 69 games for the Ottawa 67’s last year.

Seth Jarvis is another great goal scorer out of the CHL. He scored 42 goals and 98 points in 58 games for the Portland Winterhawks. The right winger isn’t the biggest prospect in the first round, but he can score as well as most of them.

Dawson Mercer was a depth piece for Canada at the World Juniors last year. He scored 24 goals and 60 points in just 42 QMJHL games last season.

Rodion Amirov is an intriguing prospect, as are many of the best Russian teenagers. The left winger played 21 KHL games last season but, like many Russian youngsters he had just two points. When he played Junior he was dominant, scoring 22 points in 17 games in the MHL which is Russia’s best Junior league. He was excellent at the World Under-18 tournament two years ago, scoring six goals and nine points in seven games.

Jacob Perreault would be a great addition as well. He is a bit bigger than the rest at just under six feet tall and about 200 pounds. He just turned 18 in April but already has two seasons with 30 or more goals in the OHL under his belt. He would have had 40 this year, as he finished with 39 and 70 points in 57 games. He also happens to be the son of former Canadiens leading scorer (seriously, 2001-02 was not a high scoring season for Habs) Yanic Perreault.

The 16th overall pick might be an early one to use on JJ Peterka, but the German winger is a solid two-way piece as well. He scored 11 points in DEL this season, but was great at the World Juniors.

No matter which direction the Canadiens choose to go in the first round, they are sure to fill a huge organizational need. No offence to Rhett Pitlick, but a guy who scored under a point per game in the USHL after being drafted shouldn’t be the third best winger prospect in a team’s organization.

Next. Which habs prospects will be at World Juniors?. dark

That is sure to change. Expect the Habs to choose a winger in the first round of the draft, and likely a couple more with their three second round picks, third round pick and three fourth round picks.