Montreal Canadiens general manager has compiled a long list of prospects. We are counting down the top 30.
Montreal Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin has been building through the draft for the past three years. It has resulted in the Habs having one of the deepest group of prospects in the league.
So, we have been counting down the Canadiens Top 30 prospects.
This started on November 1 with the 30th spot going to Jack Gorniak. The 29th spot went to Jacob LeGuerrier, the 28th place was taken by Otto Leskinen, 27th went to Rafael Harvey-Pinard, 26th was Jack Smith, 25th was Jacob Olofsson, 24th was Lukas Vejdemo, the 23rd spot went to Alexander Gordin, Blake Biondi came in at 22nd, Rhett Pitlick was 21st and Joni Ikonen started the top 20 countdown.
Today, we continue the countdown with the player we had ranked at 19th on the Habs best prospects list. That player is Brett Stapley. He was drafted in the 7th round of the 2018 NHL Draft, but is starting to look like a steal. The Habs have done well in the 7th round lately, securing Jake Evans, and Cayden Primeau in the final round of the annual event. Stapley is starting to look like he could be the next player to rise from the final selections of a draft to the Montreal Canadiens lineup.
Before being taken by the Habs, Stapley was playing Junior A hockey in British Columbia. He could have been playing in the Western Hockey League, where he was drafted by the Calgary Hitmen, but he wanted to keep his eligibility to play college hockey. The only way to do that was to play in a lower league, for the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL.
There, Stapley was an offensive force, scoring 16 goals and 50 points in 52 games in 2016-17, and then improving to 27 goals and 59 points in the same number of games a year later. This led to him being drafted by the Canadiens.
Since then, Stapley has steadily improved in two seasons with the Denver Pioneers. The University of Denver is a hockey powerhouse, and they have contended for a national title in each of Stapley’s seasons there.
The Habs pick is a smart, two-way centre for Denver, playing a middle six role at even strength, but he is also counted on to kill penalties, win key face-offs and play a role on the man advantage.
As a freshman in 2018-19, Stapley scored five goals and 19 points in 32 games. Last season, he improved those totals to five goals and 30 points in 35 games.
Stapley finished third on the team in scoring last season, and will take on an even bigger role this season as the team’s first line centre and leading scorer from last season, Mathias Emilio Petterson, signed to play with the Stockton Heat in the AHL.
That paves the way for Stapley to step into the role as the team’s best centre at even strength, on the power play and on the penalty kill.
It isn’t a far leap to start connecting the dots between Stapley’s current path and the road that Jake Evans traveled to finally become the Habs fourth line centre last season. That would require Stapley to take another step forward on the scoresheet this season. The stage is already set for him to do just that.
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Another strong year with Denver could lead to the 5’10” and 176 pound centre turning pro for the 2021-22 season with the Laval Rocket. It might not take long for him to get from there to the Habs bottom six and that is why he ranked inside the top 20 of the Montreal Canadiens best prospects right now.