Who Will the Montreal Canadiens Target in the First Round?

Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /
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Montreal Canadiens
Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The NHL Draft is fast approaching, let us take a look at who the Montreal Canadiens may have their eyes on and who would be a good fit for the team.

I really love the weeks leading up to the NHL Entry Draft; they’re always rather hectic for me, as I try to get some final bits of research on prospects done, but it always makes for an enjoyable summer project. While Marc Bergevin is notoriously unpredictable when it comes to trades, his tenure has demonstrated some clear trends in his – and Trevor Timmins’ – draft strategy.

We will take a look at three prospects that I have a hunch could very well be wearing the Tricolore on July 23, as well as three prospects I really want to see in Habs’ colours. Let us begin with the actual predictions for the 31st pick.

Matthew Coronato, LW, Chicago Steel, USHL, Nov. 14, 2002. (48 goals, 85 points in 51 games)

Coronato is a name I’ve heard a whole bunch of Habs fans mention as their ideal target in the first round. It certainly is possible that he’s off the board by the 31st pick (actually the 30th selection because of Arizona’s forfeited pick), Bob McKenzie’s consensus ranking has him at 21st, but in the late first-round, players always fall. The Habs could also trade up with their wealth of draft capital.

Fans love Coronato because he put up gaudy goal and point totals (he was the top goalscorer and second in points in the USHL this season) and because he demonstrates a wealth of tenacity and work ethic. The 5’10”, 183 lbs left-winger was a teammate of the Habs’ fourth-round selection of last year in Sean Farrell, who was the only USHL player to exceed Coronato’s 85 points, with 101 and who will join him at Harvard next season. This connection means that the Habs have certainly watched a lot of Coronato’s game tape by virtue of following Farrell’s progression and may have taken a liking to his grit and goalscoring.

The Habs also love drafting players from the USHL and from US Prep Schools as they retain their rights for at least their four years of college, giving them more time to make a decision on signing them than with CHL players. Fans and NHL teams alike should be aware of a few factors that impacted Coronato’s dominance this season, however.

  1. Coronato is a very early birthday, he is among the draft class’ older players and his maturity will have helped a lot in a junior league like the USHL.
  2. Coronato played on by far the best team in the USHL; each of the league’s top-4 point producers played for the Steel, that kind of environment inflates point totals.
  3. Coronato scored on a ridiculous 21% of his shots, I’m not sure if this is an indictment on USHL goaltenders or just a result of a fair amount of luck for Coronato, but that’s unsustainable.

These factors explain why Coronato might still be available when the Habs pick, despite his crazy totals. Beyond simple production, Coronato is a very smart offensive player who manipulates shooting lanes to give himself scoring opportunities, has very good hands and gets to the high-danger areas. His shot is good, but not to the extent his goal totals would suggest, they’re more indicative of his offensive awareness. He’s also quite a decent playmaker and plays at a high pace.