Canadiens: Who are the Habs Getting in Prospect Ty Smilanic?

Welp, the Ben Chiarot era has finally come to an end for the Montreal Canadiens. After signing a three-year deal with the team worth $10.5 million in the 2019 off-season, Chiarot gave Canadiens fans the exact same qualities that made him a fan favorite over his eight seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets franchise.

A tough, physical two-way defenseman at 6’03 and 234 pounds, Chiarot quickly found himself ushered into a top pairing role in Montreal after Captain Shea Weber went down with numerous injury troubles and thrived for the most part. While he struggled during the 2020-21 season, he was a workhorse in that year’s playoffs and similarly kept up that pace over the course of this season. However, as an expiring free agent with no real future in Montreal, trade rumors began to swirl and at long last, they have concluded, and with it, Montreal adds a fresh face to their ever-growing pipeline.

With the Florida Panthers looking to continue building their roster as they look more and more like a true Stanley Cup contender, Habs GM Kent Hughes opted to take advantage, sending Chiarot to the Panthers in exchange for a 2023 first round pick, a 2022 fourth round pick, and forward Ty Smilanic. While it’s likely to assume both of these picks will be in the lower end of their respective rounds (given the Panthers resurgence over the past few seasons), it’s still early days, and, at the very least, the Habs find themselves with an intriguing prospect in Smilanic.

A native of Denver, Colorado, and product of Quinnipiac University, Smilanic was a third-round pick of the Panthers in the 2020 NHL Draft, coming out of the US National Development Program. A selected member of team USA at the postponed 2022 World Juniors, Smilanic was seen as a late first to early second round pick going into the 2020 Draft, being ranked as the 24th best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. Possessing decent size, speed, and awareness, Smilanic’s tenure at Quinnipiac has been admittedly up and down on a roster lacking in much, if any NHL prospects, but in being the school’s highest ever pick in the NHL Draft, he brings a lot to the table regardless.

With Ben Chiarot’s departure to the Florida Panthers confirmed, who are the Canadiens getting in return in prospect Ty Smilanic?

For the most part, Smilanic fits the bill moreso of a high scoring, offensive winger than a true playmaking centre, possessing most of the raw attributes one would associate with a speedier forward. WIth a great shot and relentless effort on both the forecheck and backcheck, Smilanic has settled into more of a 200-foot role at Quinnipiac whilst still trying to get his offensive numbers off the ground. After posting 14-7-21 totals over 29 games in 2020-21, playing alongside current Tampa Bay Lightning farmhand Odeen Tufto, Smilanic has settled into more of a depth role offensively this year whilst utilizing his, as stated, excellent awareness, both on and off the puck.

Smilanic has a right place right time tendency when he’s around the puck and is usually in a position to make a play on the puck or get back defensively in time to recover. As mentioned Smilanic possesses great work ethic for a player of both his style and size, which mixed with his solid mobility makes him an easier player to slot in any place in the lineup. In many ways, Smilanic’s skillset is not too dissimilar to a player like Artturi Lehkonen, and much like Lehkonen over the past few seasons, Smilanic can enter dry spells offensively and in general has become more of a rounded, two-way player than a pure offensive force since committing to Quinnipiac.

With Lehkonen seemingly on the trade block as we’re in the midst of a frenzy prior to the March 21st trade deadline, his skillset is something Montreal will doubtless be wanting as they’ve begun to fully commit to this rebuild, and while it will likely be a while before Smilanic gets even a consideration at seeing time with the Canadiens, he could be an intriguing addition to the Laval Rocket or Trois Rivieres Lions in the future. With the number of undrafted/AHL contracted prospects that have thrived thus far in both Laval and Trois Rivieres, having a better mix of top prospects playing as well would only further build upon what has been a great start to a hopefully more competitive future for the Canadiens organization in general.

While teams never want to see core pieces like Chiarot go, the Canadiens have at least managed to grab a decent haul in return, and whilst it’s likely that all-so-shiny first round pick that’s grabbed most people’s attention, I have reason to believe that Ty Smilanic, could be yet another future piece, to what has been an increasingly promising rebuild, for the Montreal Canadiens.