Montreal Canadiens Prospect Pool Lacks Elite Offensive Talent

Jan 5, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Juraj Slafkovsky (20) prepares for a face off against the New York Rangers during the second period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 5, 2023; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens forward Juraj Slafkovsky (20) prepares for a face off against the New York Rangers during the second period at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /

One thing was obvious before the Montreal Canadiens ever took the stage at the 2023 NHL Draft to make their selection, there is a lack of elite offensive players in the prospect pool.

After Juraj Slafkovsky graduated from prospect to NHL player, the forward pipeline lost their lone top line forward prospect. I am beyond happy with the David Reinbacher pick, and I believe he will be a really good defenseman for a long time, but now the focus needs to shift towards adding prospects that have top-line potential.

During the Canadiens first game of the rookie showcase, the lack of an offensive threat at forward stuck out. I can already hear the Matvei Michkov conversations, and there is no denying that he would have been a great addition, but the risk was very high. Players like Reinbacher don’t grow on trees, and the best course of action is to trust the process.

It is my personal opinion that the Canadiens need to put a big emphasis on selecting players at the 2024 Draft who could provide the offense with an elite top line talent. Obviously every passing pick means there are less of those kinds of players available. But even just drafting a player who has specific traits and just needs some guidance could be prove to be great value in the later rounds.

The Canadiens had a strong start on Friday night against the Buffalo Sabres rookies in Buffalo, New York. But the Sabres offensive attack gave the Habs all they could handle in a 6-3 loss, Zach Benson and Matthew Savoie were the catalysts for the potent attack. The pair along with a solid supporting cast proved just how important it is to add pure offensive talent, that has the potential to play in an NHL top six.

Now, the Sabres are ahead of the Canadiens in their development, and they addressed the blue line back in 2018 with the Rasmus Dahlin selection, then again in 2021 with the Owen Power selection. These were two pretty obvious picks, and they were home runs if there were ever a better time to use that reference. But GM Kevyn Adams also focused on players who could drive the offense for the Sabres in the future.

Along with Benson and Savoie, the Sabres also have Juri Kulich and Isak Rosen who were standouts in the first game of the showcase.

This is not to compare the two teams prospect depth, but with the Sabres striving to be a Stanley Cup contender, it’s expected that their roster and pipeline depth should be in a good place. The Canadiens have some good pieces, but aside from Heineman, there’s no pure sniper, and yes Joshua Roy and Jared Davidson can shoot the puck, but I would peg more as playmakers, much like Riley Kidney and Sean Farrell.

A pretty obvious way to the address this problem is through the draft, and it is the most cost efficient as well. Given the Canadiens timeline for their rebuild, spending on a free agent would be counter intuitive, and take money away from the youth who will demand a raise when their entry-level deals expire. So adding some nice pieces at the draft would be a good start, and with the Habs likely headed for another bottom 10 finish, they will have great options as I addressed in a recent article.

Trades are of course a viable option as well, but given the fact that it’s so hard to acquire talented top of the lineup point producers, the package to acquire one could be astronomical. And in the Habs case, trading away a defenseman that could play in the top four for the next 12-15 years just doesn’t make any sense. Not at this point anyways, as you want to keep the youth and have an established core in 2026-27 to start pushing towards a playoff berth.

The focus should be on the top forwards of the next couple drafts, because aside from Cole Caufield there is no other elite sniper option. Heineman and Jesse Ylonen project to be good top nine wingers, but adding a Cole Eiserman or Ivan Demidov could really spread the shooting talent throughout the Habs lineup.

Kirby Dach’s shot improvement will be welcomed, but if you have a chance to get a talent that could positively impact the organization for the next 10-plus years, you should take the chance.

I trust the process, but I do notice the areas of weakness, and putting the puck in the net is right at the top of the list.

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