Ivan Demidov should be the Canadiens target

Ivan Demidov has the pure skill that the Habs lineup lacks and with the right coaching, he could be exactly what the team needs.
SKA Hockey Club player, Ivan Demidov (11) seen in action...
SKA Hockey Club player, Ivan Demidov (11) seen in action... / SOPA Images/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens will be selecting in the fifth slot during the 2024 NHL Draft in June.

After Macklin Celebrini, draft lists are a mixed bag - mostly dependent upon each team's need. Some high-end defensemen could go in the top five, which would push some of the top-ranked forwards down the draft board. That would be the most ideal scenario for the Canadiens who could use some help from the teams ahead of them in the pecking order.

The previously mentioned defensemen - Anton Silayev, Zayne Parekh, Artyom Levshunov and Zeev Buium all impact the game in different ways. But they each have the potential to be home-run picks for whichever team opts to select them. Aside from them, the forward group features sniper Cole Eiserman, two-way centre Konsta Helenius, hulking centre Cayden Lindstrom and second-generation forward Tij Iginla, with Berkly Catton - an uber-skilled, smaller forward rounding out the bunch.

At least that is the way I would hope for the three teams picking after the San Jose Sharks to look at the draft prospects. In my mind, the best fit, the best player available and the guy who the Habs should be targeting is Ivan Demidov. Montreal passed on Matvei Michkov last year for geo-political reasons and there is a sense that could happen again, but Demidov is exactly what the Canadiens need.

Demidov has elite skills and looks to have the highest ceiling of every forward in the draft not named Celebrini. Montreal addressed the defence with their pick last year, adding another great prospect into the fold. But now, they need another player with the chops to become a top-six forward in the future, which they currently don't have.

Not only would Demidov give the Canadiens immense skill, but he would ascend to the top of the Canadiens prospect pool unscathed. There is Owen Beck, Filip Mesar and a couple of guys in Laval who might have a word to say, but Demidov has the highest potential. The dynamism he plays with and the fact that Russian prospects have trained in their homeland and then came over to dominate in the NHL, is reason enough to take a chance.

Unless Demidov is non-committal about coming to North America in the future, he is a no-brainer to select. Chicago didn't at all mind having Artemi Panarin join the fold, and yes he was a little older than Demidov, but he impacted the roster instantly. The same can be said about Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov, who has been nothing short of a superstar since entering the league in 2020-21.

I'm not suggesting that Demidov is at that level, but the fact that he is ranked where he is ahead of the draft tells you the sort of player that he could become. Demidov torched the Russian MHL with 60 points through 30 games, then in the playoffs, he scored 28 points in 17 games. It's fairly obvious that he is too talented to be playing at that level and that is why he will be promoted to play with SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League next season.

His debut season in the KHL will tell of where he is at in his development. But it isn't necessarily the be-all and end-all if he doesn't explode out of the gate, that is very normal for an 18-year-old. The fantastic thing, however, is the Canadiens strength in developing - Juraj Slafkovsky benefitted from it and I expect a player with the talent that Demidov has, will benefit similarly.

These are all ifs and buts if he isn't there then it won't happen. But Demidov is the type of player worth moving up to select and he would be a huge addition to the Canadiens.