Montreal Canadiens: What's Happening With The OHL Prospects

2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits
2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Portraits / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens are well repesented all over the world, but right on the back doorstep, the Ontario Hockey League hosts some of the Canadiens top prospects.

Be it Filip Mesar in Kitchener or Owen Beck in Peterborough, the OHL serves as a great place to watch some of the Habs players of the future. The Bramptom Bulldogs and Owen Sound Attack also have a Habs prospect each. Florian Xhekaj with the Bulldogs and Cedrick Guindon with the Attack.

Sometimes players in the Canadian Hockey League system are overlooked, including the QMJHL, where Quentin Miller is currently playing. There's the OHL, where Connor McDavid, Logan Couture and Sean Monahan got their starts. The WHL is the third of the three leagues that make up the CHL, which is where Shea Weber got his start with the Kelowna Rockets and Kaiden Guhle with the Prince Albert Raiders before being traded to the Edmonton Oil Kings.

The CHL has produced a lot of fascinating prospects, and the Canadiens have a few guys cooking. But I would like to zero in on the Habs prospects over on the Ontario side. The Canadiens have just the four previous mentioned products in the OHL, so we will touch a little on each of them.

The O

Filip Mesar

Money Mesar has looked like a crisp $100 bill this year, after a solid rookie season in the Ontario Hockey League. The tale of the tape about Mesar is that he is a speedy, small forward, who has quick hands that mesh well with his quick offensive zone processor. He has proven that in spades, and has looked ridiculous dominant with the Kitchener Rangers.

For all intents and purposes, Mesar has found a bromance, and one-two punch in his duo with Seattle Kraken prospect Carson Rehkofp. Together both players have looked dynamic, and continue to pace the top of the OHL scoring list. Mesar has shown a deadly instinct level to his game this season, and every Habs fan should take notice of him. The Slovakian winger has

Mesar's numbers have increased drastically when compared with his rookie season. He finished the 2022-23 season with 17 goals and 32 assists through 50 games with the Rangers. Now in year two, Mesar has played just 20 games, and he already has 13 goals and 19 assists for 32 points. It's increasingly more likely that Mesar will eclipse his career best of 51 points.

Owen Beck

Beck has been one of his teams best player's, and relied upon heavily by his coach. His faceoff prowess and strong two way game, make him a coaches dream, and that is what makes Beck such a brilliant player. He is a coaches dream, and because of his ability to play the game the right way, he is starting to coming along offensively.

Prior to the 2023-24 OHL season, Beck played a season and a half with the Petes. He was originally drafted by the Mississauga Steelheads, and he had a strong start to his career. Through his career with the Steelheads, Beck played 98 games, 30 of which he wore a letter on his sweater. The Peterborough native, scored 38 goals and 54 assists before joining the Petes.

Since joining his hometown Petes, Beck has continued to be a dominant defensive specialist. He has grown more as a penalty killer, and he projects as a top-nine center in the NHL. But the statistics sheet and tape have shown just how special Beck could be for the Habs one day and will be for Team Canada at the IIHF World Juniors. To start 2023-24, Beck has 16 goals and 14 assists in 25 games.

Florian Xhekaj

Xhekaj is an animal, and yes we knew that when we drafted him. But we viewed him as a physical guy, who never backs down and loves to throw big hits. However, he has been a different kind of animal with the Bulldogs, he has been vicious against opposing goalies and kept opponents honest.

He has a huge frame, and has shown an ability to hold defenders on his back, leveraging his strength and long reach. He skates well, and is so tough to move out of his office, parked in front of the other team's goalie. And he has shown some nasty offensive zone skills, which have increased his chances of playing in the NHL.

With the Bulldogs, Xhekaj is playing now his second OHL season, and he is one point shy of matching his previous season totals, in 41 fewer games. Xhekaj's topped out with 25 points through 68 games in his rookie season. Year two has been an explosion for the younger Xhekaj, he has already reached 24 points, through just 27 games. This kid's ceiling has grown quite a bit since the draft in June 2023.

Cedrick Guindon

Guindon has flown under the radar, what a coincidence, as I recently wrote about another player who has played well, but had little attention. In the NCAA, Rhett The Jet has been on fire, and Guindon has been steady and solid for the Attack, and he appears poised to beat his career-best of 69 points in 68 games.

The Rockland, ON native seems to have found another gear, and his offence has taken significant strides. His motor and quick feet allow him to find space, and exploit it to create high danger scoring chances. Guindon has 17 goals and 17 assists in 29 games, with 34 points already through only 29 games.

I'm not completely sure what Guindon will grow into, the article above suggests that he is being moulded into a Rafael Harvey Pinard-type player. I think that having a player who plays with heart and is tenacious every single shift is what every team wants. I would think that he will be a bottom-six option for the Canadiens - whether it's as a trade chip or part of the Habs, he could prove to be a valuable asset, especially as a fourth-round selection in 2022.

Honourable Mention

Daniil Sobolev

Sobolev sort of floats under the radar, he is just developing and sharpening his skills with the Niagra Ice Dogs. If you have forgotten or are unsure of who he is, you will have a bit of a better idea now. He is a fifth-round selection from the 2021 draft, who is a 6' 209 lbs right-shot defenseman.

He projects as more of a shutdown, defensive player who can chip in offence, but impacts the game much differently than an offensive defenseman. In his third junior hockey season, Sobolev is playing on his second team, after three seasons with the Windsor Spitfires. Now with the Ice Dogs, he has played 25 games and managed seven points (One goal and six assists).

Sobolev doesn't provide a huge value based on where he was selected, in the fifth round of the 2021 Draft. He has managed to play 135 games, collecting four goals and 29 assists over his junior career to this point. I don't expect that he will crack the Canadiens roster, but he could be an interesting trade chip for Hughes.

The OHL deserves a bit more attention, and there could be some draft gems at the draft in june. Might be worth keeping en eye on. Hughes and Bergevin took interest, and it has worked out pretty darn good. Owen Sound Attack and Guelph Storm alumni Nick Suzuki certainly help the OHL prospect conversation.