Montreal Canadiens: Kent Hughes & Jeff Gorton Could Leverage Boston, NCAA Roots In 2024 Draft

2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7
2023 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Rounds 2-7 / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens have a bit of leverage or inside track on the Boston hockey scene, with deep roots in Beantown, and because of them they could have an inside track on some bright NCAA hockey stars.

Both Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton have roots that run deep in Boston. Gorton was a part of the Bruins organization for over 20 years, starting as a pro scout, and then working his way up to assistant general manager. As for Hughes, he only coached at the U-16 level in Massachusetts but was a player agent for close to 25 years, representing guys like Patrice Bergeron. Need I say more?

Where the NCAA sort of mixes in, is in the fact that Kent has two sons actively playing college hockey, and Jeff has one. Jack Hughes and Jack Gorton both play for the Boston University Terriers. While Riley Hughes plays for Ohio State University, but his first four seasons he played for Northeastern University in Boston.

Family aside, Hughes & Gorton have taken a particular interest in the Boston college hockey scene. Both Lane Hutson and Jacob Fowler are huge pieces for the Canadiens, and both are playing in Boston. Fowler is the Boston College Eagles' starting netminder, and Hutson is the BU Terriers’ number-one defenseman. 

It’s safe to say they like their college prospects, and they have already reaped the benefits of Marc Bergevin selecting a couple of Northeastern products during his tenure. Jordan Harris came first and showed the poise and skill of a steady veteran. Recently Harris’ Huskies teammate Jayden Struble has carved himself a bit of a role with the Canadiens, with his counterpart out because of injury.

Luke Tuch, Blake Biondi and Rhett Pitlick are a trio of forwards that have kept the Canadiens scouts' eyes glued on the NCAA ranks. And Luke Mittelstadt has been honing his skills at the University of Minnesota. These players aren’t necessarily budding prospects, but they serve a role within the prospect pool, even the depth roles are important.

The top end of the 2024 NHL Draft features two pretty highly touted NCAA prospects, who will likely have their names called early. A third prospect, who currently plays in Plymouth, Michigan for the United States National Team Development Program, is committed to play for the Boston University Terriers. And there's a left-shot mobile defender who will have his name called in the first round of the draft, who is also mixing it up in the NCAA.

Macklin Celebrini sits atop the draft class, and given his start with the Terriers, it's hard to imagine that he doesn't go first overall. Hughes and Gorton would sprint to the draft floor if they had the first overall selection land in their laps. But, in the interest of being realistic, we will assume that the Habs don't select first overall.

But from selection number two and on, the real draft starts, there are so many opinions and mock drafts. But the truth is, some prospects will rise, and some will drop, so it's hard to gauge who will go where. I am of course no professional scout or anything like that, but based on what I have seen the three other players with college hockey ties, who will be available, are all intriguing.

Cole Eiserman is a pure goalscorer, whose knock is that he is one-dimensional, but that one dimension plagues many teams who don't have enough of it. He is a pure sniper in every sense, and he continually sharpens his toolkit, working on his shot constantly. Auston Matthews is his favourite player, and somebody he models his game after, and his shot already devastates goaltenders. At just 17 years old, Eiserman has an August birthday, which shows just how much time he has to grow.

Artyom Levshunov looks like a unicorn, already 6'2" and close to 200 lbs, he has an NHL frame, and his skills look translateable. The Michigan State University product has once again shown an ability to adapt to the next level of competition. In 2022-23 he made the jump from Belarus to the USHL and managed 42 points in 68 games. 2023-24 marked the start of his rookie year, and the right-shot defender has posted 18 points in 18 games.

Zeev Buium is a mobile left-shot defender, at 6' and 183 lbs, he is on the right growth track, and his game seems to be of interest to many in the scouting world. If you thought Levshunov's stats as an 18-year-old playing college hockey are impressive, Buium has 25 in his first 18 games with the University of Denver. He is less likely to be picked by the Habs, but he will make an NHL general manager very happy in the future.

Needless to say, the NCAA has a lot of great options, be it through the draft or free agency, it's a good idea to keep an eye on the college ranks. Thankfully Kent and Jeff have got that covered.