Here are your 2019-2020 Montreal Canadiens pre-season (summer) prospects rankings…
Noah Juulsen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Michael McCarron and Gustav Olofsson have not been included as they have played in at least 40 NHL games and will all likely graduate by the end of the 2019-20 season. Frederik Dichow, Arvid Henrikson and Kieran Ruscheinski have not been included due to limited to no viewings, and for Henrikson’s case, I don’t believe the Habs will retain his rights when that time comes.
Below is my ranking criteria from most valuable to least valuable.
Position Value: 1st/2nd line center, 1st line winger, 1st pairing defenseman, starting goalie, 2nd line winger, 2nd pairing defenseman, 3rd line center, 3rd line winger, Backup goalie, 4th line center, 3rd pairing defenseman, 4th line winger.
When evaluating prospects I look at five key categories:
1. Hockey IQ (decision making, playmaking, and vision).
2. Skating (speed, acceleration, and agility).
3. Shooting (shot accuracy, shot release, and shot power).
4. Puck Skills (passing, puck protection, and stickhandling).
5. Physicality (board work, conditioning, and physical presence).
I also value players work ethic and determination immensely.
In addition to the above, I also project a players short/long term outlook, how likely that player is to reach the professional ranks or if a player is already playing professionally (i.e AHL, SHL, KHL, Liiga). Gathering that information and then adding their key attributes to come up with a final outcome.
1. Cole Caufield | RW | Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten)
Hockey IQ – 60 / Physicality – 40 / Puck Skills – 65 / Shooting – 75 / Skating – 55
Player Analysis: Caufield is a fantastic goal-scoring winger who possesses an accurate release. Caufield already has sensational wrist shot that he can place in pretty much any spot he wants. His release is lightning quick as he often uses a quick snapshot to beat goaltenders even before they get into position. His ability to read the play offensively is elite as he often gets himself in fantastic shooting positions. Caufield is a good skater who uses his acceleration to break away from defensive checks. He can be quite shifty when cutting through the neutral zone or along the half wall to free up teammates or create space for himself. His playmaking skills are very good, he can thread the needle from the half wall or behind the net, especially on the powerplay. He uses his advanced vision to pick out teammates on the rush. His puck skills are excellent and for a smaller player, he also has pretty good puck protection abilities too. Caufield has shown that he’ll go to the corners and hover around the net looking for loose pucks. He does engage physically despite his size and doesn’t back down from bigger opponents but welcomes those battles.
Explanation: Cole has that knack to be in opportunistic scoring positions and he doesn’t miss often. His release is already NHL caliber, he could slot into the 1st line right-wing position in short order and be a key contributor on your powerplay. I think you could slot in Suzuki or Poehling in the number one spot but Caufield gets the edge.
2. Nick Suzuki | C/RW | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 70 / Physicality – 35 / Puck Skills – 70 / Shooting – 65 / Skating – 60
Player Analysis: Suzuki is an elite offensive player who also has great defensive abilities an overall complete package. Suzuki’s smarts are off the charts, he reads and anticipates plays better than most prospects in the game. His ability to be deceptive with his playmaking and shot are two of his greatest assets offensively. His speed has greatly improved over the course of the season and his acceleration has followed along. His first steps are quick and shifty, his edgework is also really great which attributes to his elite stick handling skills. Suzuki tends to be three or more steps ahead of the play and sometimes too far ahead for his teammates to catch onto. His one-on-one puck handling skills can be very deceptive and slick but it’s also the determination to keep the puck on his stick even when the deke doesn’t favour his way. He stays with the play and is very good at improvising to extend puck possession. Suzuki’s release is fantastic, he hides his release point very well and can bring excellent power behind a free-flowing snapper. Accuracy is another great component of his shot as he usually finds the open spot. Suzuki showed well 5-on-5 defensively coming back deep in his own zone and using is ridiculously high-level IQ to always position himself accordingly. He also worked as a dual-threat on the penalty kill while efficiently defending but also providing unsuspecting opponents with surprises while a man down. Suzuki’s game overall has grown quite a bit over the last couple of years and has also been leaned upon as a leader due to his great character and demeanor.
Explanation: Suzuki oozes all kinds of high-end skill but it’s also his hockey sense and overall awareness that makes him so effective. I believe his upside is a top-six 2nd line center/winger who could eventually be an all situations player For me, his skill level and Hockey IQ is higher than anyone in the prospect pool. Also, his versatility to play both center and wing earn him the edge over Poheling.
3. Ryan Poehling | C | Montreal Canadiens (NHL)
Hockey IQ – 65 / Physicality – 55 / Puck Skills – 60 / Shooting – 55 / Skating – 60
Player Analysis: Poehling is an explosive two-way pivot who understands the game at an elite level. Poehling has a powerful explosive skating stride through his first couple of steps and above-average speed. Poehling utilizes his cross overs to generate power and speed aided by his great skating mechanics. His puck protection skills are one of his better assets as he is able to stickhandle and keep control along the boards or in open ice. Poehling’s overall work down low below the goal line offensively or defensively is creative and efficient. His playmaking and vision in the offensive zone are excellent as he can thread the needle through traffic for a back door play especially on the man advantage. He prefers to use a quick snapshot but can also fire off a full-fledge wrist shot with great accuracy and good velocity.
Explanation: Poehling has the physical tools to a dominate player down low and that will contribute to being a solid everyday 2nd line centerman or at worst 3rd line. An anchor who can chip in offensively on your top powerplay unit and provide tough minutes 5-on-5.
4. Cayden Primeau | G | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Player Analysis: Primeau is a technically sound goalkeeper that possesses an elite ability to read the game. Specifically, his hockey IQ and vision are two of his better assets that he blends in with his athleticism. Primeau boasts great athletic qualities that attribute to his ability to quickly recover and move laterally with ease. Positionally he is always square to the shooter cutting down the angles and making himself look big in the crease even when in the butterfly position. Primeau has a good glove/blocker hand usually has his glove in an excellent position to limit shoulder/arm movement. His rebound control is timed and executed well and has the presence to swallow up loose pucks. His puck handling abilities are average but his decision making overall is excellent. Primeau is a hybrid goalie that is poised, calm and fluid in the crease.
Explanation: A number one starting goaltender in the making Primeau gives off a ton of Carey Price vibes. He’s by far the best goaltending prospect in the organization and a top 10 goalie prospect not playing in the NHL. Decided to put him above Brook and Romanov because I belie the number one potential is there and for me, that is more valuable than a top-four defenceman.
5. Josh Brook | RD | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 65 / Physicality – 45 / Puck Skills – 60 / Shooting – 55 / Skating – 65
Player Analysis: Brook is a creative and efficient puck-moving defenceman with great offensive skills. Brook is a smooth skater with above-average skating skills, he moves effortlessly in all four directions. His acceleration or mid-stride is excellent he also can make sharp turns while keeping balance. His top-end speed is just above average, his sense and ability to shift gears and turn to use his body is what sets him apart. A smart defenceman who displays elite vision and passing skills. He can stretch the ice from his own zone to the offensive blueline and execute tape to tape passes. Brook has great puck handling and puck skills he also has good puck protection ability. He often doesn’t force plays though if pressured uses his escapability to keep possession and wait for the right play. Offensively Brook can be efficiently effective with his elite vision and passing skills to find his teammates in opportune positions. His shot-pass play is one that he used quite often and had great success. His wrist shot can also be quite good as he can place the puck with great accuracy but his slapshot lacks velocity. He’s also not afraid to pinch in and circle the wagons looking for the back door pass. Brook’s defensive play is really good for being labeled as an “offensive defenceman”, once again his skating and hockey IQ is what makes him effective. He uses his edges and stick positioning to angle off opponents towards the perimeter. Although sometimes he can get caught puck watching or be a little soft on one-on-one battles.
Explanation: Brook has all the tools to become a top-pairing number two defencemen. Romanov is very close behind, and if you ask me this question another day of the week I’d probably tell you Romanov is ahead. Brook is a complete package that has leadership qualities, an excellent puck mover and smooth skater with great offensive instincts. He’s solid defensively and can easily run your top powerplay unit.
6. Alexander Romanov | LD | CSKA Moscow (KHL)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 60 / Puck Skills – 50 / Shooting – 60 / Skating – 65
Player Analysis: Romanov is a sturdy two-way defenceman with a great tool kit. He’s an excellent skater with a powerful stride and fantastic first couple of steps. He can stop and start, shimmy and shake with ease to escape a check. He has a heavy slapshot with okay accuracy and a pretty deadly wrist shot. His vision is above average, he can stretch the ice or make conventional effective breakout passes. He’s not afraid to carry the puck out of his own zone and uses a combination of his speed and lower body strength to protect the puck. He’ll also jump up into the play to create an odd-man attack rush and recognizes good offensive positioning. Defensively Romanov always has an active stick, blocking passing lanes or jarring the puck loose while pinning the attacker along the boards. He has good gap control to keep the attackers to the perimeter and cut off cycles using his body. Romanov can jump up and lower the boom or take out the opponent along the boards with a bone-crushing hit. He’ll have to put on more weight and work on his upper body strength and his playmaking/offensive creativity.
Explanation: A top four 2nd pairing two-way defenceman. Right not I have Brook ahead of him but it comes at the slightest of margins. Romanov is an absolute beast defensively, his physical tools will help him thrive in the NHL and is a fluid skater with great acceleration. From what I’ve seen offensively he is very capable of running a 2nd powerplay unit but doesn’t see the ice as well as Brook.
7. Jesse Ylönen | RW | Lahden Pelicans (Liiga)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 40 / Puck Skills – 65 / Shooting – 60 / Skating – 70
Player Analysis: Ylönen is a speedy skilled winger that plays at a high pace. He’s got excellent edges, can turn on a dime and is very agile. He’s a great puck handler that protects the puck well even while at high speeds or changing gears in motion, he can also take a quick shot while in stride. Ylönen possesses a pretty heavy quick release and a sneaky one-timer. He can shoot from the back foot or corral the puck and fire with great accuracy. He plays at a high pace with a hard forecheck using his active stick to create turnovers. He’ll drive the net and position himself in the high slot for redirects. Ylönen has high hockey IQ a smart player that reads breakouts and offensive plays really well. He’ll have to build up lower body strength to develop a powerful first few steps and bulk up to be stronger along the boards.
Explanation: Ylönen is projecting to be a 2nd line right-winger who provides high-end skill and scoring ability. He has the potential to become an impact player but it’s tough to project at this point. I wouldn’t be surprised if I look back at this in 3 years and say “Wow! I should have ranked him 3rd”.
8. Cale Fleury | RD | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 55 / Puck Skills – 45 / Shooting – 55 / Skating – 55
Player Analysis: Fleury is developing into a very solid two-way defenseman which was evident during his transition to the professional ranks. He’s a fluid skater with average speed that uses his crossovers and quick turns to stay with the play. He’s positionally sound and uses an active stick to break up plays. A smart defenseman who manages the puck well doesn’t force plays and isn’t afraid to carry the puck even while under pressure. He’s got very good vision, solid passing abilities and is able to hit forwards with long stretch passes. Fleury possess a heavy release both of the wrist and slap shot variety he’s also patient in getting pucks through from the point. He’s a physical defenseman who loves to step up with well-timed open-ice hits.
Explanation: A hidden secret when he was drafted and dark horse that arose when he made the Laval team last year. Fleury is a prototypical two-way defenceman that blends offense and defense and could slot into the 2nd pairing role as a #4. Slight edge ahead of Norlinder because of his experience and blend of skating/physical elements.
9. Mattias Norlinder | LD | MODO Hockey (Allsvenskan)
Hockey IQ – 60 / Physicality – 35 / Puck Skills – 50 / Shooting – 50 / Skating – 65
Player Analysis: Norlinder is a smooth-skating offensive defenceman who can move the puck using both his speed and vision. His skating is flawless as he accelerates with ease and cuts in and out using his great edges. His vision and passing skills are above average as evident in his ability to make long stretch passes. He’s also not afraid to carry the puck from blueline to behind the opponents net showing off quick movements and smooth puck handling skills. Offensively Norlinder looks comfortable in his recognition to activate at the right times and even get to the high slot for high danger scoring chances. His wrist shot comes with decent velocity for a player with a slight frame and has shown pretty good accuracy from the high slot. Accuracy on his release proves to be a work in progress from the offensive blueline. Norlinder is quite efficient defensively as he uses his great agility and stick work to intercept plays or make a quick stick lift and steal the puck. He also shows good gap control on the rush while skating backward.
Explanation: His vision, puck-moving, and skating skills are at the top of the defenceman class among Habs prospects. He also adjusted well to the Allsvenskan at the end of last year which gives him an extra couple of points for me ahead of Struble. All in all, he’s a good bet to become a top-four two-way defender with a really good skill set.
10. Jayden Struble | LD | Northeastern Huskies (Hockey East)
Hockey IQ – 45 / Physicality – 60 / Puck Skills – 50 / Shooting – 55 / Skating – 60
Player Analysis: Struble is a physical offensive defenceman with excellent skating and puck carrying abilities. Struble has great top speed and a powerful first couple of steps. His edgework is also excellent as he’s shown the ability to maneuver behind the opposing net or breakaway from defensive plays with his good agility. His physical strength and athleticism are evident in his one-on-one battles. He muscles off opponents at ease and can step up to deliver a heavy body check to separate the player from the puck. Struble also has some solid passing skills and good vision to find teammates streaking through the neutral zone. He struggles to execute short first passes out of the defensive zone and tends to just carry it himself. His puck handling and protection abilities are good as he uses his edges and strength to fend off defenders. His release is solid, he can fire one-timers with good power and quickness but overall he requires some refinement. His hockey sense and decision making could be suspect at times as he’ll rush or force plays with no reason.
Explanation: Struble sits slightly behind Norlinder and Fleury at this point because of the level of hockey he played at last year. His skills shouldn’t go unnoticed and if he can translate it over to the NCAA level than he would instantly become the 3rd best defensive prospect in the system.
11. Joni Ikonen | C/RW | KalPa Kuopio (Liiga)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 40 / Puck Skills – 60 / Shooting – 65 / Skating – 50
Player Analysis: Ikonen is a shifty forward with an excellent heavy release. He has great hockey sense, reads and anticipates the plays which lead to his ability to be patient. He’s a dual-threat either from below the goal line with his good agility and puck protection or from the tops of the circle with his wicked release. He owns a high-end release whether it be a quick wrister in stride or a clapper from a standstill that can cleanly beat goaltenders. Ikonen has great stickhandling abilities with a wide variety of tricks, he’s quick and shifty to get in and out of traffic. He’s a firm playmaker who uses his tremendous vision to pick out teammates in high danger positions or to facilitate a set play on the powerplay. Overall he is a good skater with slightly above average straight-line speed but a great skating stride and edge work that contribute to his deceptive acceleration. Ikonen will have to work on his defensive game and play without the puck, especially own zone positioning.
Explanation: Ikonen has that goal-scoring touch and one of the more heavier wrist shots among his peers. He can play both center or wing which will provide flexibility as he projects to be a 2nd line winger or 3rd line center/winger who can provide secondary offensive support.
12. Jake Evans | C | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 60 / Physicality – 35 / Puck Skills – 60 / Shooting – 40 / Skating – 45
Player Analysis: Evans provides a very solid all-around 200-foot game. He showed he can quickly adapt to different styles of play throughout the season. Evans has excellent hockey sense and vision, not a fleet afoot player but he uses his smarts to get around. He can play with pace and make quick deceptive passes in tight. His passing abilities and playmaking skills are definite strengths which attribute to his great vision. Positionally sound and uses his anticipation to break up plays in the defensive zone. He can protect the puck rather well but will need to work on his overall strength to fend off the defenders. He will also need to improve on the quickness and power of his release.
Explanation: Another smart two-way centerman who will likely settle in as a 3rd liner center at his peak. He projects to be a contributor to both your secondary powerplay and penalty-killing units. A similar skill level to Ikonen but the release is what puts Ikonen ahead.
13. Jordan Harris | Northeastern Huskies (Hockey East)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 40 / Puck Skills – 50 / Shooting – 50 / Skating – 65
Player Analysis: Harris is a smart smooth skating two-way defenceman that isn’t afraid to carry the puck end to end. He’s always active jumping into the rush or pinching in from the point to create another outlet or lane for his teammates. Harris uses his quickness and agility to close gaps or force the offensive player in low scoring chance positions. He’s extremely effective at exiting the zone via the first pass or using his excellent acceleration to hit center ice. Harris’ footwork is top-notch, his edges are crisp as he can effortlessly turn on a dime and explode up ice. He shows some good vision and reads the play really well both offensively and defensively. He often doesn’t make high-risk blueline to blueline passes but when he does it’s tape to tape. Defensively Harris is extremely efficient, great ability to read and anticipate the opponent’s next move while keeping his head on a swivel. His stick work is excellent, whether it be a quick stick lift, breaking cross-seam passes or simply positioning his stick to direct the player to the perimeter. Harris doesn’t have a heavy or dangerous release but he is a plus player at finding the lane through traffic.
Explanation: Harris is the perfect defenceman for the current NHL, his skating is great and his defensive play is efficient and effective. He projects to be a 2nd pairing #4 defenseman who can play solid minutes at 5-on-5 and the penalty kill. His current offensive potential looks limited and that’s why he’s a couple slots behind Norlinder and Struble.
14. Allan McShane | C/LW | Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 35 / Puck Skills – 60 / Shooting – 60 / Skating – 40
Player Analysis: McShane is an excellent playmaker and a pinpoint sniper that is especially dangerous on the special teams. His release is fantastic, he can fire one-timers with good velocity and uses his wrist shot to beat goalies cleanly from anywhere in the offensive zone. McShane’s puck skills are utilized in a variety of ways, he can dangle through multiple defenders and still has the presence in mind to find his teammate off to the side. He also shows off his high end scoring touch either on the break-away or from below the goal line with slick puck handling abilities. His vision and passing abilities are top-notch as he’s able to complete timely passes. He utilizes both his forehand and backhand effectively to make crisp high-end plays. McShane’s skating is well below average, in particular, his speed is what holds him back. He displays quality edgework when handling the puck and moving in the offensive zone which helps him escape checks from time to time. He requires much more of an explosive first step and full extension through his skating stride in order to gain more speed.
Explanation: I’ve gone back and forth with McShane and frankly his skill level should have him in the top 10. Though his skating stride is poor and needs much more development to transition to the pro level. If all pans out well and he improves those areas than he looks like a good bet for the 2nd line right-wing position.
15. Cam Hillis | C | Guelph Storm (OHL)
Hockey IQ – 60 / Physicality – 50 / Puck Skills – 55 / Shooting – 40 / Skating – 60
Player Analysis: Hillis is a skilled passer with excellent playmaking abilities and high-end vision. His skating stride is above average as he gets low and explodes through his lower body. He moves really well laterally and makes quick cut turns while keeping with the pace of play. Hillis’ tenacity and aggressive forecheck coupled with his never-ending engine make him an effective player on the offense. His vision is excellent which attributes to his great playmaking abilities. Hillis can make deceptive passing plays or send a saucer pass cross-ice through the penalty killer box like it’s nobodies business. He also really excels around the goal line which allows him to use his great vision but also his aggressive drive the net plays. He’s an effective penalty killer as he always keeps his feet moving and uses his stick well to break up and anticipate plays. Hillis has a below-average shot and finishing touch as most of his goals come from inside the hash marks of the rebound or tap in variety. Hillis suffered multiple injuries throughout the year including a broken collar bone which held him out of the Guelph Storm playoff run.
Explanation: Hillis displays many NHL translatable skills but he’s not elite in any of the categories. His skill level is not as high as Fonstad or Houde’s but his overall play, work ethic, and determination are what puts him above those guys. He does have fantastic playmaking skills and vision but he’ll have to stay healthy this year to get himself back into the top 10 consideration.
16. Rhett Pitlick | LW | Omaha Lancers (USHL)
Hockey IQ – 50 / Physicality – 45 / Puck Skills – 60 / Shooting – 55 / Skating – 70
Player Analysis: Pitlick is an offensively skilled winger with elite speed and good scoring touch. His skating is definitely is his best asset and uses it to hound defencemen with his tenacious forecheck. His acceleration is good and is edges are clean and crisp. His wrist shot has okay power behind it for a smaller player but his accuracy is what makes it effective. His ability to shoot in motion and to quickly release also makes him dangerous. He has very good puck skills and can make those high risk plays at an elite speed. He also has great vision and reads the game very well especially in the offensive zone. Despite being smaller in stature Pitlick isn’t afraid to drive the net wide or get to the dirty areas to force turnovers.
Explanation: Pitlick has some blazing speed, one of the quickest players in the organization next to Gorniak and Verbeek. His skill level while playing at those speeds is what makes him so intriguing. I wouldn’t be all that surprised if Pitlick jumped ahead of Hillis and McShane by season’s end but I would like to see more of his skills transition from the high school level to the USHL.
17. Jacob Olofsson | C | Skellefteå AIK (SHL)
Hockey IQ – 65 / Physicality – 45 / Puck Skills – 55 / Shooting – 50 / Skating – 55
Player Analysis: Olofsson is a well rounded two-way center with good playmaking abilities. He’s an overall strong skater with a long skating stride and just a tick above-average speed/acceleration. He gets himself up and down the rink at ease with his good positioning and high-end hockey IQ. He has solid playmaking skills and passing abilities. He possesses good vision and processes the game both offensively and defensively at a mature level. Olofsson has an accurate wrist shot and picks his spots well but overall his shot is average. He has decent puck skills and is not afraid to cut through two defenders or use sharp stick skills to beat a defender one-on-one. He’s a premium defensive forward who uses his stick well defensively, smart read and reacts doesn’t panic or crumble under pressure. He’s solid along the boards at picking out and/or disrupting plays and gets to the shooting lanes well. Olofsson will need to increase his offensive creativity, work on his top-end speed and utilize his shot more often.
Explanation: The more I watch Olofsson the more he leaves me wanting more. There are times, albeit rare, that he shows some highly skilled plays but lacks the finishing ability. His two-way play and pro-type game will probably get him in the NHL but at this point in a limited capacity at best a 3rd line centerman. He gets the edge over Teasdale because of what he’s showed int he past and his pedigree.
18. Joël Teasdale | LW | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 60 / Puck Skills – 50 / Shooting – 55 / Skating – 45
Player Analysis: Teasdale is a hard-working two-way player that exudes a pro-type game. Teasdale has average speed and overall a well-rounded skater with just okay acceleration. He shows great edges and the ability to use his strong balance to make plays or win battles along the boards. Teasdale is strong on his stick which enables him to pickpocket opposing players defensively and win stick battles around the opposing net. He has a nose for the net and can score goals in a variety of ways; either using his stick to redirect the puck or his soft hands to make quick maneuvers in tight areas. His shot is quite heavy, he gets down low to gain leverage in tight areas or sharp angles. He can also use his great puck handling skills to drive the net with possession or make flashy dekes every once in a while. He’s not just a heavy physical workmanlike player but can make good plays using his hockey sense and amiable playmaking abilities. His defensively play greatly benefits from his smarts and his ability to read the play, anticipate and act rather than react. A go-to penalty killer and a reliable two-way player who also brings great leadership qualities
Explanation: Teasdale is one of my favourites and I juggled him between this spot and the early teens on multiple occasions. His skill level is underrated, though his game is pointed towards the 3rd/4th line winger who could jump up into your top six every once in a while. All the forwards ahead of him have higher offensive ceilings.
19. Cole Fonstad | LW/C | Prince Albert Raiders (WHL)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 35 / Puck Skills – 60 / Shooting – 50 / Skating – 50
Player Analysis: Fonstad is an offensive dynamo, a great playmaker that sees the ice at an elite level. Fonstad’s skating is average at best he doesn’t move that well and his acceleration is not great either. He has the skill to make high-end passes that many opposing defenders have trouble picking up. His vision is well advanced, he can pick out players and read their next move and saucer a pass on a platter. He can be quite deceptive with his next move when handling the puck at a standstill or cutting through the neutral zone entering the offensive zone. His puck skills are special, he’s showed on numerous occasions that he can make great stickhandling plays and maneuvers. Fonstad’s release developed over the course of the season displaying good accuracy and decision making while utilizing it more often. Fonstad has a good understanding of the two-way game, he’s a smart player that puts his stick in good positions to break up plays either 5-on-5 or on the penalty kill.
Explanation: Fonstand is supremely skilled and is one of the better playmakers in the system. In watching him he doesn’t really do anything at an elite level to earn him a higher spot and his overall projection is still cloudy so I’ll keep him behind more NHL probables and players with better offensive outlooks.
20. Brett Stapley | C/RW | Denver Pioneers (NCHC)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 40 / Puck Skills – 60 / Shooting – 45 / Skating – 50
Player Analysis: Stapley is a tricky player that can be really shifty when handling the puck in the offensive zone. His puck handling skills are above average and has flashed some high-end skill. He has the ability to slow the pace, draw defenders and then quickly shift gears to get by the defenceman. His playmaking skills are very good, a solid passer who finds players in opportune positions. Stapley has that ability to read off his teammates and see the ice using his above-average vision. Overall his skating is not spectacular, his straight-line speed is just about average at best but he uses his agility to his advantage. His edgework and cross overs are very solid and prefers to go east-west rather than north-south. His shot is slightly below average as he’s proved to show good accuracy but his velocity and mechanics lag behind.
Explanation: Stapley showed well this past season in the NCAA and he jumped up in my rankings sometimes even higher than his current position. He projects as an offensive center/winger who could also develop more of his defensive game but has shown to much of that at this time. He still needs work in all areas of his game and could become a 3rd line scoring winger.
21. Lukas Vejdemo | C | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 60 / Physicality – 50 / Puck Skills – 55 / Shooting – 50 / Skating – 60
Player Analysis: Vejdemo is a strong smart two-way center who prides himself on his defensive play and backchecking. He’s got a powerful skating stride that allows him to break away from battles and carry the puck out of the zone. His first initial steps are not explosive but he does use his balance to keep possession and fend off attackers. Overall he protects the puck well using his decently sized frame and awareness. He has a pretty heavy wrist and slap shot but will have to work on his accuracy and position of his release point. He’s a good playmaker with decent passing skills and solid vision. He’s a give and go type of forechecking attacker that is always looking to push the pace. Vejdemo’s hockey sense and defensive play are what makes him an integral part of the penalty kill.
Explanation: Vejdemo is already at the pro level with Laval and has shown some recent flashes of skill as he got more comfortable. I don’t think he’s more skill than Stapley or Fonstad but his physical tools are well more advanced and he plays a sound defensive game. He looks like a very solid 4th line center who may be able to slot in on the 3rd line.
22. Gianni Fairbrother | LD | Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Hockey IQ – 50 / Physicality – 60 / Puck Skills – 40 / Shooting – 55 / Skating – 55
Player Analysis: Fairbrother is a smooth-skating defenceman who is not afraid to mix it up physically while also providing some decent offense. His skating stride is fluid and effective. He’s agile and moves quite well for a solid guy as he can keep up pretty well while pivoting defensively. His slapshot brings great velocity and decent accuracy. His wrist shot is also quite effective, heavy and has good accuracy. Fairbrother likes to engage physically when defending and does a good job of separating his opponents from the puck. His puck handling and skills are lacking and at times don’t keep up with his pace of play. He makes effective breakout passes and can make decent stretch passes from time to time.
Explanation: Fairbrother has a really appealing package of skating, shooting, and physicality. He lacks the skill level and offensive abilities of a top-four defense prospect but he looks like he could become a steady 3rd pairing defender.
23. Otto Leskinen | LD | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 30 / Puck Skills – 50 / Shooting – 55 / Skating – 60
Player Analysis: Leskinen is a fluid skating offensive defenceman with a tremendous accurate release. He’s a smooth-skating defenceman who loves to jump up and join the rush. His lateral movements and pivoting are excellent as he’s able to move really well in all four directions. His wrist shot is excellent. The release looks deadly and is lightning quick. He can place the puck in great spots and will make sudden movements to change the angle. He’s also a solid playmaker who sees the ice really well especially on the man advantage. His passing skills are slick and sometimes deceptive. Defensively he keeps up with his excellent skating skills to stay with the forecheck. His physicality and lack of engagement is probably his greatest weakness.
Explanation: Leskinen showed well in the Liiga last year with his powerplay prowess. Solid skater and good shooter but his defensive game is skeptical and the transition from Europe to North America can sometimes be tricky. I may have him ranked too low in about 3 months but time will tell.
24. Michael McNiven | G | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Player Analysis: McNiven is an athletic goalie with great quick lateral movements. He’s aggressive, plays on top of the crease to cut down the angles and is positionally sound. His rebound control is very solid as he tends to kick out rebounds away from danger or swallow up the loose puck. He could work on his stickhandling and decision making. He tends to overplay which sometimes leads to a great athletic save or being totally out of position. He improved on his vision and reading of plays anticipating the correct position.
Explanation: McNiven had a pretty solid year overall and outplayed Lindgren for most of the season but there is still a lot of development ahead. He projects to be an AHL starting netminder and possibly a fringe back up option.
25. Samuel Houde | C | Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
Hockey IQ – 40 / Physicality – 30 / Puck Skills – 60 / Shooting – 60 / Skating – 55
Player Analysis: Houde is a flashy highly skilled offensive player who loves to pull off the highlight-reel plays. He’s a good skater who doesn’t always push the pace but rather sits back and glides with the play. His acceleration is really good he can reach top speeds within a couple of steps which helps him break away from defensive plays by opponents. He tends to move east-west rather than north-south and moves quite well laterally while maneuvering through defenders. Houde possesses an accurate wrist shot with great velocity that he can rattle off rather quickly. He uses his wrist shot or quick snapshot much more effectively than a slapshot. He likes to use defenders as screens or simply pull the puck either towards or away from him to change the angle of his release point. He has decent vision but doesn’t always utilize the full width of the ice when making plays. His playmaking abilities are more than fine as he can pull off high-end passes through sticks and skates or thread a saucer pass from blueline to blueline. Houde owns natural stick and puck handling abilities as evident through many of his one-on-one plays as mentioned he thrives to make the fancy dangles. His defensive game is cloudy as he doesn’t put enough effort in to get back defensively. He tends to stay stagnant and watch the play than to get involved.
Explanation: Houde has fantastic hands, and potential to be a lethal goal scorer with his wicked release. Though there are many question marks surrounding his work ethic, consistency and play away from the offensive zone. He sits above Gorniak based on skill level alone.
26. Jack Gorniak | LW | Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten)
Hockey IQ – 45 / Physicality – 50 / Puck Skills – 45 / Shooting – 45 / Skating – 65
Player Analysis: Gorniak is a quick speedy forward with a high stamina level. His long-running motor and ability to keep his feet moving coupled with an active stick make him a great forechecker. He does well both on the forecheck and defensively to disrupt plays with that active stick. A solid defensive player that has some decent hands and offensive instincts. Gorniak has good puck protection skills and can efficiently keep possession while fending off defenders at high speeds. Gorniak’s release is average at best but can sometimes fool goaltenders with his sneaky release.
Explanation: Jack is a player who showed some really good skill during his high school years but rarely flashed that at the College level. He also has some defensive attributes and his excellent skating abilities is what puts him ahead of the Alain’s and Harvey-Pinard’s.
27. Jacob LeGuerrier | LD | Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 50 / Puck Skills – 40 / Shooting – 45 / Skating – 55
Player Analysis: LeGuerrier is a solid smooth-skating defensive defenceman with decent vision and playmaking abilities. His skating is above-average for a player his size. He moves really well laterally and agility is not really an issue for him. Defensively he is pretty good at staying with his opponents and either stopping them in their tracks with a hit or using his long reach to break up plays. LeGuerrier is a solid first pass defenceman who also shows decent playmaking skills in the offensive zone. His release overall is below average as he doesn’t generate enough velocity or threat when shooting.
Explanation: Right now he’s likely a project type pick with a nice frame to mold into. He could become a 3rd pairing steady stay at home defenceman that can keep up with the speed of the game.
28. Alexandre Alain | C/RW | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 50 / Physicality – 50 / Puck Skills – 50 / Shooting – 55 / Skating – 55
Player Analysis: Alain is a solid two-way pivot who provides high energy and a great motor. He’s always involved in the play, forechecking and causing havoc to the opponent’s defenceman. He’s aggressive along the boards always digging for the puck, using his stick to disrupt passes and breakouts. Alain possesses a great wrist shot and can release it rather quickly. He sees the ice well, has decent playmaking and passing skills. Not an overly dynamic offensive player who doesn’t really drive the offense or create high end plays. A solid skater with good agility, always moving his feet, top-end speed is average.
Explanation: Alain was a similar junior player to Harvey-Pinard, he showed both good offense and defense but nothing really stands out. He gets the nod over Harvey-Pinard because of experience.
29. Rafaël Harvey-Pinard | LW | Chicoutimi Sagueneens (QMJHL)
Hockey IQ – 55 / Physicality – 50 / Puck Skills – 50 / Shooting – 50 / Skating – 45
Player Analysis: Harvey-Pinard is an industrious winger who brings a good skill level and great hockey sense. His overall top speed is below average and his acceleration is subpar as well. His agility is quite good down low and his edgework is good overall as he can make quick tight turns. He’s a low center of gravity type player with excellent balance. His puck skills are average, puck handling is very good and his puck protection is also pretty solid. His release overall is non-threatening but he does find a away to score from in tight around the net. Harvey-Pinard’s skillset is suited as a solid two-way penalty killer with an excellent sense of awareness. His hockey IQ is well advanced which attributes to his great defensive work and timing offensively.
Explanation: I could have slotted him above Alain just based on the way he thinks the game and blends that with his puck skills. He projects to be a depth player or 4th line winger and could chip in every once in a while on the penalty kill.
30. Arsen Khisamutdinov | C/RW | Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL)
Hockey IQ – 45 / Physicality – 45 / Puck Skills – 60 / Shooting – 55 / Skating – 45
Player Analysis: Khisamutdinov has excellent puck skills and offensive awareness. His puck handling is very good a lanky player and his puck skills are great. He can make high-end dekes using his long reach to get around or through defenders. His shot is probably his most effective tool. He can fire the puck with good accuracy and excellent velocity. Overall his skating is just below average at this point as he’ll need to work on his acceleration.
Explanation: Arsen is an interesting prospect who could potentially become a goal-scoring forward at the AHL level and possibly a supporting scorer in a limited capacity at the NHL level. Although this is still a stretch at this point as there are many unknowns and at his current age, 21, he’s already running out of time to make an impact. Probability is low at this point but his scoring prowess is probably better than a couple of the guys ahead of him.
31. David Sklenička | LD | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 50 / Physicality – 45 / Puck Skills – 40 / Shooting – 45 / Skating – 55
Player Analysis: Sklenička is a steady two-way defender with all-around average skills. He can break out using his smooth skating stride or make short quick passes to get out of the defensive zone. He has some decent vision and offensive flair as he doesn’t force certain plays and stays patient even in close situations. He’ll read the play and anticipate safe opportunities to pinch in to extend the offensive zone time. He’s got a good slapshot and a decent overall release that could be improved. He showed he can be physical when called upon especially in front of the net clearing the opposing players.
Explanation: A solid two-way defender with limited upside due to his hockey IQ and game speed. Projects to be a depth defender at best.
32. Hayden Verbeek | C/LW | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 50 / Physicality – 50 / Puck Skills – 45 / Shooting – 40 / Skating – 65
Player Analysis: High-end speed and acceleration, smart two-way player with decent finishing ability.
Explanation: Verbeek has a set of outstanding wheels on him, a key factor that earned him a professional league contract. He could make a push for a depth position at the NHL level but greater improvement on his strength, puck skills, and overall offensive game will be needed.
33. Michael Pezzetta | LW/C | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 45 / Physicality – 55 / Puck Skills – 40 / Shooting – 50 / Skating – 55
Player Analysis: A deceptively quick player that possesses a heavy shot and decent hockey sense.
Explanation: Michael has some decent tools but nothing that really jumps out to make him an NHL player. Likely a bottom-six AHLer who can contribute physically and on the penalty kill.
34. Antoine Waked | LW | Laval Rocket (AHL)
Hockey IQ – 40 / Physicality – 40 / Puck Skills – 45 / Shooting – 50 / Skating – 40
Player Analysis: Solid release with decent puck skills, protects the puck well and good hands in tight.
Explanation: Not much here in terms of upside, he’s struggled to secure a spot on the everyday roster with Laval.
Below is the full ranking with updated player grades which are based on the 20-80 scale.