It seems like every NHL team has that one prospect who stands out from the rest, the one player teams would hesitate to include in a trade for fear they will become stars in an opposing jersey. The Montreal Canadiens have refilled the prospect cupboards the past three years, led by director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins, and his staff as they continue to find intriguing prospects with NHL upside.
The next three Montreal Canadiens?
Just because a prospect doesn’t put up outstanding offensive numbers or have outstanding speed will it keep a player from contributing to a team’s success. For a team to succeed, it needs all kinds of players, whether it’s a top centre or winger, a shutdown centre, a good backup goalie or defencemen who can move the puck. Montreal’s prospect pool has players of varying skill sets that have the potential to contribute down the road but a few names stand out from the rest.
In terms of top-six offensive potential, winger Nikita Scherbak is the most promising player Montreal has in the system. After dropping to the 26th pick before being scooped up by the Habs in 2014, Scherbak already looks like a bit of a steal. Blessed with size, speed and a high hockey IQ, Scherbak has drawn comparisons to current Hab Alex Galchenyuk. Scherbak will have to improve his defensive game in order to stick in the NHL, but he has an offensive upside that is sorely needed in Montreal.
Michael McCarron has been a controversial prospect since the moment he became a first round NHL draft pick in 2013. More than a few fans thought McCarron was taken for his size only and those fears weren’t extinguished after he struggled mightily in his first OHL season. But to McCarron’s credit, he turned his game around as he began to use his size and skill to his advantage. Despite the uptick in offense, McCarron isn’t expected to be a top six forward in the NHL. His future will likely be as a third liner but his exceptional size and underrated skill will be an asset one day in Montreal.
Another Montreal prospect not exempt from criticism is goaltender Zachary Fucale. In his draft year, he backstopped a dominant Halifax Mooseheads team featuring Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin to a Memorial Cup before parlaying that into an early second round selection by the Habs. Fucale has had his struggles post-draft, leading some to believe that he benefited playing behind an excellent team, but his determination and ability to win when it counts is appealing. Luckily for Montreal, they can afford to be patient with Fucale with Carey Price cemented as the number one goalie for the foreseeable future.
Other intriguing prospects
Besides the big three, there are other intriguing names in the system. Jacob de la Rose is still considered a prospect in terms of games played but he quickly became a favourite for Michel Therrien when he was called up after the World Juniors and is likely already penciled in for a spot next season. De la Rose is defensively advanced for such a young player, especially as a forward, but it is left to be seen how much offence he has in him. His speed makes him a threat on the back check and has been already been given tough defensive assignments.
Sven Andrighetto, Charles Hudon and Martin Reway are all smaller players but with the league evolving more to suit that kind of player, their chances at making the NHL have increased. Andrighetto struggled at times this year but still has upside. Hudon had a somewhat surprisingly good rookie year in the AHL and is already looking like a draft steal. Reway is a player who will never wow anyone with his defensive play but his offensive skills are outstanding. He was excellent for the surprise bronze medal winning Slovakia at the World Juniors and has produced well playing in the Czech league as a teenager.
Defenceman Brett Lernout also had a very good WHL season nearly doubling his point totals and decreasing his penalty minutes. Dalton Thrower struggled after recovering from various injuries but has shown in the past he can put up numbers and be physically involved. Darren Dietz was one of the last cuts at Montreal’s main camp last year but hasn’t been dominant at the AHL level.
For those still unclear, #Habs don't need to sign Martin Reway by Monday. He can play another year in Europe before signing.
— Dan Kramer (@DanKramerHabs) May 27, 2015
And the most valuable prospect is…
For the Montreal Canadiens, based on what they need and who has the most potential, winger Nikita Scherbak is their most valuable prospect. Montreal needs scoring, size and more depth on the wing, all areas where Scherbak can help. He has top six potential and while he may need a little more time in the minors, his skill set won’t keep him away from the NHL for long. His chemistry with Galchenyuk was clear in training camp and he has already become a fan favourite. Despite the immense improvement of McCarron and the intrigue some of the others hold, Scherbak’s potential is higher than his fellow prospects and embodies what Montreal needs.