2016 NHL Draft: Who Should Montreal Target at 9th Overall?

With the Montreal Canadiens set to pick at ninth overall (barring a trade), there are a lot of intriguing options for the Habs to consider when it’s their turn to select. After the top three, the rankings for each player vary as some players could be ranked as high as four on some lists while other scouts rank them outside of the top ten. The Habs need a player with top six scoring potential and a top four defenceman with Andrei Markov slowing down.

When looking at the teams picking ahead of Montreal, it is hard to say what direction they will go in. For example, Edmonton and Vancouver are picking at four and five and both teams need to draft and develop a top pairing defenceman. However, would they pass on two quality forwards in Matthew Tkachuk and Pierre-Luc Dubois? It’s also hard to say what direction Calgary, Arizona and Buffalo will go in on draft day.

Looking at the “maybe” players

First up is Mississauga Steelheads winger Alexander Nylander. The 6′ 0″ 172 pound Nylander likely won’t be available when the Habs pick but the unpredictability of the draft could drop him into Montreal’s lap. He put up a very solid 75 points in 57 games to lead all rookies which landed him the OHL’s rookie of the year award. Naturally, he has drawn comparisons to his older brother William as both possess strong skating and high end offensive skills. Montreal could certainly use a gifted winger who can create offense for a team that struggles to do so.

Next up is defenceman Mikhail Sergachev of the Windsor Spitfires. As a rookie in the OHL, Sergachev put up 57 points in 67 games and won the Max Kaminsky trophy as the OHL’s most outstanding defenceman. Sergachev has good size already at 6′ 3″ 206 LBS and is good both offensively and defensively and also has an aggressive side to his game. He isn’t as hyped as Jakob Chychrun or Olli Juolevi but the argument can be made that Sergachev has just as much upside as those two players. Like Nylander, Sergachev could be off the board before the Habs pick and even though Montreal used their first rounder last year on a defenceman, Sergachev at nine would be tough to pass up.

Three good options

Playing in the BCHL, forward Tyson Jost has had to continuously prove that he is on par with peers playing major junior, despite racking up 104 points in 48 games. He put some of those doubts to rest with 15 points in seven games at the IIHF World U18 Championships where he was named best forward. Jost is one of those players who can do it all and does a lot of things well including vision, skating and offense. He is off to the University of North Dakota in the fall where he will face better competition.

At 5′ 10″ and 170 LBS, forward Clayton Keller will have to work harder to show he isn’t too small for the NHL despite more smaller players having success in the league. He has the hockey IQ, skating and dynamic offensive skills of a top prospect but the size bias holds him back in the rankings a bit. He became the NTDP’s all-time points and single-season assists leader which is pretty impressive considering the number of quality players to come out of that program. Montreal’s prospect pool is rife with players who are small and speedy but if the Habs pick Keller, he would be the most promising of the bunch.

On the opposite end of the spectrum size wise from Keller is Windsor Spitfires centre Logan Brown who stands at 6′ 6″ and 218 LBS. Brown is a pretty good skater especially for someone of his stature and he combines it with a good hockey IQ and playmaking ability. Brown had a strong second half to climb his way up the rankings. For a player of his size, Brown is not overly aggressive or physical but he does use his size effectively to protect the puck. Montreal has been criticized endlessly for being too small so adding a player like Brown would help change that narrative.

Tough choice to make

With these kinds of players available, Montreal’s scouting staff will have a hard decision to make. Do they opt to go with players on the smaller side but possess high end offensive talent? Or do they go with the big centre who could one day form a very imposing centre ice corps in Montreal with Alex Galchenyuk and Michael McCarron? Or is a defenceman the better choice? Either way, Montreal is going to walk away with a very promising prospect. The Habs have a few holes that need to be filled both now and down the road. Whether they choose a forward or a defenceman, that player has the potential to be a key piece for Montreal in a few years.