The Montreal Canadiens made a big splash at the 2022 NHL Draft by picking Juraj Slafkovsky first overall, trading fan favorite Alexander Romanov, and acquiring Kirby Dach in two separate trades. On Day 2, there was less action, but the Habs found themselves doing very well with their picks in the second round and later. They in fact picked so well, they may have found some hidden stars drafted in those late rounds. Here is a look at three players who could end up being draft-day steals.
1. Lane Hutson
Lane Hutson was drafted in the second round, 62nd overall. He is a 5-foot-8 defenceman with great speed and agility. His skating and puck handling are probably second to none in the entire draft; he also has a high IQ at both ends of the rink and isn’t afraid to take on more immense forwards even with his small frame. He uses his excellent positioning to move players in the direction he wants them to go and has a great knack for taking away shooting lanes. In the offensive zone, his skating and footwork allow him to evade most players and put himself in a good shooting position. He also is an elite passer with a remarkable ability to set his teammates up for scoring chances.
Hutson has had success everywhere he has played. Last season he had 32 points in 27 games for the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) and 63 points in 60 games for the United States Under-18 team. He has never let his size be a disadvantage, as he made it known at the draft that he has a condition which has his bones growing slower than his body, meaning he could still grow up to three more inches. If he can grow those three inches and continue to dominate on both sides of the ice, he could become the best defenceman in the 2022 Draft. Hutson will play in the NCAA for Boston University next season where Canadiens general manager (GM) Kent Hughes can keep a close eye on him.
2. Miguel Tourigny
Miguel Tourigny was a home run swing by Hughes; the overager was drafted in the seventh round, 216th overall. Another undersized defenceman, he split his season with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, scoring 80 points in 65 games with 31 goals. He has a nose for the net and his offence gets better every season; although he scored 31 goals, he is a better playmaker than a goal scorer who can do sound work quarterbacking a power play (PP).
At 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, Tourigny is a very small defenceman; he also isn’t a great skater for a small player, which should be a huge red flag. His height was a big reason he wasn’t drafted in 2020 or 2021, and there are not many undersized defencemen like him in the league or players of his size, for that matter. He is a great puck mover and excellent at the transition game and has increased his point production every year he has played – if he were 6 feet or over, he would have been drafted in 2020. The Habs are counting on his offensive abilities to overcome his short (no pun intended) falls. He should play with the Laval Rocket in the American Hockey League (AHL), where Hughes and company will wait and see if his offence can translate to the pro league and, hopefully, the NHL.
3. Owen Beck
Owen Beck was the first pick in the second round, 33rd overall. He isn’t a flashy player, but is strong in the faceoff circle and is a well-rounded two-way player. Playing for the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), he put up 51 points in 68 games with six points in 10 playoff games. He is an above-average skater with excellent top-end speed and a high IQ. He blew his counterparts away who had 500 or more faceoffs in the dot with a win percentage of 60.6 percent. He is an excellent defender who has been compared favourably to former Canadiens Philip Danault.
Beck will likely play another season with the Steelheads; he missed his rookie season due to COVID and had only one entire OHL season before being drafted. He has a good chance of becoming an NHL player even if his offence doesn’t pick up and it’s in a bottom-six role. He still needs to work on playing under pressure, but is quite capable of playing in all situations. If Beck makes the NHL, it will be a massive win for the Canadiens, but that won’t be for a few years, and rightfully so if Hughes is serious about developing players better than his predecessor.
Hughes and the Canadiens brass went for skilled, smart players in this year’s draft as all three mentioned here have high IQ and a projectable skill set to play in the NHL. There will be some growing pains with all these prospects, but if they can get past their issues, they could be strong NHL players who can help the Canadiens in the coming years.