With the 2016 NHL draft less than a week away, fans are no doubt wondering who will be the next first round pick of the Montreal Canadiens. There are a ton of questions to be asked such as will they go for a forward or defenceman? Will they go for a big player like Windsor’s Logan Brown or a smaller player like Clayton Keller of the United States National Team Development Program? Will they look to the Canadian Hockey League, Europe or one of the various junior leagues across North America? This article will look at the last five first round picks of the Montreal Canadiens and examine which league they came from and their current status.
Montreal Canadiens First Rounders 2011 to 2013
In 2011, Montreal selected defenceman Nathan Beaulieu from the QMJHL’s Saint John SeaDogs. Beaulieu has become an NHL regular where he has had his issues with consistency. The offensive flair he showed in junior hasn’t materialized at the NHL level and has struggled to get the trust of the coaching staff. Nonetheless, Beaulieu still has potential to establish himself as a very solid top four defenceman. His skating ability remains his best asset but if he can sharpen his focus on the ice, he will take a big step forward.
Drafting Alex Galchenyuk at third overall in 2012 was a bit of a gamble considering he only played two regular season games due to injury. But that gamble has paid off as Galchenyuk broke through to score 30 goals and end the season as Montreal’s number one centre. The coaching staff has been very slow to trust Galchenyuk but after his strong finish, there is no excuse that he shouldn’t start the season centering the top line. Galchenyuk has all the tools to become a very good centre in the NHL, he just needs more trust from the coaching staff. Perhaps the addition of Kirk Muller will help.
Some thought Montreal drafting Michael McCarron in the first round was a bit of reach but McCarron has come along nicely in his development. At 6′ 6″ 230 LBS, he was always going to need a little more time as most bigger players need that extra time to grow into their bodies. McCarron is best off having more time in the AHL but he is on track to being a power forward for Montreal.
2014 and 2015: The Next Wave
Nikita Scherbak won’t be in Montreal anytime soon, but the potential for him to be a top six forward in Montreal still exists. Injuries robbed Scherbak of development time in the AHL this season, and while defensively he needs work, he did flash some of that offensive skill he was drafted for.
Montreal’s 2015 first-rounder Noah Juulsen’s point totals dropped off dramatically in his post draft season, which on the surface seems concerning. However, the Everett Silvertips were not as good this season and Juulsen has injury problems at times. Being so young there is no reason to be concerned about his development. Juulsen was always considered to be more of a long term project like McCarron and Scherbak.
In terms of Montreal’s first round drafting the past few years, it has been dominated by players who are considered to be long term projects. It is mainly due to these players being picked late in the first round and their upside is a little harder to project compared to the players who were drafted higher.
— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) April 4, 2016
Who is Next?
For drafting patterns, the Habs have frequented the CHL for the past five years for their first round as all of the above were drafted out of the CHL with the exception of McCarron, who played with the United States National Team Development Program but eventually decided to play in the OHL over college hockey. On an interesting note, the first rounders from 2006-2010 all came from either the United States Hockey League or they played high school hockey in Minnesota. Size wise, Montreal tends to draft players who are 6’0” or taller in the first round while the smaller ones tend to be in the later rounds. It’s hard to say where Montreal will look for its first rounder this year but chances are he will be an excellent addition to Montreal’s prospect pool.