The Montreal Canadiens have been building a deep prospect pool for the past three seasons, and in that pool, they have some very skilled up-and-coming prospects who should greatly help the club in the future. Most of them will be NHL players, but very few will be top stars in the league; most will play pivotal roles on the team in the middle-six for forwards or the bottom-four for defence. However, there are a few who could be future NHL stars, and they are the ones the Habs can’t afford to let go. Here is a look at Montreal’s three untouchable prospects.
Juraj Slafkovsky is admittedly a no-brainer here. He was drafted first overall by the Canadiens in this year’s draft and will be a top player in Montreal for years to come. He has elite puck possession abilities and always finds ways to create scoring chances for himself or his teammates. He also knows how to use his big frame to block his opponent from the puck or knock him off it when Slafkovsky tries to take possession away.
Everywhere he went, he was a winner last season — he won the Hlinka Gretzky Cup Silver Medal, Liiga Silver Medal, Olympic Bronze Medal, Olympic All-Star Team, Olympic Most Valuable Player (MVP). And he was the youngest to win the Slovak Player of the Year Award. Not a bad start to a hockey career for a guy who turned 18 in March.
There were mixed feelings about the Canadiens drafting Slafkovsky first overall. Many fans felt Shane Wright should have been the pick. In the end, Montreal liked Slafkovsky’s attitude and thought he would be a better fit for the organization, feeling he would be an enormous power forward with more skill than Josh Anderson who could help provide Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield room on the ice with his big body and play the setup guy or goalscorer.
Slafkovsky can also help improve the team’s terrible power play. The Canadiens have the potential to have one of the best lines in the NHL with Slafkovsky, Caulfield and Suzuki; of course, it won’t start that way, but once Slafkovsky gets used to the NHL and North American ice, Montreal will be in for something extraordinary.
Kaiden Guhle is heralded as the next Shea Weber. If it is faithful and he turns out to be just as good, then the Canadiens have a future Hall of Fame player. Guhle was drafted 16th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. He brings size and strength to the left side of the blue line and is a force to be reckoned with for opposing players. Not only does he hit with a devastating force, but he’s very good at timing his hits and rarely takes himself out of play.
Guhle is constantly moving his feet and usually disposing an opponent of the puck just as they cross the blue line. He can also alter the flow of the game and turn any defensive situation into an offensive one for his team by moving players off the puck and quickly turning the play around to create odd-man rushes. He has a very accurate shot and has a great IQ in all three zones, which gives him an advantage over most defensemen his age.
A big reason the Canadiens felt comfortable trading fan favourite Alexander Romanov was because of the bright future that Guhle has and the devastating hits he can put out. The Habs are deep on the left side of the defence regarding prospects, and Guhle has the potential to be the best of them, all due to his capability to play well on both ends of the ice.
Jordan Harris and Mattias Norlinder are also close to NHL-ready. Still, they don’t have the defensive abilities that Guhle has and are more one-dimensional offensive players — Harris not as much as Norlinder. If Guhle even comes close to showing signs he might have a career like Weber, the Canadiens would be foolish to move him any time soon.
Lane Hutson was drafted this past summer by the Canadiens in the second round, 62nd overall. He has tremendous speed and offensive skill with a unique ability to shift his small frame to avoid opposing players and create scoring chances. He is an excellent stick handler and puck mover, but is relatively small for defencemen at only 5-foot-8 and 148 pounds; his size was a huge reason he fell in the draft. The 18-year-old had 32 points in 27 games for the United States National Team Development Program (USNTDP) Juniors in the United States Hockey League (USHL) and another 63 points in 60 games for the United States Under 18 (U18) team in the United States Development Program (USDP).
You might be asking as you read this why Hutson would be untouchable. Well, it’s because he has the offensive potential to be one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL. His size could change from when he was being scouted, and at the draft combine, he had a note from his doctor that stated that his bone growth was one year behind his biological evolution, meaning he could still grow up to three inches more.
If Hutson does grow and can be the offensive force in the NHL that he has shown in the USDP, then he will be another star player for the Canadiens like Adam Fox or Cale Makar are for the New York Rangers and Colorado Avalanche, respectively. Trading him at this point or any time before the next two seasons could be a massive mistake by management.
Of all the Canadiens’ prospects, these three have the best potential to star in the NHL. The organization may not have any elite talent or game-changing players, but they do have players with lots of potential to grow into a player of that calibre. These three have the best chance of developing into one, and for the Canadiens right now, amid a rebuild, they need these types of young players. They should hold on to them for as long as they can, or a least until they figure out if they will make the NHL or not. However, these three should be the franchise’s future and help bring the team back to its old glory.
Trege Wilson has been a freelance content writer for the past four years and with the THW for the past year. He is the co-host of the popular Montreal Canadiens podcast Habs Unfiltered on IHeartRadio.com.Trege is very passionate about all things Canadiens and loves to provide his readers with great quality news, rumours and opinions on the Montreal Canadiens. Trege has also been featured on JblamSports and JDFSports Podcasts; for interviews and guest appearances, you can contact him at any of his social media accounts listed under his photo in such articles as this one.