The Montreal Canadiens’ first-round pick, Everett Silvertips defenseman Noah Juulsen, came partly from out of left field, but that’s not the worse thing in the world.
Montreal Canadiens Get Their Man
The operative word is actually “left,” as in a left defenseman, which was the position at which the Habs were the weakest organizationally speaking, with really just Jarred Tinordi being the team’s only NHL-ready prospect there. While Juulsen shoots right, International Scouting Services lists him as being able to play on the left side in its final draft rankings.
There, he was ranked No. 29, so the Habs arguably didn’t go off the board all that much to get him. Central Scouting had him as the 22nd– ranked North American skater. TSN’s Bob McKenzie had him at No. 37 overall.
While other higher-ranked, actual left-handed defensemen (based on different lists) were out there (Jacob Larsson, taken with the next pick by the Anaheim Ducks, for example), it’s hard to get too upset, seeing as, as general manager Marc Bergevin mentioned on Sportsnet, the Habs had done their homework as Juulsen was teammates with last year’s first pick, Nikita Scherbak.
On that basis alone, one gets the sense that the Habs got their guy, even if he didn’t really appear on many analysts’ radars when projecting whom Montreal would take. If you then take a look at his numbers, nine goals and 43 assists in 68 games, second-most among WHL defensemen eligible for the draft (Ivan Provorov), it gets even easier to like this pick.
He projects as a top-four, two-way defenseman, with Curtis Joe from Elite Prospects saying, “Juulsen is able to force plays and always find ways to support his teammates… and has the individual skills to carry out the possibilities he sees.” According to the same scouting report, he tends to overthink in high-pressure situations but “that will go away with time and maturity.”
Thankfully, the Habs do have time, because, even though defense was their biggest organizational need, their recent signings of Jeff Petry and Nathan Beaulieu mean they do have the luxury of allowing Juulsen to develop at his own speed and fill out his lanky 6 foot 2 inch, 174-pound frame somewhat.
That’s another reason Habs fans should like this pick, in that the back end will eventually get bigger and tougher (he likes to hit as well), without sacrificing the ability to make plays and get the puck out of the zone.
The Other Noah
At the end of the day, he may not have been the “Noah” fans may have salivated over heading into the first round, but drafting Hanifin (fifth overall to the Carolina Hurricanes) was never a realistic possibility. Juulsen will likely never get confused for a lottery pick, but that doesn’t make him a consolation prize. He’s a guy Bergevin and director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins seem to have legitimately wanted.
It’s true that the Juulsen pick may have come from out of left field to many, but the Habs nonetheless got it right. Hopefully, they address their other organizational needs with their other picks (87, 131, 177, 207).