The Montreal Canadiens added to their already clogged prospect pipeline with 11 players at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Now, just a few days later, Habs fans get to see some of them in action, at the team’s 2022 development camp, July 10-13, with the first on-ice practice set for July 11.
Those just-drafted players may be the ones for whom to come out, but they’re not necessarily the ones who will get fans to stay. The roster also features several, (slightly) older top-end prospects, who are further along in their development and potentially more NHL-ready. Here are the top five overall:
5. Logan Mailloux (RD)
Defenseman Logan Mailloux is a curious case, and because of that undeniable fact fans are likely to be curious about the 2021 first-round pick. His case is also infamous, with the Habs selecting him despite his conviction for offensive photography in Sweden… and his request not to be drafted.
Few have questioned Mailloux’s skill level, including general manager Kent Hughes, who only came into the picture a half-year after the defenseman had been drafted. However, Hughes has gone on record as saying the still-unsigned Mailloux remains under evaluation “as a person and a member of the community.”
Now, Mailloux is a right-handed defenseman, a position at which the Canadiens are thin, even after the Draft. So, it’s conceivable the Habs are indeed actively pulling and pushing for him to come through as promised. Admittedly, the Habs’ development camp isn’t the perfect place for him to show off any newfound soft skills, but it’s still a shot for him to impress on the ice, both the team and fans alike.
4. Lane Hutson (LD)
As just alluded to, the Canadiens are far stronger on the left side on defense than on the right. Even so, U.S. defenseman Lane Hutson, who’s a left-handed shot, was the first defenseman they picked in the 2022 Draft.
The move made sense though, in the sense Hutson was a potential first-round pick. The Habs pounced when he was still available at No. 62 overall, with other teams seemingly scared off by his size or lack thereof at 5-foot-8, 158 pounds.
Nevertheless, similar to with Mailloux, there’s no debating his skill level or upside. There was some suggestion the Hutson selection is a large reason why the Habs were so successful at the Draft (in the eyes of some, anyway). So, this is the perfect opportunity for everyone to see in person the reason for all the fuss.
3. Joshua Roy (W)
Technically speaking, everyone’s already seen Joshua Roy play in a professional capacity in the organization. He got one game in with the Laval Rocket during their playoff run, after signing an amateur tryout with the Habs’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate. However, bigger things are expected out of the 2021 fifth-round pick.
For starters, Roy only signed the tryout, because he had already signed his entry-level deal with the Canadiens. It kicks into action starting with the 2022-23 season, though. At that point, Roy may very well be returned back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, because of his just-19 years of age. However, he’s proven about everything he can at that level, having just won the scoring title (impressively at 18).
So, development camp is where the Habs can see where he stacks up against the team’s top prospects, who make up a list to the top of which he’s surged in a short period of time. The Canadiens are fairly deep on the wing right now, but Roy represents the next wave in of talent, once the current crop hit free agency within a few years. Fans don’t have to wait that long to get a good look, though.
2. Kaiden Guhle (LD)
Defenseman Kaiden Guhle was already arguably the Canadiens’s top prospect, at least entering the 2022 Draft. Now that Alexander Romanov’s been traded, it’s hard to overstate the significance of the former’s participation at the Canadiens’ development camp. The team’s depth on the left side on defense is still strong without Romanov, but his departure potentially opens up a spot for Guhle.
There are no guarantees. The 20-year-old Guhle’s junior career is now over. So, he either sticks with the Canadiens or goes to the AHL. Other than Joel Edmundson though, there aren’t really any sure things destined for the NHL roster as far as the left side is concerned.
You’ve got Jordan Harris, who could similarly be sent down for developmental reasons, and Kale Clague and Corey Schueneman who might battle it out for seventh-defenseman duties. Other prospects like Mattias Norlinder and Gianni Fairbrother are likely destined for the AHL. So, a lot is up in the air. Things start to come into focus starting with how Guhle performs at the development camp.
1. Juraj Slafkovsky (LW)
Guhle may have been the team’s top prospect heading into the 2022 Draft, but Juraj Slafkovsky took over the top spot immediately upon his selection at No. 1.
Admittedly, that would have been true of anyone the Habs took, by virtue of it being the first-overall pick and all. And there are concerns Slafkovsky was selected out of recency bias, as he truly came on in recent months with his performances at the 2022 Winter Olympics and International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship.
However, Habs fans would be far from suffering from shiny-new-toy syndrome themselves for wanting to see Slafkovsky. None of the concerns matter now nor change how the 6-foot-4, 218-pound Slafkovsky projects as a big power forward to complement Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield on the team’s top line (for example) for years to come.
So, there’s a clear spot for Slafkovsky, with Hughes having told the media after the first round that the plan right now is for him to come over to North America for next season. Whether that means the NHL or the AHL, training for next season technically starts right now. So, there’s no such thing as getting too early of a look at Slafkovsky at this point.