With the 2016 NHL draft fast approaching, the Montreal Canadiens are sitting in the ninth slot. However, with teams like the Edmonton Oilers and the Vancouver Canucks possibly willing to move the fourth and fifth picks respectively, the opportunity to trade up exists. The potential to trade down is an option as well with the varied draft rankings. Is it worth it for Montreal to trade up or down at the draft?
Will the Montreal Canadiens Trade up?
There are a few benefits to trading up in the draft. Montreal has a plethora of forward prospects in the system but lack high ceiling top line forwards. The closest would be Nikita Scherbak, who has the skill but isn’t physically ready for the next level just yet. Artturi Lehkonen, Charles Hudon, Sven Andrighetto, Daniel Carr and Michael McCarron all project better as second or third liners. If the Habs move up into the top five, they would have a shot at drafting two excellent forwards in Matthew Tkachuk or Pierre-Luc Dubois, two players who would be an excellent fit in Montreal.
A late birthday, Tkachuk started his rookie OHL season after two years with the United States National Team Development Program playing on arguably the best line in junior hockey in London with Christian Dvorak and Mitch Marner, where he posted 107 points in 57 games. He also won bronze at the World Juniors with Team USA and scored the overtime winner in the Memorial Cup Final. Tkachuk isn’t the greatest skater in the world but he more than makes up for it in skill, hockey IQ and competitiveness.
Matthew Tkachuk's pitch why he deserves high pick: “I’m a winner… I know how to win & how to bring that winning mentality to a team."
— Chris Wescott (@TheChrisWescott) June 4, 2016
Dubois put up excellent numbers of his own in the QMJHL with 99 points in 62 games and can play centre or wing. Dubois has a nice combination of size, speed and skill, one of those players who does everything well. He excels both offensively and defensively and has some bite to his game. Both Dubois and Tkachuk would be excellent additions to a Montreal team lacking high end skill up front.
Trading Down or Staying Put?
As for the benefits of trading down, it’s a good way to pick up extra draft picks, prospects or players. If Montreal is targeting a certain player who may be around after the ninth pick, they could trade down and pick up an additional asset. The more picks a team has, the likelihood of finding an NHLer increases. Montreal’s prospect pool has a lot of variety as mentioned above, but more high ceiling players are needed. For Montreal to trade down, it only makes sense if they know the player they want will be available later but that is no guarantee.
Unless the deal makes sense, Montreal is better off staying where they are. There will be a lot of good options at the ninth pick whether it be a forward or defenceman. However, after the disaster that was last season, GM Marc Bergevin needs to start making bigger moves besides acquiring depth forwards. If the opportunity arises to move up without sacrificing too much, Montreal should take advantage. Walking away with a top forward prospect like a Tkachuk or Dubois would fill a huge need for Montreal.