The Montreal Canadiens are on the up and up. Despite picking in the top three two years ago at the draft, Marc Bergevin has returned the team to its winning ways. In the 2014 playoffs, Montreal knocked off the Eastern Conference powerhouse, Boston Bruins before being bounced in six games to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. They cultivated an abundance of young players in the process, a few of which can likely play for the Bleu, Blanc, et Rouge next season. Here is a look at their top five prospects.
- Skaters can not have played more than 42 games.
- Goalies can not have played more than 25 games.
5. Jarred Tinordi – AHL – Hamilton Bulldogs – D
Like father like son, Jarred Tinordi followed in Mark’s footsteps as a big, bruising defenseman who can shutdown just about anyone. Jarred stands 6’6″ with the strength to match. A defensive defensemen in every sense of the word, Tinordi can log big minutes and go up against team’s top lines every night. He doesn’t get noticed on the scoresheet, but it won’t take long to hear his bone-crushing checks from the stands. A key piece that gets overlooked is his ability to lead. He captained Team USA to their improbably come-from-behind victory against Canada in the gold medal game in the 2010 World Juniors. He also served as assistant captain of the London Knights when they won the OHL Championship in 2011-12. There’s a good chance Tinordi splits time in the pros this year, but it’s also not improbable that he earn his spot in the NHL full-time with a great training camp.
4. Zachary Fucale – QMJHL – Halifax Mooseheads – G
QMJHL All-Rookie Team, QMJHL First All-Star Team, Ivan Hlinka Gold Medalist, QMJHL Champion, Memorial Cup Champion, Jacques Plante Trophy for best QMJHL goals against, the list goes on and on. 19-year old Zachary Fucale has been on top of his game since he entered the QMJHL. It certainly helped to have Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, and Nikolaj Ehlers on his teams the past three seasons, but he’s been a rock between the pipes. One of the most technically sound goalie prospects, Fucale reacts quickly, swallows up pucks, and is positionally sound. Although there is no rush with Carey Price cemented as started for the Canadiens, Fucale is a bright spot for the Habs organization down the road. Since goalies take longer to develop, the young netminder won’t have a problem helping the Mooseheads back to QMJHL supremacy this year.
3. Charles Hudon – AHL – Hamilton Bulldogs – LW/C
Charles Hudon was a player everyone expected to be selected higher in his draft year, however he fell all the way to the 5th round where the Canadiens scooped him up. Since then he’s become one of the more consistent offensive point producers in the QMJHL. The diminutive forward has figured out a way to make it onto the scoresheet despite playing against players much larger. His hockey sense and the way he thinks the game far surpasses his opponents. Hudon has pronounced stickhandling in very tight spaces and packs power into his shot (something you don’t see often from smaller players). After four season in the QMJHL, Hudon will be making the jump to Hamilton of the AHL. It will be interesting to see just how he fares against even bigger and smarter competition, but given that his size has made him an underdog, he has more than enough chances to prove himself yet again.
2. Nikita Scherbak – WHL – Saskatoon Blades – RW
The Saskatoon Blades felt Nikita Scherbak was worth taking with their 2nd round CHL Import Draft pick and it has paid dividends. Already the young Russian led the WHL in goals and assists as a rookie eventually leading to him being selected by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 2014 draft. An evasive winger, Scherbak doesn’t just play the finesse game accustomed to many Russian danglers. He’s also aggressive on the forecheck and isn’t afraid to play a gritty game. It will take time for him to buffer his game, but the potential is certainly there. An extra year or two with the Blades will get him used to the North American ice and style of play.
1. Nathan Beaulieu – AHL – Hamilton Bulldogs – D
An anchor on the powerful Saint John Sea Dogs teams a few years ago, Nathan Beaulieu has continued to grow his game and is regarded as a dominant puck mover on the blueline. Beaulieu’s game has transitioned flawlessly to the AHL and was 2nd among defensemen in points last season. Beaulieu has great vision down the ice and makes crisp passes to move the puck out of the zone. Although his game isn’t built around physicality, Beaulieu knows how to throw his weight around. He’s a smooth skater and he’s very quick to get back defensively when needed. He’s had his taste of the NHL and with Alexei Emelin out for the first part of the year, it will be a battle between Beaulieu and Tinordi to see who gets the 6th and final spot on the Canadiens blueline when the season starts.