If there is one thing Montreal Canadiens fans can look forward to after this train-wreck of a season, it is a high draft pick. Montreal will likely draft in the top 10 and, despite players ranked all over the place after the big three of Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi, there are a lot of solid prospects to choose from. The Habs desperately need to inject some young high-end talent into their lineup and it is crucial they hit on this year’s first round pick.
The Montreal Canadiens’ Biggest Needs
Two positions that desperately need to be filled for Montreal are a top-six winger (or two) and a top-four defenceman. Montreal needs more players who can score consistently as relying on Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher isn’t enough. On defence, Andrei Markov is showing his age and taking him out of the lineup leaves a gaping hole.
Remove Markov from the left side and the next best options are Nathan Beaulieu and Alexei Emelin to fill that spot. Beaulieu has shown he can be a top-four player, but the Habs ideally need a player who can be PK Subban’s partner and play those heavy minutes consistently.
Both kinds of players are available in this year’s draft, so the Habs should go with the best player available and the possibility of them drafting a very good prospect is very high. Barring insane draft lottery luck or a trade, the Habs likely won’t get a shot at the Big Three but there are some others the Habs could target.
Habs now in 8 spot for draft. Let's see what MB does. That's not a great spot. He can flip pick to get top 5 or pack pick to get a now asset
— Brian Wilde (@BWildeGlobal) March 27, 2016
Best player available
When it comes to the draft, the Habs have the pressure to draft at least one francophone player and after picking Louis LeBlanc in the first round in 2009 (ultimately becoming a bust), fans are hesitant about the Habs reaching for a player just because he is French. However, this year is different. This time, there is a Quebec-born player who is ranked in the top 10 and knowing general manager Marc Bergevin’s emphasis on scouting in the QMJHL, the organization likely has their eyes on Pierre-Luc Dubois.
A 6-foot-3, 202 pound player who can play all three forward positions, Dubois competes consistently and put up 99 points in 62 games. He has charged up the rankings after being rated behind fellow QMJHLer Julien Gauthier going into the season. Dubois checks off every box of what Montreal is likely looking for.
— James Stephan (@J_Habs) March 24, 2016
Even if Dubois is off the board by the time Montreal picks, some other good players could fall into their lap. What if Jakob Chychrun somehow was still available when the Habs pick? He has size, speed and skill and projects to be a top-pairing defenceman. Same thing for London Knights defenceman Olli Juolevi, who is not as big as Chychrun but was excellent for Finland at the world juniors and some scouts have Juolevi over Chychrun. Even defenceman Jake Bean of the Calgary Hitmen is quickly making his way up the draft rankings with 64 points in 68 games from the blue line.
On the draft, some scouts/GMs I talked to last week were discussing whether Juolevi might displace Tkachuk as consensus No. 4 after Big 3.
— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) March 16, 2016
Up front, there are some big-time scorers, such as Matthew Tkachuk and Alex Nylander. Tkachuk lit it up in London this year with 107 points in 57 games, including a stint with Team USA at the World Juniors with 11 points in seven games. Nylander was a human highlight reel this season in his work with the Mississauga Steelheads. Tkachuk has been compared to father and former NHLer Keith, while Nylander has measured against his father Michael and brother William, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top prospect.
Hitting a home run
Every draft is important for every team but the Habs really need to hit on this one and get some high-end talent. The Habs hit on Alex Galchenyuk at third overall in 2012 and Carey Price at fifth overall in 2005, so hopefully Montreal has the same luck in 2016. The team doesn’t pick in the top 10 very often and the draft is the best way to get good talent. The franchise needs to give the fans something to look forward to after this awful season and adding an elite-level youngster to the core would be a nice start.