Complete Review of the Montreal Canadiens 2012 Draft Class

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by Robert Rice, Senior Writer, AllHabs.net

Credit for rankings, details and analysis were culled from use of NHL Central Scouting, McKeens Hockey, Future Considerations and Hockey Prospectus.  Player’s measurements/weights were gathered from the official numbers of the NHL Draft Combine.

TORONTO, ON — On June 22nd and 23rd, the Canadiens took a major step forward in what can only be described as a very successful draft.  What follows is a complete examination of each player chose by the Habs in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

 

3rd overall: C Alex Galchenyuk

Team: Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League

 

Ranked:
4th overall by Central Scouting, NA Skaters

2nd overall by Future Considerations

3rd overall by Hockey Prospectus

2nd overall by McKeen’s

 

Vitals:

Height: 6’0.5”

Weight: 194 pounds

Shoots: Left

 

Analysis:

The Canadiens had a target and they hit the mark in Alex Galchenyuk. The team has been in desperate need of a top-line centre since the loss of Vincent Damphousse and arguably, when former Canadien Saku Koivu’s first knee injury hindered his skating. Since then, Koivu and now Plekanec have shouldered top-line duties even though their abilities are not at the level one desires for the position.

Galchenyuk brings a very wide skill set to the ice. He has quick hands that allow him to both deke defenders or slip a pass to an open teammate with great accuracy. He possesses an accurate shot with a good release that can catch a goalie unaware, although he does not use it as much as he could. His vision amongst his peers is elite, allowing him to both read and create plays than execute on them before his opponents can react. Galchenyuk is arguably the top playmaker in his draft class. He is very good at protecting the puck with either deft stickhandling or using body position, allowing him to carry the puck and direct play to his will. He’s defensively responsible and can be trusted across all three zones.

Galchenyuk’s physical size is not ideal for those dreaming of a Ryan Getzlaf or Joe Thornton in terms of size but that should not be a concern. He could conceivably gain at least half an inch or more before he’s fully grown. He possesses a very solid frame and is known to be extremely dedicated to physical conditioning. It should be noted that physical frame, natural strength and conditioning can mean a world of difference between players of similar heights. One wouldn’t confuse the strength of Alexei Emelin with that of Josh Gorges would they? Galchenyuk brings a physical element to the game, both giving out hits and willing to take them in order to make a play happen.

Skating is a concern. Galchenyuk was rated as good and improving skater in his draft class prior to his injury. With recovery from an ACL reconstruction, there is always the fear he will be robbed of either speed or agility. Granted a player like Evgeni Malkin has overcome such a thing, but for a Montreal fan, one can’t think of what Saku Koivu was like before his first knee injury as a skater and what came after.

The other major issue would be the lack of playing time in the 2011-12 season. Players have completely fallen out of favour from the start of a season to the end based on inadequate results or an early plateau in their abilities. Galchenyuk was extremely well-rated, and likely the best 16-year old player in the entire Canadian major junior system in 2011, it should be remembered. His talent and tools are still very well ranked though and scouts are very high on his upside despite a missed season.

Galchenyuk was the Best Player Available on the board and he projects with all the proper tools to be an excellent NHL player. I would estimate he plays the next season in the OHL as he missed a great deal of development, but takes a roster spot with the Canadiens in the 2013-14 season. I know some would prefer he starts in the NHL right away but unless he essentially blows the roof off of the Bell Centre in pre-season and has a commanding 9-game tryout, the OHL is the best place for him in 2012-13.

 

Viewing Opportunities:  It may be possible to see Galchenyuk via featured OHL games on Sportsnet of the Sarnia Sting and a likely roster spot on the 2013 Team USA entry to the World Junior Championships.

Best Upside: 1st-line Playmaking Centre

 

 

33rd overall: RW Sebastian Collberg

Team: Frölunda HC of Swedish Elitserien

 

Ranked:

3rd overall by Central Scouting EU Skaters

12th overall by Future Considerations

11th overall by Hockey Prospectus

14th overall by McKeens

 

Vitals:

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 180 pounds

Shoots: Right

 

Analysis:

While it was certainly a wish of the Montreal Canadiens and their fans that Galchenyuk was available at 3rd overall, it would have been hard to anticipate Collberg falling from a ranked mid-1st to being available at 33rd overall. It appears Trevor Timmins did not blink in pushing Collberg as the next choice for the team and spoke glowingly of the player in interviews.

Collberg brings a goal scorer’s assets to the game. He has a very accurate shot that is nearly seamless upon release and is backed with impressive velocity. Collberg’s hands are just not limited to scoring, he is very deft at handling the puck and protecting it, making him able to move through traffic with a variety of moves. One of the best skaters in his class, he has good acceleration and achieves an exceptional top speed that allows him to outpace his opposition or back off defenders. Does not lack for vision or offensive sense and will come back and play defensively as needed.

Collberg’s physical frame leaves a little to be desired, while 5’11” is not puny in even today’s NHL, his difficulties in handling men’s league competition in the Swedish Elitserien this year were notable. Collberg will need to engage in a strong conditioning regimen in order to be physically prepared to take on pro-level competition. Collberg is not timid around physical play though and will go to high traffic areas and use his body, but his current strength level notably limits him.

The reigning concern for many taking a cursory look at Collberg’s statistical line is that of 2011-12 in the top Swedish league, the Elitserien. Over 41 games, Collberg scored no points. One would imagine even at the 4th-line minutes Collberg was taking, an incidental assist or two would have shown up. However given the positive marks he’s gained for scoring well against his peers in International Competition, this is more a note that Collberg is a bit farther away from taking an NHL roster spot than some might prefer.

It’s not difficult to argue Collberg was the best player available at 33rd overall, having taken a tumble in the draft listings as teams went after needs in some cases rather than the best player overall. In an organization that is a bit bereft of promising goal scorers, Collberg makes a very welcome addition as well. Collberg has another year to play on his contract with Frölunda, but could conceivably make the transition to the AHL in 2012-13  to begin adapting to the North American ice and style. Would not project him into an NHL role before arguably 2015 in a significant role at present.

 

Viewing Opportunities: After an excellent 17-year old performance in 2012 as Sweden captured Gold, expect Collberg to figure prominently with both the 2013 and 2014 Swedish World Junior Championship teams.

Best Upside: Top-6 Scoring Winger.

 

 

51st overall: D Dalton Thrower

Team: Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League

 

Ranked:

26th overall by Central Scouting NA Skaters

28th overall by Future Considerations

57th overall by Hockey Prospectus

38th overall by McKeens

 

Vitals:

Height: 5’11.75”

Weight: 200 pounds

Shoots: Right

 

Analysis:

Fortune smiled again on Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins as they found Thrower, who had been projected earlier in the draft like Collberg. Defensive depth is arguably the Canadiens best strength in their pipeline, but it seemed Thrower still being available was too much to pass up for the organization. This should also remind some that a team can always deal from a position of strength when needed to address other roster issues.

It’s not hard to see where Thrower generates his offensive totals when some describe his powerful slapshot. Thrower’s slapshot is not only powerful but he’s shown growing accuracy over the past year with it and is able to place it on net and through traffic efficiently. Thrower shows good puck skills, able to make a good first pass and is able to carry the puck up ice to help push offensive play. He is good at reading plays and will make good decisions on the ice most of the time. Displays good mobility with his skating.

Thrower’s draft ranking was raised quite a bit by his physical game, while thought to be somewhat undersized for a defencemen, he does not let that limit him. An aggressive if almost reckless physical player at times, he aims to do harm when he makes contact. His hits register when he delivers them and will be active in the neutral zone with physical presence as well. Thrower also doesn’t mind dropping the gloves and will often give a good accounting, even against those larger than him.

Current or perceived drawbacks that currently trail Thrower are not uncommon for young defenders. He can be caught running around too much in his own zone and therefore be out of position and cost his team. His decision making can also be somewhat of a coin flip, as he’ll be caught with missed coverage or ill decisions with the puck. The other concern is for Thrower’s stature, as such an aggressive player who will drop the gloves readily could run into injury problems in his career.

Thrower was not the player I coveted the most at 51st with Brian Hart and Cristoval Nieves on the board as potential power forwards but as I’ve said before, Trevor Timmins is several hundred times more knowledgeable than I am about scouting matters. By almost all draft rankings, Thrower was a steal at this position and easily makes sense for the Canadiens to make a deft selection and add a talented young defencemen to the organization.

 

Viewing Opportunities: Thrower will be able to compete for a spot with the 2013 World Junior Championship Team for Canada. There also may be a WHL game featuring the Saskatoon Blades on Sportsnet this season. With the Saskatoon Blades as the Memorial Cup Hosts as well, Thrower’s opportunity to play for the ultimate trophy in junior hockey will also be available for viewing.

Best Upside: Top-4 Two-way defencemen

 

 

64th overall: LW Tim Bozon

Team: Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League

 

Ranked:

42nd overall by Central Scouting NA Skaters

49th Overall by Future Considerations

26th overall by Hockey Prospectus

45th Overall by McKeens

 

Vitals:

Height: 6’0.75”

Weight: 183 pounds

Shoots: Left

 

Analysis:

The windfalls kept coming for Bergevin and Timmins, with a more keen eye to the Western Hockey League of late, the team was no doubt eager to collect a goal-scorer making his mark in his first year of North American hockey in the very tough Western Hockey League.

Bozon has a very smooth skating stride, allowing him to generate very good acceleration and hit a solid top speed. Bozon’s shot has a good amount of power to it and he’s able to get it off even while off-balance, making him a very good scoring threat. Displays very good passing ability and creativity, allowing him to create offence in a variety of ways. Shows solid vision on the ice, not just in reading the plays but anticipating them as well. He has a good defensive awareness as well and is responsible in his own end.

Bozon isn’t an overly large player, but is very adept at using his size. He has a solid overall body that he will be able to add muscle to, and is very good at using it to protect the puck. Bozon shows willingness to work along the boards and aggressively forecheck, playing at times with an edge. Very solid work ethic, rarely gives up on a play and is energetic on the ice, sometimes influencing his teammates.

Bozon doesn’t draw many critiques, his size isn’t an ideal but he has not let that interfere with his play in the very tough WHL either. There are concerns his scoring upside may not translate as well to the professional level. There is nothing truly exceptional to any particular aspect of his game.

Bozon was about as good a windfall as any team could hope to find at the start of the 3rd round, when the scoring talent, especially in an average draft can dip and lead towards the bottom-6 and unknown upside variety of prospects. Bozon has two remaining seasons in the WHL until he is eligible for the AHL. In projecting, Bozon is probably going to wait until 2015 at least to begin contending for a roster spot in Montreal.

 

Best Viewing Opportunities: Due to his commitment to Team France in International Play, do not expect to see Bozon at the World Junior Championships as their entry is ranked too low to participate in the top tier of International competition. Bozon may be seen at one point this year via a featured WHL game of the Kamloops Blazers on Sportsnet.

Best Upside: Top-9 Scoring Winger

 

 

94th overall: C Brady Vail

 

Ranked:

38th overall by Central Scouting NA Skaters

51st overall by Future Considerations

85th overall by Hockey Prospectus

40th overall by McKeens

 

Vitals:

Height: 6’0.25”

Weight: 195 pounds

Shoots: Left

 

Analysis:

Vail comes up as yet another fortunate find for Timmins, not offering the offensive talents of those ranked above him, but when discussing the 4th round, one’s expectations for NHL potential do start to trend downwards. While Vail is a noted step downwards in offensive potential, he does bring a quality of his own to the ice.

Vail is not exceptionally skilled like some in the 2012 draft, but shows a good knowledge of using what he does have. He displays good vision with the puck, with a decent snap shot and a measure of playmaking ability. Skating and agility is average, although he will always pump his feet and stay in motion and is showing improving acceleration. Shows good offensive instincts at times, able to take part in the cycle game. Displays very strong defensive awareness.

Vail’s height is not overwhelming, but his physical frame makes up for it. A very solid frame lets him press an advantage along the boards and in puck battles. Vail is not considered a nasty player, but he will finish his checks and be relentless in pursuit of the puck. Shows a good understanding of his role on the ice and knows that defence coming first is the best way to play his game.

Concerns sit with Vail’s offensive upside. He has no truly notable puck skills or ability to protect the puck, probably limiting his ability to contribute offence at the professional levels if he makes the transition. Skating is the other concern, as with the pace of the modern game, Vail will likely need to improve speed and agility by a cut or two in order to be able to keep pace with top offensive players in NHL play and not get left behind.

Vail was not somebody I overly favoured at this stage, being more a fan of the longer reaches and gambles of taking players out of Europe in the later rounds. A defensive forward with a solid compete level and commitment is a very good addition at this stage of the draft, especially since scouting groups rank him well enough to believe his upside is enough that despite limited offensive talents he could transition to the pro levels. In projecting Vail, he is likely not going to contend for a roster spot until at least 2015.

 

Best Viewing Opportunities: Vail may be seen this season via a featured OHL game of the Windsor Spitfires on Sportsnet. He could also potentially earn a spot with Team USA at the 2013 or 2014 World Junior Championship entries.

Best Upside: Top-9 Two-Way Forward

 

 

122nd overall: LW Charles Hudon

Team: Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

 

Ranked:

 

95th overall by Central Scouting NA Skaters

52nd overall by Future Considerations

34th overall by Hockey Prospectus

89th overall by McKeen’s

 

Vitals:

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 170 pounds

Shoots: Left

 

Analysis:

Hudon was another fall in the rankings, albeit somewhat more understood. Hudon brings a very skilled playmaking game to the ice, but his overall size is bound to give teams pause, as is playing in the less well-thought of Quebec Major Junior league.

Hudon’s game is all about skill. Hudon displays excellent offensive vision and creativity with the puck, allowing him to be a slippery playmaker. Hudon has very smooth hands and excellent passing ability, when matched with his creativity allows him to be a significant offensive threat on the ice. Not much power to his shot, but he uses it often enough to find gaps and generate goals. He shows good awareness away from the puck, knowing what to do when it’s not on his stick.

Despite Hudon’s smaller stature, he shows willingness to battle for the puck as he must and can win out battles thanks to his intelligence and quick hands. Very good at pursuing the puck as well, he will not wait for it but constantly goes after it or gets in position to receive it.

Issues around Hudon mostly rest on his stature. Hudon’s thought to have been generously listed as 5’10” and he doesn’t have an overly strong build that lets him compete despite the size gap. Hudon is also not a very accomplished skater, a notable drawback for a smaller player. While he displays some agility, he doesn’t have great speed to outpace his opponents and burn defenders to his advantage. Hudon also doesn’t possess much of a defensive game at present.

Difficult to start registering complaints in the 5th round as teams are generally betting on risk-reward prospects who have lower future NHL upside. Hudon was a welcome addition in some minds no doubt due to his background, the only French Canadian addition to the team’s prospect chart at the 2012 draft. He represents more of a project at this stage of the draft naturally, but his offensive tools are strong enough that it gives an encouraging thought he could beat the 5th-round odds of making the NHL. His likely NHL projection takes him about 2016.

 

Best Viewing Opportunities: With the right improvements, Hudon could get himself placement on Canada’s World Junior Championship entries for either the 2013 or 2014 Tournament. Hudon and Chicoutimi may also be seen on a VOX TV, TVA or Sportsnet broadcast of a QMJHL game.

Best Upside: Top-9 Playmaking Winger

 

 

154th overall: LW Erik Nystrom

 

Ranked:

85th overall by Central Scouting EU Skaters

Unranked by FC

Unranked by Hockey Prospectus

Unranked by McKeens

 

Vitals:

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 176 pounds

Shoots: Left

 

Analysis:

There is not a great deal known about Nystrom and he was the Canadiens ‘off the board’ selection from the 2012 Draft. I don’t have much information on Nystrom and it’s a bit irresponsible to go into serious discussion without relying upon the triple-sourcing I did for the rest of this draft coverage. I will share what limited data I have picked up though.

From Elite Prospects: “A speedy and technically skilled player with very good vision. Moves the puck impressively in high speed. Also a hardworking player.”

The Canadiens apparently first spotted Nystrom when Trevor Timmins was on a Sweden trip and Nystrom caught his eye. He asked the team’s European scouting staff to keep an eye on the player for the rest of the season. Given the solid reputation Timmins has as a talent evaluator, it’s possible he saw a hidden upside in Nystrom that his counterparts have not. However Nystrom like anyone else in this range of the draft is a project player and at least five years from consideration for an NHL position.

 

Best Viewing Opportunities: Given his relatively unknown profile, it is unlikely Nystrom will get a chance to represent Sweden in the International World Junior events.

Best Upside: Bottom-6 Winger

 

Overall Draft Grade: A

Montreal selected no less than three solid scoring prospects in Galchenyuk, Collberg and Bozon, boosting a limited pool of talented offensive prospects to a more respectable accounting that sorely relieves an issue with in-house potential scoring talent.  Galchenyuk is in a class all on his own as a prospect and could possibly define the future of the team in just a few years. The team also helped itself to some grit and tenacity with Thrower and Vail, while probably having lower offensive impacts than their counterparts, they will always bring a very competitive element to balance out the talented scorers. The Canadiens also invested in a pair of projects in Hudon and Nystrom, that while have lower probabilities compared to their peers, it has been proven in recent years that Trevor Timmins and his staff have a knack for finding the gems in the later rounds.

Is this the draft that changes everything for the Montreal Canadiens? No.  However there are certainly enough good pieces here, folded in with 2005 draft pick Carey Price, 2007 picks Max Pacioretty and P.K. Subban, 2009 pick Louis Leblanc, 2010 picks Jarred Tinordi, Morgan Ellis, Brendan Gallagher and 2011 pick Nathan Beaulieu to envision a very potent future for the Canadiens. The draft is about building and the 2012 draft looks to be one that has added yet another solid foundation for a potential Stanley Cup Contending team.

9 COMMENTS

  1. I believe Nystrom was invited for the first group of team Sweden, where there is over 30 players or something. If he can shine there and make the cut, that would be excellent.

    Overall, good read as always Robert

  2. Robert! I do miss your writing and comments on HIO my friend. Please attend our 2012 Fan Summit this fall, more than I will quite enjoy talking hockey with you.

    Ian Cobb

    • Thanks Ian,

      Regarding the Summit, If only! Sadly my vacation time works against me this year and I will be unable to attend, I literally miss out on the Koivu return by 1 week on my scheduled trip back to Montreal and I can’t alter it.

  3. I really think everyone is sleeping on Charles Hudon. Being on the smaller side, and not a powerful skater is not the best way to start out, but if you look closer, he is still growing, and with strength his straight line speed and shot will improve a lot. He has exceptional short area quickness and hockey sense. Also Charles seems to have a quiet intensity about him that should allow him to maximize his talent. History shows that innate hockey sense is the one quality that will get a player to the top level and keep him there most reliably.

    • Hudon has a good opportunity here as he came under the radar in this draft. Brendan Gallagher’s notably improved his skating, and shot since being selected and is now a top prospect for Montreal despite earlier concerns.

      I personally find it hard to doubt a late-round pick by Timmins these days, he always finds the right projects.

    • Hudon has some skill as he showed in individual drills and shootouts. His skating at this point is average at best. Was looking for some intensity during three-on-three but it clearly wasn’t there. He had some difficulty in traffic even with so few players on the ice and was bumped off the puck too easily.

  4. Closer look at the prospects stats, and Tim Bozon really stands out. I think he was the top goal scorer from Major Junior Hockey taken in the draft, after Grigorenko. Probably tougher to score in the WHL than the QMJHL, as well. There were a bunch of highly drafted defensemen out of the Dub, the past couple of years. Bozon would have had to play against one or another of them every game pretty much. Also it has a reputation of being a very tough league physically. Not the place you would expect a skilled forward who grew up as a hockey player in France and Switzerland to stand out. He seemed to beat all the cliches, never missed a game all season. Probably one of just a few players in the draft who could say that.

    • I was looking forward to seeing Bozon at development camp. Nothing was working for him on the first day, and he was clearly frustrated. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk up his opening day struggles to nerves. Bozon was better as the camp progressed but never did live up to the high praise of the scouting reports. You’re correct in saying that he will be well prepared in the WHL to adapt to an NHL-style game.

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