The Montreal Canadiens have good depth in their prospect pool, but still have some glaring holes that need to be addressed in the short term.
The Canadiens have drafted a considerable amount of players since former general manager Marc Bergevin announced an impending reset in 2018. Between the 2018 and 2021 drafts, 38 players were selected by the Canadiens, with some already suiting up for the club as we speak. That being said, the Canadiens were guilty of drafting for need during that period of time, specifically left-shooting defencemen, which led to the club ignoring other positions of need within the organization that have quickly caught up to them.
Below are the most pressing needs in the Montreal Canadiens’ prospect pool:
With Nick Suzuki now firmly established in the NHL and Jesperi Kotkaniemi in Carolina, the Montreal Canadiens do not boast much depth in their prospect pools regarding the most pivotal (pun intended) position in hockey. As of this junction, the Canadiens have Riley Kidney (2021), Oliver Kapanen (2021), Jan Mysak (2020) and Blake Biondi(2020) as centers with legitimate NHL potential in their prospect pool. Of the bunch, Kidney is arguably the only one that has a shot at one day being a top-6 center down the line. General manager Kent Hughes has spoken at length about his desire to fix the center depth on the main roster and in the organization, so one could expect this need to be filled in short order.
With Ryan Poehling and Jake Evans seemingly having graduated to bottom-six roles with the Montreal Canadiens and only Kidney as a legitimate contender for future offensive duties down the middle, the Canadiens will likely address this need on July 7 at the 2022 NHL Draft. With Shane Wright ranked by most outlets as the top player of the 2022 NHL Draft, he would instantly come and add some much-needed star power to the position. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Canadiens use some of their 13 other draft picks in the 2022 NHL Draft to further shore up this position and a boost of talent down the middle.
The Canadiens went heavy with the drafting of defencemen, specifically left-shot defencemen, over the last four drafts. The selections of Alexander Romanov (2018), Jordan Harris (2018), Jayden Struble (2019), Mattias Norlinder (2019), Gianni Fairbrother (2019), Kaiden Guhle (2020), and William Trudeau (2021) saw the club really doubled down on a position of need at the pro-level that former general manager Marc Bergevin failed to address at the time.
With such a large number of left defensemen being selected over this period of time, the Montreal Canadiens saw the depth of their right-shooting defensemen dwindle at the worst possible time. With veterans Shea Weber and Jeff Petry both in the final years of their careers, it was only in the 2021 NHL Draft that the Montreal Canadiens truly began to address the blatant need for right-shooting defensive prospects. The drafting of Logan Mailloux, despite all the noise surrounding him, as well as defensemen Dimitri Kostenko and Daniil Sobolev, shows how dire the need to replenish their ranks on the right side of their defence was.
With the Mailloux situation still up in the air, the Montreal Canadiens still lacked a right-shooting defenseman in their prospect pool with legitimate top-4 potential until this most recent NHL Trade Deadline, when new general manager Kent Hughes acquired 20-year-old Justin Barron. Despite the acquisition of Barron, the Canadiens are still thin on the right side and could most certainly use a boost in their ranks be it via trade or at the 2022 NHL Draft, as Barron is already at the pro-level and he’s going to need some support down the line if the Canadiens are going to want to be competitive.
The Montreal Canadiens have a plethora of talented young wingers in their prospect pool, like Sean Farrell, Jesse Ylönen and Joshua Roy, but don’t have any other prospects that can rival their scoring ability. Granted, 2019 1st-round pick, Cole Caufield, is already on the team, which does make this need a little less pressing, but the top-end offensive talent is clearly lacking in general on the wings. The Canadiens boast some solid forward depth with prospects like Luke Tuch (2020), Blake Biondi (2020), Emil Heineman (trade), Ty Smilanic (trade) and Harvey-Pinard (2019), but lack that top-end scoring talent that could snipe at will.
Although it is easier to acquire wingers via trade or free agency than the aforementioned needs above, it would be wise for the Canadiens to shore up this position in the future. With the recent acquisitions of Heineman and Smilanic, who plays center and left-wing, Hughes and the rest of the Canadiens management team were aware of such a need and will likely continue to fill the ranks in order to have a more balanced prospect pool moving forward.