The Montreal Canadiens have the assets to move up in this draft, and there are a few candidates they should pounce on if they get the chance. They have the firepower to move up in this draft, owning the 26th and 33rd overall selections, along with a plethora of other mid-round picks and assets.
The Montreal Canadiens have not moved up at the NHL Draft since the 2010 Draft, where they made the move to jump up from 27th to 22nd to select defenceman Jarred Tinordi. Even though Tinordi’s career didn’t turn out as expected, the Canadiens’ hesitancy to move up in the draft, especially in the top-2 rounds, has frustrated fans and pundits alike, as quality prospects were within reach and were picked up by other, more aggressive clubs. Instead, the Canadiens made a habit of recycling their picks for later years or trading down at the draft to acquire more late-round selections.
With five picks in the first 66 selections of the 2022 NHL Draft, the Montreal Canadiens have the luxury of adding more quality to a prospect pool that is already overflowing with quantity. There are a few candidates that the Montreal Canadiens could target as potential trade-up candidates for the 2022 NHL Draft, as good players are bound to slip a few spots for their consensus ranking, allowing aggressive teams to pounce at the opportunity to add a top prospect to their ranks. To get an idea of what rank Canadiens could hope to trade up for if they were to package some of their picks to move up, Montreal Hockey Now has prepared a Draft Pick Valuation table which outlines the value of each draft pick in the top-70 for trades. Now, here are a few options the Montreal Canadiens could target if the timing and pricing are right:
According to TVA Sports‘ Anthony Martineau, the Montreal Canadiens took top Swedish prospect Jonathan Lekkerimäki out for supper at the NHL Combine, a sign that they wanted more time with the goal-scoring winger.
“When it comes to other players the Montreal Canadiens have interest in, there’s Jonathan Lekkerimäki,” said Martineau when pointing to other players the Canadiens have taken a liking to. “He’s scored quite a few goals in Sweden and sees himself as the purest goal-scorer in the draft. He went for supper last night with the Montreal Canadiens and had a nice, big steak!”
Lekkerimäki is one of the best goal-scorers in this draft and took the Swedish J-20 league by storm this season, posting 20 goals and 15 assists for 35 points in 26 games. His exceptional performances at the U-20 level earned him some time with Djurgårdens’ main team in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), where he put up a very respectable seven goals and two assists for nine points in 26 games playing mostly in a bottom-six role. Lekkerimäki truly shined at the U-18 World Championships, where he led his team to a goal medal, all while leading the tournament in scoring with15 points in just six games.
— Steven Ellis (@StevenEllisTHN) April 24, 2022
Lekkerimäki plays a very interesting game, predicated on good puck protection and a strong nose for the net. He has one of the more impressive releases in this draft class and uses it to unleash shots from just about everywhere in the offensive zone. He generates offence by remaining constantly implicated in the play, rarely ever giving up or showing signs of fatigue. Most NHL Draft Rankings have him in the 7th to 15th range, which means that, if the Montreal Canadiens value him as highly as some sources seem to think, he could very well be a target the Canadiens could trade up to select.
Frank Nazar is probably the most underrated player ranked in this entire draft right now. With many people’s eye’s fixated on Logan Cooley, the electric Nazar was not getting the hype he deserved. Thankfully, over the last month, Nazar has surpassed Cooley in scoring prowess and is starting to express his immense skill on a more regular basis. Although many knock him down immediately due to his size (he’s 5’10, so not very worried), Nazar’s Hockey IQ and hands are off the charts.
He can dangle opponents out of their jock straps, and has shown incredible deceptiveness and creativity in everything he does. It’s very hard to know what Nazar will do with the puck, but time after time, he just wows you with his dekes and his ability to find open ice and capitalize on it due to his great speed. He has the speed necessary to separate himself from the opposition and is really good at getting lost in coverage. His elite offensive skill set really sets him apart from others in this draft, because he’s able to do it at top speed, with seamless transitions from forward to lateral movement.
Should he fall out of the top-10, this is the kind of player that the Montreal Canadiens would likely jump for, as he embodies the speed and skill game that general manager Kent Hughes and Jeff Gorton wish to play moving forward.
SPEED KILLS 💨
— USA Hockey’s NTDP (@USAHockeyNTDP) March 27, 2022
Ivan Miroshnichenko has the size and speed to be a rare combo of skill and size down the wing, something the Montreal Canadiens have said they’d like to address in their lineup, as they feel they’re too small at forward right now. Miroshnichenko plays a game predicated on great strong skating strides and great hockey sense, making him able to quickly able to attack open ice and make solid plays with the puck to create open ice for his teammates. He’s got a knack for knowing where his teammates are on the ice and being able to thread the needle with a laser pass right on the tape. When he’s on, he can be one of the best playmakers in this draft because of how quickly he can set up a teammate in full stride.
Although he may rival the other players on this list in terms of talent and skill, the youngster’s battle with cancer and the ongoing political climate in Russia might scare off a few teams and drop him further in the 2022 Draft. A team with a lot of depth in their prospect pool, like the Montreal Canadiens, would thus be able to make the big move to acquire such a player, adding some much-needed skill and size to their prospect pool.
Ivan Miroshnichenko is heating up
He extended his goal-streak to 4 games and 5 tallies with this cradle-and-finish wrister today.
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) January 21, 2022
Brad Lambert has to be the most polarizing player in this draft mainly because of all the hype leading into this 2021-2022 season from seasons past. Lambert was eyed as one of the top players in this draft as early as 2020 and has been wowing in Finland (he holds dual citizenship with Canada and Finland) for well over a year now. His first true breakout performance was at the 2021 World Juniors, where he put up 4 points in 7 games as a recently-turned 17-year-old for Finland. He was dynamic and all over the ice for them, utilizing his great speed and elite vision to create plays out of nothing.
When he was allowed back on the Finnish team for the 2022 World Juniors, the Lambert of old came out of his shell and looked like the most dominant player on the ice. Using his great straight-line speed and exceptional vision, Lambert was back to making highlight-reel plays to set up his teammates and dominate possession in the offensive zone. The way Lambert thinks the game is elite, as he is able to attack open ice or defer to his teammates for the easy tap-in goal off the rush. He can adapt well in offensive situations, allowing him to play a cycle game or dangle out defenders to create space for himself.
With Lambert now free of his contract in the Finnish Liiga, the 18-year-old would be able to play wherever the Montreal Canadiens decide, should they be the team to move up and draft him. He could go the WHL route and play major junior next season, where the Saskatoon Blades own his rights or he can be sent directly to the AHL, being drafted out of a European league, should the Canadiens decide he’s ready for the next step right away. That kind of flexibility could prove to be a blessing in disguise for Lambert’s development and is a gamble the Montreal Canadiens would be wise to at least consider, if he starts to fall in the 2022 NHL Draft.
Brad Lambert's ears must've been burning because he nabbed a goal and an assist this morning.
Little chip, chase, wheel and snipe.
Not bad. pic.twitter.com/5akLw5ZQyR
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) March 11, 2022