The Montreal Canadiens have a prospect pool that boasts significant depth, but still have a few areas that need to be addressed at the 2022 NHL Draft.
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, which led to the club ignoring other positions of need within the organization that eventually caught up to them.
Below are the most pressing needs in the Montreal Canadiens prospect pool heading into the 2022 NHL Draft:
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 this group of prospects, 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.
Without much in the form of reinforcements at the center position, the Canadiens will likely address this need on July 7 at the 2022 NHL Draft, be it with the 1st overall or 26th overall pick. Selecting Shane Wright would instantly rectify this problem for the next decade 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 give themselves a boost of talent down the middle. You can never have too many centers.
Scoring Wingers With Size
The Canadiens have some underrated wingers in their prospect pool like Sean Farrell, Jesse Ylönen and Joshua Roy, but don’t have any scoring wingers with size, capable of playing a complete game. 2019 1st-round pick, Cole Caufield, who has now graduated as a full-time NHLer, is a fantastic scoring option, but his lack of size necessitates a balancing act in the top-6. This isn’t to say the Canadiens should favour size over talent, but, if there are players that are high-end players with both size and skill, the Canadiens should pounce.
Although it is easier to acquire wingers via trade or free agency than a top-6 center, it would be wise for the Canadiens to shore up this position, to a degree, at the 2022 NHL Draft. With the recent acquisitions of Emil Heineman and Ty Smilanic Hughes and the rest of the Canadiens management team are seemingly aware of their need for size and skill and will likely continue to fill the ranks to have a more balanced prospect pool moving forward.
Right-Shooting Top-4 Defencemen
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 double 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-shot defensemen being selected over this period, the Montreal Canadiens saw the depth of their right-shooting defensemen dwindle at the worst possible time. With Shea Weber now traded and Jeff Petry likely to suffer the same fate, it makes the drafting of a mobile, top-4 right-shooting defenceman that much more necessary for the Canadiens. The organization began addressing this glaring need during the 2021 NHL Draft with the selections of Logan Mailloux, despite all the noise surrounding him, as well as defensemen Dimitri Kostenko and Daniil Sobolev.
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 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 need for another top-flight goaltender was greatly dissuaded this past spring, as top goaltending prospect Cayden Primeau reassured the Montreal Canadiens after an impressive AHL playoff run. Beyond Primeau, the Canadiens have some intriguing projects in the goaltending department, most notably Jakub Dobeš. The young Czech goalie had a fantastic year as a freshman in the NCAA and could provide the Canadiens with another viable option in net down the line if he continues his development path.
This draft isn’t particularly loaded at the goaltending position, but there are a handful of interesting options between rounds 3 and 6 that the Canadiens could select, as they own many mid-round picks. Nonetheless, the goaltending position is the trickiest to predict, and the more kicks at the can you get, the more like one of those youngsters will flourish into a solid goaltender for the future.