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Subtle Changes To Canadiens Draft Philosophy To Pay Dividends



Montreal Canadiens scouts

The Montreal Canadiens have added new voices and made subtle changes to their draft philosophy that could pay dividends down the line.

The Montreal Canadiens have brought in some fresh minds to the table when it comes to evaluating and projecting players for the future. The hiring of Jeff Gorton, who made a career in scouting prior to jumping into management roles in Boston and New York, was brought on in large part to restructure and optimize the scouting ad development of the organization. His subsequent hiring Nick Bobrov as co-director of amateur scouting was another step in a different direction for the Canadiens, as Bobrov and Gorton worked closely together with the New York Rangers.

On top of adding Bobrov to the fold, Martin Lapointe, the other co-director of amateur scouting and Christopher Boucher, the new head of analytics, provided fresh ideas as well that differed in some aspects from past ideologies. Lapointe looks to already have had a solid draft last year after coming out of the 2021 NHL Draft with some potential gems outside the 1st round. Boucher brings an aspect of talent evaluation and projection that the Canadiens seldom used in the past; narrowing the scope of how they identified key targets at the draft table.

The combination of all these elements, over the watch of Gorton and general manager Kent Hughes created an interesting dynamic at draft meetings for the Canadiens, as they sought to open up the dialogue.


Talent > Character

In a video that the Montreal Canadiens released yesterday, the organization gave fans a peak at what their 2022 Draft process was like. There were some very interesting instances within the video that showed some major philosophical changes from the previous regimes in Montreal. In one instance, the staff was debating over a certain player who displayed interesting character traits, but seemed to lack offensive production at the amateur level. Gorton immediately interjected and provided some insight that was both refreshing and backed by long-standing statistics in the field.

“99% of the time, an NHL player that’s a role player there’s still production in their history,” said Gorton when adding his viewpoint to rafting character players without the history of offensive production. “Don’t fall in love with character without the talent.”

In the past, the Canadiens have been guilty of falling in love with character without having the talent to back it up. Players such as Connor Crisp, Micheal McCarron, Jacob Olofsson, Brett Lernout and Lukas Vejdemo are examples of players the Canadiens drafted in the first three rounds whom they fell in love with for character. Some may have played games in the NHL, but ultimately couldn’t stick because, although they had the necessary character to play, they didn’t have the other aptitudes to set themselves apart from their peers. None of these players had a considerable history of production, and the Canadiens often reached for these players, even trading up for Lernout in 2014.


You Want Size? Do It Early

Christopher Boucher, the new head of analytics, also had an impact on changing the philosophy at the draft table and moving away from another draft trend over the past years. In his argument for drafting Juraj Slafkovsky, Boucher indicated that it’s at the top of the draft that teams should be looking for the elite combination of size and skill. In doing so, they become less reliant on the notion of size later in the draft, allowing them to widen their scope and not use their lack of size as a crutch, but as an assurance to hit home runs with their later picks.

“If taking Slafkovsky means that we don’t start drafting guys later for size; that’s where teams make mistakes. Where we start drafting guys because one guy’s 6’2 and the other guy’s 6′ because ‘we need size, we need size, we need size,’, said Boucher regarding the trap most teams fall into later on in the draft. “If that stops us from doing that, it’s already for me anyways.”

It does make more sense for the Canadiens in hindsight to have drafted players like Filip Mesar and Lane Hutson, because the Canadiens got much bigger at forward at the draft, while also having towering prospects on defence. That assurance allowed the Canadiens to take risks on potential home runs, which is a refreshing change from the long list of safe picks that unfortunately never panned out.

Montreal Canadiens Draft Overview

Below is the full video of the Canadiens’ draft meetings for your viewing pleasure.