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Canadiens Scouting Some 2023 Draft Prospects Closely At WJC

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Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens will have their eye few of the top prospects currently at the World Juniors, as they continue to focus on the 2023 NHL Draft.

It’s no secret that General Manager Kent Hughes is a big fan of this upcoming draft class, as he’s actively looking to add a third 1st-round pick for the 2023 NHL Draft over the next few months.

With the World Juniors now underway, some of the top players available this summer will be able to put their talent on full display.

Here’s who Montreal Canadiens management is looking at this holiday season:

Connor Bedard

Shocking, right?

Connor Bedard is the unquestioned No.1 ranked player in the 2023 NHL Draft and is likely going to have himself a tournament for the ages.

The 17-year-old was riding a 28-game point streak in the WHL, where he’s put together 27 goals and 37 assists for 64 points.

In past tournaments, Bedard has looked slick and has been very fun to watch, but Canada is expected to take his game up to another level.

He’s going to be put in a spotlight role for Canada yet again in this tournament, as they look for him to do a lot of the heavy lifting en route to a successful gold-medal defence.

Adam Fantilli

Bedard’s teammate is also his most legitimate competition for the top spot in the 2023 NHL Draft and his name is Adam Fantilli.

The 6’2 centre currently taking the NCAA by storm as a rookie for the Michigan Wolverines is going to try and make a serious case for himself to perhaps not dethrone Bedard at No.1, but to cement his position as the second-best prospect of this class.

Unlike Bedard, this will be Fantilli’s first go at the World Juniors, but he’s already going to be slotted into Canada’s top-6 with the expectation of playing a big role in Canada’s offence.

Fantilli will likely be playing at left-wing, given his young age, but you can expect that he will control the puck and take hold of the game’s pace while he’s on the ice.

NHL clubs like the Canadiens are interested to see how well he can do in this kind of setting and make his own unique impact in the tournament.

Leo Carlsson

Leo Carlsson has had a solid start to the season in the SHL in Sweden, but all eyes will be on him to take his offensive game to the next level and help Sweden transfer their U-18 success from last spring to a gold medal finish at the World Juniors.

Currently slotted on the top line for Sweden, Carlsson’s combination of size, speed and skill is something that doesn’t come around very often in a draft.

Whether you see him as a centre at the next level or a power-forward winger, Carlsson has the platform to really impress some teams in this tournament, as they begin to carve out their draft lists throughout the next few months.

The hulking winger is expected to go in the top-5, possibly even top-3, and is certainly a player the Montreal Canadiens will keep their eyes; especially as they look to continue adding size and skill to their forward group.

Axel Sandin-Pellikka

Sandin-Pellikka doesn’t have the star power that the above three have so far, but that is likely to change very soon.

The dynamic defenceman is turning heads in Sweden right now, playing in his home country’s top league (The SHL), at the tender age of 17.

It’s rare for a 17-year-old to play in the SHL, but it’s even more rare for them to have a notable offensive impact on the club, especially for a defenceman.

In 14 games in the SHL, Sandin-Pellikka has two goals and three assists for five points; which is great offensive production for a draft-eligible defender in such a defensively-inclined league.

With Sweden, he’s going to be tasked with running one of their two-power play waves, while seeing his role increase as the tournament goes on at even strength.

With the Canadiens looking for a right-shooting, dynamic defenceman that could run their power play one day, Sandin-Pellikka is sure to be at the top of their viewing list.

David Reinbacher

Another right-shot defenceman that is sure to be on the Montreal Canadiens’ radar, Reinbacher is an interesting case.

The 18-year-old is already playing against men in the Swiss A League, holding down a top-4 role for Kloten HC.

He’s put together some interesting offensive results, posting two goals and 12 assists for 14 points in 28 games.

Having that kind of maturirty for a defenceman is rather rare; as he already plays a very structured game in his own end; while having some untapped offensive potential.

The 6′, 183lbs defenceman plays a reliable, two-way style, but has some interesting mobility and hockey IQ that could make for a very valuable top-4 defenceman down the line.

Charlie Stramel & Gavin Brindley 

Both Stramel and Brindley play in the NCAA as true freshmen for Wisconsin and Michigan respectively.

Both are expected to be 1st-round picks in the upcoming draft, but it’s going to help the evaluation of the youngsters to see how they fair with the best of their age group.

It’s nothing new for them though, as they consistently play against opponents 3-to-5 years older than them; but it will be interesting to see how they figure within Team USA’s offensive structure and if they can hit another gear offensively during important games.

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Pierre B.

There are two slovakian prospects who should also attract the attention of Canadiens scouts: center Dalibor Dvorsky (6’1″, 201 lbs) and RHD Maxim Strbak (6’2″, 198 lbs). Tankathon currently ranks them #8 and #40 respectively. As of today, these correspond the MTL first and second draft picks respectively. Nice coincidences because the Canadiens need more centers with top-6 potential and more RHD.

Geof.isherwood@gmail.com

It’s easy to write up the top draft picks. As Pierre mentions, who down the list are more realistically targeted? Habs could potentially have four first round picks, set themselves up for long playoff runs in 3-5 years as this talent matures. Follow the pattern of TB, Col, and Dal, to mention three. It would be fascinating to look at the HuGo long-range plan, up to 7-8 years hence, and who they have in mind now and who may get added later to those position lists.

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