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Canadiens Mailbag: Hutson, Florida’s Pick, 2023 NHL Draft Targets



NHL Draft hosted by Montreal Canadiens

Welcome to this week’s Montreal Canadiens Mailbag!

We took questions from Habs fans across the world in hopes of being able to get you the information that you want to know.

In this week’s edition, we’ll be looking at the fate of Lane Hutson & Sean Farrell, what to do with the Florida Panthers’ 1st-round pick, some big questions about the 2023 NHL Draft and more.

Sean Farrell

I strongly believe that Sean Farrell is Montreal bound at the conclusion of his season with the Harvard Crimson.

Harvard is currently ranked 6th in the NCAA Pairwise Rankings, which means they’re guaranteed to be named to the NCAA Championships on March 19; regardless of the outcome of the ECAC championships.

That means the earliest Farrell would be able to join the Canadiens would be late March (23 or 26) or early April (7 or 9).

Now, back to Farrell.

After exploding offensively this season with 20 goals and 31 assists for 51 points in just 31 games, being nominated as a finalist for the Hobey Baker and winning ECAC Player of the Year; there’s not much for him to gain from another year in college.

Unlike Jayden Struble, I expect Farrell to sign his two-year, entry-level contract effective for this season; allowing him to burn the first year of his deal and play a few games with the Canadiens before the end of the season.

In a recent interview with Farrell, the 21-year-old told us that he’s excited at the prospect of playing with Montreal and I believe that day will come within the next three weeks.

I do.

I think most college players would benefit from two years in the NCAA, unless they’re a truly polished prospect.

NHL stars like Adam Fox and Cale Makar were all better served with an extra year or two of maturation, despite impressive freshman performances in the NCAA and that’s what I think Hutson will do.

You could make the argument that Lane Hutson has dominated the league and doesn’t have much to left to do, but that would be missing the importance of what that extra year at Boston University could bring.

Next season, Hutson would become the unquestioned leader of the Terriers; taking on a leadership role and playing top minutes in all situations.

He’ll be joined by the consensus No. 1 ranked player in the 2024 NHL Draft, Macklin Celebrini, as well; making for a very interesting situation for Hutson to return for an extra year and get that extra bit of experience he needs.

Lastly, NCAA leagues have incredible conditioning facilities and a lighter schedule too; allowing Hutson to work on adding more mass to his frame before making the jump to the pros.

It worked wonders for Caufield, who went from impressive to dominant in the NCAA in a matter of a year. One could expect the same path for Hutson before jumping to the Montreal Canadiens or Laval Rocket at the end of next season.

I think Norlinder is slowly sinking down the Montreal Canadiens’ depth chart, especially after the acquisition of Nicolas Beaudin and the emergence of William Trudeau.

Factor in that the Habs also drafted two rather impressive offensive defencemen in Adam Engstrom and Lane Hutson; and the competition is now becoming stiff for left-shot, offensive defencemen.

In my opinion, Norlinder is the type of prospect I could see general manager Kent Hughes including in a trade in order to bring in another prospect at a position or need; or including as a piece in a larger package for a team that needs defence.

I’ll answer the second question in a post below.

This is a tough one, because nobody knows where the Canadiens will fall, and the list of players between 6 and 12 is very close in potential in my opinion.

If the Canadiens were to pick 6th, and assuming that Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli, Matvei Michkov, Leo Carlsson and Zach Benson are off the board, I would likely look to the United States Development Team.

Currently torn between the incredibly creative Will Smith and the speed demon known as Oliver Moore at 6th overall at the moment.

Both are centres that could also play on the wing and bring a dynamic element of speed and offensive abilities.

Smith is more of a playmaker that is exceptional at threading the needle, but can also dangle you out of your seat for a highlight-reel goal.

Meanwhile, Moore is a rocket on skates; the best skater in the draft. He overloads the opposition with his powerful, dynamic skating and has a potent release; allowing him to generate significant offensive chances on the rush.

Either would be my pick, without taking the Montreal Canadiens’ organizational needs into account.

If the Florida Panthers make the playoffs, I believe this pick will be available, but not openly shopped.

I don’t think any goaltending prospect in the NHL is worth a mid-first-round pick straight up at the moment however; as goaltenders usually don’t tend to have that much value; especially prior to playing a considerable amount of games in the NHL.

In my opinion, if the Canadiens are still in the hunt for a Pierre-Luc Dubois by the 2023 NHL Draft, you could easily earmark this pick as one of the pieces that could be included in a deal.

If I were the Canadiens, I wouldn’t trade this pick for an unproven goaltender.

I would simply wait until the Canadiens’ 2nd-round pick (likely to be in the 37-40 range) or their 3rd-round pick (70-73 range) and draft the best available goaltender at that stage; as there are a few impressive options at that junctions and later on.

Names like Micheal Hrabal, Carson Bjarnason, Adam Gajan, Trey Augustine, Scott Ratzlaff and Jacob Fowler could all be going between the late first round and the third round come late June.

I would expect the Canadiens to pounce on one of them; given that this is a much better year for goaltenders.

I will go out and say that David Reinbacher is a very impressive defenceman that just finished up one of the best rookie U-18 seasons in the Swiss A League.

His three goals and 19 assists for 22 points in 46 games are second only to Auston Matthews for draft-eligible offensive output in the league, and he’s a defenceman.

Even at the World Junior Championships, he was one of the best defencemen in the entire tournament when looking at his underlying numbers because he’s an absolute monster in transition.

However, the gripe much of the scouting world has with Reinbacher is the lack of a high projectable ceiling.

That is to say that many see him as a surefire right-shot, top-4 defenceman in the NHL; but there are questions as to whether he can reach top-pair status on a competitive team.

It’s similar skepticism that was put on Kaiden Guhle in 2020; as many knew he would be a top-end defensive player, but wondered if he had the offensive potential to make a difference at the NHL level.

We now know how that played out for the Montreal Canadiens.

I think that the top defenceman in the 2023 NHL Draft is going to be incredibly tough to truly predict as top candidates like Reinbacher, Axel Sandin-Pellikka, Dimitri Simashev and Mikhail Gulyayev all play in very different environments.

I think Reinbacher is likely the most polished defensive prospect in this draft, but I’m not sure he’s the next Moritz Seider.

With the 2024 NHL Draft looking to have a significantly deep group of defencemen emerging at the top, I would hesitate to try and potentially reach for a defenceman in 2023; a forward-heavy class.

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Pierre B.

Will Smith vs Oliver Moore, two similar size prospects playing on the same team in two leagues.
Well, as of today, most rankings I surveyed put Smith ahead of Moore (23/25).
On my consolidated ranking, Smith is in the same tier as Benson, with ranking scores of 5.48 and 5.64, respectively. Moore, at 10.95, is in the next tier composed of 8 prospects whose ranks range from 8.55 to 12.03.
While the stats clearly favor Smith (USDL: 37G, 95P in 47GP; USHL: 10G, 33P in 15GP) over Moore (USDL: 25G, 60P in 48GP/USDL; USHL: 7G, 21P in 18GP), it might be misleading as Smith has been given more opportunities as the #1 center. But again, the US National Team coach must have reasons to do so.
Smith is a right-shot center and Moore, a left-shot center. The Canadiens need more depth at center and RW and it needs more goalscorers. Either one would improve the CH prospect pipeline, but I believe that Smith will be drafted first.

Pierre B.

For the Florida 1st-round pick, if it is a lottery pick, it will likely be around #15. The two top RHD in this draft class are currently expected to be selected around that rank: Axel Sandin-Pellikka and David Reinbacher. If there are both taken, it means that an excellent forward would be available. If Marco’s ranking is used as an example, both Pellikka and Reinbacher are taken, but Brayden Yager (the #9 in my consolidated ranking) would still be available. The best strategy is always to pick the best prospect available, but when they are more or less equal (same tier), only then should a GM select the prospect that best fits his team’s needs. Trying to reach for the next best RHD (Lukas Dragicevic) or a goalie would likely be a mistake. The MTL 2nd-round draft pick could be used for that. Marco mentionned the goalies who could be available in later rounds in his article. Oliver Bonk, Cameron Allen, Hunter Brzustewicz, Maxim Strbak, Tom Willander are just a few RHD who could be available if Hughes wants to improve his team’s depth at that position.

This draft will not be the last good one for the Canadiens, and good veteran players will eventually be traded to fill needs that will remain. There’s no need to rush filling all the key positions.

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