Canadiens 2023 NHL Draft Targets At Fifth Overall
The Montreal Canadiens came out of the NHL Draft Lottery with the 5th overall pick, giving them the opportunity to select some very interesting players.
With the Canadiens’ first pick of the 2023 NHL Draft now locked in, the fun begins for the organization as they set their draft board and speculate on who they could be selecting.
It’s a very deep draft this year, with top-end talent extending well beyond the top 10 and into the teens, making the opportunity ripe for the Habs to select a top-level prospect.
Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes and EVP Jeff Gorton have spoken at length about their excitement toward this year’s draft class and here are just a few names that they’ll be looking at with the 5th overall pick.
In no particular order:
Zach Benson has been a standout in the WHL since he first laced up his skates as a 15-year-old.
Despite being 5-foot-10, Benson plays with significant grit and doesn’t back down from contact in the corners; playing some of his best hockey when all the chips are on the table.
He has an electric offensive game that could translate quite well to the NHL level, as his hockey IQ and shooting ability are off the charts; making him especially dangerous on the rush and on the power play.
He could easily become one of the best players in this draft class when all is said and done if he’s able to continue getting stronger and faster; because his mind and his ability are already elite.
With the Canadiens having drafted Juraj Slafkovsky and adding Kirby Dach at last year’s draft, picking a smaller player here with top-end talent should be an easy call.
Zach Benson (2023) grabs his 4th goal and 12th point in 9 playoff games as the ICE cruise to a 3-0 series lead.
Winnipeg has eyes on the Memorial Cup. pic.twitter.com/HQF8r7Ebc6
— /Cam Robinson/ (@Hockey_Robinson) May 3, 2023
The case of Matvei Michkov is an interesting one.
On one end, he is arguably the second most talented player in this entire draft, but on the other end, he has three years left on his contract with SKA St. Petersburgh and things aren’t exactly peachy with Russia right now.
Due to outside factors, he may indeed slide to the Montreal Canadiens’ rank and present the club with a very interesting conundrum, as Michkov would easily be the best player available and a potential superstar down the line.
If the Canadiens feel confident that Michkov would make the jump in 2026 and that they’re willing to wait for him, they should be running up to the podium to select the next great Russian hockey star.
A Matvei Michkov Michigan goal for your timeline. pic.twitter.com/qlUKCiZ0kn
— Scott Wheeler (@scottcwheeler) February 26, 2023
Ryan Leonard is the perfect blend between old-school and new-school, combining strong physical play with exceptional offensive abilities.
Leonard could be the best possible compromise for the Montreal Canadiens to add both toughness and skill to their lineup; as Leonard plays a very unique game.
Leonard plays a power forward game, but has the stick-handling and shooting ability to make highlight-reel plays on the rush; all while driving his line and ensuring the defensive side of the ice isn’t compromised.
The gritty forward has really improved by leaps and bounds this season and was one of the most prolific goal-scorers in the U-18s this past month; proving that he can keep up with the best players in his age group.
His shooting arsenal screams future 30-goal-scorer and he would bring a lot of energy and jump to a roster looking to impose their will on their opponents.
🇺🇸🇸🇪 RYAN LEONARD SCORES THE GOLD WINNING GOAL FOR THE USA! 🥇 #u18mensworlds #USASWE @usahockey pic.twitter.com/hOP27JydWZ
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) April 30, 2023
Notwithstanding the relationship between Hughes and Will Smith, the U-18s MVP is a perfect fit for the Canadiens; as he brings incredible skill to a growing young core.
He plays a game predicated on high-tempo offence and can take over a game when the puck is on his stick; something the Canadiens have been lacking for some time.
Smith can seamlessly move up the ice and stop on a dime, scanning the ice for the best possible play and executing it before his opponents even know what happened.
He was the sparkplug for the USNDT this season and looked especially strong against NCAA competition as well; which is why he’s shot up the rankings so quickly this season.
Whether he plays centre or left-wing at the NHL level, Smith could very well be the missing top-line player the Canadiens need.
HAT-TRICK Will Smith! 🚀 What a game from the 18 year old! 😮 It's 4-0 @usahockey
after 21 minutes! #u18mensworlds #USASVK pic.twitter.com/FWtkLkFyiC
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) April 29, 2023
Breaking onto the scene in 2021 after a dominating Ivan Hlinka tournament at 16, Dvorsky is a highly touted, physical centre with a nose for the net.
He wasn’t able to reach another level offensively playing against men in HockeyAllsvenskan, but dominated against his own age group at the junior level.
He was one of the standout performers of this year’s U-18s, pushing Slovakia within a goal of a medal finish in Switzerland with his clutch goal-scoring and relentless motor.
Dvorsky projects to be a top-six centre down the line that can do it all, without necessarily being an elite offensive player.
He would likely be a safe pick in that range, as he is close to being physically ready for the NHL.
The kid has seriously upped his draft stock in this tournament.
— Ryan Leonard Propoganda Account (@JimIkeHW) April 30, 2023
David Reinbacher has risen on many draft boards as of late, due to his exceptional performances in the Swiss A league as a U-18 defenceman.
He first caught the attention of the hockey world at the 2023 World Junior Championships, where he stood out in a big way on Austria’s blue line; consistently looking like the most dangerous player on the ice.
For a player of his size, he has top-end carrying ability with the puck on his stick and is able to transition in the blink of an eye; a skill that will become even more apparent on smaller ice.
Reinbacher’s combination of size and mobility make him one of the more unique players in the draft, but also one of the safest bets to become a top-4 defenceman down the line.
What a sequence of events for David Reinbacher here. Stops 2 sure empty netters within 20 seconds.
The second stop he is dead tired yet finds the energy to catch up to the Germans, then dive from behind to stop the sure goal.
Best defender in the 2023 Draft. pic.twitter.com/HtjKsdeqxh
— Steven Graves (@German_Spitfire) December 31, 2022
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Obviously you’re just listing players, and that’s fine, but I’ve noticed in other articles and online a lot of people are pushing Dvorsky… I want them to stop lol. We need elite offensive talent. He is not that. We need legit top end, game breaking skill. Enough of this “safe” pick stuff like MB/TT. Yeah they had a couple good ones fall to them like Caufield, but their drafting wasn’t for true high end talent (for the most part). Everyone with hockey knowledge ranks our prospect pool as good, and deep, but lacking top end talent. We need smith, Michkov, or if they’re both gone, then Carlsson should be available who is at least more skilled than Dvorsky.
This is how I think it plays out, and I’d love this. Sam Jose has a long time before they contend, will likely be strapped with karlssons salary for a while, they can wait for Michkov. CBJ needs a C for laine and gaudreau. We need a fast, big, high offence C, so we grab smith. It’s perfect 😉
You are not alone to believe that this is possible. Yesterday, Corey Pronman published a mock draft in The Athletic where CHI picks Bedard, ANA picks Fantilli, CBJ picks Smith, SJS picks Michkov and MTL gets Carlsson.
I agree with you that we must focus on the top-5, and hope that Hughes does the same. Before the WJC-18, Benson and Smith were quite close to each other. Smith MVP performance should have separated these two and may propulse Smith higher up in the top-5. Carlsson, Smith and Michkov would bring elite offensive talent to the CH.
I’m just listing the players. MHN has their draft rankings and openly respects varying opinions on players.
Time will tell.
Perhaps I should clarify that the names I’ve indicated are not mine, but the result of a meta-analysis of 29 published rankings. Such an analysis provides insights on the range of opinions that a GM will be confronted with.
#1 Bedard, unanimously
#2 Fantilli, very strong consensus (23 #2, 4 #3, 1 #4, 1 #2NA)
#3 or #4 Carlsson (1 #2, 9 #3, 16 #4, 1 #5, 1 #7, 1 #1EU)
#3 or #4 Michkov (4 #2, 13 #3, , 9 #4, 1 #5, 1 #19, 1 #2EU)
Carlsson and Michkov are two prospects who are close to each other, but very few outliers have ranked them outside the top-4, as of now.
#5 Smith (2 #3, 9 #5, 11 #6, 4 #7, 1 #8, 1 #9, 1 #3NA)
#6 Benson (1 #4, 11 #5, 8 #6, 2 #7, 4 #8, 1 #9, 1 #17, 1 #6NA)
Smith best rankings are recent; only 6/29 rank him outside the top-6. Benson best ranking dates from January; only 9/29 rank him outside of the top-6.
#7 to #17 form a tier comprising of Leonard, Dvorsky, Moore, Cristall, Šalé, Wood, Reinbacher, Barlow, Yager, Pellikka and Danielson. Who’s in front of whom will depend on the weight one gives to each ranking.
Many other prospects have advocates claiming they should be ranked in the top-10.
This meta-analysis is being updated as the information becomes available and includes several rankings that date from mid-season.
The players under 25 who are currently slotted for the CH top-6 are Caufield, Suzuki, Dach and Slafkovsky. Slafkovsky plays LW and while he has not proven much for now, he’s expected to end up playing on the top-6. Caufield is a right-shooting winger who has proven to be best when playing on the LW. Suzuki and Dach are both centers, but both can also play RW; Dach proved he could be the top-line RW to Suzuki and Caufield. So, the team needs a center or a RW, ideally, a goalscorer. Carlsson is a left-shooting center, Smith is a right-shooting center (he could play either center or RW) and Michkov is a left-shooting RW and possibly the most talented goalscorer. Geopolitic is only an excuse as these things evolve. While Michkov’s KHL contract could prevent him from joining the NHL for a while, very few prospects drafted #5 or later should be expected to be impact players in the 3 NHL seasons following their draft year. The Canadiens should target the prospect who is most likely to have the biggest impact when he’ll be 23-year-old or older.
Leonard also fits with your analysis. I think either Columbus or San Jose will grab Michkov. Leaves either Smith or Carlsson. Or Leonard, Dvorsky, Benson, Moore, etc. I’m hoping the Canadiens don’t have to make the Michkov decision, that it’s already made for them.
Dave Poulin knows a thing or two about talent , he coached Harvard for ten years. He was blown away with Dvorsky’s elite skill at the u18s .and mentioned his.expected high draft placing . I have to agree , I can only imagine what his point totals would be playing with Leonard and Perreault.
I’m going with Benson. Best available forward, who can play both L and R, who isn’t locked up somewhere else for another 2-3 years – as in, we get him immediately.
Panthers (actually Leafs) F’d up our best chance of get Rinebacker, but I suppose its still feasible…would just have to offer more now to move up to get him. Our late 1st rd pick + Anderson is a good starting point.
Why not wait until next year when the 2024 draft is loaded with top RD. I’d take a chance on But, Stramel or Huttenaun with the panthers pick.
Anderson alone is too high a price to pay for an unproven pick. Having to add a 1st rounder with Anderson would be crazy.