The Montreal Canadiens are entering the most crucial years of their rebuild.
The team has one of the most well-rounded prospect pools in the NHL, however, there are two glaring weaknesses.
Despite having phenom Lane Hutson in the mix, overall, the Canadiens clearly lack high-end talent among their prospects. Joshua Roy, Riley Kidney, Sean Farrell, Owen Beck, Filip Mesar, Emil Heineman, Adam Engstrom, Logan Mailloux, and Jared Davidson project as having NHL potential, but you’d be hard-pressed to argue the team owns a bevy of prospects that have franchise-altering talent.
They will have an opportunity to solve that issue, at least partially, at the 2023 NHL Draft by drafting one of Leo Carlsson, Matvei Michkov, or Will Smith.
But the other glaring weakness cannot be solved in the first round.
Or rather, it shouldn’t be.
As it stands, the Canadiens only have five goaltenders signed to professional contracts, and that’s assuming Carey Price has not yet officially retired.
Realistically, the Canadiens have the bare minimum number of goaltenders signed: Samuel Montembeault, Jake Allen, Cayden Primeau, and Jakub Dobes. Joe Vrbetic is expected to sign a contract with Trois-Rivieres, which would not permit him to play in the NHL.
In essence, the Canadiens have just enough goaltenders to cover their starter and backup positions in the NHL and AHL, leaving the organization in hot water if one of the four goaltenders succumbs to injury, a common occurrence in professional hockey.
It’s also worth noting the team lacks talented goaltending prospects, especially since they opted not to offer a contract to Frederik Dichow.
Of course, drafting an 18-year-old goaltender would certainly go a long way in solving the prospect issue, but it would provide little to no reprieve to their current situation.
Goaltenders take much longer to develop than most, which is why the goalies featured at the Memorial Cup may end up interesting the Canadiens.
Interestingly, all four starters that played at the Memorial Cup happen to be undrafted players.
Michael Simpson (Peterborough Petes), William Rousseau (Quebec Remparts), Dylan Ernst (Kamloops Blazers), and Thomas Milic (Seattle Thunderbirds) have all been ignored at the NHL Draft.
Of the four, Rousseau and Milic, who will be facing off at the Memorial Cup final on Sunday, stand out, with Rousseau playing a starring role for the Remparts as they dominated the QMJHL playoffs.
Milic, on the other hand, earned WHL Goaltender Of The Year honours thanks to his excellent year with the Thunderbirds which saw him produce a sparkling .933 save percentage, the same save percentage he currently has at the Memorial Cup, where he’s easily been the best goalie in the tournament.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) June 1, 2023
Whether it leads to interest for these goaltenders at the 2023 NHL Entry Draft remains to be seen, but seeing as the Canadiens have closely monitored their two players at the tournament, Owen Beck and Jared Davidson, the assumption would be that they’re well aware of the potential provided by both Rousseau and Milic.
Both of whom could end up solving one of their biggest organizational weaknesses.