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Canadiens Prospect Highlights

Canadiens Prospect Power Rankings: Fowler Reigns Supreme

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montreal canadiens jacob fowler

It was a busy stretch for all the Montreal Canadiens prospects, many of whom are preparing to represent their countries at the 2024 World Junior Championship.

Not all the Canadiens prospects fared well. Many had down weeks, which means we had a lot of movement in our rankings.

Goaltender Jacob Fowler dethroned Lane Hutson as the hottest Canadiens prospect, marking the first time in almost half a year that Hutson did not hold the No.1 spot.

It’s important to remember these rankings are for prospects who are 23 and under, and not currently playing in the NHL. They’re also power rankings, which means the various prospects will move up and down the list depending on their recent results.

N.B. The statistics used this week are from November 23 to December 14.

Let’s dive right into it!


Canadiens Prospect Power Rankings

1. Jacob Fowler, Goaltender, Boston College (NCAA), Drafted 69th overall (2023). Age: 19.

Season Results: 17 GP, 13-3-1 record, 2.16 GAA, .925 SV%. Recent Results: 4-1-0, .921 save percentage.
Last Week Rank: No.4 (+3)

While other prospects had a down week heading into the WJC, Jacob Fowler continued to be a dominant force for Boston College.

Fowler lost his third game of the season when Northeastern defeated the Eagles 5-3. He let in a few goals due to his tendency to sit back in his net when the play is deep in the defensive zone. That’s something Fowler will have to fix, but it’s not a pressing issue. Big goaltenders tend to sit back a little further in their net to compensate for a lack of lateral speed.

And now that I’m done picking that nit, it’s time to talk about what Fowler could eventually bring to the table as a Canadiens prospect.

He’s as cool as the Chicoutimi Cucumber out there.

He doesn’t waste an ounce of energy thanks to his excellent tracking, which allows him to be set for most shots.

His high-end positioning leaves very few options for opponents, as evidenced by his .925 save percentage, which is good for 10th overall in the NCAA. All the players ahead of Fowler have played fewer games, mind you.

He also leads the entire NCAA in win percentage, with .794.

Any way you cut it, Fowler is enjoying a great rookie season in the NCAA.

Fowler will be heading to Sweden to participate in the WJC, where he’ll attempt to steal the starter job from Trey Augustine. Augustine currently has the inside track, but given Fowler’s penchant for dominance on the big stage, we should not be surprised if the Canadiens goaltender becomes Team USA’s trusted starter.

 

2. Lane Hutson, Defenceman, Boston University (NCAA). Drafted: 62nd overall (2022) Age: 19

Season Results: 15 GP, 8 G, 12 A, 20 PTS. Recent Results: 3 GP, 4 A.
Rank Last Week: No.1 (-1)

Lane Hutson did not play as much as his counterparts since the last prospect rankings.

He’s currently gearing up for the 2024 World Junior Championship, which takes place from December 26 to January 5, in Gothenburg, Sweden. Expect Hutson to play a crucial role for Team USA as they attempt to avenge their semi-final loss to Team Canada at the 2023 World Junior Championship.

As for his recent results, Hutson’s production has dipped slightly, at least relative to what we’ve come to expect from the 19-year-old defenceman. He was kept off the scoresheet in Boston University’s 2-1 loss to Cornell, the first time he failed to register a point in a game since late October.

With that in mind, he still managed to earn four assists in three games, including a three-point effort against Merrimack, and he would have had more points if his teammates had capitalized on some of the prime chances he created.

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Hutson play in the NCAA, you’re missing out. He’s constantly generating scoring chances due to his ability to walk the blue line with the greatest of ease.

This opens up passing lanes, shooting lanes, and forces goaltenders to reset, which means they become vulnerable because they’re in movement.

However, it’s also fair to point out that this strategy may not work out in the NHL. He will face much more pressure once he jumps to professional hockey. The time and space won’t be available, which will force him to make quicker decisions.

But given how quickly Hutson has adapted to every level of hockey, I’m not overly worried about his eventual ascension to the professional ranks. He won’t jump into the NHL lineup and immediately become a Norris Trophy contender, but his capacity for absorbing and putting information into application is what makes Hutson a special player.

 

3. Filip Mesar, Right Wing, Kitchener Rangers (OHL). Drafted: 26th overall (2022). Age: 19

Season Results: 20 GP, 13 G, 19 A, 32 PTS. Recent Results: 9 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 PTS
Last Week Rank: No.2 (-1)

Mesar is no longer producing two points per game, but he’s still making an impact every night for the Kitchener Rangers, who are far and away the best team in the Ontario Hockey League this year according to the standings. Some experts may disagree that Kitchener should be considered a top team, but their .750 points percentage would beg to differ.

The Canadiens prospect has done a good job improving his overall shot rate, and that has led to a significant improvement in goal scoring. His shot rate has gone from 2.7 shots per game last season to 3.2 shots per game this year.

More importantly, many of those shots are coming from high-danger areas, which means he’s not just improved his shot rate, he’s getting to the areas of the ice that lead to great scoring chances.

Mesar will miss roughly eight Kitchener Games in December and January as he heads to Gothenburg to play for Slovakia at the WJC. The team will not feature NHLers such as Simon Nemec and Juraj Slafkovsky, which will put Mesar in the spotlight as a player they will rely upon to become a primary source of offence.

Mesar served as an alternate captain for Slovakia last season, scoring two goals and four assists in five games.

4. Owen Beck, Centre, Peterborough Petes (OHL). Drafted: 32nd overall (2022), Age: 19

Season Results: 25 Gp, 16 G, 14 A, 30PTS. Weekly Results: 8 GP, 5 G, 6 A, 11 PTS.
Last Week Rank: 6th (+2)

The Peterborough Petes have cooled down considerably in the last few weeks, with just two wins in their last 10 games. It’s important to keep an eye on their record because Owen Beck, who was acquired in a blockbuster deal last season, could be on the move again.

The cerebral centre is the exact type of player most OHL coaches would love to have in their lineup. He can take the bulk of the defensive duties while also providing a steady flow of offence.

He’s also an ace in the faceoff circle, which makes him the perfect addition to any lineup looking to make a run at the OHL Championship and the Memorial Cup.

Beck was recently named to Team Canada’s WJC roster, where he should play an important role for a team looking to earn its third consecutive gold medal. Team Canada’s roster is lacking the usual talent we’ve come to expect and Beck is the only returning player, which means he’s also likely to play a leadership role.

5. Joshua Roy, Right Wing, Laval Rocket (AHL). Drafted: 150th overall (2021), Age: 20

Season Results: 23 GP, 8 G, 12 A, 20 PTS.  Recent Results: 7 GP, 1 G, 1 A.
Rank Last Week: No.3 (-2)

Making the jump from the Canadian Hockey League to the American Hockey League is the equivalent of going from big-wheel racing to The 24 Hours of Lemans.  And just like most endurance-based events, a strong start does not necessarily mean you’ll maintain your position throughout the entirety of the marathon.

Joshua Roy had a great start to his AHL career, which is still important to note, but his offensive production has gone the way of the final scene of the movie Thelma and Louise.

He has earned a goal and an assist in his last two games, and that’s good news, but we probably should not expect him to return to the two-points per-game pace he set at the start of the year. It simply wasn’t sustainable.

Now, to be perfectly fair, the Laval Rocket are a bit of a mess. Their defensive structure is about as solid as a memory foam pillow, which leads to the team spending the bulk of their time defending.

Given the injuries in both Montreal and Laval, as well as the call-ups to the NHL, the Rocket aren’t poised to rebound any time soon.

There is some good news in Roy’s case.

The Canadiens have actively avoided recalling Roy from the AHL when they had the opportunity to do so. They preferred to recall Emil Heineman when Tanner Pearson was placed on the injured reserve, which means they’re in no rush to force Roy into a situation that is not conducive to proper development.

It should also be noted that it takes most athletes a few years to adapt to the rigours involved in playing a complete season of professional hockey.

Roy will eventually make his way to the NHL, but for now, he’s best off adapting to the pace of the game in the AHL.

6. David Reinbacher, Defenceman, EHC Kloten (NL). Drafted: 5th overall (2023), Age: 19

Season Results: 13 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 5 PTS. Recent Results: 6 GP, 3 A.
Last Week Rank: No.8 (+2)

David Reinbacher did not look like himself once he returned to play from his knee injury. He added a lot of weight to his frame, which tends to reduce mobility, but beyond that, he was very sluggish.

It was not a pretty sight.

He was also making a lot of mistakes in his own zone when pressured, which led to a few easy goals for his opponents.

The good news is that he has looked much better in recent games. He’s producing a little more, which is encouraging, but not quite yet to the point that you’d expect from a fifth-overall pick playing in the NL.

More importantly, he’s looked very agile in recent games, which has erased some of my concerns regarding his mobility.

The new coaching staff has also helped him when it comes to his defensive play. The previous coach worked with man-to-man coverage, a very difficult proposal when playing on big ice.  The switch to zone coverage has helped a lot.

Reinbacher is much more comfortable on the ice in recent games and has shown flashes of brilliance during certain shifts. I still have a hard time identifying exactly why Reinbacher was picked in the top 5, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was a bad draft pick. More than anything, we’re discussing a difficult start to the season filled with coaching changes and injuries.

Now that he’s healthy and playing for a coach who understands how to deploy a proper defensive setup, things have looked much better.

7. Adam Engstrom, Defenceman. Rogle BK Angelholm (SHL). Drafted: 92nd overall (2022), Age: 20

Season Results: 25 GP, 2 G,  9 A, 11 PTS. Recent Results: 7 GP, 3 A.
Last Week Rank: No.9  (+2)

Engstrom was relegated to the third pairing for one of Rogle’s games last week, playing a little over 15 minutes, a season-low for the Canadiens prospect.

The good news is that he returned to the top pairing the following game, yet another matchup where he played over 20 minutes. That has been the case for the majority of the season, allowing Engstrom to improve both his defensive and offensive impact.

I only had the chance to watch two of his games in the last week, but he did look good in both. From what I saw, he’s a little more tentative when it comes to jumping into the rush. He’s picking his spots rather than pinching during every play.

Defensively, there’s still work to be done, but he’s making fewer mistakes than last season. He needs to improve his positioning when defending the rush.

On that note, Rogle is having a difficult season. They’re 11th among 14 teams in the SHL and are at risk of finishing among the teams that will have to fight for their lives in a playout.

Consequently, the team decided to replace most of its coaching staff. Fortunately for Engstrom, they did not replace the coach in charge of defensive duties, which should ensure a modicum of stability.

8. Cedrick Guindon, Centre, Owen Sound Attack (OHL). Drafted: 127th overall (2022), Age: 19

Season Results: 29 GP, 17 G, 17 A, 34 PTS. Recent Results: 8 GP, 7 G, 6 A, 13 PTS
Last Week Rank: 10th (+2)

The most underrated Canadiens prospect had a very solid stretch, earning 13 points in just eight games for the Owen Sound Attack.

Cedrick Guindon is a cerebral centre that doesn’t need much coaching. He can jump into almost every situation and face the challenge with aplomb.

Fans tend to ignore Guindon when it comes to discussing the team’s best prospects, but he currently has the highest raw production numbers of any prospect in the organization.

Of course, scoring in the OHL is much easier than scoring in the AHL, so we have to take his production with a grain of salt, but he’s still enjoying a very impressive season thanks to his agility and his nose for the net.

The key for Guindon will be maintaining his level of play throughout the season. Last year he faded down the stretch, which isn’t abnormal for an 18-year-old player. This time around, the Attack will count upon Guindon to provide offence all season long.

9. Logan Mailloux, Defenceman, Laval Rocket (AHL). Drafted: 31st overall (2021), Age: 20

Season Results: 23 GP, 4 G, 9 A, 13 PTS. Recent Results: 7 GP, 0 G, 4 A,
Last Week Rank: No.8  (-1)

As I mentioned in Roy’s write-up, the Rocket are a mess, and that’s a significant factor in why most of their players are struggling to produce.

In Mailloux’s case, his impressive shot rate has collapsed in recent games. He only has 10 shots in the last seven games, well below what we’ve come to expect. He failed to register a shot against Abbotsford on December 2, marking the first time since the opening game of the season in which Mailloux did not get a puck on net.

I’m not overly worried about his offensive impact, mind you. We know he can help his team win once they make it to the offensive zone.

The issue for this Canadiens prospect remains his defensive play, which, to be perfectly honest, has not improved much since he joined the AHL. It’s not surprising, mind you. We knew Mailloux would take time to adapt to the pace of professional hockey.

But he will need to clean up the blatant mistakes if he’s to become a legitimate option for an NHL call-up. His decision-making when pressured leaves a lot to be desired.

10. Bogdan Konyushkov, D, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod ). Drafted: 110th overall (2023), Age: 20

Season Results: 40 GP, 4 G, 16 A, 20 PTS.
Last Week Rank: No. 12 (+2)

Bodgan Konyushkov signed a three-year contract extension in the KHL and therefore will remain in Russia until 2026. The good news is that the Canadiens prospect is one of the KHL’s busiest defencemen. He plays a little under 23 minutes every night, a rather impressive TOI considering he’s just 20 years old and playing in one of the best hockey leagues in the world.

The overall talent level in the KHL has dropped in recent years, mind you, but it’s also fair to say that Konyushkov is being developed into a very useful defenceman at both ends of the rink thanks to his head coach, Igor Larionov.

The Professor‘, as he was known when he played in the NHL, has no issue trusting younger defencemen, which bucks the trend in the KHL.

 

11. Sean Farrell,  C/LW, Laval Rocket (AHL). Drafted: 124th overall (2020), Age: 22

Season Results: 18 GP, 4 G, 8 A, 12 PTS. Weekly Results: 3 GP, 0 PTS
Last Week Rank: No. 7 (-2)

Like most of his teammates, Farrell has had a hard time scoring recently. To make matters worse, the former Harvard Crimson forward suffered an upper-body injury against Abbotsford, which means the chemistry he had with Roy will have to be rebuilt once he’s ready to jump back into the lineup.

As it stands, the Canadiens prospect is currently listed as ‘out indefinitely‘.

Montreal Canadiens Prospects – The Best Of The Rest

12.  Forward Florian Xhekaj (Brantford Bulldogs, OHL) With Struble in the NHL and Konyushkov taking the final spot in the top 10, Xhekaj jumps to the 12th spot on our list. But I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up. He’s playing well, and he’s scoring all sorts of impressive goals, but we do have to temper our expectations a little when it comes to his case. If he develops into a useful player, the Canadiens will be lucky, simply because fourth-round picks rarely make an impact in the NHL. That being said, he’s doing a good job for the Brantford Bulldogs this season, and due to his truculent nature, he may eventually end up etching a spot in the Canadiens’ bottom-six. Xhekaj is on pace for 27 goals and 32 assists in 66 games.

13. Forward Riley Kidney (Laval Rocket, AHL). While the rest of the lineup has wilted in recent weeks, Kidney has excelled. He took his opportunity and ran with it, scoring four goals and four assists in eight games since his ice time was increased. I’m still uncertain whether this type of production can be sustained, but we do have to say that Kidney has taken a significant step forward in recent weeks.

14. Vinzenz Roher (Zurich, NL) – It’s difficult to get a read on Rohrer. He’s playing for a very good team and he’s not getting a ton of minutes. He’s playing a little under 13 minutes per game, though he has featured on the powerplay in recent games. If you’re wondering what Rohrer may eventually provide the Canadiens if he were to make the NHL, just think of a European version of Brendan Gallagher. He’s turning into a feisty player who has no issue heading to the ‘lumber zone’ to create havoc in front of the net. He also has four goals and five assists in 26 games, which is very reasonable considering his low usage.

15. Forward Luke Tuch (Boston University Terriers, NCAA) – He continues to play on a line with Macklin Celebrini, and he logs a lot of ice time with fellow Canadiens prospect Lane Hutson, which means we have to be careful when discussing Tuch’s jump in production this season. His five goals and nine assists in 14 games is a decent output, but given that he’s 21 years old and playing with some of the best players in the NCAA, it’s far from impressive.


Do you agree or disagree with the Montreal Canadiens prospect power rankings? If so, let us know which Canadiens prospect we overlooked or overhyped in the comments below!