The Montreal Canadiens need to add more prospects to the mix who possess natural scoring talent, an organizational weakness that general manager Kent Hughes has surely noticed. Aside from Cole Caufield, the club lacks players with elite goal-scoring abilities.
Considering that four of the top 10 prospects are defencemen gives merit to the idea that high-potential forwards could potentially slip down the draft board.
That’s not to say the Canadiens must draft a forward, as drafting the best player available is almost always the wisest approach, however, if it comes down to a forward or a defenceman the team has judged to have an equal level of potential, going the forward route is logical.
Adding one of the 10 best forwards in the draft would go a long way in helping shape the Habs forward core.
2024 Drafts Best 10 Best Forwards – Who Fits & Who Doesn’t?
Macklin Celebrini – A can’t-miss prospect who has drawn comparison to Jonathan Toews for his advanced two-way game as a 17-year-old. He thinks the game at a different pace than most, and his preparedness and work ethic resembles that of Sidney Crosby. He attacks with tenacity like Nathan MacKinnon and has a penchant for taking many shots due to Canadiens prospect Lane Hutson’s presence in the Boston University lineup.
If the Canadiens somehow secured the first overall selection, Hughes would sprint to the stage on draft night. Celebrini might not be a franchise-changing talent. But calling him anything less than a superstar would be an insult.
Cole Eiserman – A prototypical sniper, Eiserman has been ranked as high as number two or three on some lists. When he shoots, he has the rare ability to score because he overpowers goalies. The rest of his game isn’t so polished, which explains why his predicted draft position has dropped according to some outlets. Simply put, he could slide down the board because the rest of his game is so far behind his offensive skill set.
But you’d be hard-pressed to find a better pure shooter than Eiserman in the entire draft. In terms of pure offence, I can see a fit with the Canadiens, but he’ll need at least a year or two in the NCAA before his potential arrival in the NHL.
Cayden Lindstrom – Lindstrom is a bit of a draft unicorn. The six-foot-five centre has all the tools to become a dominant number-one NHL center. He is best described as physically mean, and his offensive ceiling is extremely high.
Alongside Kirby Dach and Juraj Slafkovsky, Lindstrom would add another big body to the top six. The left shot would give the Habs some balance; as Dach, Caufield and Suzuki are right-shot forwards.
I see Lindstrom as the type of talent who will take games over. A power forward with shooting talent would be a huge add for the Canadiens.
Konsta Helenius – Helenius’ style is similar to Nick Suzuki. Don’t get me wrong, Suzuki is an important player, but he’s already checked most of the playmaking boxes with his strong play, and there’s little need for reinforcements. Ideally, the Canadiens can put their hands on a player with more offensive talent than Helenius, who is more of a two-way pivot with a respectable, not elite, offensive game.
The 5-foot-11 right-shot center has a well-polished skillset for a 17-year-old. He is smart and projects as a top-six forward. But I don’t see a fit with the Habs.
Ivan Demidov – Demidov is a beautiful skater, with explosive strides and beautiful edges. His skating ability is near the top of the draft. He has dominated in the Russian MHL by scoring 20 goals and 25 assists for St-Petersburg in just 23 games.
There’s a lot to like about this particular prospect. The Canadiens could enhance the skills he already has, and mould him into a very talented top-six forward. His vision paired with his dynamic skating skills form a strong foundation for his offensive game.
If he drops to the Canadiens, he could find a role with the team in the next two to three years and still fit within the age group of the club’s core.
Berkly Catton – Catton reminds me a lot of Zach Benson from the 2023 NHL Draft, a pick that has already yielded very interesting results for the Buffalo SAbers. He’s an uber-talented offensive forward who drives the play. It’s also worth noting that Catton is 5-foot-11, while Benson is 5-foot-9.
Catton is a left-shot centreman, who can put you on the edge of your seat when you watch him play. He is a great player, with a high offensive ceiling.
Trevor Connelly – Connelly is taking a similar route to Cole Caufield, who played at the United States National Development Program. The 5-foot-11 winger hasn’t stood out, because he hasn’t played against college competition yet. But he has an intriguing toolkit, topped off with slick puck skills.
He is committed to Providence College for his freshman season in 2024-25. Connelly projects as a very good playmaker, who has a decent shot, but loves setting up his teammates. Unfortunately, and it’s meant as no insult, but you can’t pass the puck into the net.
Emil Hemming – Hemming is a big, right-shot winger, who is currently playing his rookie season with TPS in the Finnish Liiga. The big Finnish forward looks like a future top-six NHL talent. His production doesn’t stand out, but he is a 17-year-old playing in a league for men, which puts his seven goals and three assists in 31 games in a much better light.
Hemming has a lot of potential, but I think there are better fits for the Canadiens. He doesn’t look out of place against the much older competitors he faces on a nightly basis.
Tij Iginla – Iginla projects as a game-changing presence. The six-foot tall and 185-pound winger is a spitting image of his dad, Jarome. Iginla has a great shot, as evidenced by his 32 goals in 42 games for the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL.
The Iginla family name alone will garner a lot of attention. With Tij carving his path, and his father in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Iginla surely has a high-end support system. Any team could use a player like Igiinla, including the Canadiens.
Liam Greentree – Greentree would fit the good character mould that the Canadiens tend to adore. With his 6-foot-2 and 198-pound frame, the big-bodied right winger is scoring well above a point-per-game pace. The Windsor Spitfires captain has impressed with his offensive production this season, scoring 27 goals and 37 assists in 41 games.
His skating leaves something to be desired, but aside from that, he has play-driving qualities. Greentree’s playmaking, much like the rest of his offensive game, is fueled by great vision and fantastic puck skills. Although the Spitfires haven’t been great, Greentree has been a bright spot.
If the Habs draft 15th or later, Greentree becomes a legitimate option.
The Canadiens need a big piece to fill a need in their top six, and fortunately, there are a few great options at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft.
Lindstrom and Demidov stand out as two of my favourite prospects. I also like Eiserman despite his status as a project. Someone with elite shooting talent is never to be ignored.
Fortunately for the Canadiens, Silayev, Levshunov, Sam Dickinson, Zayne Parekh and Zeev Buium are all defencemen, who might have their names called early. As I touched on at the beginning of the article, the likelihood of a talented forward slipping in place is higher than usual, potentially providing a great opportunity for Hughes and Jeff Gorton to address the longstanding lack of offensive talent in the organization.