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Opinion: Canadiens Can’t Ignore Top Defencemen At 2024 Draft



Montreal Canadiens Draft

It’s a well-advertised fact that the Montreal Canadiens lack high-end forwards in their prospect pool.

There are players such as Joshua Roy, who is currently leading all Habs players in expected goals this season. And then there is defenceman Lane Hutson, who is enjoying yet another dominant season in the NCAA.

But when it comes to pure offensive talent up front, the options are few and far between.

On Sunday, I tuned in to watch two of the team’s best offensive options in the prospect pipeline: Owen Beck (Saginaw Spirit vs. Guelph Storm) and Filip Mesar (Kitchener Rangers vs. Kingston Frontenacs). Both players project to have the ability to make an impact in the NHL, though I’d suggest Beck has the type of well-rounded game that will translate to the professional ranks much easier than his Rangers counterpart.

That’s not to say Mesar won’t ever make the NHL, but at this point, it’s become evident he’ll need a little time in the AHL to find his rhythm while playing professional hockey in North America. Simply put, when Mesar doesn’t have time and space to execute plays, he can struggle to produce.

Beck, on the other hand, has improved his production significantly since he was traded to the Spirit. As it stands, I see him as one of the few prospects in the organization with a legitimate chance to crack the NHL lineup at training camp next season.

With that in mind, I have to admit, the player who caught my attention on Sunday happened to be defenceman Zayne Parekh.

He just turned 18 a couple of weeks ago, but the right-handed blueliner is in the midst of one of the most impressive seasons by a defenceman in recent OHL history, as evidenced by his 30 goals and 55 assists in 57 games.

To make matters more interesting, he happens to also be one of the top defencemen available at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft, and there’s a decent possibility that a defenceman like Parehk or Sam Dickinson will be available once the Montreal Canadiens take to the podium in the first round.

Best Player Available

I’m not necessarily suggesting the Canadiens have to pick either Dickinson or Parekh. As we all know, they certainly don’t fit a need when it comes to the team’s pressing issues.

The Canadiens have defencemen in spades.

But if there’s one truth to the draft, it’s that drafting for need rarely works out.

Thankfully, there are some high-end offensive talents also available at the 2024 Draft, and given that NHL teams tend to value drafting defencemen in the first round, there are (somewhat) decent odds a forward such as Berkly Catton or Cayden Lindstrom could drop, giving the Habs an opportunity to add a very interesting forward to the prospect pool.

MUST READ: Canadiens Have Intriguing Options Among Top 10 Forwards At 2024 NHL Draft

Both players have an impressive offensive skill set, though neither player projects as a generational talent, which means we should also prepare ourselves for the possibility the Habs won’t end up drafting a forward with their first-round pick this summer.

And it would be fine.

Yes, the Canadiens need more offensive players in their lineup, but you can’t ignore the best player available at the draft in a desperate attempt to fill an organizational weakness that can be solved by other avenues.

It’s simply too risky, even for a team that does not need defensive reinforcements.

If the situation arises that a top-ranked defenceman drops to a position in the draft where the Canadiens can pick him, don’t be surprised if Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes decides to add a player like Parehk to the prospect mix.

It may not seem like the right decision at the time, but if history is any indication, drafting the best player available is rarely a mistake.

(Editor’s Note: The Kitchener Rangers were facing the Kingston Frontenacs, not the London Knights as was originally written.)