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Canadiens Analysis

Montreal Canadiens Could Draft Son Of Former Team Captain

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montreal canadiens aatos koivu

Much ink has been spilled when it comes to Montreal Canadiens picks in the first round, with draft targets for the fifth overall and 26th overall picks already lined up.

The Canadiens will have a relatively long break after they make the 26th overall pick, seeing as the Utah TBDs own their second round pick due to the desperation trade involving Christian Dvorak made by former general manager Marc Bergevin. They do, however, own the 57h overall pick, acquired in the deal that saw Artturi Lehkonen join the Colorado Avalanche at the 2022 trade deadline.  The talent level will have dwindled significantly by the time the Habs take to the podium in the second round, which means they have very little margin for error in the first round.

There is one player in particular that has garnered some attention as a potential second-round draft target, and not just because he’s the son of one of the most respect Montreal Canadiens players in recent team history.

Aatos Koivu Pre-Draft Rankings

Aatos Koivu’s family name may carry some weight when it comes to recognition, but as we all know, lineage doesn’t necessarily equate greatness when it comes to NHL players. While his father, Saku, was originally chosen 21st overall by the Habs in 1993, a choice that received much more criticism than was warranted at the time, Aatos is not slated to be a first-round pick. There’s a significant discrepancy in the public lists, with some outlets suggesting he should be a late second-round target, while others have him closer to the fourth round.

To make matters even more difficult to interpret, some outlets have flat-out ignored Koivu, failing to list him among the top prospects available in 2024. But most importantly, Bob McKenzie’s consolidated rankings have him 60th, which is enough for us to propose that the Canadiens should look into whether he’s the right target for their only second-round pick.

We also have to remember pre-draft rankings rarely, if ever, correlate to specific team rankings. For example, only two outlets had Florian Xhekaj ranked prior to last year’s draft, and both had him as one of the last players on their list. The Canadiens, on the other hand, identified that he could bring a style of play to the table that would improve the team down the road, and gave him a much higher ranking prior to the draft. Many scoffed at the idea that he was worth a fourth round pick, but the Canadiens stuck to their guns once the fourth round started, and they saw the younger Xhekaj was still available.

MUST READ: Florian Xhekaj Defied The Odds To Earn His Entry-Level Contract

Given Xhekaj’s impressive growth this season, you could argue it was the right call. Time will tell, but the point is that pre-draft lists are great to get an overall sense of where players will end up going, but there are always a multitude of factors in play.

Aatos Koivu Scouting Profile

A comparison of their U18 seasons shows that Aatos never quite reached the offensive level his father did. Saku scored 20 goals and 28 assists in 24 games as a 17-year-old, while Aatos scored 16 goals and 15 assists in 28 games. It’s very difficult to compare U18 seasons, especially when there’s a 30-year gap between them. Liiga has increased its overall quality of competition in recent years, owing to the exodus of talent from the KHL due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine. With that in mind, we can suggest that Aatos certainly possesses an offensive streak, though perhaps not at the level of Saku prior to his arrival in Canada.

We also have to remember Saku Koivu was one of the most exciting prospects in franchise history at the time. He was highly skilled in the offensive zone, and his defensive acumen was through the roof. He was also among the leading scorers in the NHL before an unfortunate knee derailed his season 96-97 season, not to mention his offensive potential.

The most impressive aspect of Aatos’ season is that he started the year playing with TPS’ U18 club before eventually being promoted to their U20 team, quite the accomplishment for a 17-year-old. He also earned a call-up to the Liiga, playing four games with TPS as one of the youngest players in the league. In other words, he’s shown considerable growth in the past two seasons, enough to entice a team like the Canadiens that is looking for a hidden game in the second round.

Koivu already shows excellent maturity away from the puck, which is quite rare for young players who usually spend the majority of their time with the puck on their stick in Junior ranks. He possesses a strong wrist shot, though he’s also adept at using a one-timer when the situation arises, or something a little more fancy which involves multiple dekes.

For the record, he has said his style of play is similar to Sebastian Aho’s, a rather interesting comparison to say the least.

Montreal Canadiens Brass Tacks

At 6’0 (1.83 m), he’s certainly tall enough to pique Kent Hughes’ interest, but at 170 lb (ca. 77 kg), he will have to add muscle mass to his frame if he’s to excel in the NHL. His handful of games in Liiga confirmed as much. Fortunately, muscle mass can be added at a later date, but talent cannot.

The question becomes, is he the type of player that could eventually make an impact with the Montreal Canadiens on a nightly basis? The Habs are already overstocked with prospects who have a strong defensive acumen, while the list of elite prospect forwards is rather short. We also have to consider what type of player you end up drafting late in the second round. Lane Hutson was the exception to the rule, as the vast majority of prospects with legitimate NHL aspirations are off the board once the first 50 names have been called. If you can identify a player who has healthy odds of eventually making the NHL in the fourth round, consider yourself lucky, as it’s much easier said than done.

Seeing as the Canadiens have already touched base with Aatos during the season, not to mention their meeting during the 2024 Scouting Combine, it’s safe to say that they’ve already shown enough interest to suggest he may become their ideal draft target in the second round.