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Canadiens Top Prospects: Michael Hage’s Road To The NHL

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montreal canadiens draft pick michael hage credit to Club de Hockey Canadien

The Montreal Canadiens made news when traded to move up five spots a few hours before the 2024 NHL draft, securing the 21st overall pick. After much debate about the goal of the trade, the Habs used the pick to select forward Michael Hage, a player Kent Hughes said was their target all along.

Let’s look at why the Habs brass believe they’ve added a key player to the team’s rebuild.

Michael Hage’s Road To The NHL

Hage is a right-handed centre who stands at 6’1″ and weighs 190 lb. Since taking over as General Manager of the Montreal Canadiens, it appears Hughes’ modus operandi placed an onus on adding talented players with more size to the mix, and Hage certainly fits that philosophy. The 18-year-old will continue to fill out his frame and should be over 200 pounds once he’s ready to make the jump to professional hockey.

The Mississauga, Ontario, native played the past two seasons in the United States Hockey League (USHL), the top American junior league. He underwent shoulder surgery at the start of his first season, and was thus limited to only 13 games to close it out, notching five goals and five assists, good for 10 points.

 

The following season featured a slow start, but things really took off in January, as he scored 23 goals and 50 points in his last 29 games. He ultimately ended the regular season with 75 points in 54 contests, carrying his team, the powerhouse Chicago Steel franchise, into the post-season in the process.

Hage will be joining the University of Michigan’s Wolverine, one of the top hockey programs in US collegiate hockey, where he can continue to grow his game alongside top NHL prospects such Rutger McGroarty and Seamus Casey. There’s no rush when it comes to his development, and thus fans should not expect him to join the Canadiens for at least two full seasons – hopefully developing into THE guy his team relies on vying for a NCAA championship.

Hage Family Ties

In one of the most heart-wrenching stories to emerge from the draft, the young player emotionally indicated to the media that his recently (and tragically) deceased father was a lifelong Montreal Canadiens fan and that his family is from Montreal. Hage fought back tears as he mentioned the rush of emotions he felt, being called up by the team he and his dad cheered for, and that somewhere, somehow, his old man must be proud and elated. Hage also responded to the Quebec-based media in French, further illustrating how deep his family roots run into the land of the Sainte-Flanelle.

 

Hage – A Skilled Playmaking Centre

In Michael Hage, the Montreal Canadiens add another right-handed centre. At some point, this team will need to add a skilled, left-handed pivot for balance, but that’s a story for another day.

A playmaker first and foremost, Hage still possesses a precise, heavy wrist shot. He doesn’t have an elite shot, but can certainly beat goalies when he elects to take a shot. That said, he mostly prioritizes slot passes in high-danger areas, providing his teammates with golden opportunities. Simply put, he’s a fantastic passer.

When he is carrying the puck, Hage utilizes his soft hands, high-end edge work and great anticipation, which he uses to beat defenders one-on-one or to control the play until a freed up teammate is open for a crisp pass. He loves to manipulate defenders and beat them with smart passes or nifty dekes while rushing their side of the ice. It remains to be seen if he’ll be able to undress defenders with the same regularity at the higher level, but he certainly has a knack for dangles to gain control of the offensive zone with control of the puck, an important skill in the NHL. While not a power forward per se, Hage isn’t shy to drop the shoulder and drive the net. He loves to challenge the middle of the ice and many of his goals are scored at the goalmouth

He plays the ‘right way’ by working hard to win board battles, and he doesn’t cheat by flying the zone early for an attempt at a quick exit. Rather, he supports his defencemen in his own zone by providing outlet options and opening up passing lanes. It’s worth noting his coaches tout his high compete level, which means at the very least, he has the tools to become a bottom-six player. In other words, there’s a lot to like about his floor if he fails to reach his ceiling, which projects as one of a top six forward.

To become an impactful NHLer for the Montreal Canadiens, he’ll need to improve a few things. First, his skating. He isn’t slow (his top speed is fine, and he’s got great edge work), but he could use a jump in his first strides. Better acceleration will help create separation, a useful skill as he faces stronger competition.

He’ll also need to limit the number of forced passes and plays he makes, as turnovers get more costly when you climb the hockey levels ladder. But that should be a natural evolution of his game at the next level – junior players all have to adapt as they rise through the ranks. It will be interesting to see how quickly he can step up his game to succeed in college hockey.

Montreal Canadiens Brass tacks

On top of adding the best prospect in their system in Ivan Demidov, the Montreal Canadiens also managed to draft another legitimate top six forward prospect who plays the crucial centre position. It’s one of the reasons many suggest the Habs had an excellent showing at the 2024 NHL Entry Draft.

As for the future of the franchise, over the course of three years, Hughes managed to inject high-quality prospects with size and reshape the centre line – all feats the previous regime couldn’t achieve. Michael Hage is yet another great piece in a prospect pipeline that ranks among the best in the league.

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Tyrone

The updated height & weight chart in an article here a day or two ago said Hage was 6’ and 185lbs.

john harmsworth

Looks like a slightly smaller version of Kirby Dach. That’s promising but I hope he can win faceoffs, but we can use another talented winger anyway. It’s a nice story and I hope it works out.

Greg

I like this kid, and hope he can be a good player for us in a few years. Checks a lot of boxes.