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Montreal Canadiens Prospect Pool Among Best In Entire NHL

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montreal canadiens prospect ivan demidov

Montreal Canadiens fans are well aware the team currently owns one of the best prospect pools in franchise history. General Manager Kent Hughes has put an onus on drafting talented players with size, though he hasn’t shied away from picking a smaller player who is overflowing with talent, such as Lane Hutson.

Fans are also aware the prospect pool was lacking a certain offensive punch, to put it mildly. To be more accurate, before the 2024 NHL Entry Draft, the forward prospects with legitimate NHL potential were few and far between. That changed considerably once the Canadiens added the second-most talented player of the 2024 Draft, Ivan Demidov. He represents exactly what the Canadiens needed most: a game-changing talent up front. The prospect pool was strengthened further when Habs drafted the well-rounded prospect Michael Hage, a player who has top six potential if he maintains his current development curve.

With that in mind, the latest NHL Team Prospect Pool Strength Rankings have been released, with the Canadiens ranked among the top 3 teams in the NHL.

NHL Team Prospect Pool Strength Rankings

You can read more about the ranking methodology here, but it’s important to remember players must have participated in 100 or fewer games to be considered, which means Slafkovsky does not qualify.

Top 5 Star is the average star probability of the top 5 prospects, while Top 5 NHLer is the average NHLer probability of the top 5 prospects. Depth Stars have a 10% chance of becoming a star, Depth NHLers have a 30% chance of becoming an NHLer.

Top 5 Canadiens prospects considered: Lane Hutson, Ivan Demidov, David Reinbacher, Michael Hage, Joshua Roy

montreal canadiens prospect pool rankings

 

Montreal Canadiens Rankings

You’ll note the Canadiens are third among all NHL prospect pools, which is actually one spot lower than they were last season. The reason behind the drop isn’t due to a lower quality of prospects in the organization, but rather, solid draft weekends from the Anaheim Ducks and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Here’s what Byron Bader, the creator of the rankings, had to say.

“I’m as surprised as you are to see that the Canadiens are not #1 and even fell back one spot from the pre-draft rankings. Montreal had a great draft, getting a potential superstar piece in Demidov, another good piece in Hage and some good depth pieces. The top 5s of Anaheim and Chicago beat them out slightly. This is a nearly perfect pool that doesn’t need much of anything else at this point.

As Bader suggests, this is a near-perfect group of prospects, which means Habs fans surely won’t lose any sleep when it comes to the slight dip in the rankings. What matters most is that now the Montreal Canadiens have added an important element of quality to the high quantity of top-end prospects in the system.

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Prestige Worldwide

I am sure that I’m in the minority but wouldn’t one more year of bottom feeding ensure that we have the foundation for a potential Stanley Cup winner at some point? Trust me, bottoming out has not been fun but could our fanbase handle, say another low finish? Right now, I project the Habs finishing 10-15 next season which is not an ideal spot draft wise.

Hard Habits

We drafted Ghule at 16th and Caufield at 15th. It’s not where you draft as much as who you draft. We also currently have two draft picks in 2025.

Finishing in the 10-15th spot is not the end of the world as it would should a progression points wise and hopefully also in terms if goal differential.

Dana

Upgrades are always available and while some consider our situation ideal, it can always be better. For example, we could have celebrini and not be Hage, a significant upgrade even our most loyal fan is certain to agree with.

Likewise, Askarov is a significant upgrade over any goalie in our system. This is a Shesterkin, Hellebuyck, Vasilevskiy caliber goaltender according to many expert opinions I’ve read. He’s stuck behind Saros- another best in class goalie who just signed a huge new deal, so Askarov is not usurping him anytime soon. So that is a move I’d highly recommend exploring.

The other area of future need is a high impact top 6 forward, preferably a left winger with some grit. We don’t need him today on the big club, but I do not think that player is in our system today even considering the ceilings of those under evaluation Marc, would you be able to look at the next draft to share your take on potential guys that would fit the bill or even the next crop of UFA’s?

The other considerstion when assessing prospect pools is to glance ahead a year or two and that certainly favours the Ducks Sharks and Blackhawks over us as we are ascending faster which means our future draft selections won’t be the caliber of Demidov or Slafkovsky where theirs might continue to be top end. All to say, our prospect pool is at its apex and will diminish greatly over the next 2-6 years. Even if we trade matheson and savard, they are going to playoff teams which means our returns are mid to late first rounders. Plus in a few more years, we will start to trade draft capital to bring in players ( rentals) to try to win it all. It’s part of the cycle and depletes teams prospect pools. None of the teams at the top have good pools and that’s why- late picks and or they traded away picks for rentals. We are a long way from there today, of course, as this appears to be our golden era of prospects. Some fans aren’t happy we aren’t winning right now but it’s coming l, and watching the team morph from bottom dweller to occupying the penthouse is very exciting.

Has Demidov selected a jersey number yet?

John Stone

91

Greg

It’s true that the prospect pool is much better than it was last year at this time, but for my money, the pool is much deeper. Anaheim and Chicago predictably got better, and San Jose’s also.
Drafting the consensus #1 will do that in years like the past 2. Slafkovsky may well become an elite player, scoring a ppg or more/season. But he’s no Bedard, and maybe no Celebrini either. As for the Ducks, Carlsson, MacTavish, Sennecke, Gauthier, etc, yeah they’re ahead of us.
Prior to the 2024 draft, all but Joshua Roy (a 6th rounder) and Beck were our only two sure NHLers, and possible top 6 scorers. At forward: our glut of high quality d-men is very well documented. Not to say we won’t see Luke Tuch, Florian Xhekaj and other draft choices play nhl games for the Habs, they just aren’t can’t miss prospects.
Adding Demidov and Hage, that made the forward group a great deal stronger overnight. I’d say that a draft where most all were forwards was a very smart move. Especially given the weak return for Kovacevic. A right shooting, 6’5″ defenceman coming off a +9 season on the 5th worst team (led the team there) and making under a million really should fetch more than a bag of pucks (which is what a 4th rounder we have to wait 2 whole years to even draft is.)
All we can do is hope he gets more for any other d-men he trades. Can’t do a lot worse than a 4th in ’26, imo.

Ghg55

The negative reactions to the Kovacevic trade are astounding… firstly, +/- is an archaic stat. A last resort type stat when it’s hard to paint a picture using other available means. He was our 7th Dman, a healthy scratch on several occasions, we need room for the kids, and he wasn’t developing anymore at his age. He played very sheltered minutes, and not many minutes per night so he was more fresh. He will be a 7th D man on most teams… getting a 4th rounded for a guy who would’ve been lost to waivers is a solid deal.
This is the type of thing people are talking about when they say habs fans overrate their players. I get that all fans do, but this is the thing they’ll point to as legitimate examples…. He was healthy scratched by a bottom 5 team that used a ton of highly inexperienced players, and you’re complaining about getting a 4th… come on man

Ghg55

Just to kinda support what I’m saying instead of looking like I’m just saying things randomly and/or don’t like kovacevic, a lot of ppl pt to him being a big 6’5 defender, presumably because that size helps him defend, and we want to be tough etc etc. Here are his stats:

5v5 Minutes:
1. Kovy: 872
2. Struble: 860
3. Harris: 859
4. Xhekaj: 635
5. Barron: 784

Hits:
1. 68
2. 120
3. 26
4. 119
5. 55
Shot blocks/60
1. 4.54
2. 3.63
3. 4.82
4. 4.34
5. 4.21
(He’s way behind Matheson, Savard and Guhle too)
Takeaways
1. 8
2. 19
3. 12
4. 4
5. 6
Giveaways
1. 47
2. 33
3. 20
4. 27
5. 32
On-ice xGA/60
1. 2.78
2. 2.97
3. 2.6
4. 2.56
5. 2.7
On-ice shot attempts against/60
1. 61.7
2. 64.07
3. 58.88
4. 60.98
5. 61.67
So, it’s clear he’s not an offensive dynamo, and looking at these stats. He’s not good defensively either. He played the most minutes of all these players but it was almost the same amount of 5v5 minutes as Struble, Harris, and Barron, and 237min more than Xhekaj… BUT
He has almost HALF as many hits as struble and xhekaj, and only 13 more than Barron.
He blocks fewer shots per 60 than Harris, but more than the other 3. However, all the gaps are a few decimal pts in either direction (though he has struble clearly beat). But for context, Savard is 7.36, Guhle is 6.32, and even Matheson is 5.21. Remember, these are PER 60 so ice time is accounted for…
He’s in the middle of the pack of these 5 players for takeaways, but leads with the most giveaways by 13 over the second worst of the 5, Struble, who only played 12 fewer minutes.
His on ice-xGoals AGAINST per 60 is the second worst of these 5 players.
And his on ice xShots AGAINST per 60 is ALSO the second worst.
The only player worse in both categories was struble, a true rookie who only got a shot cuz of Xhekaj’s injury.

Guys, this was a bottom 5 team. Kovacevic’s big claim is that he’s a big guy and shoots right. But we have BOTH Mailloux and reinbacher coming who shoot right. We need room. And as you can see, his size (and skill) don’t really count for much. He’s a decent player. Would’ve been cool to keep him. But he’s really just a bottom of the lineup guy, a healthy scratch, and the “he inserts size and physicality” argument rly isn’t strong. Especially when we have struble and xhekaj.

Sorry… but a 4th rd pick is kind of a great return for what he is

Tony

SUPERB analysis and rebuttal. Much appreciated, and right on.

Pierre B.

And yet, he ended up with +11 on a team that was -53. He must have done something right.

Pierre B.

But the 4 others have far more upside. So, there’s no reason to diminish Kovacevic’s achievements. The Canadiens could have kept him as a 3rd pair defenseman, he did well in this role; but they had better options.

Gig Young

Kovacevic would be the 7th or 8th defenceman next season, Mailloux & Reinbacher on the right side are far superior to him. Also he had sheltered starts which make his stats look better, but I for one will not miss his continous turnovers in his own end.

Dana

Well supported position. I wish him success but ultimately, there was no future on our blue line for him.

morrisk

Very impressed with the comments above…most are spot-on correct.

However, I would be “cautiously optimistic” with these so-called rankings…

I know that there are some analytics involved in these rankings, but honestly, isn’t it more or less a weighted average based on draft selection picks? As in you get the highest rankings with most # of 1st rd picks?

But we need to be careful. A plethora of high round draft picks does not necessarily translate to, or guarantee, a team completely turning it around within about 5 yrs to compete for a Cup. Ask Buf, Ariz (Utah), and Ott. Neither team has made the payoffs in forever, but all have been loading up on plenty of 1st rd picks – many in the top 10 picks. I can also argue that Clbs, Chic, Ana, and SJ have all sucked for a while now, but not quite as long as the three above.

So its never a guarantee that a high-end prospect pools eventually gets your team to Cup contention. Because its still a guess in the end as to how these high-end talents will turn out.

Compare KotK to Brayden Point. One was the 3rd pick the the draft and the other was the 79th pick in the draft. No guarantees.

Drafting well (in ALL rounds), making proper trades, signing free agents who work out, and managing the Cap prudently – are all just as important as loading up on 1st rd draft picks.

GHG55

No, Byron’s model is purely based on production. He simply compares points scored across the various leagues as players develop. It’s not a model of all around talent. For example, shutdown defenders tend to have very poor scores in his model because they don’t produce a lot of points.

Also, he makes a comment of “I’m as surprised as you that the habs aren’t number 1” or something to that effect. But it’s because Slaf came out of the model with 100+ games played (I’m pretty sure anyway). Though he does have slaf fairly low as again, it’s based purely on production and his 1st nhl year and his Liiga year were not great for that…

But yeah, his model should be taken with a grain of salt, as you say, because there is obviously much more to hockey than just point production. Though I’ll note, no one in his data pool who has ever graded how Demidov does has ever NOT become a star producer (0.7+ ppg). So that’s fun. And his comps are insane (Kariya, Lemieux, Crosby etc if I remember correctly… again, just based on point production in their development years).

Cary

Two things to say, individuals don’t win playoffs, and the sum of the parts, the puzzle that’s being put together; the strength at each position now, that’s where this team will have an edge.

Pierre B.

It’s hard to figure out what it really means when one realize that last yesr, the Canadiens were ranked #2. They dropped one rank.

Train

Need a 30+ goal scorer NOW!! That requires a trade, something I hope Hughes understands. Otherwise, another non playoff year next season. You can’t build a contender from the draft alone- you need trades and free agents as well.

stephen

I don’t get the Habs goalie ranking. Fowler has all sorts of potential
Clearly one of the top goalies in the NCAA last year-in his first year.