By Bob Trask – The Montreal Canadiens have a wealth of prospects in their pipeline and many more will be added at the 2023 entry draft. Some new and recent draftees have already signed contracts and more players will surely be offered their first contract before the start of next season. This has created a situation where decisions will have to be made regarding some of the prospects. There simply won’t be enough spots open to sign and/or keep everyone.
The prospect pipeline is full to virtually overflowing at the moment and now that quantity has been addressed, it’s time to look at the quality of the prospects in the organization. Some of the current prospects will fall down the depth chart with any trades that occur and with the 2023 entry draft.
Kent Hughes is undoubtedly ranking all players in the organization on an ongoing basis. He will be identifying those players who best fit in with his vision of a competitive hockey team. Clearly some players will be cut adrift in one way or another. Which brings us to the possibility of some prospects being included in trade package.
We can look at it position by position.
Jake Allen is signed for two more years and was doing a good job as a starter before going through a rough patch while Sam Montembeault is doing an even better job as his backup. At the same time, Cayden Primeau will be waiver eligible next year and hasn’t shown enough so far in his pro-career to displace either of the two incumbents. Yes, trading Primeau would leave the organization dangerously thin in goal but if the alternative is potentially losing him to waivers, then Primeau could be a trade candidate in the right package.
Montreal have four young defensemen playing regularly and four veterans signed through next year or longer. The young foursome already with the club clearly isn’t going anywhere. There may be one opening available if a couple of veterans are traded but with players like Justin Barron, Nicolas Beaudin, Mattias Norlinder, Otto Leskinen, Gianni Fairbrother in the queue, there just isn’t room for all them. Add players like Jayden Struble and Logan Mailloux and the scene becomes even more crowded. It feels like a decision will need to be made regarding the future with the organization of more than one of these players.
Barron looks like a safe bet to stay with the organization by virtue of the fact he is a right shot and he has helped his cause with a hot start offensively in Laval. But there is a plethora of LHD on the Rocket at the moment and with some of them becoming waiver eligible next year, something is bound to give.
The NHL roster looks better at center than it has in a long, long time. The caveat is that one or more of the current pivots on the Canadiens could be traded but assuming they are not, there will be little room for promotion from the minors or amateur ranks. A case could be made for Owen Beck challenging for a spot on the Habs next year but if it is not with the Canadiens he will be back in junior.
Riley Kidney and Jared Davidson will be graduating from junior after this year and Filip Mesar can also play center but I see him as a winger in the NHL. Finnish center, Oliver Kapanen is having a solid year in Europe and I can’t see the Habs moving him at this stage of his career. He, Jan Mysak and Xavier Simoneau won’t by waiver eligible next year so that buys Kent Hughes some time. Having said that, Mysak’s development seems to have stalled somewhat, and I could see him being included in a trade package if it helped the Canadiens get a player they really want.
Having said all of that, Hughes may be convinced to include Mysak as a sweetener in a trade, particularly with the year that Kapanen is having. Jared Davidson is also showing well in the WHL and as of today is on pace to put up 111 points.
The Canadiens are carrying a lot of wingers on the NHL roster but you don’t have to go very far down the depth chart before you realize there has been a lot of mediocre performances this year. At the NHL level it is definitely a case of quantity over quality and when you look at Laval, it quickly becomes evident that Jesse Ylönen and maybe Rafaël Harvey-Pinard might be the only legitimate prospects among wingers on the team. At the amateur level and in Europe there are a few players with promise.
Joshua Roy, Sean Farrell, Emil Heineman and Filip Mesar (will he be a center or a winger) are likely on the non-available list. Blake Biondi and Luke Tuch are unlikely to generate much interest at this time and the Habs may prefer to monitor their development before making a decision.
Among the Habs prospects who play wing, Ylönen may be the only one that could bring much value in a trade. If that was the case, the Canadiens would need to be comfortable that they don’t see a place for him on the team. But because he will be waiver eligible next year, Kent Hughes will have to manage this situation carefully.
The Habs could be bumping up against their contract limit by next summer and will have prospects who will become waiver eligible. It is creating a situation where decisions will have to be made on a few players. From this point of view, those prospects most at risk of being included in a trade seem to be left handed defensemen but players like Cayden Primeau and Jesse Ylönen also need to step up and prove they belong. It they aren’t in the plans even a modest return in a trade is better than losing that player to waivers.
From the comments he has made, we can be assured that Hughes is being proactive and that by year end we will see more personnel changes in the organization.
Prospect Depth Chart
This prospect depth chart that lists the players by position and year of birth is a quick way to look at the organizational depth in the Canadiens’s system. Use it when you are brainstorming your own trade ideas.
|Goal||E. Croteau||J. Vrbetic||F. Dichow||C. Primeau|
|L-Defense||L. Hutson||A. Engstrom||W. Trudeau||J. Struble||G. Fairbrother||N. Beaudin|
|P. Nurmi||M. Norlinder|
|R-Defense||L. Mailloux||D. Kostenko||J. Barron|
|D. Sobolev||M. Tourigny|
|Center||O. Beck||R. Kidney||J. Myask||X. Simoneau||N. Schnarr|
|V. Rohrer||O. Kapanen||J. Davidson|
|L-Wing||C. Guindon||J. Roy||L. Tuch||S. Farrell||R. Harvey-Pinard|
|R-Wing||F. Mesar||B. Biondi||J. Ylönen|
Despite their ages, Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Arber Xhekaj and Juraj Slafkovsky have not been included in this depth chart because they are currently on the Canadiens roster.