By Bob Trask – With a bushel of draft picks and growing uncertainty about the goaltending prospects within the organization, the Montreal Canadiens could take a hard look at choosing a goaltender in the early rounds of this year’s draft. You can count me as one of those who has been disappointed in most of the goaltending prospects – Jakub Dobes has been the main exception. With than in mind, if Kent Hughes manages to acquire a late first round pick in a pre-deadline trade it wouldn’t be surprising to see him selecting a goaltender with that pick. We can take a look at some of the possibilities.
NHL Central Scouting came out with their mid-season rankings and their lists differ from other scouting services in that they break down prospects into four categories – North American skaters, European skaters, North American goaltenders and European goaltenders. What their list doesn’t do is give you an idea of where they rank a player overall without regard to position or origin, but it is a starting point.
North American Goaltenders
Player stats courtesy Elite Prospects. Age is as of December 31st, 2022
Michael Hrabal stands out because of his size and Carson Bjarnason has received a great many accolades for his play so far this season. But a couple of others merit a closer look. Trey Augustine is ranked #3 but when I saw him play in the WJC, he didn’t look like a high draft pick to me. Adam Gajan, on the other hand, came out of nowhere to have a solid tournament. The Slovakian goaltender is unlikely to be a high draft pick but Montreal had success with another Slovakian long shot when they drafted Jaroslav Halak. The final name is Tomas Suchanek who also had a strong WJC tournament but he is almost 20 years old and the oldest goaltender in the top eight rankings – he could slip down in the draft.
One thing to keep in mind is that goaltenders can take a long time to develop. As such, players drafted from the CHL may be at a disadvantage because teams need to make a contract decision within two years of drafting the player.
Most likely targets:
➙ Early round pick: Michael Hrabal
➙ Mid to late round pick: Adam Gajan
|1||Alexander Hellnemo||6’2||183||19.0||Swe – Jr|
|3||Ian Blomquist||6’2||185||19.6||Swe – 2|
|4||Adam Dybal||6’0||165||17.4||Cze – Jr|
From this group there seems to be few candidates that would tempt the Habs in the first three rounds but with lots of later round picks, Kent Hughes may take a flyer on one of them. The team has made a practice of drafting goaltenders that are off the board and it could happen again. If it does, one of these players could see their name called by the Habs on the 2nd day of the draft.
This table illustrates how many scouting services rank a goaltender in each round of the draft. A “2” under round 1 indicates that 2 scouting services rank the goaltender as a 1st round pick. I’ve cut it off at the 4th round.
|PLAYER||1st rd||2nd rd||3rd rd||4th rd|
What is absolutely stunning about this table is the lack of coverage given to goaltenders among many of the scouting services. Given the importance that is often attached to the position, you might expect to see more goaltenders rated. While that leaves casual followers in the dark, it does create opportunity for surprises at the draft table.
There are a lot of questions about whether or not the Habs may pick a goaltender but chances are very high that they will. It may be someone listed in this article but the team has shown a tendency to go with under-the-radar picks. We’ll have to see if that trend continues. With 11 picks already on the docket and maybe more to come, Kent Hughes could surprise and choose two goaltenders if he feels the talent is there – one in the early rounds and one in the mid to later rounds.
As the rebuild continues, goaltending will be an important element. Stay tuned and see if more scouting services begin to add goaltenders to their rankings.
Editor’s note: The Canadiens’ prospects in net are all 5th-7th round picks. Here is the table taken from the feature “In the Systems“, showing how they are doing this season.
|Jakub Dobes||Ohio State Univ.||NCAA||24||2.20||.920||⬇️|
|Emmett Croteau||Waterloo Black Hawks||USHL||13||2.87||.897||➡️|
|Cayden Primeau||Laval Rocket||AHL||13||3.65||.890||➡️|
|Joe Vrbetic||Trois-Rivières Lions||ECHL||11||3.77||.872||➡️|
|Frederik Dichow||Frölunda HC||SHL||9||2.91||.897||➡️|