When The Math Doesn’t Add Up

By JD Lagrange – If there’s one thing that this rookie tournament is doing, it’s opening the eyes of Habs’ fans everywhere about how effective the reset started in 2018 is starting to be. You see, it takes time for young players to develop and only a few of them can have an immediate impact. Of course, the continued work by current management, following in the footsteps of Marc Bergevin and his group, has added to that prospect pool.

There is another potential issue it’s raising as well. As it currently stands, the Montreal Canadiens have little to no room on their roster to allow for these young players, particularly at forward, to remotely hope making the team. The same cannot be said on defense where, as we’re speaking, there are three spots available for these young men. Even in net, there will be a battle between two young goalies to be Jake Allen’s backup. But let’s look at the breakdown.

Forwards

Give or take, there are about 20 forwards who have a legitimate claim at being of NHL caliber. Some definitely are, others are ready to prove that they belong. The issue is that too many are on NHL contracts, some with substantial contracts. Saying that Kent Hughes must move some forwards would be stating the obvious, but something has got to give.

Juraj Slafkovsky, Jesse Ylönen, Emil Heineman, and Rafaël Harvey-Pinard all seem to be ready to prove that they belong. Unfortunately for them, they have 16 other forwards “ahead” of them. When you consider that teams usually carry 13, sometimes 14 forwards on their club, it leaves zero room for them. And when you’re talking young guys, you’re also talking cheap cap hit and players motivated to earn and keep their spot in the line-up…

NAMEPOSSHOOTSAGEHTWT
Nick SuzukiCR235’11”205
Sean MonahanCL276’2″200
Christian DvorakCL266’1″200
Kirby DachCR216’4″197
Jake EvansCR266’0″176
Jan MysakCL206’0″182
Brendan GallagherWR305’9″184
Josh AndersonWR286’3″227
Jonathan DrouinWL276’0″203
Evgenii DadonovWL335’11”185
Mike HoffmanWL326’0″184
Joel ArmiaWR296’3″218
Paul ByronWL335’9″158
Rem PitlickWL255’11”196
Juraj SlafkovskyWL186’3″238
Cole CaufieldWR215’7″166
Michael PezzettaWL246’1″216
Jesse YlönenWR226’0″167
Emil HeinemanWL206’1″185
Rafaël Harvey-PinardWL235’9″182

Defensemen

As mentioned, the situation is slightly different on defense. Four players are guaranteed their spot: Joel Edmundson, Mike Matheson, David Savard and Chris Wideman. In total, there are about 14 players who are either NHL-caliber or close to being NHL-ready. Once again, teams usually keep seven, sometimes eight defensemen on the team.

Due to the lack of right-handed defensemen, Justin Barron starts with an advantage. But he’s only 20 years old and he may (or not) benefit from some development time in Laval. Corey Schueneman did well when called upon last year and many felt like he could replace departing Brent Kulak.

Then, you have a group of quality young players in a bunch: Jordan Harris, Kaiden Guhle, Mattias Norlinder and Arber Xhekaj all have a legitimate shot at making the big club. Young veterans Otto Leskinen, who is returning to North America, and Madison Bowey will ensure to make the Canadiens’ decision difficult. It is important to note that this list doesn’t include quality young prospects That list doesn’t include Logan Mailloux, Lane Hutson, Jayden Struble and Peter Nurmi.

NAMESHOOTSAGEHTWT
Joel EdmundsonL296’5″224
Mike MathesonL286’2″188
David SavardR316’1″234
Chris WidemanR325’10”180
Corey SchuenemanL276’0″196
Justin BarronR206’2″195
Jordan HarrisL225’11”179
Kaiden GuhleL206’2″199
Mattias NorlinderL226’0″185
Otto LeskinenL255’11”187
Arber XhekajL216’4″238
Madison BoweyR266’2″202
Gianni FairbrotherL215’11”202
William TrudeauL196’0″190

Goaltenders

Right now, the Canadiens have three goaltenders who can be considered of NHL caliber. It’s not saying that the team lacks depth, but the others simply aren’t ready yet. With the news that Carey Price is likely out for the season, Jake Allen becomes the number one by default. Samuel Montembeault and Cayden Primeau both signed one-way deals and will be battling for the backup position.

Montembeault seems to have the edge simply due to the fact that he must clear waivers, but don’t count Primeau out just yet. In fact, the Canadiens have a couple of options for him but in either case, he must play.

NAMEAGEHTWT
Jake Allen326’2″190
Sam Montembeault256’3″199
Cayden Primeau236’3″203

So as you can see, training camp should be more competitive than ever and decisions will have to be made. The most pressing issue, however, remains at the forward position and the coaching staff needs help from their General Manager to create at least some room up front. Hughes has done pretty well so far, but he still have work to do before the season begins.

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Goaltending Prospects – No Respect

By Bob Trask – The injury status of Carey Price has made fans of the Montreal Canadiens hyper-aware of the organization’s goaltending depth. One comment that consistently pops up in the analysis is that the pipeline of quality goaltending prospects is thin. The situation merits an in depth look.

For some reason, these analysts seem to be of the mind that if a goaltender isn’t chosen in the first two rounds of a draft, he immediately becomes suspect as a quality prospect. Tell that to Henrik Lundqvist who was a 7th round pick or Pekka Rinne who was an 8th round pick.

A closer look at their Montreal’s depth chart reveals 5 goaltenders born in 2017 or later. Three of these goaltenders came from the USHL, one from the OHL and one from Denmark. And it isn’t just about quantity, some of this group have already demonstrated they are quality athletes and put an exclamation mark on that with some excellent performances last season.

Cayden Primeau

Cayden Primeau

At 6’3, the 23 year-old, Primeau is the shortest of the group. In a year full of distractions, Primeau still managed a 2.94 GAA and a .909 SV% in the regular season as he rebounded from a tough first half and tentative stint in Montreal. He completed his rebound with a stellar 2.17 GAA and a .936 SV% in the playoffs.

Some analysts are quick to point out that he was only a 7th round pick and seem to look for the flaws in his game more than the potential he has.

With the entire organization seeming to be in a far more stable position at the beginning of this season than it was last year, look for Primeau to settle in become a very, very solid prospect and 23 years old is still young for goaltending prospects.

Jakub Dobes

The 6’4 native of Czechia was a 5th round pick who began playing hockey in North America as a 16 year old. The Canadiens drafted him despite playing only part of his draft year in the USHL. After posting a 2.26 GAA and .934 SV% in 2021-22 as an NCAA rookie, the 21 year-old Dobes took home a lot of hardware (courtesy eliteprospects.com):

  • NCAA all rookie team
  • NCAA best goaltender
  • NCAA 1st all star team
  • NCAA rookie of the year (co-winner)

This still doesn’t seem be enough to convince skeptics that Montreal does not have any quality goaltending prospects.

Frederik Dichow

Frederik Dichow

The 6’5 Danish prospect is the only goaltending prospect in the organization that catches left. He’s also the only one who played for his country in the Olympic Games… a rare accomplishment for a 21 year old goaltender. Most of his season was spent in the Swedish Hockey Allsvenskan league where he posted a 2.27 GAA and a .930 SV%. In the upcoming season he is slated to play in Sweden’s top league – the SHL. If he can continue to develop and post numbers like he did in Allsvenskan, the future could be bright for Dichow and the Canadiens.

Like Dobes, Dichow was a 5th round pick.

Joe Vrbetic

Vrbetic is a long shot. He missed an entire year of hockey due to the OHL cancelling the 2020-21 season because of Covid. Upon his return he played 42 regular season and 8 playoff games as he split time with the younger Dominic Divincentiis. His regular season stats were ho-hum and his playoff numbers were just bad with a 3.88 GAA and an .872 SV% – almost identical to his playing partner.

Despite those numbers he signed a pro contract and seems destined to play in Trois-Rivieres in the upcoming season. When a young goaltender is 6’6 and misses and entire year of hockey, further evaluation is needed before determining what his upside may be. It can often take time for the coordination of taller players to catch up to their bodies and Montreal will find out what they have in Vrbetic in the upcoming season.

At pick #214 in the 2021 entry draft it is worth a gamble to see if there is a diamond in the rough.

Emmett Croteau

The youngest of the Canadiens’ goaltending prospects was chosen in the 6th round of the 2022 entry draft. He had a so-so regular season statistically in the USHL and followed that up with slightly better numbers in the playoffs.

Croteau, who stands 6’3, is expected to return to the USHL of the upcoming season before joining Clarkson in the NCAA for the 2023-24 season. There is a lot of runway left before any decision has to be made on Croteau. At this point it is far too early to make any kind of judgment on his future.

An update on Croteau: He posted a shutout in a pre-season game with the Waterloo Black Hawks. While that means little at this point, it is still good to see.

My Rankings

At this point my rankings of the Canadiens goaltending prospects are:

  1. Jakub Dobes
  2. Cayden Primeau
  3. Frederik Dichow
  4. Joe Vrbectic
  5. Emmett Croteau

I am not sure how this group stacks up against the goaltending prospects on other teams but there is some talent that is already apparent and maybe some more that could reveal itself in the upcoming season.

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