A Case For Some Reclamation Projects

By Bob Trask – During every off season, hockey fans love to speculate what their team might do to improve itself. The topics range from potential draft picks, trades and free agent signings. High salaried players who have had disappointing seasons are often rumoured to be buyout or trade candidates. Another group of players are those who began with high expectations in their draft years but never lived up to their promise.

In his very short history as Montreal’s head coach, Martin St-Louis got a lot of players who had struggled under previous coaches. So it’s fitting to look at players who have never lived up to their promise but who could potentially be revived under St-Louis.

Let’s take a look at a few of these.

Vitali Kravtsov

Kravtsov was drafted in the 1st round, 9th overall in the 2018 amateur draft, stands 6-foot 3-inches and weighs in at about 187 lbs. Jeff Gorton, the Canadiens Vice-President of Hockey Operations, was the Rangers GM when they drafted Kravtsov.

The scouting report from eliteprospects.com describes him this way: “A big, skilled winger that can play up and down the lineup and provide scoring in a number of roles. He brings grit and physical size, but could be more assertive in throwing his weight around more. Displays excellent speed on the rush and in zone entry, but could back check quicker.”

Lias Andersson

Anderson was drafted in the 1st round, 7th overall in the 2017 amateur draft, stands 5-foot 11-inches and weighs in at about 183 lbs. As with Kravstov, Gorton was the Rangers GM when they drafted Andersson.

The scouting report from eliteprospects.com describes him: “Andersson is an excellent team player. Never takes a shift off. Also blessed with good hockey sense and plays a strong two-way game. Offensively, Andersson stands out with impressive puck skills, a good shot and fine speed. Has the tools to become a scoring line player, but could also become an excellent role player who always gives 100%.

Filip Zadina

Zadina was drafted in the 1st round, 6th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2018 amateur draft. The 6-foot 196 lbs winger is familiar to many Habs fans because they had expected him to be drafted when Marc Bergevin surprised many and choose Jesperi Kotkaniemi instead.

The draft report from eliteprospects.com reads this way: “Filip Zadina is a dynamic offensive forward that plays a complete game. A deft and agile skater, he exhibits explosive mobility both up and down the ice. In all three zones, he proactively looks to create problems for the opposition. His awareness is indicative of his high level of hockey sense, and he knows how to make plays and scoring chances materialize. Has a goal scorer’s toolbox, complete with the individual puck skills that one comes to expect from today’s elite offensive players. The accurate release on his shot is noteworthy and is a defining aspect of his offensive capabilities. Defensively sound, he disrupts lanes and pressures the opposition to make hasty decisions; he is tenacious in pursuit of puck control and transitions up-ice naturally.

After the equivalent of 2 full seasons in the NHL, Zadina has 25 goals and 36 assists.

Philippe Myers

Myers is a undrafted right-handed defenseman currently under contract with Nashville. Standing at 6-foot 5-inches and 209 lbs, he has had some productive years in the AHL but has struggled to earn a regular spot in the NHL having played only 140 games over four seasons. Nashville not only shipped him to the minors last season, they didn’t even keep him in the organization, choosing to lend him to the Toronto Marlies for the last 16 games of the regular season.

The Moncton, New Brunswick native would be the ultimate reclamation project given his limited success so far in his career but the very fact that he plays RD is to his advantage. There have been rumours that the Predators will buy him out and if that is the case, Myers could be available at a very reasonable cost.

As we have seen, if anyone can turn a career around in short it might just be Martin St. Louis.

Other Names

A few other names from the 2016-2018 drafts may not have developed as expected. Some could be close to NHL ready while others would be long shots, vying for two way contracts or even an AHL contract. The cost to acquire each will vary widely depending on the situation each club is in. Here is a small sample:

  • Ty Dellandrea, Dallas – C, 6’0 195 lbs,1st round, 13th overall 2018
  • Joe Veleno, Detroit – C, 6’1 206 lbs, 1st round, 30th overall 2018
  • Shane Bowers, Colorado – C, 6’2 186 lbs, 1st round, 28th overall 2017
  • Luke Martin, no affiliation – RD, 6’2 218 lbs, 2nd round, 52nd overall 2017
  • Julien Gauthier, Carolina – RW, 6’4 227 lbs, 1st round, 21st overall 2016
  • Henrik Borgstrom, Florida – C, 6’3 199 lbs, 1st round, 23rd overall 2016

No Stone Unturned

Kent Hughes gives the impression that he will leave no stone unturned in his quest to make the Canadiens into a perennial contender. In all likelihood he is poring over scouting reports, not only for the upcoming amateur draft, but also searching for a diamond or two in the rough.

Keeping an eye on some of these unheralded names is one more thing to keep Habs fans busy over the summer.

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Dreaming Of A Successful Summer

By JD Lagrange – It’s been a long, tough ride for Habs’ fans this past season. With new management in place and with the first pick overall in their back pocket, the excitement is back and palpable. While still fighting and arguing about everything on social media, fans are excited about the Draft. Will it be Shane Wright? Or is Kent Hughes holding a surprise and dare tick off the fan base as his predecessor wasn’t afraid to do?

We have covered it in long and in large, the Canadiens’ GM has a long list of things to do. There are so many possibilities that we don’t know which way to turn, or where to start. Rumours are rampant and only getting stronger as the Draft approaches. Some are reasonable, others are wishful thinking by fans and media members. But as the Stanley Cup Finals are about to start, we do know that there should be some action starting in the next couple of weeks.

Dreaming

With COVID having restricted our travels and activities for two years, and with the price of fuel and the cost of living having gone through the roof, there will always be one thing left that is free: dreaming. And our dreams are all different… some more than others. The beauty of it is that dreams are our own and no one can judge us for having them. After all, why get upset at someone else’s vivid imagination? It’s not reality.

Please allow me to share at least the framework of what my dream would be. Of course, it would start with Carey Price being back at full strength and healthy. But we know as much about that as we know about life in other solar systems. So for this exercise, I’ll keep in mind what we do know about him, his uncertain future.

Cap clearing

Four moves that I would like to see happen:

  • Jeff Petry traded – $6.25 million in savings, and an unhappy player who pouted most of last season out of the dressing room. Bye-bye Jeff, thanks for your services.
  • Shea Weber‘s contract traded – $7.857 million in savings. Thank you for grooming our young players and leaving a new culture on the Habs, and for sacrificing everything for this franchise.
  • Mike Hoffman traded – $4.5 million in savings, I’ve never been a fan of his. We’ll keep Jonathan Drouin instead, who only has one year left to his contract instead.
  • Paul Byron‘s contract bought out – $3.4 million contract, a buyout would save $1.87 million next season and cost $933k the following season. Love you Ti-Paul, but good luck with your new team.

Those moves would free up a total of $20.477 million for next season.

Draft

I would like to see the Canadiens do one of two things:

  • To avoid getting into the Shane Wright debate and be accused of seeking hits for the website – a common excuse by those who disagree with selecting anyone else – let’s say the Habs select him. I would still like to see them trade Calgary’s pick (26th overall) and possibly their own second round pick (33rd overall) to move up to a top-15 pick. Perhaps add a prospect, player or pick to move even higher?
  • Oh what the heck, it’s MY dream so I’ll go there anyway, whether it displeases some. Yes, I would consider trading back if ultimately, it makes the team better. I believe that more than the need “to be right” (no pun intended), that’s what every fan should thrive for. So I would try to pull a stunt like Brian Burke did in 1999 while GM of the Canucks, allowing him to pick the Sedin Twins. I strongly believe that the Habs would be a better team if they could select both Juraj Slafkovsky and Logan Cooley. Disagree? That’s okay, you are allowed to… as I’m allowed to my opinion too!

Acquire young talent

Ideally, I would like to see the Canadiens continue adding NHL ready young talent to their line-up. So I would target the following players:

  • Vitali Kravtsov (NYR) – It’s official, he’s coming back to the NHL after signing a one-year, $875,000 contract with the Rangers. According to NHL Insiders, that doesn’t mean that he won’t be traded. Big, talented, fast winger drafted by… Jeff Gorton. I can certainly see him skating down the right wing alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield, can’t you?
  • 3rd overall pick (ARI) – While some media outlets have filled fans’ heads that the Canadiens could trade for New Jersey’s second overall pick, there is no way they will do that unless you give them Nick Suzuki or Cole Caufield in return. But Arizona’s 3rd overall pick would be more attainable, and would allow the Canadiens to select one of Juraj Slafkovsky or Logan Cooley.
  • Ilya Samsonov (WAS) – A simple insurance policy in case Carey Price can’t go, which is a very strong possibility. Hughes stated himself wanting more experienced depth at the goaltending position in that event. Samsonov, a pending RFA, isn’t expansive and he’s young enough that he still has the potential to break through.
  • Right-handed defenseman – Not just a RD, but one that can play top-4 now, or relatively soon. Right now, the Canadiens top right-shooting defenseman is… David Savard! Then you have Chris Wideman and Justin Barron, who needs some maturing and developing, not on the top pair. It’s unlikely that the Habs will be able to draw a top UFA like John Klingberg, and Kris Letang would be way too expansive. But Etan Bear (CAR), Neal Pionk (WIN), Tyson Barrie (EDM), Matt Dumba (MIN) and John Marino (PIT) are all right-shooting defensemen who have been in the rumour mill.

There you have it. To me, if Hughes and VP of Hockey Ops Jeff Gorton managed to pull something like this, it would be an ideal off-season. It would give the team flexibility and add to an already growing talented prospect pool, by also filling glaring organizational needs. So tell me… what is YOUR dream?

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