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Top 10 Montreal Canadiens Prospects (2011 Edition)

Posted By Corey Krakower On Jan 4 2011 @ 11:34 pm In Montreal Canadiens | 4 Comments

With the World Junior Championship Gold Medal game right around the corner, what better time than now to take a look at the future Montreal Canadiens with an overview of the team’s Top 10 Prospects.

Last year’s list [1] posted around this time had 3 players that are now with the Habs and are no longer in consideration (#1 Subban, #8 Pyatt, #3 Weber). Another 3 players; #6 Brock Trotter, #7 Cedrick Desjardins, #10 David Fischer, didn’t make the cut. Trotter went to the KHL and has not performed well; Fischer (drafted before Claude Giroux) was released from the organization; and Desjardins was traded to Tampa Bay.

Montreal’s organizational strength in terms of prospects is up front. They have a diverse and talented group of Forward prospects, although they still lack size down the middle. Their weakness is their depth on defense, and they really only have 1 legitimate goalie prospect. Compared to other organizations, I would rate their overall depth as above average, but the overall skill level as average.

1 – Louis Leblanc – C/RW (drafted RD1, 2009)

Leblanc made the decision to leave Harvard to play Junior hockey, and while that choice was scrutinized by many, from a hockey perspective he made the right call. He has been the go-to guy for Montreal this year and has been a very reliable player for Canada at the World Juniors. Most feel he will better translate to the pro game as a winger, because of his natural scoring ability and his relentless forechecking.

Last year: #2
Current team: Montreal Juniors (QMJHL)
Potential: Top 6 RW, 25-30 goal scorer

2 – Jarred Tinordi – D (drafted RD1, 2010)

Tinordi is at this spot more on potential than actual performance. His first season in the OHL has been a big disappointment. He has big a minus player for the London Knights, and has only 4 points (0 goals) in 31 games. To top it all off, he was not even invited to USA’s selection camp due to concerns about his foot speed. On the bright side, he is a big defenseman (6’4, 204 lbs) who plays a physical game and is known to be a character player. You can always teach speed, you can’t teach character. The upside is still there for Tinordi, a player who Montreal traded up to draft.

Last year: NOT RANKED
Current team: London Knights (OHL)
Potential: 2nd pairing shutdown D, effective penalty killer

3 – David Desharnais – C (signed as Free Agent)

Desharnais jumped 6 spots this year, due to his dominance in the AHL this season. There will always be concerns about his size, but his puck skills and his ability to make plays in traffic are of the caliber of most top 6 forwards. It remains to be seen if he can stick at the NHL level, but fans should know the answer to that question by the end of this season.

Last year: #9
Current team: Hamilton Bulldogs / Montreal Canadiens
Potential: 2nd or 3rd line center with lots of PP time

4 – Karri Ramo – G (acquired from Tampa Bay in exchange for Cedrick Desjardins)

After 3 seasons in North America that saw Karri Ramo play 48 games in the NHL, Ramo went overseas to the KHL where he is currently dominating for Omsk Avangard. He is 22-6-3 with a 1.97 GAA and a .927 SV%. At age 24, Ramo could realistically challenge to be Carey price’s backup next year. He is a big goalie at 6’2, and the potential is there for him to play 20-30 games in the NHL.

Last year: NOT RANKED
Current team: Omsk Avangard (KHL)
Potential: Quality backup goalie

5 – Danny Kristo – RW (drafted RD2, 2008)

Danny Kristo dropped a spot this year, due in large part to a very subpar sophomore year in the NCAA. After scoring 15 goals and 36 points for UND last year and being an impact player on the gold medal winning Team USA at the WJC; Kristo has slumped this year with only 2 goals in 21 games. Regardless, his incredible speed ensures that even when he is not scoring, he is always noticeable on the ice.

Last year: #4
Current team: North Dakota (NCAA)
Potential: 3rd line RW, 15-20 goal scorer, good penalty killer

6 – Aaron Palushaj – RW (acquired from St. Louis in exchange for Matt D’Agostini)

Aaron Palushaj is a very strange hockey player. Most playmakers play center, but Palushaj plays right wing and still manages to be an elite puck distributor. He’s got very good speed, but he lacks in the goal-scoring department. He’s a very solid prospect who will probably see some time in the NHL over the next few years when injuries require call-ups. In a best case scenario, he could lock down the 3rd line RW spot permanently as early as next year, if the team feels Louis Leblanc needs some time in the AHL.

Last year: NOT RANKED
Current team: Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)
Potential: 3rd line RW, 40-50 point player

7 – Brendon Nash – D (signed as Free Agent)

Nash was a very consistent and reliable defenseman for 4 years at Cornell, and is known to be a very smart player. He doesn’t excel at anything in particular, but just seems to be comfortable in all facets of the game. The 6’3 blueliner is having a strong rookie season in Hamilton, leading all D in assists and points. He’s only 23 years old and given Montreal’s lack of depth in the system, he will likely see some time in the NHL next year, at which point it will be clear whether or not his skills will translate to the NHL level.

Last year: NOT RANKED
Current team: Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)
Potential: #5 defenseman, good special teams player

8 – Michael Bournival – C/LW (acquired from Colorado in exchange for Ryan O’Byrne)

Michael Bournival has been a top player in the QMJHL the past few years, but does not fall into the stereotypical category of being a soft, perimeter player whose game will not translate well into pro hockey. Bournival is a smart player who brings a good work ethic; traits that allow him to put up a good number of points even though he is not depicted as a “skill player”. Bournival’s ceiling isn’t very high, but he shouldn’t have a problem adjusting next year in the AHL, and hopefully the NHL down the road.

Last year: NOT RANKED
Current team: Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Potential: Bottom 6 forward, could be a shutdown checking forward

9 – Ben Maxwell – C (drafted RD2, 2006)

Once perceived to be a potential top 9 forward, Maxwell is quickly being passed by other prospects in the organization. He has been a good player in Hamilton over the past 3 seasons, but he hasn’t really improved that much overall and has yet to take his game from good to great. He has 20 games of NHL experience with the Habs, and while his high Hockey IQ never made him look like he absolutely didn’t belong, he has never even registered a point. He could conceivably make the Canadiens next year out of camp, but it would be in a very limited role.

Last year: #5
Current team: Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)
Potential: 4th line center, could fill in on a 3rd line at LW or C in a pinch

10 – Ryan White – RW (drafted RD3, 2006)

The last prospect on this list is arguably the one who should have made the Montreal Canadiens out of camp this year. His skill level is the lowest of the players on this list and even some who were left off; but he is the perfect energy player who will play any role a coach wants, give it his all every shift and be a good character guy. He rounds out the top 10 strictly on how his game will translate into the NHL. Look for White to compete for the 12th or 13th forward spot next season in training camp.

Last year: Honorable Mention
Current team: Hamilton Bulldogs (AHL)
Potential: 4th line RW, can drop the gloves, good on PK

HONORABLE MENTIONS:
Brendan Gallagher – dynamic player, good scorer, very small
Joonas Nattinen – big center, performed well in World Juniors for Finland

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[1] Last year’s list: http://prosportsblogging.com/nhl-hockey/montreal-canadiens/top_10_montreal_canadiens_prospects/

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