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Top 10 Montreal Canadiens Prospects (2012 Edition)

Posted By Corey Krakower On Mar 8 2012 @ 11:31 am In Montreal Canadiens | No Comments

With the Montreal Canadiens slated to pick in the top 3 of the NHL Entry Draft for the first time since 1980 (the infamous selection of Doug Wickenheiser over Denis Savard), it’s not a bad time to take a look at what the struggling franchise has in the pipeline. This Top 10 list is sure to change in the next year, especially at the top with the likely addition of one of Nail Yakupov / Mikhail Grigorenko.

Gone from the 2011 list [1] are: #3 David Desharnais (with the Canadiens), #4 Karri Ramo (traded to Calgary), #7 Brendon Nash (significant injury), #9 Ben Maxwell (traded to Atlanta, now Winnipeg) and #10 Ryan White (with the Canadiens).

The current list boasts two potential top 4 defensemen, plenty of depth up front and a lot of good skaters. The glaring weaknesses are no goaltenders, no centers and the lack of a blue chip forward prospect that will in all likelihood develop into a top line player. It is also worth noting that 7 of the Top 10 prospects are not in the AHL with Hamilton. The Bulldogs have had a bad season as well, which is in large part due to the poor performances from a number of prospects that were considered to have had good upside. Alexander Avtsin, Gabriel Dumont, Joonas Nattinen and Ian Schultz are 4 players that fall into that category.

1 – Nathan Beaulieu – D

Beaulieu is hands down the top defenseman on the consensus top team in all of junior hockey. He has the size (6’3) to play big minutes in the NHL and his 50 points in 49 games is a testament to how good he is at jumpstarting the offense out of his own zone. He has also not been shy to show his physical side this year. There is a lot to be excited about with Beaulieu, that’s for sure. He can legitimately crack the Habs top 6 out of training camp, although to be fair, that has more to do with how weak the D are in Montreal.

Last year: NOT RANKED
Acquired: Drafted in RD1 of 2011 Draft
Current team: Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

2 – Louis Leblanc – RW

It is still unclear whether Leblanc projects more as a second-line or third-line player, but what is clear is that he can play in the NHL. In his 28 games with the Canadiens, Leblanc has shown his relentless forechecking abilities, his knack for getting himself scoring chances and his strong two-way play. I don’t see him developing into a 30-goal scorer, but I can easily see him consistently scoring 20-25 goals and dishing out 30-35 assists.

Last year: #1
Acquired: Drafted in RD1 of 2009 Draft
Current team: Montreal Canadiens / Hamilton Bulldogs

3 – Jarred Tinordi – D

Despite being ranked #2 last year; there were some major concerns with Tinordi’s game. In his first OHL season, he looked slow, he took too many penalties and his plus/minus rating was among the worst on his team for D. He has shown major improvement in all of those areas this season to the point where he was arguably the best defenseman on Team USA at the World Juniors. I would be surprised if the towering defenseman is on the Canadiens opening day roster next season, a year in Hamilton will further help him adjust to the pro game.

Last year: #2
Acquired: Drafted in RD1 of 2010 Draft
Current team: London Knights (OHL)

4 – Brendan Gallagher – RW

Out of all of Montreal’s forward prospects, Gallagher has the most offensive upside. In a notoriously rough WHL league, the 5’8 winger has managed to score 40+ goals in 3 consecutive seasons. Dating back to training camp in 2011, Gallagher impressed the fans in Montreal with his slick hands, good speed and his tenacious character on the ice. Look for him to challenge for a spot with the Habs as early as the upcoming 2012-13 season.

Last year: NOT RANKED
Acquired: Drafted in RD5 of 2010 Draft
Current team: Vancouver Giants (WHL)

5 – Danny Kristo – RW

Danny Kristo entered his Junior season with a lot of question marks following a disappointing Sophomore campaign that included a freak frostbite injury that almost cost him a foot. Kristo certainly silenced those critics with a spectacular season, which saw him put up 17 goals and 40 points in 35 games. He has nothing left to prove at the college level, so it would not surprise me if he is signed to an NHL entry level contract as soon as his season is over. Kristo is under 6 feet and less than 200 pounds, but he makes up for it with tremendous speed and a ton of grit.

Last year: #5
Acquired: Drafted in RD2 of 2008 Draft
Current team: North Dakota (NCAA)

6 – Michael Bournival – LW/C

Bournival has always been known as a hard-nosed, two-way forward. This season, however, he has really started to show off his offensive potential. In only 37 games, he has scored 27 goals and put up 52 points. Like Geoffrion and Palushaj, he does not project as a top 6 forward, but he has all the makings of being a quality third-line checking forward while still having some offensive flair to his game. I see a lot of Maxime Talbot in Bournival.

Last year: #8
Acquired: Traded from Colorado Avalanche
Current team: Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

7 – Aaron Palushaj – RW

Palushaj appears to be a classic “tweener” – someone who is an impact player in the AHL but the numbers don’t translate to the NHL. He is a point per game player with Hamilton this season (31 points in 31 games), but has managed to pick up only 1 assist in 24 games with the Canadiens. More AHL seasoning is not required for the speedy Palushaj, he will either find his way onto one of Montreal’s top 3 lines next season or will be labeled a bust.

Last year: #6
Acquired: Traded from St. Louis Blues
Current team: Montreal Canadiens / Hamilton Bulldogs

8 – Blake Geoffrion – LW

Acquired not long ago in the Hal Gill trade, Geoffrion comes to Montreal with family ties to the franchise. His grandfather Bernie Geoffrion and great-grandfather Howie Morenz both were legends with the Habs. Blake, however, is not quite in that caliber. He is a good third or fourth line winger with decent size, who can chip in 12-15 goals and be an effective penalty killer. He should make the Habs opening day roster in 2012-13.

Last year: NOT RANKED
Acquired: Traded from Nashville Predators
Current team: Montreal Canadiens / Hamilton Bulldogs

9 – Patrick Holland – RW

Originally drafted in the seventh round by Calgary, Holland has improved every year in the WHL, which has culminated with an impressive 2011-12 season in which he has already topped 100 points. Holland has a reputation for being a very responsible player who is good in all situations. He is also known to not be great at any one thing, which will make it difficult for him to find his niche at the NHL level.

Last year: NOT RANKED
Acquired: Traded from Calgary Flames
Current team: Tri-City Americans (WHL)

10 – Morgan Ellis – D

Ellis has shown significant improvement both offensively and defensively from last season to now. In 56 games this year (compared to 65 last year), Ellis has gone from 8 goals to 14 goals; 28 assists to 35 assists; and from a -27 plus/minus rating to a +21. He has emerged as one of the top defensemen on one of the best teams in the Q, and his transition to the AHL next year should be smooth given his good size and mobility.

Last year: NOT RANKED
Acquired: Drafted in RD4 of 2010 Draft
Current team: Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

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[1] the 2011 list: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/2011/01/04/top-10-montreal-canadiens-prospects-2011-edition/

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