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Montreal Canadiens Prospect Report: Looking at a bright future ahead

The final entry in our cross-country Canadian team prospect reports are the Montreal Canadiens.

The Habs are building through the draft and have selected 28 players in the past three drafts. Montreal has another 20 picks on their grid for the next two cycles. In time they will have some difficult decisions to make on who to sign and keep in the organization, but it’s a position any team would love to find themselves in. Having such a rich stable of prospects also provides an option to trade out a prospect when the time is right and the team is looking to add veteran NHL players to their roster as they improve the group.

Here’s a look at the Canadiens draft board, and an update on how some of their prospects are trending:

Image via CapFriendly

Note: The Canadiens’ first round selections this year are, in my opinion, going to be top of the lineup players in the future. Everyone know it’s the Connor Bedard draft, but if it happened today Montreal would be picking fifth and 16th overall in the first round. The Florida pick is unprotected, too, so if the Panthers miss the playoffs but win the lottery, Montreal would get an even better selection there (you can move up a maximum of 10 spots through the lottery).

Some names to keep an eye on in that range, include: Will Smith and Ryan Leonard from the USNTDP, Zach Benson from the Winnipeg Ice, David Reinbacher from Kloten (Switzerland), Samuel Honzek from the Vancouver Giants, and Gabriel Perrault from the USNTDP.

Prospect Reports: TOR | WPG | CGY | EDM | VAN | OTT


Juraj Slafkovsky, FWD

I attended the Buffalo Sabres rookie challenge in September and witnessed, first hand, Slafkovsky’s transition to the North American game and ice surface. My takeaway was mostly positive. It was his first training camp and the lights are always brighter on the first overall pick. As his season progressed, though, some of my concerns became reality at the NHL level.

Slafkovsky is a mountain of a man, but it’s going to take time for him to fully adapt to the NHL. There’s no question he can handle the physical battle when the game is engaged along the boards and out front of an opponent’s net. His 6-foot-3, 238-pound frame is definitely a load to defend and there were times he won pucks and took them to the net. He’s also tracked up ice to create odd-man rushes off the puck by out-skating back checkers on the other team. Slafkovsky has a fantastic release. He shoots the puck a ton and it doesn’t take long for him to direct the play on net when he sees an opportunity. His defensive detail, like all players, will take some time to evolve.

My biggest concern when watching him in that pre-season Buffalo tournament was how Slafkovsky was taking pucks to the middle of the ice and exposing himself for contact. He was clearly underestimating the physicality of the NHL game if you venture into hard areas with your head down, or you are reaching for pucks. This carried over into regular season and he was run over more than once. Before he was injured Slafkovsky was showing more overall awareness and adjusting. The Canadiens were working with him to teach him how to be more alert.

An example of everything I’m talking about is encapsulated in the following clip. Watch closely as Slafkovsky one arms the zone entry – putting himself in a vulnerable position and absorbing contact as a result – before tracking the play in the offensive zone and eventually walking to the high angle slot and rifling a snap shot home.

The sequence is a combination of potential disaster (reaching for a puck with head down) and Slafkovsky doing what he does best.

Card created by Jason Bukala and The Pro Hockey Group

Montreal has some exciting prospects in their stable. They have a mix of size, speed, skill, and grit scattered throughout their pool of developing players.

Lane Hutson, D

Full disclosure, I have a scout’s crush on Hutson. The Boston University freshman is a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Award (given to the top player in NCAA men’s hockey).

Hutson is an undersize defenceman, so there is no doubt his stature will be debated until he finds success at the NHL level. Until then, he will continue to prove himself and play to his identity as a transitional defenceman and power-play quarterback. 

Hutson is, arguably, one of the smartest players from his draft class and has the hockey brain to be used in all situations. He’s also a minute muncher. In his most recent playoff game (versus Merrimack) Hutson scored twice and took shifts at even strength, on the power-play and the penalty kill, totalling an incredible 32:55 of ice time. He scored the game-winning goal in overtime, launching BU into the NCAA tournament as Hockey East Champions.

Card created by Jason Bukala and The Pro Hockey Group

(Note: Hutson is now listed at 5-foot-10 and 161 pounds in the Boston University player guide)

Sean Farrell, FWD

I’m keeping a close eye on what happens with Farrell after the NCAA tournament. He will be a junior next year at Harvard. Does Montreal have plans to sign him to his entry-level contract this spring and give him an NHL game? Or do both parties agree Farrell is better off returning to Harvard and continuing to develop at the college level for one more year?

I’m always hesitant about having players remain at Harvard too long because there is a history of them deciding to not sign with the NHL team that originally drafted them. I’m not suggesting Montreal and Team Farrell don’t have a great relationship and are trending towards a marriage. It’s just my scout’s anxiety taking over for a brief moment.

Harvard captain Henry Thrun is an example of what I am concerned about. He was originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks (101st overall in 2019) but informed them he wasn’t going to sign with the organization. Anaheim traded his rights to San Jose at the deadline for a third round pick in 2024.

Farrell is an undersize skill forward with elite hockey sense. He plays the game at his own pace, dissecting his options and identifying his responsibilities in the process. Here’s a look at his season stats and scouting report:

Card created by Jason Bukala and The Pro Hockey Group

Here’s a higher level look at some other Canadiens prospects of note through their player cards:

Card created by Jason Bukala and The Pro Hockey Group

NHL projection on Beck: High-end third-line forward, secondary scorer. Even strength, penalty kill, matchup player

Card created by Jason Bukala and The Pro Hockey Group

NHL projection on Dobes: No. 2 netminder, trending 1B. Potential for 50 per cent of starts and possibility for more

Card created by Jason Bukala and The Pro Hockey Group

NHL projection on Engstrom: Middle-pairing D. Even strength, No. 2 power play, penalty killer if required

Card created by Jason Bukala and The Pro Hockey Group

NHL projection on Kidney: Third-line forward leaning second-line. Even strength, power play. Pure offence.

Card created by Jason Bukala and The Pro Hockey Group

NHL projection on Mesar: third-line forward at even strength, possible second-line. Power play contributor.

Card created by Jason Bukala and The Pro Hockey Group

NHL projection on Roy: Third-line forward. Even strength, penalty kill, power play. Possible second-line forward.


Montreal is building a team culture and it’s easy to see the enthusiasm within the group. In the next couple of years some of their veteran core will age out and completely hand the team over to the youth. Nick Suzuki appears comfortable carrying the weight of being captain in Montreal. Other players like Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach, Kaiden Guhle, Arber Xhekaj, and Jordan Harris are setting the table for the next wave of prospects on the horizon.

The future is very bright in Montreal.


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