(P K Subban)
This year has been another good one for the prospects of the Montreal Canadiens as several players make big strides in their development, P K Subban, Max Pacioretty, Yannick Weber, Ben Maxwell, and many others enjoyed a successful season to date as all are still playing as their season winds down. The Habs saw Matt DíAgostini, Greg Stewart, Max Pacioretty, Kyle Chipchura, Yannick Weber and Ben Maxwell all dress for the club after starting out the season in Hamilton.
With the recent signing of Olivier Fortier, only P K Subban is left from the Habs CHL draft class of 2007, as Subban must be signed before the June 1st deadline, which one would expect will happen once his season in the OHL ends. It was a banner year for the Hamilton Bulldogs who currently have four rookies in the top 17 in league scoring among first year players, in addition Max Pacioretty would be tied with Ben Maxwell in points based off his points per game average which is among the teamís best outside of Matt DíAgostiniís torrid scoring pace which saw him score 14 goals and 25 points in 20 games before bidding farewell to the AHL.
Also of note, Olivier Latendresse could have also been in the mix had it not been for a season ending shoulder injury as he had a slightly higher ppg then Brock Trotter who sits one point out of the top ten rookie scorers in the league. For this ranking, both Matt DíAgostini and Greg Stewart were considered graduated, and players under AHL contracts were not included as well.
1. PK Subban
2. Max Pacioretty
3. Ryan McDonagh
4. Yannick Weber
5. Ben Maxwell
6. Danny Kristo
7. Steve Quailer
8. Kyle Chipchura
9. David Fischer
10. Maxim Trunev
11. Mathieu Carle
12. Joe Stejskal
13. Alexei Emelin
14. David Desharnais
15. Brock Trotter
16. Nichlas Torp
17. Ryan White
18. Andrew Conboy
19. Olivier Latendresse
20. Olivier Fortier
HM Greg Pateryn, Ryan Russell, Cedrick Desjardins
What a year itís been for PK Subban, getting the gold at the World Juniors where he showcased his impressive mixture of skills and physical abilities that could out to be one of head scout Trevor Timmins top picks since joining the club. In the OHL, Subban can be considered one of the top prospects in the league after setting career highs in assists, points and plus minus, boasting jaw dropping numbers of 14 goals, 62 assists, 76 points, a +47 and 94 pims. For his OHL career he will leave with 42 goals, 148 assists, 190 points, +77 and 353 pims showing not only can he put points on the board with his booming shot or impressive passing but he will also play a physical game that is benefited by his great speed and skating along with a solid compact frame. The future is very bright for the 19 year old, as his team is fighting for another trip to the Memorial Cup before he leaves the CHL behind and heads to the AHL/NHL.
For Max Pacioretty, itís very hard to think that he would actually drop down one spot after being the top rated prospect in the organization after the impressive season he has had in his first year of pro hockey, spending almost half the season in the NHL and at one point he was leading the Hamilton Bulldogs in assists before being recalled.
Pacioretty got his feet wet in the NHL appearing in 34 games where he recorded three goals and eight assists, but in Hamilton he is right up there with Ben Maxwell for the highest points per game average in addition to playing a solid physical brand of hockey that the Habs will sorely benefit from down the road. When next season gets under way, Pacioretty will still be only 20 years old, so the future also appears to be very bright for the first round pick from 2007, as he brings the mix of skills and physical abilities that the Habs have been in short supply of.
It was a season of ups and downs for Ryan McDonagh as he started off with a bang, but later he and his team struggled but both were able to turn things around in the second half to finish on a strong note. McDonagh was given the A this year which is not overly common for an underclassman (freshman/sophmores are considered underclassmen) and he set career highs in assist, points and pims with five goals, sixteen points and 59 pims in 36 games.
At Wisconsin, McDonagh was often used on the top pairing and top PK unit while at times playing on the 2nd PP unit, you could often see him on the ice when the team was trying to protect a lead, and with his club as a low scoring team, the coach showed great confidence in the 19 year old. While with Team USA at the WJCís, he was a +5 in six games and while not flashy he got the job done in his own end. Itís unclear where he will play next season at this time, if he will return to Wisconsin for his junior year or if management will convince him to turn pro in Hamilton.
Things have been going great for Yannick Weber as the first year pro took the AHL by storm, leading Hamilton in scoring among defensemen, top 17 in the AHL in rookie scoring, 2nd in the AHL in goals by a defensemen, 7th in the AHL in scoring among all defensemen, and for his efforts he was rewarded with three games in the NHL and a trip to the AHL All Stars where he joins Ryan OíByrne who was an AHL All Star the prior year.
There were a lot of question marks surrounding Ben Maxwell when he started off in his first pro season after having injury troubles in the last two seasons in the WHL. The question marks were put to rest and then some, as the recently turned 21 year old has been among the top rookie scorers in the AHL all season long, he has been effective running the Dogs PP as he is usually on the point on the first PP unit. With Maxwell, he can hurt you in many ways, with his slick passing, ability to put the puck in the net, shifty stick handling and surprising acceleration, along with smarts and good two way play as evidenced by his 22 goals and 58 points in 73 games.
It has been an interesting year for Danny Kristo who currently is making his first appearance in the USHL playoffs as the 18 year old juggles his time between hockey games and high school as he is one of the rare prospects the Habs have had that was still in high school after being drafted. The highlights of season were playing for Team USA, appearing in the World Junior Challenge for Team USA and his production in Omaha has been very good with 22 goals, 58 points in 50 games which is a higher points per game average then Max Pacioretty and Steve Quailer had in their rookie season.
Steve Quailer had a successful freshman year in the NCAA where he was a regular on the second line for most of the year and saw a regular shift on the PP. He had 10 goals and 25 points in 41 games while being a +10 with 12 pims as his team Northeastern was one of the top rank teams this year that just fell short of winning the Hockey East Championship. The hope for Quailer is that he will build off this season and fill out his lanky frame as the speedy winger has shown some impressive hands, after being the rookie of the year while playing in the USHL. He was named to the HE All Rookie team this year.
This year has been a tale of two stories for Kyle Chipchura as he had his struggles in the NHL to stay on the roster, playing in only 13 games with three points after getting in 36 games the prior year and had 11 points. But in the AHL, Chipchura has been one of the best defensive forwards in the league with a +28 on the year, a career high in goals and pims with 14 goals, 35 points and 65 pims in 51 games. Next year is key for the recently turned 23 year old as he will need to clear waivers to be sent to the AHL, so he must come to camp ready to steal a roster spot and to do so heís going to have to improve his foot speed and skating.
David Fischer was on pace for a career season but injuries forced him to miss a large chunk of time; he was once again on the top pairing, top PK unit and 2nd PP unit. The 21 year old showed marked improvement again, leading his club as the top defensemen, his coach showed his confidence in Fischer by having him on the ice in the final minute of a game when trying to hold a lead. Itís unknown where he will play next year, if he will return to Minnesota for his final year in the NCAA or opt to turn pro this summer. In his NCAA he has 4 goals and 32 points in 118 games while being a +17 with 48 pims.
When training camp opens in Russia for the 2009-2010 season, Maxim Trunev will still be 18 years old, as the 5th round draft pick from last summer is currently the youngest prospect in the Canadiens farm system. If he was born a week later the Habs would be discussing drafting him this June and chances are they would not be able to draft him at 138th overall after he dressed for 32 games in the KHL, after opting to stay in Russia vs playing in the WHL. The highly skilled and speedy winger had four goals in the KHL and during his short stay in the Russian Junior league he had ten goals in eleven games along with twenty-six points and twenty penalty minutes. It would be a surprise move if he chose to leave Russia next season, as he should see increased ice time with Severstal and a good shot at playing for the National Junior team in December.
For Mathieu Carle the season started the same as last year, as the injury bug forced him to miss the start of the year. It was an up and down type of season that had to be tough on the Gatineau native, but he battled back through various injuries and finished the regular season on a strong note. After a solid rookie year last season that saw Carle put up 24 points in 64 games, he had to compete with Yannik Weber for quality ice time as the Swiss blueliner would often get the nod over the former Rouyn-Noranda Huskie and Acadie-Bathurst Titan, which did have an effect on his production at times but he still finished with career highs in assist, points and plus minus getting seven goals twenty-nine points along with a plus ten and forty-three penalty minutes in fifty-nine games. It wonít get any easier next season as a third player will be in the mix as P K Subban will be right there working for quality ice time along with Yannick Weber, so Carle will have his work cut out for him again.
It was a great start to the season for Joe Stejskal who had eight points in his first seven games, but his production dropped off and he finished the year with seven goals and twelve points in 29 games, with 53 pims, a career high in goals, assists, points and pims. The physical blueliner spent the year on the top pairing again as well as top PP unit and top PK unit, in what was a turnaround year for his club Dartmouth that finished in last place in the ECAC last year. Things ended badly though as Dartmouth failed to secure a first round bye for the playoffs and then were bounced in an upset to Colgate, with Stejskal getting a questionable boarding call that saw him tossed from the game just a few minutes into action in the final game of the series. It seems likely that he will return to Dartmouth for his junior year as the soon to be 21 year old should again benefit from quality ice time, but a strong season next year could be his last in the NCAA if thereís room for him in Hamilton the following year.
You could write a Hollywood made for TV drama when it comes to the Habs third round draft pick in 2004, Alexei Emelin, from the legal battles he has had against his own club Lada Togliatti, to disputes and misunderstandings with agents to up and down play with his current club AK Bars as expectations were not meet. It is said that the Togliatti native was offered a lucrative contract to leave his home team to play for AK Bars Kazan, but in the 107 games he played for his new club, he recorded just 7 points over that span, along with being a +6 and racking up 181 pims. In his final season with Lada he had as many points in just 43 games played as a twenty year old.
His troubles extended to the National team, after appearing in the World Champions and being a standout player in the World Juniors for Team Russia, Emelin was not invited back the following season. With his recent eye injury he is likely not able to play in the WCís this time around, but it would seem questionable if he would even make the roster. That said Emelin has never been a minus player in his career in the RSL/KHL as the soon to be 23 year old may just need a change of scene to get his career back on track, and that could happen this summer if his agent and Bob Gainey can work out terms as Emelin is without a contract at this point for next season. If he does its unknown if he would be able to secure a roster spot in the NHL, or if he would need some time in the AHL to adjust to the smaller ice, but the aggressive physical brand of hockey he plays could fit well on this side of the pond.
When you look at David Desharnais, itís easy to overlook him as a prospect due to his lack of height, standing at a listed 5 foot 6 which is several inches shorter than the average NHLer. But once you watch him on the ice, you forget about his lack of size and focus on a very skilled, smart and hard working player that never backs off going into heavy traffic areas to score and works his tail off in his own end. For his efforts this year the Habs signed to his first NHL contract as the 22 year old from Quebec City, after he ripped up the ECHL last season as the 2nd highest rookie scorer in the leagues entire history along with MVP honors to boot. This year he has been one of the Dogs top forwards, second on the team in goals only to Mike Glumac who is often found on the same line as him, in addition he finished the regular season with a very impressive 58 points and a +12. The hope is that he can work on getting a little faster if he hopes to stick in the NHL at some point as the offensive skill is clearly there along with effort and smarts.
Brock Trotter followed a similar path to that of Desharnais, as the rookie was along passed over in the NHL Entry Draft, but for different reasons. With Trotter being a late í87 he would join the 2006 draft class but a season ending injury just five games into his freshman year all but ended any hopes of hearing his name called come drafty day. Scouts had a chance to pick him again during the 2007 Draft after a very successful season that saw him post a point per game average in what was considered his freshman year, as he was cleared to be red shirted, which means his first year does not count as a year of eligibility.
It was said that the Habs were interested in drafting him but for whatever reason did not end up doing so, along with the rest of the NHL. The following season Trotter was set to break out as he was leading his team in scoring before opting to leave school and turn pro after some office troubles, to join the Hamilton Bulldogs. The rookie started off this season slowly and at times in the coaches dog house, but quickly turned things around to have a successful season scoring 18 goals, 49 points and was a +8. The slick stickhandler and passer can also put the puck in the net, but must find a way to get stronger, quicker and add some mass to his frame if he hopes to secure a roster spot in the NHL at some point.
There were lots of question marks surrounding the future for Nichlas Torp after missing the entire season last year due to a shoulder injury and it was cited at the draft that a major reason why he slipped to the 6th round during the 2007 Draft was due to injury concerns as he plays an intense physical game but lacks the large frame that is often required to play such a style. It didnít take long for Torp to erase those questions when he made his SEL debut this year dressing in 44 games where he picked up two points and 43 pims. In addition he has dressed in 12 playoff games as the recently turned twenty year old saw a lot of ice time at a high level which should bode well for his future. Itís unknown if he will stay in Sweden next season or opt to play in the AHL as the Habs may not have a lot of room in Hamilton depending on how things go this summer.
Ryan White got off to a good start to his first pro season but found it difficult to keep up his production as he had a long scoring slump in the 2nd half, but could always be counted to work hard, play solid in his own end and bring a physical edge to the game. At one point he started to heat up, scoring 11 points in 8 games, but in his final 38 games he had only 7 points. The Brandon native did not get the quality ice time his fellow Brandon native Brock Trotter got, as he was often found on the 3rd and 4th lines and did not see much PP time.
While the points didnít always come, he was one of only two players on the team to play in every single game, so clearly he was doing something that the coaches liked in order to remain in the lineup despite his offensive struggles at times. In 80 games he had 11 goals and 29 points while being a solid +10 along with 68 penalty minutes, in what should be a considered a step in the right direction for the 3rd round pick of 2006 in the hopes that he can build off that for next year while working on his first step quickness and foot speed.
It didnít take long for some controversy to stir up for Andrew Conboy, who is known for his toughness and physical approach to the game as the Minnesota native was suspended by his coach for a questionable hit late in a game in retaliation to his teammate getting a big open ice hit that could have been construed as a knee on knee shot. Conboy did not seem to agree when his coach suspended him for the rest of the regular season and playoffs, so he opted to leave the team and give up his scholarship to turn pro.
The hulking winger has a huge frame and clearly enjoys the physical aspects of hockey, but in his 15 games with Hamilton, he recorded only 6 pims along with one assist, which showed he was willing to play within the rules but still used his large frame to make life difficult for opposing players. Itís unknown if he will see much time in the playoffs which start for Hamilton next weekend, but next year he can work on his game as he now has a taste of what itís like playing at the second highest level outside the NHL.
Hab fans are familiar with the name Latendresse, but that would be due to the younger brother who has been playing in the NHL for the past three seasons and already has over 200 games under his belt despite being just 21; but for the older brother, Olivier, who gives up a lot of size despite being some 15 months his elder. This marks the first time that Olivier Latendresse makes an appearance on the Habs Top Twenty List at Habprospects.com since joining the organization last winter. The smallish forward lacks the frame of his brother but he clearly is a gifted offensive player as his has impressive vision on the ice and the ability to find the open man. After a good showing in the ECHL last year upon being loaned and later traded for Cory Urquhart, Latendresse carried that right over to this season where he was leading the league in scoring before being recalled to Hamilton, where he formed an effective duo with former teammate David Desharnais recording 13 points in 20 games. A season ending shoulder injury cut into his development but hopefully he can return next year and continue to progress.
This also marks the first time that Olivier Fortier makes the Habs Top Twenty list since being drafted in the third round during the 2007 Draft, despite the fact that the Quebec City native missed more than half the season due to injuries. The speedy defensive specialist has recently signed his three year entry level rookie contract with the Canadiens in a vote of confidence before his season is even over, which is usually not the case for GM Bob Gainey who usually signs his players when their junior season is completed. Last season saw a big drop in production but his points per game average this year would clearly of turned out career highs although he will most likely always been known for his defensive zone play and work ethic along with speed and the ability to win face-offs.
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