Although they may not want to admit it, the Montreal Canadiens are on the brink of a comprehensive re-build.
With a lack of depth offensively as well as on the blue line, the Canadiens are far too thin to legitimately compete in today’s NHL.
What’s more is that recent trades executed by the organization have left many questioning the franchise’s direction. When in need of defensive depth, the team traded highly touted defenceman Mikhail Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Then, when Jonathan Drouin’s transition to centre sputtered, the Canadiens dealt their best natural centreman — Alex Galchenyuk — to the Arizona Coyotes.
As a team searching for a sense of direction and purpose, it’s fortunate that General Manager Marc Bergevin has managed to resurrect his organization’s farm system.
Well, sort of.
Stanley Cups: 24
2017-18 Record: 29-40-13; 71 Points
2017-18 Top Scorer: Brendan Gallagher; 31G, 23A, 54PTS
Farm System Grade: C+
Top 10 Prospects:
- Jesperi Kotkaniemi
- Nick Suzuki
- Ryan Poehling
- Cayden Primeau
- Jesse Ylonen
- Allan McShane
- Noah Juulsen
- Alexander Romanov
- Josh Brook
- Jacob Olofsson
The State of the Canadiens’ Farm System
If it hadn’t been for the trade which sent now former Canadiens’ captain Max Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights, Montreal would have fared far worse than simply a ‘C+’ grading in this year’s farm system report.
The acquisition of Nick Suzuki could prove crucial to the Canadiens’ success in the immediate future, as adding another young talent capable of playing centre in Suzuki suddenly affords the franchise with slight depth down the middle of the ice. Alongside Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Suzuki’s presence should provide Montreal with two highly talented players capable of driving the team’s offensive game.
However, outside of these two stellar prospects, the Canadiens’ prospect pool is somewhat weak.
While Jesse Ylonen and Jacob Olofsson stand as two highly promising and elite offensive players, it will be some time before either is capable of ascending to the NHL-level. Further, while the likes of Ryan Poehling, Cam Hillis, Allan McShane, and Noah Juulsen all play a professional-style of game, there are no guarantees that any of which will play a significant impact for the Canadiens in the near future.
Ultimately, despite being strengthened through the 2018 NHL Draft and by recent trades, Montreal’s far system remains fairly thin. Sure, the Canadiens now boast two high-level talents in Kotkaniemi and Suzuki, however, it could take a considerable amount of time for these two develop and become impactful, everyday players at the NHL-level.
One Canadiens Prospect to Watch
Since a great deal is already known about both Kotkaniemi and Suzuki, let’s take a look at one relatively unknown Montreal prospect who exploded this past season.
Despite retaining arguably the best goaltender in the world in Carey Price, the Canadiens now boast a prospect who could become their starting goaltender of the future. Nabbed by Montreal in the seventh-round, 199th overall in the 2017 NHL Draft, Cayden Primeau had a fantastic freshman season with Northeastern University in 2017-18.
Although just 19-years-of-age, Primeau burst onto the scene for Northeastern to begin their most recent season and had little trouble claiming the starting job in between the pipes. By the time his inaugural NCAA campaign had come to a close, Primeau had posted a sparkling 1.92 GAA and .931% SVP in 34 games played.
Named as the NCAA (New England) Rookie of the Year and Hockey East’s Goaltender of the year, Primeau’s impressive and consistent play has thrust him into the spotlight as a suddenly eye-catching Canadiens’ prospect. Although his NHL arrival likely remains a few seasons away, Primeau stands as an intriguing asset given Price’s unclear future with the organization.