Monday, June 25, 2012

Canadiens Clean Up At Draft

It started soundly enough. Day one saw the Canadiens avoid the lure of the #3 defencemen on offer and took an offensive center instead.

Though he's already being touted as a solution to the Habs undersized centre stable, he's only an inch taller than the guys they are calling small at this draft and on the Habs. Maybe he plays big? We'll have to see if he does in the NHL.

So with Galchenyuk, the Habs at least grab a a forward. My choice would have been to ignore the sudden pessimism and take Grigorenko anyway. He's bigger and can play with speed and size. The worry justified his drop. But then the Habs could have dropped into lower position with a barometer on the situation and pulled another steal on a day they were fleecing the other GMs (Day 2).

If we say I was warm on Galchenyuk, I was downright delighted when the picks started rolling in on Saturday.

Sebastien Collberg is the kind of player I'd have touted if the Habs were picking in their traditional 14-20 spot. He is a natural goalscorer with that Swedish background. This is no Minnesota High School flash in the pan. He has shown his stripes at major international tournaments already. It's a risk like all forwards are, but a much better one than one would have expected at #33 in a weak draft.

Tim Bozon is another coup on my books. The Habs get a French-speaking, high-flying WHL scorer in the early third round. 36 goals in the WHL is rare enough, but rarer as a rookie. The WHL, being the tough league it is, gives a good sense of the potential of a scorer and I think Bozon has a chance to succeed in his quest for NHL hockey. A great find at the position he was taken.

Dalton Thrower was a high scoring WHL defenceman in a year where that was the vogue. A second rounder in the end, with his stats, he could have looked just as natural as a mid first rounder. He's labelled a small player at 5'11", but again, he is only being towered over by Matthew Dumba by an inch and a couple of points. The highly touted Pouliot outscored Dalton by 5 points and did so with an NHL first round blueline partner. Another thing to like is that Thrower already plays with Darren Dietz, a Canadiens prospect from the last go around, and one that looks to be showing enough progress to make it one day himself.

Those are the big 4. But the Habs add a little icing on the cake with their final two picks as well.

Charles Hudon was ranked as the 5th best prospect from the QMJHL for the 2012 draft by Hockey's Future and the first originating from La Belle Province. What a coup for the Canadiens to nab this guy when they did considering the factors at play. He is small, but are we honestly still writing off all small players? Good thing for Habs most GMs are stuck in that mindset. Hope they enjoy their giant 6'1" players.

Brady Vail is a stout OHLer with a good defensive game from a top franchise. A fourth round pick with those credentials is par for the course. He projects currently as a bottom six forward, but one can't ask for top liners throughout. At least this Chipchura-like resume didn't cost an 18th overall pick.

Finally, Erik Nystrom. I have asked over and over that Montreal take care of the Swedish scouting situation and it's a pick like this that shows some confidence that they are moving in the right direction. Nystrom is an off the charts player and one still in the lower ranks of Swedish hockey. But guess what? To get your true steals (Zetterberg, Datsyuk), one has to dig deeper, else the player is know by everyone and reserved for the Oilers in June. The limited info we have on this guy is that he plays offensive hockey (check), with skill (check) and speed (check). He's a bit of a shot in the dark, but with a dazzling end of year p0layoff campaign, the Habs must have seen something they liked. And without risking too much they have loaded up on more intrigue.

Overall, a good haul indeed.

By my count, 3 well-proven goalscorers, a good offensive defenceman, a homegrown prospect, an all-rounder from a good club and a big swing on something they think they spotted. This is the kind of draft that can reignite the fires of skeptics. Worked for me.

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