All Habs Top 20: Best Canadiens Prospects (June 2012 edition)

Alex Galchenyuk, 3rd overall, 2012

by Dan Kramer, Staff Writer,

MONTREAL, QC. — Trevor Timmins and Marc Bergevin will tell you publicly they didn’t draft by need last weekend, simply taking the best player available at each of their selections, but the fact that the club added six forwards to a prospect pool filled largely with defenders was no accident.  Even the profile of the forwards taken seems to fit in perfectly, with a heavy focus on skill to compliment the  grinder-types already filling the organization.

Today we’ll look at where the new selections fit into the prospect pool by updating the Canadiens’ top 20 prospects as of June 2012.  The rankings are based on a combination of NHL upside and the odds that a player will reach that upside.  I’ve excluded anyone who has played at least 20 NHL games, which is the reason names like Louis Leblanc, Aaron Palushaj, and Blake Geoffrion were left off the list.  I also kept the list to players aged under 24, or else consideration may have been given to a Frederic St. Denis or Brendon Nash.

Berger’s role should grow in his 2nd pro season (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

HM: Alain Berger / Alexander Avtsin

Both Berger and Avtsin were edged off the list by the new kids, and I lump them together as they are similar cases.  Both are big bodied offensive forwards with one particular skill that stands out; in Berger’s case, his heavy shot, and in Avtsin’s, his shifty skating/stickhandling.  Neither player had much success in the AHL last year, with Berger scoring just 1 goal and 7 points in 47 games as a rookie, and Avtsin’s production declining from his rookie season to 14 points in 63 games.  Yet for both players, this is a pivotal season, with each having the potential to be a breakout performer for Hamilton with proper ice time, linemates, and if things finally begin to click.  Thus, Honourable Mentions for now, but with the possibility of climbing back up.

20. Brady Vail – C – 6’0″, 195 lbs
2012-13: Windsor Spitfires, OHL
Age 18 – Shoots  L
Acquired: 2012 draft, 4th round, 94th overall

Vail is a player who defines himself firstly as a defensive-minded center.  The Florida native aims to play more of a two-way game, improving his offensive numbers significantly from 10 points in 61 games in 2010-11 to 52 points in 68 games this past season.  Many seem to believe in his track, based on his being ranked 40th by McKeen’s and 51st by Future Considerations for this past draft.  He has played all three forward positions at various times, and if he can continue to improve his skating, seems like a safe bet as a future third liner.

19. Josiah Didier – D – 6’2″, 202 lbs
2012-13: University of Denver, NCAA
Age 19 – Shoots R
Acquired: 2011 draft, 4th round, 97th overall

Despite being a fourth-round pick, Didier was the second player the Canadiens chose last year due to trades.  He isn’t a player who will wow you with any flashy play, but projects as a Josh Gorges type, basing his game on using his size effectively (without being the type to take himself out of the play chasing a big hit), being strong positionally, and most certainly blocking shots.  Didier is a long-term project, but with three years of university ahead of him, the Habs can afford to be patient with him.

18. Greg Pateryn – D – 6’2″, 214 lbs
2012-13: Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL
Age 22 – Shoots R
Acquired:  Trade from Toronto, with a 2nd round pick, in return for Mikhail Grabovski

At 22, Pateryn is one of the older players still on this list, but he’ll be a pro rookie in the Fall as he joins the Bulldogs after four seasons with the Michigan Wolverines, much of the last two spent as a partner of the list’s No. 16 prospect Mac Bennett.  A primarily defensive defenseman, Pateryn is a shutdown type who uses his size to contain opposing top lines without being overly physical (though he is tough; not shying away from it either.)  The knock on him is his skating, so  his NHL future will be determined based on whether or not he can keep up with the pro game, but could pan out as a safe bottom pairing type in the near future.

Dumont may top 4th line call-up list this season (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Graham Hughes)

17. Gabriel Dumont – C – 5’9″, 189 lbs
2012-13: Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL
Age 21 – Shoots R
Acquired: 2009 draft, 5th round, 139th overall

Dumont ranks as highly as he does because of NHL-readiness, capable of slotting on to many teams’ fourth lines around the league due to his hard-working, physical brand of hockey.  He’ll never be a star player, but he has enough skill to chip in the occasional goal or two, though his skating could be better.  He may never get a fair shot in Montreal because of the abundance of forwards measuring 5’10” or less.

16. Mac Bennett – D – 5’11”, 185 lbs
2012-13: Michigan Wolverines, NCAA
Age 21 – Shoots L
Acquired:  2009 draft, 3rd round, 79th overall

Since seeing him at a Habs’ camp, Bennett has been one of my favourite prospects, but not unlike Didier, he remains a longer-term project.  A strong, smooth skater, Bennett is an undersized two-way blueliner who is a great passer and improving his play in his own end.  He has up to two years left in Michigan, but depending on how Hamilton’s defense looks this season with all of its fresh faces, could be a candidate for a contract a year from now if he can improve on his 21 points in 41 games this past year.

15. Joonas Nattinen – C – 6’2″, 199 lbs
2012-13: Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL
Age 21 – Shoots R
Acquired: 2009 draft, 3rd round, 65th overall

The big Fin struggled with consistency during his rookie year with the Bulldogs, but it was his first season in North America so it isn’t unexpected.  Thanks to his big shot, he still scored 11 goals, while being bounced around from center to the wing and between offensive and defensive roles.  Like Berger and Avtsin, he’s another guy looking to break out in Hamilton this season, but he ranks ahead due to a more well-rounded game.

14. Daniel Pribyl – C – 6’3″, 193 lbs
2012-13: HC Sparta Praha, CZE
Age 19 – Shoots R
Acquired: 2011 draft, 6th round, 168th overall

Pribyl’s impressive frame stands out immediately, but he’s far more of a skill player offensively than a power one.  He skates well for a big man, can play a two-way role, and has soft hands, so he seems like a potential steal at a sixth round selection if he can get over injury issues which plagued him last year (which limited his effectiveness in the World Junior Championship.)  A third line hopeful who could still have second line potential, Pribyl attended the Canadiens’ Development Camp this month, which is a positive sign, but he seems to have one year remaining on his Czech contract.  We can thus expect to see him with the Bulldogs in 2013-14.

Dietz wore an ‘A’ for Saskatoon (Kyle Scholzen)

13. Darren Dietz – D – 6’1″, 195 lbs
2012-13: Saskatoon Blades, WHL
Age 18 – Shoots R
Acquired: 2011 draft, 5th round, 138th overall

Dietz is a big enough man with an even bigger point shot, which helped him pot 15 goals and 44 points last season.  The mobile blueliner isn’t afraid to jump into the rush, but can also back up his offense with some tough play, with eight fights on his record for 2011-12.  Dietz is one of the leaders on his club, and as Saskatoon is the host of this year’s Memorial Cup, will cap off his junior career by participating in the tournament next May before joining Hamilton.

12. Tim Bozon – LW – 6’0″, 183 lbs
2012-13: Kamloops Blazers, WHL
Age 18 – Shoots L
Acquired: 2012 draft, 3rd round, 64th overall

Bozon was born in the U.S. while his father played for the St. Louis Blues, is a French citizen representing the country in international play, and played most of his hockey in Switzerland.  The world traveler moved to Canada last year, scoring 36 goals and 71 points in 71 games as a WHL rookie.  If he can get stronger, he looks to potentially have the skills to play in a top six, but as a determined hard worker, he seems like a good bet to be at least a third-line type down the road.  Having just turned 18 in March, he still has two full CHL seasons ahead of him before going pro, so lots of time to shore up his game.

11. Patrick Holland – RW – 6’0″, 175 lbs
2012-13: Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL
Age 20 – Shoots R
Acquired: Trade from Calgary, with Rene Bourque and 2nd round pick 2013, for Mike Cammalleri, Karri Ramo, and 5th round pick 2012

Holland has come a long way from being a seventh round selection in the 2010 draft, but don’t look at his stat line of 109 points in 72 games and assume he’s a budding superstar.   His point total was impressive, and his 84 assists earned him a spot in the WHL record book, but keep in mind that the CHL is mainly an under-20 league and Holland has been 20 since last January 7th, playing on a top line with two overage 21-year olds who each had more points than he did.  A skilled passer, Holland needs to fill out by adding a fair amount of muscle to compete as he makes his AHL debut in the Fall.

10. Steve Quailer – RW/LW – 6’3″, 192 lbs
2012-13: Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL
Age 22 – Shoots L
Acquired: 2008 draft, 3rd round, 86th overall

Quailer is a jumbo-sized, physical power winger whose development has been slowed only by injuries.  After missing all of 2009-10, his stock fell when he scored just 13 points in 38 NCAA games his first year back.  But he rebounded last season, notching eight goals and 25 points in 26 games en route to being named Northeastern University’s MVP.  In doing so, he earned an entry level deal from the Canadiens and will be battling for a likely second or third line spot on the Bulldogs in the Fall.  He’s a project, but with big upside as a top six forward who is dangerous by consistently charging the net.

Bournival captured the 2012 Memorial Cup (Jacques Boissinot | The Canadian Press)

9. Michael Bournival – C – 5’11”, 187 lbs
2012-13: Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL
Age 20 – Shoots L
Acquired: Trade from Colorado, for Ryan O’Byrne

Bournival is a hard-working, two-way forward who plays a grind and cycling game.  He is a leader on-and-off the ice, captaining the Shawinigan Cataractes to a Memorial Cup Championship this season.  Offensively, he has a potent shot which saw him set a career best with 30 goals in just 41 games, seeing limited action due to injuries.  However, his play has become inconsistent, and those watching him on multiple occasions may get the impression they’re watching completely different players.  This is something he will need to work on in Hamilton, though his aggressive forechecking makes him a safe bet as a third or fourth line player for the Canadiens in the near future.

8. Dalton Thrower – D – 5’11”, 200 lbs
2012-13: Saskatoon Blades, WHL
Age 18 – Shoots R
Acquired: 2012 draft, 2nd round, 51st overall

Thrower’s strengths on the ice aren’t unlike those of P.K. Subban – not to say he’ll necessarily be anywhere near as good.  The two blueliners aren’t overly big, but are thick, and use it to their advantage to dish out punishing checks.  A teammate of Darren Dietz in Saskatoon, Thrower backed up his play with nine fights last season, never backing down from any opponent regardless of size.  He contributed offensively with 18 goals and 54 points in 66 games (8th among all defensemen in the WHL), with his point shot and quick hands making him the quarterback of the Blades’ powerplay.  He’s looking like a steal as a future top four blueliner who Future Considerations had ranked at 28th for the draft, and McKeen’s at 38th.  As a late birthday, like Nathan Beaulieu a year ago, he’ll be eligible to turn pro after just one more season in juniors.

7. Morgan Ellis – D – 6’2″, 204 lbs
2012-13: Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL
Age 20 – Shoots R
Acquired: 2010 draft, 4th round, 117th overall

Ellis has done nothing but improve since being taken in the fourth round in 2010, really impressing after being traded from the basement dwelling team he captained – the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles – to the contending Shawinigan Cataractes midway through this season.  Going into the Memorial Cup, he was playing big minutes on the team’s top pairing with Brandon Gormley, combining sound defensive hockey with a 52 points in 60 games regular season, and point-per-game playoff.  An intense and mature player, Ellis may be the most NHL-read defenseman on the list, and should be an important piece of the completely fresh Hamilton defense for the coming season.

6. Brendan Gallagher – RW – 5’8″, 174 lbs
2012-13: Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL
Age 20 – Shoots R
Acquired: 2010 draft, 5th round, 147th overall

It’s hard to watch Gallagher play – or even practice for that matter – without falling in love with him as a prospect.  Always one of the smallest players on the ice, Gallagher is a “little engine that could,” with tireless and tenacious work ethic and a permanent smile plastered on his face.  His game is not unlike that of Brian Gionta, feisty, aggressive, and with slick offensive skills as a puck-handler with phenomenal hand-eye coordination.  Gallagher was one of Canada’s top forwards at this year’s World Junior Championship, and scored 41 goals and 77 points in 54 WHL games this season.  He capped his CHL career with a bang by scoring five goals and 10 points in just six playoff games, and will be looked upon as one the the Bulldogs’ top offensive players this season.  Of course, after a stellar training camp a year ago, if he can repeat such a performance, there will be pressure to keep him in Montreal, but three forwards 5’8″ or smaller is likely too much on one team full-time.  He has the potential to play anywhere in a top nine in the NHL, ideally with bigger linemates.

5. Sebastian Collberg – LW – 5’11”, 180 lbs
2012-13: Frolunda Indians, SEL
Age 18 – Shoots R
Acquired: 2012 draft, 2nd round, 33rd overall

It was a surprise to most when Collberg slipped out of the first round in this year’s draft, and a pleasant surprise when the Canadiens snatched him up with the 33rd overall pick.  A speedy and skilled winger, Collberg is dangerous thanks to a quick release and accurate array of shots.  He’s also a shootout whiz, who was the youngest member of Sweden’s gold medal-winning World Junior Championship last year, finishing second on the team with seven points in six games.  Don’t be deceived by his zero points in the Swedish Elite League – Sweden’s mens league – last season, as he played limited minutes against older and stronger competition, and had a crazy training schedule often being called up last minute for games.  He should be a full-timer in the SEL this year, and then could potentially pursue his development in North America after the conclusion of his current contract next summer.  To be ready, he needs to get stronger to better manage against larger defenders and work in the corners, and improve his defensive play.  A potential top six scoring winger in the NHL.

Kristo dazzled at development camp (Rick Stephens | All Habs)

4. Danny Kristo – RW – 5’11”, 181 lbs
2012-13: University of North Dakota Sioux, NCAA
Age 22 – Shoots R
Acquired: 2008 draft, 2nd round, 56th overall

Kristo disappointed many patiently waiting Hab fans when he announced he would return for a final year of College hockey in 2012-13, as he may be the team’s most NHL-ready forward on this list (also why I have him ahead of Collberg).  A good skater, Kristo produces offensively with dazzlingly quick hands, more of a passer but also capable of finishing plays off.  After setting career-bests with 19 goals and 45 points in 42 games with UND last season, it would seem he has little left to gain not testing his game at the pro ranks.  He could stand to add a bit of muscle to his frame, so hopefully he devotes his last University year to spending significant time in the gym, and then comes ready to make a smooth transition to the AHL or NHL when his NCAA days are over.  He looks like he could have been a top AHL player this season, even, and certainly has the potential to play in an NHL top six within a couple of years.

3. Nathan Beaulieu – D – 6’2″, 190 lbs
2012-13: Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL
Age 19 – Shoots L
Acquired: 2011 draft, 1st round, 17th overall

Beaulieu didn’t have the best season in terms of development, often struggling when the spotlight was greatest (e.g. World Junior Championship, Memorial Cup Semi-Final…)  Yet he did improve his offensive totals to a career-best 52 points in 53 games, then adding 15 points in 17 playoff games on the way to a second consecutive QMJHL championship.  Beaulieu’s best quality is his silky smooth skating, though he looks a lot more comfortable jumping into the rush than back-peddling against opposing forwards.  Skilled offensively, his defensive game needs polishing, but it’s his mental game and maturity that have been called into question most often.  He tends to take lazy or undisciplined penalties, and gives up on the play at times, traits he can hopefully weed out of his game as he transitions to the American Hockey League for the coming season.  Don’t have overly high expectations, however; in the Fall, at 19, he’ll be one of the league’s youngest players, so give him time to adapt and develop.  He projects as a top four rearguard.

2. Jarred Tinordi – D – 6’6″, 215 lbs
2012-13: Hamilton Bulldogs, AHL
Age 20 – Shoots L
Acquired: 2010 draft, 1st round, 22nd overall

Towering Tinordi captained the London Knights this past season and the expanded role allowed him to take his game to another level. Frequently playing 30 or more minutes a night, he became a defensive stalwart on a shutdown pairing with prospect Scott Harrington.  While he remained a physical force, he improved his discipline, understanding that being on the ice was more important to his team, and fighting only three times compared to 10 the year before, thus reducing his penalty minutes from 140 to 63.  Tinordi will be a force to be reckoned with on the back end, with potential upside as a No. 2 blueliner.  His offense is also underrated and will be interesting to watch develop in Hamilton.  While he marginally improved on his previous season, it was most notable in smaller sample events like the World Junior Championship and OHL playoffs (3 goals, 8 points in 19 games).  While he won’t be Zdeno Chara, he isn’t afraid of jumping into the rush and gets power into his shots, though they lack accuracy.  Look for him to take on a leadership role right off the hop with the Bulldogs.

Alex Galchenyuk, 3rd overall, 2012

1. Alex Galchenyuk – C – 6’0″, 194 lbs
2012-13: Sarnia Sting, OHL
Age 18 – Shoots  L
Acquired: 2012 draft, 1st round, 3rd overall

Will Galchenyuk be the next great Canadiens offensive superstar?  Time will tell, but he’s the most exciting offensive prospect the team has had in a very long while.  More of a “not small” center than a big one, Galchenyuk is a hard-worker at both ends of the ice who isn’t afraid to engage physically.  Offensively, he looks to be a complete package, with powerful skating strides, a willingness to charge the net, shifty moves, and a dangerous weaponry of shots.  The questions about Galchenyuk are well-documented, with the fact that he missed all but two of this year’s regular season games because of knee surgery, and a wonder if his offensive numbers might have been inflated by playing with Nail Yakupov.  Questions will become answers this season as he is likely to return to Sarnia (without Yakupov) to continue his maturity and add more strength to his frame in getting back into game shape following his almost-year off.  Sure, he will come to training camp in the Fall and have a chance to impress to stick around in Montreal (perhaps just on a 10-game trial), but as an 18-year old and after a missed season, it is likely better for his long-term development that he return to form at a lower level before challenging for a job with the Habs in 2013-14.  The Canadiens need to be more concerned with what is better for the long-term career prospects of Galchenyuk than bringing excitement to the Bell Centre this Fall.



  1. Good work Dan,

    Of coure i dont agree 100% and would have Bennett/Bozon both ahead of Holland/Quailer.

    But still great you guys do your article on the prospects and all are well done and informative.


    • Thanks for the read and comment Don! It’s hard to come up with a precise rating. Like I mentioned, I factored in how close a player is to the NHL in addition to their upside as a gauge of how realistic them reaching that level is.

      Hence having guys like Holland and Quailer, who will be developing in Hamilton this season, ahead of guys like Bennett and Bozon, who could conceivably someday have better careers. All four are interesting prospects all the same.

  2. Yah, and i just look at possible upside in the end.
    And Bozon impressed me last year with Kamloops as a WHL rookie.
    And Bennett with Michigan is a smooth strong skating offensive d-man (who need work on defnsive coverages)and after 2 more NCAA years and 1 in AHL, he should be a keeper.

    I love Holland’s play last year, every game i saw, he was either a star or at least really stood out, as a pointman on the PP or defneding 2-on-1 as well as any d-man can. But unlike Bozon, i would be surprised if he ever has 20+ goal season in NHL, but hewill be a super smart 3rd line checker and fan favorite.

    Quailer is an unknown and i havent ever seen play, hope he does better than Berger/Avtsin has to date in AHL.

  3. Not to split hairs, but Filip Forsberg at least, was younger than Sebastian Collberg on the Swedish WJC team last year. Not sure if there was anyone else. Forsberg seems older than he is and Collberg seems younger than he is, so it’s an easy oversight to make.

    • Hi Robert,

      My apologies, you are correct there. Thanks for the read and comment.

      I reversed the birth dates in my head, but indeed Forsberg was 6 months younger than Collberg. Collberg was in fact the second youngest on the team though, and given his performance, it was quite a tournament for him.

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