Montreal Canadiens 2021 Draft Class Review

The 2021 NHL Draft has come and gone and now it’s time to get to know the newest member of the Montreal Canadiens. After multiple trades, the Habs left the virtual draft with nine players, which they hope to see some help them in a few years.

Statement about the Habs picking Logan Mailloux in round one:

The Canadiens shocked the hockey world by selecting Logan Mailloux with the 31st overall pick. Mailloux had asked NHL teams to not select him, as he felt he was not worthy of being drafted, as he had been charged in Sweden for distributing a sexual photo without consent. It was a horrible, uncompassionate and irresponsible decision by Mailloux. I hope the victim recovers from this incident to find her way back to living a normal life, as well as I hope Logan comes to terms with his inner issues to get the help needed in order to get back onto the right path. Though the selection has come with severe controversy and backlash, I felt I needed to insert him in this draft class article since he has now been selected.

Dan Hickling/OHL images

Round One

31st overall – Logan Mailloux, D – London Knights (OHL)

Logan Mailloux is a big, smooth skating, offensive minded defenseman who moves the puck well and generates a lot of scoring chances when he’s on the ice.

His primary qualities make him a dangerous player. He utilizes all his abilities, including his skating, puck handling and his shot, which he unleashes with power, often and joins rushes on the regular. His decision making is very good when his team has the puck. He’s not only consistently engaged, but creative when maneuvering around the ice, sometimes creating highlight reel moments with his skill. He can skate into open areas or around players with quick one touch passes, which push the puck up the ice with precision and assertiveness.

In addition to his play on offence, he has distinct defensive qualities that project well at the pro level. As mentioned above, he’s a good skater and he uses his mobility when back checking. His smooth movements allow him to keep up with players in order to check them, direct them away from the net or push them to a tight area in order to limit their chances. He can defend in many ways, but he prefers to kill the play on the rush vs. creating a defensive cycle. He wants rushes eliminated quickly and the puck back up the ice without having to think about it. Quick transition from defending to attacking.

Mailloux has a lot to like on the ice, but it’s his off ice issues that will dominate his career in the immediate future. He’ll need to figure it out, with the help of the Canadiens organization and show that he has changed both his character and his perspective. This will be a closely followed process from both internal and external medias.

He has top-three pro defenseman upside. If he can fix certain raw areas of his game and manage his off ice issues, which may take some time, he can become a reliable blueliner for the Canadiens moving forward. He already has NHL caliber abilities, he just needs to play more and continue to develop his game. He is expected to be with the London Knights when the OHL season starts in 2021.

Tyson Gray/Acadie-Bathurst Titan

Round Two

63rd – Riley Kidney, C – Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)

The five-foot-eleven, 168lbs center from Nova Scotia is a dynamic playmaker with quick hands, a strong puck playing ability and a strong two-way hockey IQ.

Though his profile indicates a small perimeter player, Kidney’s on ice presence and playstyle says otherwise. His puck handling and movement may start on the outside, but he possesses incredible edge work that allow him to cut into the slot where his stick handling and puck manipulation comes in handy. The saying “he can stick handle inside a phone booth” is one you can attribute to Kidney.

In his two seasons playing for the Acadie-Bathurst Titan, Kidney totalled 71 points in 92 games. His second season, the one that just finished, saw him produce at above a point per game as he scored 13 goals, 25 assists for 38 points in 33 games. He outproduced his previous totals by five points in 26 less games. He was also very involved last year’s postseason, where he scored 17 points in nine games. He also had a strong showing for Canada at the U17’s with five points in six games.

Kidney is by far a better passer than shooter, though he possesses a deceptive wrist shot. His ability to find his teammates on the ice is due to his strong passing ability and his attention to detail which derives from his IQ. He can both speed up the pace or slow it down, allowing him to read assignments and initiate a fixed play.

Kidney needs to add some muscle and strength. He’s fine at the junior level, but he’ll need get stronger the higher he progresses. His ability to move around and deke players is easier to do when they’re not as physically developed. This is usually easier to do as players start training with more professional trainers and get better nutrition.

All his offensive tools, as well as his intangibles, project him as a middle-six center should he continue to refine and work on his game. The pure skill is there, he just needs to continue to play well and will likely be depended upon this year by Acadie-Bathurst where he will play this upcoming season.

64th overall – Oliver Kapanen, C – Kalpa (U20 SM-Sarja)

The cousin of Penguins’ Kasperi Kapanen, Oliver is a shrewd center with a strong 200ft skillset and a nose for offense.

The six-foot-one, right-handed center is a solid play driver who is known for his scoring touch and net front presence. His two-way play reading is among the best in the draft. He has the top qualities of a multi-faceted center; first one back on defence, get’s down low to either cut the cycle, or recover pucks form board battles and is always active when assignments change when playing zone defence. His awareness in his own zone is very strong, whether he makes the first pass to a supporting forward, or when he carries the puck out himself to the neutral zone.

His puck handling is not his top quality, but he’s not terrible at it. He mostly carries it from the hash marks to the net, as he uses his powerful stride and his strong legs to drive the crease. He uses his body well when attacking the slot and it’s surrounding areas and he’s very hard to move of the puck when he builds up speed. Though he’s a powerful net rusher, he scores most of his goals from afar. He possesses an accurate shot and has a very strong ability to get pucks through layers of players and screens. His snapshot is his most utilized shot and he’s got a very quick release. His shooting is very good, but his understanding of where to be on the ice to give his teammates more options is trait that can’t be overlooked. He’s very active on the ice skating and gliding into defender’s blind spots, where he is often left alone and creates scoring chances.

One thing he needs to work on his overall skating and speed. Though he is a serious offensive producer, he could use his skating to become more creative on the ice. It should not be hard to work on it, as he moves up to Kalpa at the Liiga level. Pro trainers will help him with it.

Kapanen projects as a two-way shooting second line center. His numbers have been good in Kalpa’s development program throughout the various junior levels and has been a major on ice factor for them. If his production translates to the pro level at a similar rate, then he’s trending towards a potential NHL opportunity in the near future. Expectations are he will end up getting a shot with Kalpa’s Liiga team in the fall.

Round Three

87th overall – Dmitri Kostenko, D – Lada Togliatti (MHL)

Kostenko is a creative puck moving defenseman with good hands and well rounded offensive vision.

At this point in the draft, you’re looking for raw players, projects that have something they could excel at at higher levels which you can mold. Kostenko fits that profile. His offensive upside is what gets scouts and talent evaluators to pay attention to him. He possesses a smooth skating ability, a precise shot and smooth hands.

When Kostenko is positively impacting a play, he’s usually using one of the aforementioned abilities. His smooth skating allows him move around the ice with ease and transport the puck up the ice with control and move into the central and offensive zone with stability. He has no problem rushing and is his primary way of exiting his own zone. He also utilizes his good passing ability to get the puck to an open teammate to switch things up.

Another one of his offensive abilities that are utilized on the ice is his underrated shot. He likes to wind up for slap shot and one timers when he can and it’s definitely working for him and he enjoys it. While his shot comes off his stick with power, it also gets on net. A lot of players unload and are never precise, Kostenko is accurate and consistently getting them through players as well.

With great praise offensively come question marks and concerns defensively. A very inconsistent defender that doesn’t offer much in his own zone. Even with these concerns, he is young and likely trying to develop some type of understanding to be a little less risky in his own zone. His zone exits are good and it’s a start. He’ll need to add some more muscle and be a little more engaged either with his body or use his stick to check players and block lanes when defending.

Kostenko’s ceiling will increase if he manages to develop a decent defensive game and become stable in his own zone. He has a top-four ceiling, but he needs to fix a lot before he gets there. His offence is very impressive for his age, but he needs to do more than create chances in the opponents zone. He will be playing for Spartak Moscow in 2021.

Round Four

113th overall – William Trudeau, D – Charlottetown (QMJHL)

The the six-foot tall Varennes, Quebec native is a mobile, intelligent blue-liner who reads the game well and is among the top defenders in his league.

Trudeau has a lot of tangible qualities that are heavily valued in the NHL. He’s a quality and mobile skater that transports the puck well both from his net up and in a cycle offensively. His skating ability is useful in many ways and it’s evident when he has pressure around him. He can skate around players and through traffic and is never fazed when multiple checkers are in his bubble. His puck control is very strong and he can wheel around various levels of players and bring into enemy territory with effinciency.

He’s also good at retrieving the puck from the opposition. He has an active body and stick and uses both to separate the puck from the player. He’s very good at blocking passes and deflecting them away, often to certain areas on purpose for puck retrieval. His defensive IQ is what separates him from the field and it’s his decision making that makes him a stout defender. He uses everything within range to move the puck away from danger areas like the boards and nearby teammates. He’s been developing his deking and puck maneuvering trait over the last few years and it shows that he’s confident in it because he takes on players one on one in every zone.

As mentioned above, he’s a plyer at maximum confidence on the ice. He makes plays, takes calculated chances and is very active in all three zones with and without the puck. His adjustments, his vision and his puck handling abilities all come from how much he believes in his abilities.

The parts of his game that aren’t at the top is his foot speed and his physicality. Though he is a good puck mover and can separate players from the puck, he does both with his strong skating. He can work on getting up to speed at the junior level, but being physical something that usually comes earlier in development.

Trudeau could end up as a utility defenseman among a quality top-six defensive core, but his projection has him as a future third pair defenseman if his development continues to progress at this rate. If there is one thing that moves him up the potential ladder, it’s mobility and transition game. He has all the time to grow his game. He will be returning to Charlottetown in the fall.

Round Five

142nd overall – Daniil Sobolev, D – HK Spartak Moscow (MHL)

The right-handed defenseman from St. Petersburg, Russia, is physical defenseman with good mobility and makes a good first pass.

Though he does not excel at one specific thing, he does a lot of things well and it’s what makes him liked by his coaches and teammates. While the saying “the jack of all trades, but the master of none” may sound like he’s just another expendable defenseman, it’s actually a compliment when it comes to a player liker Sobolev. He can play a offense driven game, shut down players defensively and throw the body around to insert some dominance on his side of the ice.

Though he is a good skater and a decent puck handler, he mostly plays without the puck. He’s not a player that will easily transport the puck up the ice on the regular nor will he make various fakes and dekes for other players to bite. He makes simple passes, gets the puck up the ice and lets his teammates do most of the work. He’s mainly a secondary player when his team is attacking.

The weakest part of his game is his offence and the inability to produce consistently or have reliable offensive trait. His game needs to evolve in that area if he has any chance of cracking a professional North American league in the future.

His projections are limited to a career AHL’er, but he has time to develop his game to raise his ceiling. He has good abilities, but not enough to give him an edge on the ice. He’s heading to the OHL in 2021-22 to play for the Windsor Spitfires, who selected him 40th overall in the 2020 CHL Import Draft.

Vincent Etheir/QMJHL

150th overall – Joshua Roy, RW – Sherbrooke (QMJHL)

The former first overall pick in the QMJHL entry draft, Joshua Roy has strong offensive awareness and the ability to beat you in various ways.

Roy has strong tangible traits that attract scouts and member of management. He can control the puck well, distribute it and shoot it while being efficient and quick on the ice. He’s a creative player who has the ability to both slow down plays and be patient then turn on a switch and charge with speed. It’s not everyone who can fluidly change their pace with ease.

His greatest quality is his overall awareness from the neutral zone up. He has the ability to make crisp stretch passes to players skating up and full speed and springing odd-man rushes and breakaways. His understanding of defensive assignments gives him an edge on opposing players and targets weak points and empty areas. He does his while skating and while being stationary. His passing ability is very well respected around the QMJHL.

While he has great vision and a strong offensive IQ, he possesses an accurate shot and a quick release. You know a players shooting ability is among the best when they can score with limited space and low levels of effort. He doesn’t have a specific spot on the ice, he’s confident enough to shoot from anywhere.

How can a former first overall pick with his level of high end talent be selected so late in the draft? The negatives outweigh the positives. He’s been labeled as low effort and said to be lacking accountability defensively. He also doesn’t have a lot of speed nor acceleration, which limit his impact in certain areas.

The bright spot to the aforementioned negatives is he is still developing and has time to spend in juniors + American league before he gets to try-out in the pros. He seems a lot happier since he got traded to Sherbrooke from Saint John’s, and if that motivates him to work on his deficiencies, then he has a chance to regain some of his original hype. He currently projects as borderline NHL’er.

Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images North America

Round Six

191st overall – Xavier Simoneau, C – Drummondville (QMJHL)

The five-foot-seven overage center from Gatineau is hard working, high motor checking forward with a great passing ability and a strong inner drive.

The selection of Xavier Simoneau is very similar to the one they made in 2019 when they selected Rafael Harvey-Pinard in the seventh round. They saw a undersized, tenacious forward who brought many tangible and intangible qualities to his game and felt they could mold him into a potential NHL’er. Simoneau is this years Harvey-Pinard.

He brings a lot to a team, including leadership, accountability, passion, as well as on ice traits such as a good transition, deceptive playmaking abilities and more. He’s a player that goes the extra mile to make a play and it’s one of his strongest qualities. His never die attitude and relentless pursuit of the puck is what annoys opposing defenders. His continuous motor is also evident when he has the puck and with it he extends plays and keeps the pressure going

Another one of his top traits is his deceptive passing. He’s mastered the fake shot and cross ice pass to his teammates and it often leads to one time goals. This is a play he likes to use several times in a game, and even though teams know it’s coming, he sells it well every time.

It’s obvious that the biggest knock is his small stature and his lack of top foot speed. It might be fine playing in a junior where the majority for players have not physically developed, but things get tougher the more a player climbs up in competition. Being small and not overly fast isn’t a great combination.

Simoneau is a lot closer to peaking now that he’s 20-years-old. He’s going to play with Charlottetown this upcoming season, and if things continue to progress the way the team wants him to, he’ll earn an AHL deal and play for the Laval Rocket. They’ve liked what they’ve seen with Harvey-Pinard’s progression and believe Simoneau could end up developing the same way and eventually get an entry-level contract.

Richard A. Whittaker/Getty Images North America

Round Seven

214th overall – Joe Vrbetic, G – North Bay (OHL)

The six-foot-six netminder from Dunvegan, Ontario is an imposing presence in net.

His big frame is obviously a reason he stands out on the ice. His movements are limited to squaring up to players and reacting to their shots. It’s worked for him throughout his development and it’s one thing scouts have liked from him.

He reads plays well and makes efficient movements, whether they are lateral cross crease or when moving from the net to the top of it. He makes one large stride and it covers the area in an instant. On top of being a big goalie, he possesses traits that most top netminders have: good instincts. Sometimes, technique is not enough to make saves, and he trusts his abilities to make certain stretch saves, and reaching out to block shots.

Vrbetic needs to play meaningful games with a strong team and that would help him out a ton in his development.

He’s heading back to the OHL, where he plays with the North Bay Battalion. It’s been rough for him there, as they’re not a good team and his personal stats take a hit from it. He’s much better than that and he knows it. He’ll continue to practice and work on his game and hopefully get a chance to play behind a better roster this year.

Final Thoughts

The Canadiens left the virtual draft with nine players and millions of eyes who will judge their every move from now on. They’re in the spotlight now and will have to face the music on a daily basis. If things go as well as they can, they may have drafted a set of players who could develop into quality NHL’ers in the near future. It’s now up to player development to ensure that these kids build on their strengths and reinforce weaknesses. Time will tell if they made the right choices.

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