Now that the 2019 NHL Entry Draft has come to a close, let’s take a look at who the Canadiens drafted and what they can offer to the Canadiens in the future.
First Round, 15th Overall – Cole Caufield, RW – USNTDP (USHL)
The Montreal Canadiens could not have walked any faster to announce their first selection in 2019. Once Cam York’s name was called by Philadelphia, Cole Caufield was Montreal’s choice. He could not have looked any happier on stage in his new jersey.
Caufield was the best goal scorer in the draft and while he played on a historic team as well as being on Jack Hughes’ wing, the first overall pick in 2019, Caufield was just an elite goal scorer. He not only scored 72 goals in 2019, but he set a new record for most goals as a member of this team with 126 goals in 123 games. It is the most out of any player in the history of the USNTDP. You don’t do that because you play on a good team. You do that by being really good.
Caufield is not big at 5’7, 163lbs, but for what he lacks in size, he makes up for in effort, talent and compete. He’s also joining a team with big centers on a big Montreal stage. Jesperi Kotkaniemi stands at 6’2, 188lbs and Ryan Poehling at 6’2, 185lbs, so the consensus is he’ll be fine. He also has a tremendous release and many of his goals happened because he found an opening and made the most of his release. He’s also a good skater and agile enough to move around. His game is similar to Blackhawks forward Alex DeBrincat with a few differences. Regardless of them, they can both score.
Caufield is committed to the University of Wisconsin of the NCAA but has stated that he hasn’t made his decision final and after being asked about playing in the OHL he replied by saying he hasn’t closed the door on anything. He ultimately decides where he plays in 2019. He’s also heading to team USA’s summer camp for the World Juniors with a couple more Canadiens prospects.
Second round, 46th overall – Jayden Struble, D – St. Sebastian’s (USHS-Prep)
When the Canadiens were on the clock at pick 46, not many expected them to call Struble’s name. A defenseman out of high school it’s not surprising that he is a bit of an unknown since his games are not as accessible as others. Regardless of the league he played in, Jayden is not an unknown to scouts and he may very well be a diamond in the rough of the 2019 draft.
Struble is a big, mobile puck moving defenseman who has bite to his game and is considered to be one of the most athletic players this year. Standing large at 6’0, 205lbs, he has room to grow both physically and in terms of play. He is a player who likes to be active on the ice and you’ll never see him stationary. He engages the opposition aggressively and goes the extra mile to make plays to benefit the team.
His greatest assets are his mobility and aggressiveness and plays a similar game to Charlie McAvoy of the Boston Bruins. If he ends up being close to what McAvoy is then this pick is a great one. Struble’s game is not flashy but he makes plays and is looked at as a dependable two-way player who can transition well and who could slot in on the pk.
There are a lot of discussion about where he will play in 2019 as he has committed to the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL. Trevor Timmins, Director of amateur scouting and assistant GM of the Canadiens, has said on various radio stations and interviews that Struble will join 2018 3rd round pick Jordan Harris at Northeastern this upcoming year.
Third round, 64th overall – Mattias Norlinder, D – Modo (SWE Jr)
The Canadiens third pick in the 2019 NHL Draft was supposed to come at pick 50, but the team traded down and acquired picks 64 and 129. At pick 64, another unknown appeared by many but Mattias Norlinder is viewed as possibly another great find for Montreal.
The Canadiens put an emphasis on drafting mobile players and Norlinder is one of them. His mobility and glide on the ice is smooth. He not only skates well but moves the puck efficiently while maintaining that pace. He is a new age type defender. He also likes to play the game north-south which means he goes towards the opposition to makes plays and often comes out on top or in this case gets past defenders. Great vision and awareness.
A bit older at 19, he shows a lot of maturity and it may seem like this was a good gamble in a few years. He split the 2018-19 season between the junior and senior team of Modo which has developed talents like Peter Forsberg, Markus Naslund and Victor Hedman. While playing for the organization, Norlinder produced at a respectable rate, scoring 21 points in 30 games for the junior squad adding 6 playoff points in five games and six points in 14 games when he got promoted to the men’s team adding three points in five qualification games. He’s a competitor and that’s what the team loves to see.
His current contract status has him overseas for at least one more year. He could very well make the jump to North America at the 2020 training camp and add some youth to the pro organization whether in Laval or Montreal. He’s got excellent tools and was ranked mid-to-late 2nd round. The Canadiens add both value and skill to their left side and seem to have made a good selection here.
Third Round, 77th Overall – Gianni Fairbrother, D – Everett (WHL)
Originally thought to be a reach by some, Fairbrother is a complete defender. Another mobile puck mover who has good lateral movement and does not shy away from anyone. He had 83 penalty minutes last year which ranked 14th among defensemen. He’s not a point producer like Josh Brook, but he plays a responsible game and when he joins the attack he does well.
Fairbrother was not one the radar by fans at development camp, but came out as one of the group who really impressed. Not overly big, he takes up a good amount of space out there and manages to out muscle bigger opponents.
Another quality trait he possesses is getting pucks to the net with accuracy. He has a good shot and showed it at the Canadiens camp, but during this last season with Everett, he managed to get pucks through with a lot of traffic.
He’s turning 19 in September and heading back to Everett for his third season. He’s another older player the Canadiens drafted, but they likely feel he brings a more mature and ready game and see his long term contributions.
Fifth Round, 126th Overall – Jacob LeGuerrier, D – Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Late round picks don’t pan out very often and the team took a flyer on a bigger defender at 6’3, 198lbs. He is the fourth left handed defenseman chosen in this draft. The difference is that LeGuerrier is a much more defensive defensemen and doesn’t produce that many points. the team did not draft him to run their power play.
He’s not flashy or very noticeable on the ice but that would be the best thing about him. He does have a good range of motion when it comes to using his stick and plays a very sound game. He makes good defensive plays, but not a tremendous rusher.
Heading back to the Soo this upcoming seaon.
Fifth Round, 131st Overall – Rhett Pitlick, LW – Omaha (USHL)
Does his name sound familiar? Reminds you of Lance Pitlick? This is his son. Standing at a height of 5’9, 160lbs, he is a little ball of energy. He was the most eye catching prospect at the team’s development camp.
Pitlick’s greatest attribute is his up beat pace. He is everywhere the puck is and it seems like his life depends on it. He’s quick, aggressive and very tenacious. The odd part of this is he doesn’t look small on the ice. When I attended development camp, he seemed to be involved in all three zones. He’s like a hound on the puck. He is a good forchecker and has good puck control when entering the offensive zone.
He played in a few different leagues in his 2018-19 season, but got a taste of USHL Hockey with the Omaha Lancers, playing seven games to end the regular season. During that time, he recorded one goal and four assists, making for five points registered in a brief, but swift total of seven games played. Pitlick is set to go back to the USHL for his 2019-2020 season and then head to the University of Minnesota in the NCAA in 2020-2021.
Fifth Round, 138th Overall – Frederik Nissen Dichow, G – Vojens (DEN Jrs)
Any time the Canadiens pick a goalie, you know not to worry. While Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips was still on the board, the Canadiens decided to draft a 6’5, 198lbs right glove goaltender in the fifth round.
I didn’t know who he was but after some film and seeing him live in Brossard, I like his game. Nissen is a big goalie, but he does not lack athleticism. He’s very good laterally and has good range in movement. He makes a lot of great acrobatic saves and seems to have a good technique at 18 years of age.
He’s heading to Sweden to play with the Malmo J20 squad.
Sixth Round, 170th Overall – Arsen Khisamutdinov, RW – Nizhekamsk (RUS Jrs)
Very hard to find a lot of deep info and clips on him, but the few pieces of info I got shows a player that’s low risk, unknown potential of reward. Timmins repeated that he’d be a sought out free agent come the opportunity. He’s a big 6’3 winger who has good skill and pushes pace. He is older at 21-years-old, but that means he’s more mature and closer to turning pro.
His contract looks to expire in April of 2020.
Seventh Round, 201st Overall – Rafael Harvey-Pinard, LW – Rouyn Noranda (QMJHL)
Un gars de chez nous! The team finally drafts a Quebec native. Harvey-Pinard plays with intensity and makes up for his lack of size with speed, skill and bite. He’s an excellent player in the Q and has a great sense of leadership.
He was traded from Rouyn-Noranda to Chicoutimi for the upcoming season in the QMJHL.
Seventh Round, 206th Overall – Kieran Ruscheinski, D – Calgary Midget AAA (AMHL)
Another unknown, Kieran was drafted out of Midget AAA, which doesn’t happen often. He’s a big 6’6 defenseman that has a lot more muscle to gain and plays a simple game. His skating is excellent for a big player of his size. More of a defensive defenseman, Kieran recorded 11 points in 33 games with the Calgary Northstars. Blair Courchene-Lystang, his head coach, compares his game to Colton Parayko’s of the St. Louis Blues.
He’s heading to Salmon Arm of the BCHL for his 2019-2020 season.
To Recap: The Canadiens added another deep draft class putting emphasis on defense and potential. They drafted from a lot of different leagues and to some degree many unknowns. The team needs to let these kids grow and help them develop. We’ll see where we are a year from now.