The 2020 NHL Draft took so long to get to, and now that’s it’s gone, we can get to know who the newest members of the Montreal Canadiens are. Heading into this year’s event, the Canadiens owned 11 selections through seven rounds, but after moving some around, they left the virtual draft with eight prospects. Let’s get to know who these kids are.
16th overall – Kaiden Guhle, D – Prince Albert (WHL)
To the surprise of many and delight of few, the Canadiens went best player available and selected the 6’3 defensemen from the Raiders in the Western Hockey League. The pride of Sherwood Park, Alberta is an imposing blue liner on the ice and plays a sound 200-foot game.
His bread and butter is on defence as he uses his frame to box out opponents, limit space and often use his weight to check and lay them out. His instincts serve him well in many ways, but tends to use them a lot one-on-one. He has a great skating ability and uses his rushes to break out toward the other teams net. He has above average offensive skills, which saw a serious progression this season.
He is a major part of the Prince Albert Raiders and is expected to be an even more important contributor when the new season starts on January 8th, 2021. He was already a great prospect in the 2020 Draft, but as Andre Tourigny said, head coach of the Canadian World Junior team, if it was a weaker draft, Guhle would have been a top 10 selection. There is no doubt that he was ranked higher and the Canadiens were locked in on him at pick 16.
47th overall – Luke Tuch, LW – USNTDP (USHL)
The younger brother of Vegas Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch, Luke is a big, strong and nasty winger with a high motor and tenacious movement. Though he is regarded as less skilled compared to his brother, he does bring more energy and a lot more bite to his already dependable two-way game. His lack of scoring may be a result of a smaller role with the US development team, and as a whole, the program wasn’t as productive offensively compared to the year prior.
He is heading to Boston University, where he will play higher up in the lineup and will be given the appropriate time to work on his offensive game. This is something he couldn’t do in the USHL. Given enough time and attention, he should round out into a similar playing style to Calgary Flames forward, Matthew Tkachuk.
48th overall – Jan Mysak, C – Hamilton (OHL)
Many were surprised to see him fall in the draft, though he performed admirably for the Hamilton Bulldogs, potting 25 points in 22 games. His overall play after coming over from the Czech Republic was apparently not enough for other teams to pick him ahead of the Canadiens at #48.
He’s a north-south player with a very natural offensive style of play, who rushes efficiently and attacks opponents one-on-one. He has good upside and manages to be sound defensively. He’s also a net driver with a strong lower body, which allows him to put power and drive with force.
Once the CHL resumes, he’ll be big part of the Hamilton Bulldogs and continue to progress and develop his overall game. He should have a higher points per game ratio being older and stronger than he was before.
102nd overall – Jack Smith, C – St. Cloud Cathedral (USHS-MN)
The Canadiens have drafted multiple players out of American high school leagues over the past few seasons, such as Jordan Harris (USHS-Prep) and Jayden Struble (USHS-Prep), and with their first selection in the fourth round, they added another player in centreman Jack Smith.
Smith is an average sized forward with good offensive abilities. He’s fluid when charging opposing defenders and sees plays happen before they do. He has a good IQ, and when healthy, he’s among the better players in his league. He’s performed at every level he’s played at, and last year, he scored 16 goals along with 14 assists for 30 points in 11 games. He added 19 points in six playoff games. He projects to be an offensive catalyst at the collegiate hockey level.
Smith is committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth for the 2021-22 season and will join a high quality program that will give him a chance to slot in the proper chair and refine his skills. He can also train and develop his body for a more mature and physical game against bigger players.
109th overall – Blake Biondi, C – Hermontown High (USHS-MN)
Another product of high school hockey, Blake Biondi is among the better shooters in this draft and brings a full offensive tool kit to every game. He’s got a lot of jump to his game and is very involved in all aspects of hockey. He also uses his frame to the most and is very physical on the ice.
He dominated his league last year, scoring 37 goals along with 39 assists for 76 points in just 25 games. That’s a 3.04 point-per-game ratio. Only Zakary Kennett and Blake Prebix had better point-per-game ratios than Biondi with 3.92 and 3.08 respectively.
He’s also heading to the UMD, like Jack Smith above, and will get a shot at playing against a tougher competition. We’ll see if his scoring translates to the college ranks and whether he continues to play the game his way.
124th overall – Sean Farrell, C – Chicago Steel (USHL)
The Canadiens tend to take flyers on smallish forwards later in drafts in order to replicate the success they had with Brendan Gallagher 10 years ago. Last year, they selected Rhett Pitlick in the fifth round from Omaha of the USHL, and this year, they chose Sean Farrell from the Chicago Steel of the USHL.
Farrell was part of a powerhouse Steel team that dominated the USHL with first-round pick Brendan Brisson, who went to the Vegas Golden Knights at pick 29, and Sam Colangelo, who was selected by Anaheim in round two, 36th overall. Lost in the draft talk regarding the Steel was Farrell’s contribution to the team and mostly because he’s 5’9 and 174lbs.
What Farrell does not have in size, strength and overall toughness, he brings with puck play, intelligence and decision making. He has a quality shot for a player his size and he gets himself in areas where he can take advantage of angles and lanes, which he does well and tends to wait-out goalies. He’s very patient. He’s also a rangy forward, making his way to many areas around the net, and you’ll often see him active below the dots.
His skating is superb and very refined, and it’s a big reason why he’s in every play, and it’s what makes him so dangerous despite his physical limitations. His straight line speed is also impressive and gets by defenders, who often time their hits or checks poorly, and see Farrell on an odd man rush with a teammate.
Farrell is committed to the University of Harvard, but regardless of where he plays, he’ll have a major hurdle to jump; playing against bigger and tougher players. Whether in junior hockey or pro hockey, Farrell will have to adapt to a rougher and physically demanding playing style because it won’t be easy. He has time before turning pro, so he can learn now when it’s early to develop skills to last in games and throughout the season, as well as postseason hockey.
136th overall – Jakub Dobes, G – Omaha Lancers (USHL)
I was far from surprised when I saw the Canadiens had drafted a goaltender. I had mocked a goalie to them in two different mock drafts and they come out with one in round five.
The Czech netminder is a very instinctive and reactionary player. His style of play is similar to Mike Smith, who was very active in his crease and often looks shaky, but if it works, it works.
He didn’t have a great season last year statistically, but he somewhat shared the net with Kyle McClellan, who played 32 games to Dobes, 21. He’ll be back with Omaha should the 2020-21 season happen.
Dobes is committed to Ohio State University for the 2021-22 season.
171st overall – Alexander Gordin, RW – SKA St.Petersburg (MHL)
Whenever you draft players this late, you’re either trying to lock up them up for your AHL team or try to see if a someone drops who some scouts might not know well enough as yours do. This may be the case for selecting Alexander Gordin.
Gordin is a natural offensive winger, who has a knack for scoring and driving play. He has a good frame and uses it to drive in to high danger scoring areas for a better scoring chance. His heat map would show the majority of his play is done below the dots, as do most of his goals, which tend to come from those areas.
With late round picks, there is always a flaw to a player, even if they’ve done well offensively and have good size – Gordin lacks consistency in his all-around game. I spoke with Viktor Fomich of @RUSProspects and he confirmed those issues. He says “[Gordin] is an extremely skilled sniper and is a solid skater, but has never been the hardest worker or too involved in the physical game (despite the good size) – good upside, but has junior hockey immaturity.”
He does, however, believe that management could see these flags, but value the offensive upside and and see the potential in Gordin.
Fomich also informed me that Gordin is entering the transitioning phase to the pro hockey of the VHL and that a lot of those issues and drawbacks might smooth out now as you can’t get away with those at the level he played prior. Regardless of these things, Gordin looks like a good gamble, especially this late. A prospect to keep an eye out for.
The Canadiens entered the 2020 Draft with few organizational needs. They had solidified the defence and centre group over the last few selections, but did not have enough high end talent on offence and especially at wing. They left the draft with high end potential skill and a few scoring prospects who dominated their leagues offensive wise.
If there’s one thing to keep and eye out it’s how those kids develop during these unique times. Will it be longer? Will it be rougher to refine skills? What changes? These are questions we can’t yet answer, but overall, I believe the Canadiens found a few gems and enough talent to be excited about moving forward.