Why Logan Brown could be a perfect pick for Canadiens at No. 9

Watch as the expected no. 1 overall Auston Matthews is sent through the ringer that is the NHL Combine fitness test.

A handful of Canada’s teams are dreaming big in advance of this year’s NHL Draft. And while the widest eyes typically belong to those with the highest selections, you’ll still find some drool further down the board.

As it stands, the Montreal Canadiens will watch five fellow Canadian clubs pick before their turn comes up at No. 9 on June 24 in Buffalo. And while the surefire franchise-changers will be long gone, there is a significant accumulation of intrigue building around a big — as in, really big — centre who could still be there when the Habs pick in the top 10 for the third time in 13 years.

There’s already a sense Logan Brown might be a wonderful consolation prize after a lost season in Montreal—and the feeling seems to be mutual.

“That’d be unbelievable,” Brown said of a potential future in bleu, blanc et rouge. “That’s maybe one of the best franchises in the league and such a storied team. It would be awesome to play anywhere, but that’d be really cool.”

The Windsor Spitfires pivot was a serious second-half riser, largely thanks to the fact he began showing more confidence in his shot. Two-thirds of the way through January, Brown had found the net just six times in 34 contests. But once he unhinged himself from a total pass-first mentality, he sniped 15 times in his remaining 24 games. Playing between Arizona Coyotes draftee Christian Fischer and—after he was acquired from the Barrie Colts—Winnipeg Jets prospect Brendan Lemieux, Brown finished the campaign with 74 points in 59 outings, landing him in his preferred spot in many draft rankings.

“Going into the season, that was my goal, to be in the top 10,” he said.

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Now that he’s there, it’s hard not to contemplate a Montreal marriage. On one hand, it could be argued the Canadiens’ needs are more immediate; that a team nobody expected to stink last year should be looking for players—perhaps acquired by trading the ninth pick—to push it back to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. It’s a fair stance, but also ignores the fact the Habs have been on the lookout for sizeable centres since the days when they won Stanley Cups on the regular.

The last time Montreal had a high pick, it found one with the third overall selection. And four seasons into his NHL career, Alex Galchenyuk finally looks the part of a top-line middle man. Now comes the chance to select a six-foot-six kid who might not help you for a couple years, but could evolve into a unique force.

Cap concerns aside, Carey Price, P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty could still be productive Canadiens for a long time. Throw a 1-2 of Galchenyuk and Brown at centre and you might have all your bases covered.

Whichever team winds up nabbing Brown, it will be getting an 18-year-old who understands that draft day assures a prospect nothing beyond some direction for the following September.

“It’s just an invitation to go tryout for an NHL team,” he said.

If those sage words smack of more informed origins, it’s likely because Brown’s dad, Jeff, was a veteran of nearly 750 NHL games on the blue line and is now a bench boss for the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s. Jeff coached his son until the latter was about 14 and always did what he could to guide him toward good decisions. For instance, the senior Brown was adamant Logan not get caught up in too much weightlifting for fear it would stunt his growth.

“When I got to be about 6-foot-5 I said, ‘C’mon pops, it’s about time I get in the gym,’” Logan said with a grin.

If they’re not feeling a similar sense of urgency, the Canadiens might want to consider the kind of player Brown will be when that work bears fruit.

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