NHL Scout’s Analysis: 7 interesting Canadiens prospects with NHL talent

Kaiden Guhle skates during a practice at the Canadian World Junior Hockey Championships selection camp in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021. (Jeff McIntosh/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

What have you done for me lately? It’s a fair question most of the time. Except when it’s not!

The Montreal Canadiens went to the Stanley Cup Final against Tampa Bay in 2021 as 30 other teams in the league sat back and watched. Those teams, their GMs, head coaches, scouting staffs, owners, and of course fan bases would have done anything to switch places with the Canadiens, even though they came up short.

What happened next put them in a nearly impossible position. The organization started this season needing to plug lots of holes. They lost Shea Weber and Carey Price. Joel Edmundson had to miss almost the entire season. Not to mention the players who went elsewhere in free agency. The list goes on. There was a lot of change here.

The team even reworked its front office and replaced its head coach. They are charting a new direction now, with new people.

But what has the new front office leadership inherited? What was left behind in the prospect pipeline?

Marc Bergevin always valued the entry draft and did not have a history of trading away draft capital. But he and Trevor Timmins, the former director of amateur scouting, lost their jobs in November. Martin Lapointe continues to lead the amateur staff (alongside Nick Bobrov).

Bergevin, Timmins, and Lapointe stocked the cupboards full of quality prospects in a variety of positions and maybe left the Canadiens with a stronger base of futures than people realize. And don’t forget, the team is hosting the 2022 draft this summer and will go to the floor with 14 total picks, including two firsts, two seconds and three thirds.

Montreal’s future has the potential to arrive sooner than expected.

Here are some of the future building blocks Habs fans can look forward to seeing in the near future:

Jayden Struble: Second round, 46th overall, 2019

Vitals: 6-foot, 205 pounds, left shot defenceman

Heading into his senior season at Northeastern in 2022-23. NHL teams crave this kind of prospect. He plays a hard-nosed style and can be punishing physically. An intense competitor who doesn’t back down from opponents. He’s hard to play against. Jayden skates well and is capable with the puck. I don’t expect him to see the ice on the power play as a pro, but he projects to be a two-way defenceman who will be used on the penalty kill.

Mattias Norlinder: Third round, 64th overall, 2019

Vitals: 6-foot, 185 pounds, left shot defenceman

Another defenceman the Canadiens drafted in 2019. He is the opposite of Struble. Norlinder is a two-way skating/puck moving defender who doesn’t bring much in the way of a physical element. He has good jump to space and reliable hockey sense. He wastes no time making decisions with the puck — he sees his options and moves it quickly. Projects to be a reliable No. 5 or 6 in the NHL, who can be deployed on the second power play unit. Currently playing for Frolunda in the SHL.

Jakub Dobes: Fifth round, 136th overall, 202

Vitals: 6-foot-5, 197 pounds, goaltender

A giant in the net with his huge frame. A butterfly goalie who takes up a ton of space even when down. His last three seasons have resulted in save percentages of .946, .915, .933 and GAAs of 1.59, 2.38, and 2.22. Moves adequately side to side, but there is room to add more quickness. Plays the puck very well. Outlets long range. A winner. It takes time with goalies but he has a chance to be an NHL puck stopper. He will be a sophomore at Ohio State next season.

Sean Farrell: Fourth round, 124th overall, 2020

Vitals: 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, left shot forward

An elite scorer coming out of the USHL (Chicago Steel). Farrell had a solid freshman season at Harvard in 2021-22 and played to his identity as a consistent threat offensively. Mix in his experience representing USA at the Olympic Games (six points in four games) and it’s fair to say he has had an eventful development season. Plain and simple, this kid produces offence. He’s not big, but he’s crafty and smart. Farrell has high-end vision in the offensive zone and is an asset to have on your power play unit. He adds a nice option into the mix in the Canadiens prospect pool.

Riley Kidney: Second round, 63rd overall, 2021

Vitals: 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, left shot forward

The Acadie-Bathurst player is challenging fellow Montreal draft pick Joshua Roy for the QMJHL scoring title. Kidney is a fun player to view with high-end skill — he makes plays coming off the edge and venturing to the middle of the ice. He has great vision and leans passer more than shooter. Interesting to note he scores equally as often at home as on the road, which tells me matchups don’t bother him or have an effect on his production. He’s responsible enough to be used in defensive zone, too. Solid in the face-off circle, Kidney has top-six upside at the NHL level.

Joshua Roy: Fifth round, 150th overall, 2021

Vitals: 5-foot-11, 186 pounds, left shot forward

His game continues to trend up. Production numbers tell the story with 97 points in 53 QMJHL games. His shooting percentage has been consistent and he’s added more distribution to his arsenal. Speed off the rush has improved to the point he has an extra gear when required. There is no question his element is offence. Montreal did well adding this prospect in the fifth round. He has a chance to be a productive player for the organization.

Kaiden Guhle, First round, 16th overall, 2020

Vitals: 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, left shot defenceman

The best for last. This player has the potential to be a top pairing NHL defenceman. He’s a complete player. There are no holes in his game. He skates well and executes with the puck. He can be trusted in all facets of the game. Guhle will bring, at worst, secondary offence. He’s a physical defenceman, too, who closes the gap in his lane with authority. An elite prospect and foundational player. Guhle brings leadership on top of his skill set. Currently with Edmonton in the WHL.

Honourable mentions:

Ty Smilanic, FWD 
Brett Stapley, FWD
Emil Heineman, FWD
Jan Mysak, FWD 

And don’t sleep on Arber Xhekaj, an undrafted, big, bruising, two-way defenceman playing for OHL Hamilton. 

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