Canadiens Draft Preview: Who do they pick?

Yes, it's that time of year again! Time to get revved up for the NHL draft! If these last two weeks have been any indication, then we should expect plenty of activity from GMs throughout the day, and of course this evening. TCL will of course be on top of it all, with our live chat commencing at 6:45PM eastern tonight (details can be found here).

Since the hammer dropped on Jaroslav Halak last Thursday, there has been much movement around the league, and it all leads into tonight's Draft. Here is a list of all the happenings of the last week, including many links, by the numbers:

- 2 top defensemen have announced their retirements. Rob Blake and Scott Neidermayer will not be returning to play next season, essentially announcing the end of an era on the blue line.

- 12 players have signed contract extensions, including Tomas Plekanec in Montreal and Patrick Marleau in San Jose, two of TCL's Top 10 UFAs. Along with Dan Hamhuis, who is rumored to be signing a new deal with Philly soon, this leaves the UFA crop fairly depleted going into next week.

- 6 teams have made coaching or management announcements, including Pat Quinn stepping down in Edmonton and Craig Ramsay being announced as the new head coach in Atlanta.

- 9 trades have been completed since the Halak trade (the first trade in nearly a month), including two trades out of Nashville, the Nathan Horton trade to Boston, and two trades out of Chicago including, of course, the Dustin Byfuglien trade.

All of this, ironically, because of a move made by the Montreal Canadiens.

And with the draft scheduled to commence in less than 8 hours, there will certainly be much to talk about throughout the course of the afternoon hours.

Now that the link dump and plugs are out of the way, time to get to the Habs!

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In this year's draft, the Montreal Canadiens will be selecting 27th overall, thanks to their impressive run in the Stanley Cup playoffs. To put things into perspective, if they hadn't amassed that single overtime point they did in the final game of the season against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadiens would be drafting in the first half of the first round, possibly as high as 10th place.

Before you go ahead and jump off the bandwagon, don't take that as bad news, necessarily. On top of accumulating invaluable amounts of playoff experience, the Canadiens still have an impressive (and physically large) crop of players to choose from when their turn to pick will come around tonight, likely sometime around 9:30PM.

Here is a list of some potential prospects the Canadiens could be picking this evening with that 27th pick, ending with who I think the Canadiens will end up drafting.

TYLER TOFFOLI

TSN's final 1-through-30 draft rankings have Tyler Toffoli comfortably sitting at 27th place, perfect for selection by the Montreal Canadiens. He's a center, he's 6 feet tall and 181 lbs, which, if course, could indeed go up with a few more growth spurts. Toffoli played with the Ottawa 67 in the 2009-10 seaosn, amassing 37 goals and a total of 79 points in a total of 65 games played. Toffoli suited up for Canada's under-18 team last year, and even spent time on a line with Tyler Seguin and John McFarland. Early projections have him as a solid 2-way center who can contribute big forward minutes on a scoring line, which would make him an instant hit with some Habs pundits. The only knock against him is his skating, which he could, of course, work on during his development.

JUSTIN FAULK

A defenseman? American? Native of Minnesota? Not too small? Not to big? Sounds like a good fit for the Canadiens' organization. Considering who's doing the drafting, this could very well be the pick the Canadiens make in the first round this year. Described as '' compact and solid and a strong skater'' by Bob McKenzie, Faulk is a fast, offensive defenseman with one of the hardest shots in the draft, something the Canadiens could definitely use in the coming years, with a lot of defensive turnover on the way and with the prospect ranks on the back-end somewhat depleted. With the US under-18 national team, Faulk amassed 9 goals and 3 assists in 21 games, adequate numbers for an offensive defenseman in the American system.

BROCK NELSON

Brock Nelson has slipped in a few of the final rankings, but if you ask me, his size and the position he plays will allow him to go in the 1st round. The Canadiens would be lucky to draft this 6'3'' 205lbs Center from (you guessed it) Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 18-year-old scored an impressive 53 goals and 42 assists in 31 games for his high school, Warroad. He is commited to the University of North Dakota for next season, but he might be a package at Center that the Canadiens would be dumb to pass up, if available at 27th.

TYLER PITLICK

Projected to go slightly ahead of the Canadiens draft position, this is another player that the Habs would be lucky to draft. Another big center that hails from Minnesota, Pitlick is already 6'2'' and 195lbs at 18 years old. The knock against this one? While considered to be an offensive center, he has yet to prove that he could put up big numbers as the US high school system is not always considered to be the highest producing hockey system in the world. Still, Pitlick's 11 goals and 8 assists in 38 games is respectable. Hockey's Future has described him as both a ''pure goalscorer'' as well as a player with both ''playmaking and finishing capabilities'', with lots of hockey sense.

KIRILL KABANOV

Considered by Scott Cullen of TSN to be "the ultimate draft wildcard'', many consider Kabanov to be a giant risk for the 1st round, considering the fact that he hails from Russia. A fact that people seem to look over is that Kabanov is committed enough to hockey to have moved to Moncton to play with the Wildcats of the QMJHL this past season, at a very young age (maybe against his will, but nonetheless). His season has been surrounded by controversy and injuries, having appeared in only 22 games for the Wildcats, eventually being released by the team. Still, his 6'3'' frame and his offensive skills might be worth taking a risk at a late stage of the draft. Are the Canadiens willing to throw another Hail Mary so soon after the Jaroslav Halak trade, and of course their troubles with Europeans in recent years?

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Despite there being many players that seem to fit the Canadiens' needs and their profile at the moment, one has to consider that picking a late-1st-round youngster does not necessarily mean that an organization has to fill needs it has in the present. Draft picks are usually long-term projects if they're not prodigies or superstars, and can take as long as 4 or 5 years, if not longer, before finally making their impact at the NHL level.

That being said, looking ahead 5 years into the future of the Canadiens is a craps shoot at best. By then, most of the Canadiens' long term contracts will be done. Players such as PK Subban, Carey Price and even Louis Leblanc will likely be well into their NHL careers. Frankly, at that point, anything can happen. But looking 2 or 3 years into the future of the Canadiens, and the needs of the Canadiens are glaring.

While they could use as many talented, big wingers as they can, they simply don't seem to be in abundance that late in the first round. Moreover, adding centers at this point seems to be a waste. the middle seems to be locked up for the Canadiens for a while now, with Scott Gomez and Tomas Plekanec locked up to long term deals, and with Lars Eller, Louis Leblanc and others well on their way.

Carey Price is here to stay in goal, and the Canadiens still have a few prospects in that department, including Cedrick Desjardins, last year's star in goal in Hamilton.

As you could probably guess by the process of elimination, the one place where the Canadiens seem to be in trouble going into the future, is on defense.

Beyond PK Subban, the prospect ranks for the Canadiens when it comes to defensemen are shot. David Fischer is likely a bust, Ryan McDonaugh and Pavel Valentenko have been traded away, Matthieu Carle and Yannick Weber may never be fit for the NHL level, and Alexei Elemin may never show up in North America.

Add to this the older age and expiring contracts of Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek, Roman Hamrlik and even Andrei Markov, the Canadiens will soon be depleted on the back-end.

A big, solid defenseman who can skate is simply the necessity in this year's draft, and I think we have the perfect fit. That being said (assuming I had the power to do this)...

With the 27th pick overall, the Montreal Canadiens are proud to select....

JARRED TINORDI

This team's experience with American defensemen is well established. And Jarred Tinordi fits the mold, arguably better than anyone else.

At 18-years-old, Tinordi is already 6'6'' and 205lbs. With growth sprouts, he could easily end up being one of the biggest players in the NHL when he finally makes it. He only scored 4 goals and 5 assists through 26 games with the Under-18 USA team, but how much of a beast he is makes up for his lack of offensive production.

Attending Notre Dame in the fall, Bob McKenzie and scouts had many good things to say about him: "He’s naturally aggressive, a heavy hitter, with outstanding leadership and character, as evidenced by his captaincy on what may be the best U.S. U-18 team ever."

Simply put, Jarred Tinordi is exactly what this team needs. Unfortunately for the Canadiens, considering how much he impressed scouts and doctors at the draft combine, he's unlikely to be available at 27th overall. But if he is, the Canadiens will have to draft him. Or else.

Don't forget to keep things locked on TCL this evening for all the draft coverage you can handle! The live chat starts at 6:45PM eastern time, don't be late!

Prax
TheCheckingLine.com
twitter.com/GeorgePrax