Habs Restock The Forward Ranks In Strong Draft Weekend
George Prax on Sun, 2012-06-24 10:13
When you use the third overall pick -- an extremely rare occurrence for the Montreal Canadiens -- on a player who's already blown out his knee and missed an entire season of hockey before even reaching adult age, the conversation can only go one of two directions. Either people will be elated that a player is so talented he can overcome a major injury to be included in the top three players of his draft year, or that player will be considered a major risk for the team that ends up drafting him.
When it comes to Alex Galchenyuk, that conversation seems to be leaning towards the former. Despite missing almost all of his pre-draft season with the Sarnia Sting, the American born Galchenyuk ended up being the player Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins had their eye on heading in the first round of the 2012 draft this past Friday night, as well as the player that everyone expected and hoped they would pick, as they selected him with the third overall draft choice, behind Nail Yakupov (Edmonton Oilers) and defenseman Ryan Murray (Columbus Blue Jackets).
Based on the desires of most in Montreal, Galchenyuk is exactly the kind of player the Canadiens have needed for years. He's a big center, standing tall at 6'1", and filling into that frame pretty well already at around 200 lbs. He's fast, he has good hockey sense, he's a playmaker, and he has the ability to play on both sides of the ice. On top of that, he's not your typical Russian, born and raised in Wisconsin and even opting to play for the US national team instead of Russia. In fact, he's so good that before his injury troubles, many considered him a possibility for the first overall pick that ended up going to his linemate.
Of course, what the Canadiens don't need is another injury prone player, especially one with knee issues. One severe knee injury doesn't exactly surmount to injury proneness, of course, but the Canadiens have had way too much experience with such injuries over he last few years. The struggles of Andrei Markov, Josh Jorges and others have been well-documented. That said, Galchenyuk may very well be worth the risk. You can't question the work of Trevor Timmins and his staff in this situation, unless they do something crazy with that third overall pick. There were rumors that Timmins was eyeing small Finnish forward Teuvo Teravainen (who ended up dropping all the way to 18th to the Chicago Blackhawks), and that obviously didn't happen. They went with the guy everyone said they should take, the player consistently ranked where he ended up being taken, and by all accounts, they went with the right choice.
Either way, we'll just have to wait and see. Galchenyuk looks like a surefire prospect, and might be the Canadiens' best based on his credentials alone, but anything can happen. Do the Canadiens run with him based on those credentials, and promote him to their full line-up quickly? Or do they let him get that year of Junior experience that he missed back? Odds are they'll go with the latter, especially with the possibility that the Canadiens might be entering a rebuild perioud, but it won't be too long before you see Alex Galchenyuk in a Habs jersey, and that's something to get excited for -- even if you should probably mitigate your expectations.
Elsewhere on draft weekend for the Habs...
If you listen to most people, the Canadiens were among the top winners at this weekend's draft. They got their man with the third overall pick, they didn't go off the board with any picks, and they weren't goaded into any deals that they could have lost. On top of that, they picked up a decent crop of prospects in the second day of drafting.
The list is heavy on forwards, all centers and left wings, except for one defenseman. While it will be a long time before we know whether any of these players will pan out, a lot of the names you'll see on the list below are pretty attractive, as are their credentials. You can see a lot of potential fits for the team heading toward the next few seasons, as well as a lot of skill.
Here's the breakdown:
2nd Round, 33rd Overall: Sebastian Collberg (C)
With their first second round selection, the Canadiens drafted Sebastian Collberg out of Frolunda in the Swedish Elite League. Collberg is a 5'11", 175 lbs center, and he was ranked 3rd among European skaters (although the pickings of players actually playing in Europe this year were slim). For all intents and purposes, the Habs essentially got another first rounder out of this one, but it might be a risk, and it's definitely a project. Collberg didn't register a point in 41 games with Frolunda last year and the experts say he needs a lot of work before he could play at the NHL level. If, however, Collberg pans out, he could be one of the steals of the draft.
2nd Round, 51st Overall (From Nashville): Dalton Thrower (D)
Mitigating the risk of going with Collberg earlier in the second round was Dalton Thrower, the Saskatoon Blades defenseman the Canadiens drafted with a pick acquired from Nashville in the Hal Gill trade, Dalton Thrower. The B.C. native is a rugged, two-way defensemen despite standing at just under 6 feet tall and 190lbs. He's right handed, which is rare and often sought out by teams. You won't see him in the league for at least a couple of years, but Thrower is the kind of player who just gives you the feeling that he'll be an NHL mainstay when he does make it. Thrower put up 54 points in 66 games with the Blades last year.
3rd Round, 64th Overall: Tim Bozon (LW)
The Canadiens added some much needed depth at the Left Wing position in round 3 with Tim Bozon, a big, 6'1", 185lbs forward who plays for the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL. Bozon might be even more international a player than Galchenyuk. He was born in St. Louis (where his father played two seasons and some change in the 90s). His hometown is listed as Lugano, Switzerland, and he's of French decent (where he plays his international hockey), not to mention the CHL experience. Bozon put up a point per game, including 36 goals, in 71 games last season.
4th Round, 94th Overall: Brady Vail (C)
The Florida born Brady Vail was actually ranked higher than Bozon prior to the draft. The 6 foot, 190lbs Vail plays for the Windsor Spitfire, where he amassed 52 points in 68 games last season. Another big center to add to the crop, even if he may be more of a project, will certainly sit well with most.
5th Round, 122nd Overall: Charles Hudon (LW)
If you're not going to count Bozon, Charles Hudon was the Habs' first and only French Canadian pick of the draft. Born in Alma, Quebec, Hudon plays for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, where he put up 66 points in 59 games last year, and 60 in 63 games in his rookie year. He's small, standing at 5'10" and 170lbs, but of course that never stopped anyone. (the Canadiens acquired the pick from the Blue Jackets after trading James Wisniewski's rights last summer. The Canadiens' own 5th rounder went to the Flames in the Mike Cammalleri deal).
6th Round, 154th Overall: Erik Nystrom (LW)
Not to be confused with Eric Nystrom of the Dallas Stars (also a left winger, coincidentally), Nystrom stands at 5'11" and 175lbs, and plays for Modo in the Swedish Elite League. Nystrom put up 28 points in 32 games with the junior Modo team last year, but only 2 in 19 games with plain, regular old Modo (we're sensing a trend here).
The Canadiens' 7th round pick went to the Phoenix Coyotes in the Petteri Nokelainen deal.
The Canadiens should be active heading into Free Agency in Sunday, so keep it locked on TCL for all the action.