Monday, August 6, 2012

My Habs' prospect rankings (20-16) and a few updates

First off let's start with a few updates.

1) Brandon Shea has officially been traded to the Remparts for a 3rd round pick in 2015.

2) Looks like the Habs have invited Charles Sarault to the rookie camp.

Ryan Spooner@RSpooner2376
Congrats to my boy @sarault12 for his invite to montreal camp! Kids worked hard. #greatflow
I don't know much about him. His offensive game apparently evolved a lot last year. He did play with Yakupov on most nights but you can't attribute a jump from 38 pts to 87 just to Nail. He has been described to me as a hardworker. He's not the fastest out there but still has decent footspeed. He'll most likely play as an overager in Sarnia, probably on a line with Galchenyuk. He's not the biggest at 5'11 though.

3) According to Sean Lafortune, our 'Q players are doing a fine job at the U-18 selection camp in Toronto for the Ivan-Hlinka tournament.

Sean Lafortune@SeanLafortune
At this point I'm fairly confident that Fucale will start. Comrie and Martin is a toss up for the backup behind him
Sean Lafortune@SeanLafortune
Guys like Baptiste, Grégoire, Harper, Horvat and Petan are also really pushing for spots among the forward groups.
Sean Lafortune@SeanLafortune
Dickinson, Domi, Drouin, Duclair, Horvat, Kujawinski, MacKinnon, Reinhart and Ritchie probably have forward spots lined up at this point.
The roster will be announced today, after the last scrimmage.

In the previous blog of the rankings I gave my take on the guys ranked 25th to 21st on my list that went like this.

25) Gabriel Dumont
24) Josiah Didier
23) Greg Pateryn
22) Brendon Nash
21) Alexander Avtsin

Now let's move to the 2nd group of my Top25 Habs prospects.


[ranking] [name]

[age] - [height and weight] -  [team next year] - [position]

[stats provided by]

[my take]

#20 Joonas Nättinen

21 years old - 6'2'' 170 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - C/RW/LW

 Considering who Joonas played with on most nights last year, I can say he had a good first season in NA. At first he was barely used, playing on the 3rd/4th line but as the season went on Clément Jodoin gave him more and more ice-time.

The big Finn is a right-handed Center that is very good in the faceoff circle. He's a two-way player that can play any forward position if need be. I'd like him to get faster on skates but it's far from a weakness in his game. He has a good shot and a decent vision. He won't blow you out with his hands like an Avtsin will but he can still pull out a  move every now and then. Where he really excels though is in shutting down the opposing team. He plays a more aggressive game than Andreas Engqvist, but I'd like him to be more physical, especially with the frame he has. It will be interesting to see how his 2nd year in the Hammer will go, as his offensive contribution could grow, especially if he plays with more talented players.

Nättinen needs to get stronger both in the upper and the lower body, which should give him an edge in physical battles. He's still a couple of years away from the NHL, and he most likely won't be the first callup to the show, as Bournival, Gallagher, Holland and Palushaj are ahead of him.

#19 Daniel Pribyl

19 years old - 6'3'' 190 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs / Spraha Sparta - C

Daniel is another big bodied right-handed center. As an 18 year old last year, he played 17 games in the highest level in Czech-Republic, which is pretty impressive. He looks huge on skates. He's a very average skater, and will need to work on that in the next few years. He has tremendous hands with which he fools defenders a handful of times per game. His reach makes him a superior puck-protector. He's not scared to use his huge frame, which is something you always like to see with big guys like him. A point to note is that he's very good on the point on PP, and moves the puck well. He can play it both on his good and off side.

Pribyl could be labeled as a project as he has to improve his defensive coverage, his face-off abilities and his foot-speed to eventually make it in the NHL. But Habs fans are in the right to dream to see one day Pribyl play as Top6 forward for the most successful franchise in hockey. I couldn't see him make it in any other role, unless he significantly improves defensively, or somehow develops pugilistic skills.

I hope to see Pribyl cross the Atlantic Ocean and come in North America to play for the Hamilton Bulldogs as the Czech development system is one of the worst in the hockey world. They teach them how to stick-handle before they learn how to skate, they're doing it backwards. Ideally Pribyl would be playing in the CHL, but no team drafted his rights in the import draft, which is sincerely a shame. Rarely are the guys picked in the 2nd round in the import draft reporting, not only that, but most of the time teams pass on their 2nd euro pick. Mind blowing, I know. I'm sure a 'Q team could have used a flyer on Pribyl, who would be one of the best offensive player in the league if he reported. Anyways,  the chances of the big Czech coming over in the Hammer  are pretty good. While the Czech hasn't signed yet with the team, Clément Jodoin in a post-season interview said that the Bulldogs should be a pretty good team with the arrival of Bournival, Gallagher, Holland and, surprisingly for me of Pribyl.

Pribyl will need at least two years of AHL before playing in the NHL or becoming a call-up, but expect to hear about him at the rookie camp this year, as he plays a spectacular talent-based brand of hockey.

#18 Aaron Palushaj

22 years old - 6'0'' - 185 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs/ Montréal Canadiens - RW

 Here's a common name for Habs fans. Palushaj is at the crossroads right now. After three professional years, he now has to establish himself as an NHLer or else he'll be traded. While he has been a productive player in the AHL being at a point-per-game or PPG last year, so far, in his 43 NHL games, he has yet to prove he could do it in the best league in the world. He didn't get to play with talented players yet though, being on most occasions a filler on the 4th line. When he did play with gifted players, in the 2010 preseason with Cammalleri and Plekanec, he showcased his excellent foot-speed and his great acceleration. He did lack a bit of finish, but it looked promising.

My ranking of him might seem low to some of you, but his play at the NHL level far from impressed me. I don't think his offensive game will eventually translate to the higher level, as he tends to play on the perimeter. With the defensive systems applied to the letter nowadays, you need to go through traffic to be successful and get opportunities, and I can't foresee Palushaj playing that kind of game,  as it's not his. But hey, he's still pretty young at 22.

Palushaj is a play-maker, he likes to go wide and distribute the puck from there by flipping it over the D. While he's a fast skater, he has one of the weirdest skating technique I've ever witnessed. His strides are very large and you would think he loses explosion by doing, but it doesn't seem to slow him down much. He can pick his spots with his shot, but he will need to get stronger to get more velocity with it. It could be labeled as a weak shot. Palushaj is not a physical player, even though he's not scared of battling for the puck in the corners.

He's also decent in defensive coverage, even though I wouldn't use him on PK. He should be fighting for the 3rd line RW spot with Leblanc, but to me it's Louis' to lose. Aaron should be one of the first call-ups from Hamilton, whether it is as a checker or a 3rd liner as he's mature physically and newcomers like Bournival, Gallagher and Holland will need the minutes in Hamilton, way before playing on a 4th line, unlike Palushaj who won't be wasting his time.

#17 Brady Vail

18 years old - 6'0'' 196 lbs - Windsor Spitfires -  C

The first, and far from the last, on my list from the spectacular 2012 draft from Timmins and his staff, Brady Vail is an intriguing player. After an average rookie season in the CHL, he exploded offensively with a 52 pts season. That sudden offensive burst even made some scouts rank him in the 1st round in several mock drafts. (link's in french, sorry for our anglophone fellows)

 Because not only could he now contribute offensively, but he could still shut down the opposing team's best at the same time. It will be interesting to see if his offensive games stays put or keeps on improving.

Vail is a two-way center that is a fluent skater and excels defensively. He's a jack-of-all-trade. He can do it all. He's a hard-working guy that is already mature physically, a trait that certainly impressed Timmins. His description right now reminds me a lot of Tomas Plekanec when he was younger. We knew he would eventually make it to the NHL, but we didn't know exactly in which role. The most probable would be as a shutdown center, but if he keeps on improving his offensive game, we could be in for a surprise. Scouts seem to believe he will top out offensively, because his vision is not spectacular. Personally, I haven't seen enough of him yet to judge it.

Vail is the kind of player you send at the end of the game to protect a lead. He battles hard for the puck and is very good on the forecheck.

He's a guy I will follow closely this year. Depending on how his first half of the year goes, he might be given an invite to Team USA's U-20 Winter camp, getting ignored for the one taking place in Lake Placid this weekend.

#16 Charles Hudon

18 years old - 5'10'' 170 lbs - Chicoutimi Saguenéens - LW/C

Only the 2nd 'Q player on my list, Charles Hudon really turned heads after his impressive rookie season in Saguenay in which he nearly had a PPG. He also garnered attention at the U-17 where he had 11pts in 6 games, which bought him a ticket for the U-18 team with Canada. He was a guy I was really excited to follow previous to the 2011-2012 'Q season, being slated in the 1st round in some mocks early on. But his good play from his rookie season didn't carry onto his second year, and his stock fell, a lot. He plateau'd offensively and was struggling by sequences. Couple that with his small frame and his average skating and you better understand why he was still available at rank #122 for the Habs.

I must say I still expected him to go out earlier than that, around the 3rd round to be more precise. At that rank, I wanted the Habs to get him. But then Timmins selected another favourite of mine in Timothé Bozon, argh alrighty then. Somehow, he was still available in the 4th round when the Habs decided to go with Vail, who was also a very good pick at that stage. Coming at our 5th selection, I couldn't believe that Charles was still there, and much to my pleasure, he was selected by my beloved hockey team. I did scream in joy, but it wasn't the first time during the draft. Anyways...

When I see Hudon play, I see a lot of Mike Cammalleri. Both have a small frame, both are average skaters and pure snipers. The two can also be pretty good play-makers. Charles has a terrific vision and is always thinking offense. His creativity is off the charts, and he can separate himself from the defensive coverage with ease thanks to his smarts. He has a deadly shot, that is more precise than powerful, while not weak. He loves using his slapper off the rush. Hudon is also a hard-working player that isn't scared to go in dirty areas, coming out most of the times with the puck. He is decent in his own zone and rarely loses his coverage.

To make it to the next level, Charles will have to improve his skating, something that is far from impossible, if you look at how much a guy like Brendan Gallagher improved in that area in two years. He will also have to be more consistent in his effort, like any other player of his age. Hockey Canada seems to like his brand of hockey as he's going to play for Canada in the Canada-Russia challenge, a 6 games contest (3 in Russia and 3 in Canada) that will replace the Subway Superseries.
It should be broadcasted on both RDS and TSN for those interested. This invite certainly helps Hudon's case for Team Canada U-20 at the WJC. He will need to prove though that last year was just a fluke, that he's back in form.

Something interesting to note is that Charles, since he's a 94', will be eligible for the 2014 WJC too. So logically he will spend the next two years in junior, before moving to the AHL. Hudon should have at least an 80 pts season, but if everything falls in place, he could produce up to 100.

Thank you for reading, I'll be back later today with the next group of 5

You can follow me @Etienne_Pouliot on Twitter

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