Not to mention that you could make a case for some players ranked in this post as top ten prospects for the bleu, blanc, rouge.
Alright enough explanations, here we go.
[age] - [height and weight] - [team next year] - [position]
[stats provided by eliteprospects.com]
#25 Gabriel Dumont:
21 years old - 5'9'' 172lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - RW/C
The native du bas du fleuve once was in my Top10, but that was after posting a career year of 51 goals paired with 42 assists for a total of 93 points in the 2009-2010 season, the season following his selection by the Habs, in the 5th round 139th overall at the 2009 draft. The same draft that saw the Tricolore pick Louis Leblanc #18 overall, in front of a rabid crowd at the Bell Centre. Some might have thought it was the fact that he had been drafted at home by his childhood team that made him nearly double his offensive output, but we later learned about the special player that was his centerman that year, Sean Couturier. But Sean, as good as he is, didn't score those 51 goals for Gabby. Gabriel is a fiesty player, that same year he had 127 penalty minutes.
The higher level the player plays in, the easier it is to get his true potential, and once Gabriel joined the Hamilton Bulldogs in the 2010 AHL playoffs after his junior Drummondville Voltigeurs team was eliminated, you saw that his offensive game wasn't why he was drafted. A thought that was confirmed the past two years he passed in the AHL. While he has yet to play a full healthy season in the professional ranks, Dumont's chances of becoming an offensive player at that level are slimmer than a Bretonne Crêpe. He still keeps on improving his production year in and year out, as he should shall I add. He impressed in his short stint with the habs last year. He displayed his assets, and I can tell you that every player on the teams he played against knew his name, or at least his number after the game.
Dumont brings a lot of energy on the ice, hits, and can even fight. He could be labeled as a pest, a smaller Maxim Lapierre if you wish. I could see him eventually become a 4th liner for the Habs, even though he doesn't have the usual frame you'd want for a guy in that role. He is more suited as a winger, given the type of game he plays, but he can play center too. He is an excellent penalty-killer and forechecker. He's a character kid. I remember Guy Boucher saying that during the playoffs and the 2009 Memorial Cup in Rimouski, Dumont played with cracked ribs and a broken hand. He was still the first to drop on the ice to block a shot or the F1 who distributed checks. Even with that broken hand, he jumped on the first player that dared to look the wrong way at Dimitry Kulikov, their best player. He's the kind of player that any coach love, a warrior. Those are the reasons that make me think he eventually could pierce in the NHL. Dumont has a precise shot and his hands are decent, but he won't blow you out with those. He's an excellent skater. Expect to see him as a callup if a 4th liner gets injured(perhaps Armstrong?), I'm sure Michel Therrien will love this little bugger.
#24 Josiah Didier:
19 years old - 6'2" 205 lbs - University of Denver Pioneers - RD
I'll be honest here, I only saw him play once in a real game, but I've read about him on several websites and from College Hockey fans though, so here's what I gathered from this huge bodied Defenceman.
Didier is made in the same mold of Greg Pateryn. He's a physical D that displays an impressive frame at the age of 19 only. Last year was his first in Denver U and the fact that he played 41 games is quite the feat. He played more than usual for a freshman, especially being a D. The injuries of teammates certainly weighted in but at the end of the year Didier was a starter for the Pioneers. While he's still very raw and could develop it later on, Josiah's offensive game is rather simplistic. Either he shoots or passes it to a teammate. He has a good first pass. His skating is fine, but could get improved if he wants to move onto the next level. He excels in defensive missions and on the PK.
He's a prospect that gets very little coverage here, due to his unspectacular playing style and the fact that he plays in the NCAA, but count on me to get to see him 5 times this year. With his frame, he's intriguing, but he should be staying another two or three years at the College level.
#23 Greg Pateryn
22 years old - 6'3'' 214 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - RD
Pateryn is the only asset remaining from one of the rare trades between the Habs and their ontarian rival the Leafs that sent Mikhail Grabovski in Toronto in return of Greg and a 2nd rounder that was later traded to the Hawks for Robert Lang. Today, we have to hand it to the Leafs' GM back then Cliff Fletcher, who won that trade. I have to say that Gainey didn't have many solutions with Grabovski who refused to play for the Habs and complained about his ice-time. As I see it, Grabovski will most likely have done more in TO than Pateryn for Montréal when all is said and done.
Pateryn is still a decent prospect, that is a physical specimen. He has a weird skating stride that will most likely be improved by the Habs' specialists, but he still has decent movement speed. At least enough for what he needs to do on the ice. Because Pateryn's game is quite simple, he shutdowns the enemy's top line, punishing them when they try to deke through him. He's a leader and was relied a lot on last year by his coach in Michigan U to eat up minutes and play on the first pairing with fellow Habs' property Mac Bennett. He also had time on the PP, but was mostly used on PK as far as special teams went.
After four successful years in Michigan, he's ready to move onto the next level in Hamilton. But unlike what Eric Engels thinks or heard from scouts in the show (http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=45395 and http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=45439), his chances of making the jump straight to the NHL are very slim considering the impressive defensive crop coming in Hamilton and the defensive reality of the Habs (they have 7 D's with NHL contracts, without counting Subban who has yet to sign a new contract as a RFA). He will more likely be on Hamilton's 3rd pairing, having PK time on the 2nd duo. It will be interesting to see how he'll respond to fight challenges, because they're sure to come with the gritty type of game he plays. Last time Habs had a Michigan U formed physical D in the pros, it was Mike Komisarek and that was one weakness that stopped him from becoming a #2 D as opposed to his 3rd pairing defensive D self right now. After losing quite miserably to Lucic in multiple bouts.
As far as Pateryn's potential go, I could see him as a 3rd pairing defensive D in the NHL eventually, but that will probably be on another team, as the Habs will likely have better options coming up.
#22 Brendon Nash
25 years old - 6'3'' 205 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - LD
Here's a familiar name to most Canadiens fans. Due to a shoulder surgery, he missed the entire 2011-2012 season. A sad thing, because he was looking promising. He could have probably challenged Rafael Diaz and Alexei Emelin for a roster spot, even though he's a step under these guys in several departments.
Brendon Nash is a jack-of-all-trades, he can play both defensively and offensively. He can man the point on the PP and distributes the puck well. Ideally, you don't match him against the top opponent's line though. I would like to see him use more his frame to crush the other team's forwards, as he has impressive physical attributes. In his short stint with the Habs he displayed a good vision, but looked weak physically and slow against the Oilers and the Canucks, two pretty fast teams. It'll be interesting to see how much he improved those areas with all the gym-time he had last year.
As an AHL rookie he had a pretty good first year, posting 30 points. This year will be his last to prove to the Habs brass that he deserves his spot. I fear that he won't be extended next summer as we could see Dietz, Thrower and Bennett make their way up in the Hammer. Unless he plays out of his mind, of course. He should form a veteran pairing with Frédéric St-Denis this year in Hamilton.
#21 Alexander Avtsin
21 years old - 6'3'' 198 lbs - Hamilton Bulldogs - RW/LW
Another former Top10 in my list. Avtsin is one the prospect I had the higher expectations for. His minor-league numbers in russia were similar to the ones of a certain Alexander Ovechkin at the same age. The fact that he played in the KHL at only 18 also hyped him up in my rankings. Russian scouts were comparing him to Ovechkin, and were saying the only reason why he fell so much in the draft, he was taken 109th overall in the 4th round of the 2009 draft hosted in Montréal, was because of the Russian factor, even he was clear that he wanted to play in the NHL.
Then Avtsin came in America and prospect nuts like me had more footage to evaluate him. He had a terrible first AHL year, having to play with a wrist injury for most of the year. He had trouble adjusting to the whole new culture, the NA rink size and the different type of game played here. Not to mention that he didn't speak a word of english when he took the plane from Moscow to Montréal. With hindsight, Avstin should probably have played a year in the 'Q, his rights being held by the then Montréal Juniors (now the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada). He would have made a great duo up front with fellow Habs prospect Louis Leblanc. But we don't know everything in that story. I'm not sure Avtsin would have came over right away, and leave plenty of money in the KHL, to play in an inferior league in Québec, where he would have probably earned one tenth of what he had with the Dynamo. One thing is sure though, it would have been ideal for him.
He had a slightly better year in 2011-2012 with the 'Dogs, obviously not in production, but his English got better and he had a better handle of what the coach wanted him to do. Again, he had trouble with injuries.
Avtsin, behind Galchenyuk, is probably the most talented prospect for the Habs. He has very good physical attributes that make him hard to push around. He's an excellent puck-protector as he has a very long reach at 6'3". His hands are off the charts and he has a hard shot he can place where he wants, with surgical precision. He is a fluent skater and has excellent foot speed. He's very good along the boards. He has one of the most complete toolbox of anyone on Habs' payroll, but he's missing maybe one of the most important thing for a professional hockey player, the desire. He has the same problem a certain Andrei Kostitsyn had, he seems most of the time careless and uninterested, which can become frustrating for his coaches. Once he'll know how to turn the switch ON, if that ever happens, watch out. He's as much a scorer as a playmaker, and can find teammates with brilliant passes.
I'm still prudent with him since he's still rather young and he haven't had the chance to play with talented players so far in Hamilton. On his first year he was used mainly on the 3rd/4th line, while last year Hamilton's team was depleted by the callups and the injuries. When he played with Leblanc, before Louis was called up in the NHL, Alexander showed what he could and went on a PPG pace. Which makes me give him another chance. To me, this next season is his last shot at proving he can amount to something, even though he still has two years remaining on his Entry-Level Contract, due to a slide. He's the perfect example of a boom or bust prospect. I've lost a lot of confidence in him in the past few years, but I would be happy to see him succeed, I'm not going to lose sleep over it though.
Okay I might.
I'll be back tomorrow with the 20 to 16 group.
You can follow me @Etienne_Pouliot on Twitter
Thank you for reading.
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