Thursday, July 28, 2016

30 Teams in 30 Days - Montreal Canadiens

Ensuite, les Canadiens de Montreal.

1. Mikhail Sergachev - Windsor Spitfires
A great pick by the Canadiens this year, Sergachev (as I've been saying all year) has the most offensive potential of any defender in the draft. And while his defensive game does have some holes, he has the size, mobility, and demeanour to get better. The foundation to his game is his terrific skating ability, combined with his size. Once you give him a lane out of the defensive end, he's so tough to stop cutting through the neutral zone. Sergachev also does a great job quarterbacking the powerplay, utilizing a tremendous point shot and terrific vision and ability to walk the line. He was the Max Kaminsky winner this year (defender of the year), but I think sending him back to the OHL for another year would be the right decision. Windsor will host the Memorial Cup so Sergachev will not only get the opportunity to improve his defensive play, but he'll also get a chance to play for a Championship and be a leader. This past year he had 17 goals. I'm going to say that if he's back in the OHL, he scores over 20.

2. Will Bitten - Flint Firebirds
All things considered, Bitten had a pretty fantastic season in Flint. The issues with the team have been beaten to death, but Bitten persevered through it and was the team's most consistent point producer. He also had a very good Under 18's. As such, he was a steal to draft in the 3rd round IMO (yes, I used that word). Speed is the key to Bitten's game, as he's so dangerous in transition. But he's also good in traffic and will be even better along the wall and on the forecheck when he adds strength. A lot of offensive potential here. I really like what Flint has done this offseason, bringing professionalism back to the organization (and also some talented hockey players). They should be an improved team and Bitten will be one of the key cogs (if he rescinds his trade request, and if not he'll be a key cog for another OHL team). I think he's over the 80 point mark next year.

3. Michael McNiven - Owen Sound Attack
One of the more underrated goaltending prospects around IMO, due to the fact that he was signed by Montreal as an undrafted FA (he should have been drafted in the first place). His stats don't jump out at you (save percentage barely above .900, GAA barely below 3), but he was much better than they indicate. He faced among the most rubber of any goaltender in the league and consistently kept the Attack in games, making key saves when they were needed. He's a big guy, but he manages to cover post to post quite well and he's really worked on his rebound control to go with his fantastic glove hand. The only negative was that he faded a bit down the stretch and struggled in the last month (including the playoffs). But it was his first season as a starter and he was relied on pretty heavily. I have high expectations for the Attack next year and I think McNiven is a real dark horse candidate to be OHL goaltender of the Year.

4. Victor Mete - London Knights
Pretty terrific season for Mete, winning an OHL Championship and Memorial Cup. I felt like he was fantastic in the OHL playoffs and in the Mem Cup, and really elevated his game when it mattered most. His draft position is more a reflection of his lack of size and not his talent level. He's an absolutely fantastic skater whose stride is effortless and powerful. He excels as a puck rusher and has really improved his decision making over the course of his two year OHL career. He's also greatly improved his dedication to playing in his own end and showcases a really strong mind for the game. Obviously the key to his development moving forward is the continued improvement of his defensive game, proving that he has the ability to play bigger than his size and defend some of the league's bigger forwards in front of the net. He'll return to London next year where the Knights will have a strong team yet again. IMO, Mete is a very good bet to crack the 50 point mark next year, especially if Olli Juolevi ends up making the Vancouver Canucks.

5. Jeremiah Addison - Ottawa 67's
Addison had a pretty decent season and was a consistent contributor for the 67's (forming pretty good chemistry with Dante Salituro and Russian Artur Tyanulin at times). His physical play and ability to operate in traffic really took a step forward this year. He's certainly not huge (6'0), but he plays much bigger than that. He's most definitely a power forward. His skating also looked better this year and allowed him to be quicker to loose pucks, more effective on the forecheck, and more dangerous off the rush. At this point, I think the thing holding him back is his ability to handle the puck. He can clean up the garbage and his shot has improved, but when asked to make quick decisions and make skilled moves at a high speed, he often is not able to. Without an NHL contract at this point (Montreal has until next June to sign him), it seems Addison is destined to return to Ottawa for his overage season (he has a late birth date). Of course, they may give him a shot to earn an AHL roster spot, but at this point I'd like to see him back in the OHL. He can continue to improve his offensive skills and continue to gain confidence as a budding power forward. In Ottawa, I would expect that he could get close to the point per game mark and should be a great bet for the 30 goal mark.

6. Michael Pezzetta - Sudbury Wolves
Pezzetta is a player well worth the late round gamble that Montreal took on him. Many had high expectations for his play going into the season. He's that prototypical power center that NHL teams covet for today's NHL. Yet, he struggled, along with the rest of his Sudbury team this past year. He showed flashes of being a very effective player but just couldn't put everything together on a week to week basis. As mentioned, he has everything you look for. Size. Physicality. Skating. The question is, just how much individual skill is there? Next year Sudbury will hope to be better and they're going to need a guy like Pezzetta to really step up his game in order to do that. He needs to take over the team's first or 2nd line center role (along with David Levin) and be a 25/25 player who can be dangerous game to game, not week to week.

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