Over the years, the Canadiens have had various stars come up through their system and become household names in the NHL including Patrick Roy, PK Subban, Ken Dryden, Guy Lafleur, Maurice Richard, Carey Price and Yvan Cournoyer.
The Canadiens have done an excellent job in stocking their farm system over the years and they have a great farm system yet again.
Let’s take a look at their top ten prospects.
2019-20 Top 10 Montreal Canadiens Prospects
1. Cole Caufield – Right Wing – University of Wisconsin (NCAA)
HT/WT: 5’7/163 lbs
Drafted: #15th overall in the 2019 draft by the Montréal Canadiens
There were many surprises at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. Moritz Seider going at sixth overall to the Detroit Red Wings was surprising. But, the biggest surprise for most prospect analysts was Cole Caufield going at 15th overall to the Canadiens. The USNTDP was stacked with top talent at the draft. Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte, Trevor Zegras, Matthew Boldy, Spencer Knight, Cam York and Caufield all were taken in the top 15. Caufield being the last to go was surprising. He was one of the most elusive wingers for the USNTDP. In fact, he tallied the most goals for the USNTDP last season. The issue is his size. Many general managers and scouts were skeptical of Caufield’s frame and whether or not he would be a successful hockey player in the NHL.
The Montréal Canadiens aren’t like most NHL clubs. Size doesn’t matter and Marc Bergevin knows that all too well. The Canadiens have nine NHL rostered players under 6’0 and several of their top prospects are under 6’0.
Size will not deter Caufield at the NHL level. He reminds me a lot of Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher. He has a filthy wrist shot, plays the half wall well on the power play, crashes the net and will utilize his backhand shot in scenarios where the goaltender believes that Caufield won’t be able to capitalize. In terms of his skating, Caufield is fast and deploys crisp edge work.
2. Nick Suzuki – Centre – Montréal Canadiens (NHL)
HT/WT: 5’11/183 lbs
Drafted: #13th overall in the 2017 draft by the Vegas Golden Knights
Last season, the London, Ontario native had a phenomenal season in the Ontario Hockey League with both, the Owen Sound Attack and the Guelph Storm. Suzuki had a combined 34 goals and 60 assists in 59 games played. At the trade deadline, the Storm acquired Suzuki along with Los Angeles Kings prospect Sean Durzi as they looked to bolster their roster for the playoffs. It’s safe to say that the trade with Owen Sound paid off. Suzuki was outstanding down the stretch and led the Storm in goals and assists in the 2019 OHL Playoffs. He also helped bring the Storm to the Memorial Cup in Halifax, but they had difficulty getting past the competition at the big stage.
This season, Suzuki is playing in the NHL with the Canadiens and has been productive so far. In 22 games played, Suzuki has tallied six goals and four assists. Currently, he is being featured on the second line with Maxi Domi and Artturi Lehkonen. He is playing left wing and while that is not Suzuki’s natural position, the Canadiens do not have an open centre spot at this time.
With Suzuki’s elite playmaking skills, he has the potential to be a top-six centreman. He’s got an incredible wrist shot, great speed, impressive stickhandling and is an excellent passer. When you watch Suzuki, he quickly reminds you of Mathew Barzal of the New York Islanders. They both have similar body types but have proven that just because you might be a tad under-sized doesn’t mean that you can’t have the skill-set of the top-six centre.
3. Cayden Primeau – Goalie – Laval Rocket (AHL)
HT/WT: 6’3/198 lbs
Drafted: #199th overall in the 2017 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
Primeau, the son of former NHLer, Keith Primeau has truly blossomed into an outstanding goaltender prospect. He’s been exceptional at both the collegiate level and at the international level.
Last season with the Northeastern Huskies, Primeau played in 36 games and posted a 2.09 GAA and a .933 SV%. His GAA slightly rose in comparison to the previous season, but the increase was a slight one. In addition, his play this past season helped Northeastern capture the Hockey East Tournament title and he was awarded the Mike Richter Award.
On the international stage, he played in net for the US World Junior team. He shared the net with Boston Bruins’ prospect Kyle Keyser, but he made it clear that he was better goaltender and played in 5 games for the Americans. In his World Juniors play, he dazzled fans across the globe. He registered a 1.61 GAA and a .936 SV%.
This season, Primeau has been a brick wall for the Laval Rocket. In ten appearances in net, he has recorded a 2.08 GAA and a .926 SV%.
He’ll need some time at the AHL level before making the jump to the NHL. Fans should be patient with Primeau. He’s a talented net-minder. Primeau is always composed. No matter how fierce the competition is, Primeau always looked poised in net.
4. Ryan Poehling – Centre – Laval Rocket (AHL)
HT/WT: 6’2/185 lbs
Drafted: #25th overall in the 2017 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
Ryan Poehling is the second-best centre prospect in the Canadiens organization and Habs fans got a chance to check out Poehling at the end of last season. He made his NHL debut and he made it a memorable one. He had an Auston Matthews-like debut and tallied three goals to give him his first NHL hat-trick.
Prior to making his NHL debut, he had finished his junior year at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Poehling had recorded 8 goals and 23 assists in 36 games played. Unfortunately, Poehling and his teammates failed to get too far into the NCAA Tournament as they lost to American International College in the Regional Semi-Finals.
Nonetheless, Poehling is a stud. He does most of his damage from in front of the net. He loves to go right to the opposing goaltender and look for a hole. In addition, he’s got an exceptional no-look pass that can and will fake out NHL defensemen. He’s also a workhorse on the power-play. He’ll often position himself to the left of the goaltender, but he isn’t someone to rely on in a snipping situation. He’s more of a quarterback and looking to set-up his teammates on the power-play. He’s also a solid penalty killer and has shown at the collegiate level that he’s capable of causing some impressive break-ups when his team is a down a man.
Given the depth that Montreal has at centre, there is not a spot for Poehling just yet. With that being the case, Poehling has spent the majority of the season in Laval. Poehling has recorded four goals and two assists so far.
There is no doubt that Poehling can and will be a stud in the NHL.
5. Josh Brook – Defense – Laval Rocket (AHL)
HT/WT: 6’1/192 lbs
Drafted: #56th overall in the 2017 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
Josh Brook is coming off an electrifying over-ager season with the Moose Jaw Warriors. Brook was an offensive powerhouse. In 59 games played, the native of Yorkton, Saskatchewan tallied 16 goals and 59 assists. Unfortunately, the Warriors didn’t have much success in the WHL playoffs, but Brook did manage to grab three assists in four playoff games. After the WHL playoffs, Brook joined the Laval Rocket. In 7 games played with Rocket, he had one assist and 10 PIM.
This season, he has been playing for the Laval Rocket full-time. In 20 games, he has tallied three goals for the Rocket. In addition, Brook is spending a lot of time alongside Karl Alzner, per Jared Book of Habs Eyes On The Prize. Alzner’s veteran experience and guidance has seemed to be a good thing for Brook and other young defenseman playing for Laval. Learning from a former NHLer who had many successful years with the Washington Capitals can’t hurt.
Brook has an outstanding spin move. He can fake out his opponent with his spin move and use it to create scoring chances in high traffic situations. He’s exceptional passing through traffic and he’s got a lovely wrist shot. Plus, he’s not timid about carrying the puck all the way to the net-minder to spark a scoring chance. Brook will also be effective at quarterbacking a power-play in the NHL. But, his only flaw is that he’s not a puck-carrier. He won’t go zone-to-zone with the puck on his stick. He’ll look to create zone exits by passing the puck. So, don’t expect him to skate with the puck across the blue-line very often.
6. Jordan Harris – Defense – Northeastern University (NCAA)
HT/WT: 5’11/179 lbs
Drafted: #71st overall in the 2018 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
Jordan Harris is in his sophomore season with Northeastern. This season, Harris has appeared in 13 games and has tallied 11 points (three goals and eight assists). Harris just needs three more points to surpass his point total from last season (13 points in 39 games).
Harris loves to pinch and get involved in the offensive zone cycle. The 19-year-old Haverhill, Massachusetts native has a great skating tool-kit. His lateral movements and edge work allow him to create plenty of open ice in the offensive zone. The Huskies left-handed defenseman makes crisp passes when he finds open lanes. Harris’ shot seems to be improving, but it is not his strong suit. On the other hand, his passing and skating is his true calling card.
7. Jesse Ylönen – Right Wing – Lahden Pelicans (Liiga)
HT/WT: 6’1/172 lbs
Drafted: #35th overall in the 2018 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
The Scottsdale, Arizona native looks like he could be the next Jere Lethinen. Ylönen’s father is former Arizona Coyotes, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Ottawa Senators centreman Juha Ylönen. Jesse Ylönen has shown throughout his time with the Lahden Pelicans that he’s an exceptional two-way forward. He’s got exceptional speed, a great shot and he is a magician when it comes to one-timers. In addition, he’s been a line-mate of Canadiens centreman Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the past. They played on the same line together at the 2017 IIHF U18 World Juniors and perhaps they might be paired yet again in the NHL.
Last season with the Pelicans, he proved to be one of the most efficient two-way forwards in Finland. In 53 games played, he tallied 13 goals and 14 assists.
This season, he has tallied five goals and seven assists in 22 games for the Pelicans. If he can continue to produce at this rate, he will have a shot of eclipsing last season’s point totals.
When he’s ready to come over to North America, Habs fans might see Ylönen spend some time in the AHL as he gets accustomed to the North American style of play. But, it shouldn’t be long after that when he makes the leap to the NHL.
8. Cole Fonstad – Centre/Left Wing – Everett Silvertips (WHL)
HT/WT: 5’10/170 lbs
Drafted: #128th overall in the 2018 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
The under-sized forward from Estevan, Saskatchewan has turned from being a bottom-six forward into one of the best forward prospects in the Montreal Canadiens’ organization. In his first full season in the WHL with the Prince Albert Raiders, he failed to crack the 30 point plateau. But, he’s managed to post back-to-back 73 point seasons since. Plus, last season, his shot improved significantly and he was able to post 29 goals in 67 games played.
While he was fairly impressive during the regular season, his performance in the playoffs was atrocious. In 21 games played, he tallied 2 goals and 4 assists. For a player who was a point per game player during the regular season, 6 points in 21 playoff games is a concern.
In October, the Prince Albert Raiders and the Everett Silvertips worked out a trade in which Cole Fonstad and Reece Vitelli swapped clubs. Fonstad was dealt after nine games and the change of scenery has not slowed him down. Since joining the Silvertips, he has mustered up one goal and 11 assists in eight games.
He’s got a great wrist shot and loves finishing one-timers. He’s has an electric backhand shot and he’s outstanding at creating break-ups in the offensive zone.
If he manages to play a tad more consistently, he could be a solid bottom-6/top9 forward in the NHL.
9. Allan McShane – Centre – Oshawa Generals (OHL)
HT/WT: 5’11/190 lbs
Drafted: #97th overall in the 2018 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
The Collingwood, Ontario native is a solid depth centreman prospect for the Canadiens. If his development continues to go well in the OHL and the AHL, he could be a solid top-nine centre. McShane has a great wrist, but when he’s not hammering home goals, he’s looking to create scoring chances left and right. He’ll often try to form a 2 on 1 in front of the net and pass across the ice to his open teammate.
In his last two seasons with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals, he’s managed to tally 65+ points. But, in 2018-19 season, his goal totals skyrocketed. In 62 games played, he managed to score 34 goals.
This season, McShane has not lost his touch. In 22 games for the Oshawa Generals, he has tallied eight goals and 15 assists. With the quality talent that the Generals including Tyler Tullio, Oliver Suni, Serron Noel, Nico Gross and Lleyton Moore have, McShane might have an opportunity to battle for the Memorial Cup this season. Habs fans, you should keep an eye on McShane once the OHL Playoffs kick-off.
10. Alexander Romanov – Defense – CSKA Moscow (KHL)
HT/WT: 5’11/183 lbs
Drafted: #38th overall in the 2018 draft by the Montreal Canadiens
In 2018-19, Alexander Romanov played in 43 games with CSKA Moscow. He tallied 1 goal, 3 assists and 12 PIM. While his numbers aren’t substantial, he’s not going to be an explosive offensive defenseman, but he can be effective in creating plays that lead to scoring chances. He proved that at the international stage for Russia when he played in seven games for Russia at the World Juniors in British Columbia.
This season, in 28 games with CSKA Moscow, he has tallied three assists. As I mentioned above, Romanov is not an offensively-gifted defenseman and given how different the style of play is in Russia, I am not concerned with his low point totals.
Romanov has been rather effective when he’s playing in North America, but when he’s back home in Russia, he’s not the same defenseman. After watching many of his shifts from this season with CSKA Moscow, I’ve noticed that he has a lot of trouble getting the puck out of his zone in high traffic situations. Also, Romanov needs to work on his stretch passing.