With the way the 2011 – 2012 season has went for the Bleu Blanc et Rouge, most fans are still weeping and wishing there team was playoff bound. Other fans however are celebrating the under par season, because with it came the 3rd overall draft pick in this years NHL Draft. The last highest pick Montreal had was in 2005 at 5th overall, where they took their current workhorse Carey Price. With many choices for Montreal to take 3rd overall, we will go over a few along with their risk and reward factors.
There is a consensus #1 in this draft, and his name is Nail Yakupov. Bob McKenzie has reported that many scouts have said, “It is Yakupov and the rest”. So there is no doubt Montreal would like the soon-to-be star forward, but problem is they do not have the pick to select him unless they trade up. Yakupov may scare some people away due to the Russian factor, being he could bolt to the KHL and never play an NHL game. However, he has shown commitment to North America by playing with The OHL’s Sarnia Sting for 2 seasons. He has a lot of weapons in his skill set, including a vicious shot and a gritty style to his game that allows him to shoot beautiful goals and greasy goals. Nail does not have a big frame at 5’11” 190lbs , but he does have a work ethic that seems to make people forget about his stature. Yakupov has been known to be a gym rat, and suffered a concussion in April.
A player that could be #2 in this draft had he not missed most of the season due to a knee injury, Alex Galchenyuk is a player that les Canadiens could pick at #3. He was Yakupov’s center for the 2010 – 2011 season, and also plays for the Sting. Some may say that Galchenyuk may be leeching off of Yakupov’s production, but even alone the young American has shown he has the skill and determination to be competitive. Galchenyuk has a quick and accurate shot with great puck control, which makes him a force offensively. He also has tremendous work ethic in his own zone, and is solid defensively. Former NHLer Igor Larionov compares Galchenyuk to Marian Hossa of the Chicago Blackhawks and believes that Galchenyuk has a bright future ahead of him.
Another strong candidate to be the Habs pick is the 17 year old Filip Forsberg, no relation to one Peter Forsberg. Filip has a strong skill set as well. He has a crisp shot and super slick hands to get around the opposing defense. His frame may not be the largest at 6’2” 180lbs, but he is very strong and protects the puck well. Another perk about Forsberg is he plays for Leksands in the Swedish Elite League, where he plays with players a lot older and more experienced then himself. This gives him a lot more mentoring time, and experience playing in the big leagues. Filip can be compared to Anaheim Ducks winger Corey Perry.
A controversial prospect that may fall to the Habs, Mikhail Grigorenko was once a number two pick on the CSB. Although having a large frame and posting 85 points in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, some scouts and fans are questioning his compete level. Of course being a Russian, it could be a stereotype that follows nearly all European players. The KHL factor could also repel teams from taking him top 5. Grigorenko possesses incredible playmaking ability, and an amazing vision on the ice that can flip a game’s momentum instantly, some would say he is dynamic. He is extremely patient with the puck, and has the ability to see opportunities and let them develop , a skill that doesn’t come easily. The Habs general manager situation could play a big role in this pick. If Patrick Roy becomes a member of the Habs front office, Grigorenko could be the Habs first round selection. Roy coaches Grigorenko on the Quebec Remparts, so there is a link between Roy and the young Russian center. He is being compared to Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin. Some say worst case scenario he is a Viktor Kozlov type of player. If Grigorenko proves fans and scouts wrong by showing determination along with his elite playmaking abilities, he could be the big #1 center the Bleu Blanc et Rouge have been needing since 93’.
Why do the Habs need to select a forward in a draft so deep with defense? Well, the Habs have quite a few good defense prospects coming up, such as Morgan Ellis, Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi and Darren Dietz. The Habs already have a logjam on defense in the NHL level, with Markov, Campoli, Weber, Gorges, Subban, Emelin , Kaberle, and Diaz all fighting to play in the top 6. There are plenty of great defense in the 2012 draft, including the hard hitting Mathew Dumba, the smooth skating Ryan Murray, and the offensive dynamo Morgan Reilly. The Habs have also used their last two 1st round selections on defensemen. It wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing to pick a d-man, but the Habs are plentiful in that area.
There are lots of good picks for the Habs, like the concensus #1 Nail Yakupov, who resembles an Alex Ovechkin lite, but is a bit unrealistic to drop to 3rd overall. The Habs may pick the all around center Alex Galchenyuk, who takes after Marian Hossa according to Igor Larionov. Filip Forsberg, a swedish Corey Perry with a lethal shot would also be a great pick.. Mikhail Grigorenko, who draws comparisons to the dynamic Evgeni Malkin, but is said to have a low compete level could also be a Habs pick. The Habs could also flip the script and do the unexpected, by taking a defenseman 3rd overall. All these great players make up a huge challenge for Habs Head Scout Trevor Timmins, as this could make or break the Habs next 10 years. The Habs have big decisions ahead.