Potential Draft Day Targets for the Montreal Canadiens

With four Canadian teams in the top-5 in this year’s draft, the Canadiens selecting at ninth overall has become a little overlooked. This year’s draft is unique since it is so wide open from the fourth pick onwards – after Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrick Laine, anything can happen.

The Canadiens will have a hard time prepping for their 9th pick as the draft has the potential to get a little crazy leading up to their selection. Due to the parity at the top end of this year’s draft, it’s hard to pin down who will be selected leading up to number nine. The draft order from team to team could be drastically different resulting in a player being available to the Canadiens that many didn’t expect to still be around – as we saw in our Bloggers’ Mock Draft.

That said, here are the players I think could be selected by Marc Bergevin and the Habs with each of their picks this weekend.

9. Clayton Keller – C – USNDT

Probably the second best center in the draft, Keller is a prospect that has the potential to be an elite offensive player in the NHL. A lot like Mitch Marner, Keller has a blend of elusive skating and elite hands that make him incredibly dangerous with the puck on his stick. He can work magic on offense when he’s given time and space.

He’s a solid back-checker and has the hockey IQ that allows him to play a solid two-way game. He’s small in terms of physical maturity and will need a couple years to put on the muscle necessary to remain at center in the NHL. He has the potential to be one of the top offensive players in the NCAA next season as he begins his career at Boston University.

39. Nathan Bastian – RW – Mississauga, OHL

Bastian is a big winger that knows his limitations and plays a game that maximizes his talents. He uses his long reach to his advantage both with ant without the puck. Bastian is the kind of player that can park himself in front of the net and often seems to find the puck in goal mouth scrambles.

HIs offensive upside is something that concerns scouts but he is a player that doesn’t need to produce huge numbers to be successful in the NHL.

He is a smart, and humble kid that has the attitude that pushes him to improve his game. He showed this season in Mississauga that he’s the perfect compliment for elite linemates.

45. Markus Niemelainen – D – Saginaw, OHL

Niemelainen is a guy who came over in the CHL Import draft with high hopes. For a large part of the season, he wasn’t utilized properly but once he started getting more minutes he thrived. Being moved to the top pairing in Saginaw late in the season, Niemelainen was used in all situations and showed the potential many knew he had.

He moves well for his size, but he still needs to improve his footwork. He is capable of leading the rush down the ice and is a very good facilitator on the powerplay.

Niemelainen has the potential to grow into a steady all-around defender that would look good on a second pairing in the NHL.

70. Luke Green – D – Saint John, QMJHL

Green is an offensive defender that often gets type-cast but is very capable in his own end as well. He is one of the best skating defenders in the draft and a great puck carrier, skills that allow him to lead the breakout for his team. He’s most valuable starting the rush for his team and working the transition from offense to defense.

Green needs to improve his decision-making skills and simplify his game some. That said, he’s the kind of defender that often gets overlooked on draft day but then goes on to succeed in the NHL.

100. Aapeli Rasanen – C – Tappara U20

Rasanen is a player that hasn’t dominated his regular season play, but when he gets on the international stage he becomes a star. The two-way center was great for Finland this past spring at the U18 tournament.

Rasanen has a great shot and is dangerous when he has scoring chances in the offensive zone. He’s not a burner but he’s a decent enough skater. He won’t make the highlight real with his puck skills but he is smart and has the vision to find open teammates. He’s likely to move to the US next season to play with Sioux City of the USHL with an eye towards the NCAA a year later.

This would be a bit of a lower risk lower reward pick as Rasanen doesn’t have the top-end potential of many around him but plays a game that is suitable to be a depth pro player.

124. Brett Murray – LW – Carleton Place, CCHL

Murray is a big question mark. He is very young and raw but already built like an NHLer – 6’5, 215lbs.

He’s a good skater with a well above average shot from the wing. He’s got offensive potential that is well worth the risk later in the draft. Next year at Penn State will be huge in determining whether he is a legitimate NHL prospect as he gets his first taste of higher competition.

160. Ty Ronning – RW – Vancouver, WHL

Ronning is a boom or bust pick late in the draft. The undersized speedster had a great performance at the Top Prospects game this past winter. Ronning can score in junior – he’s proven that – but he will have to show he’s capable of playing a style that is more conducive to pro hockey.

He has a long way to go in his development physically. He’ll need to get stronger to avoid being muscled off the puck by bigger opposition. His game without the puck has to improve a lot as well but Ronning is the type of risk that could pay huge dividends down the road for a team that takes a chance on him.

Check out our comprehensive Consolidated Draft List here for more information on the top prospects in this year’s draft.

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