Canadiens 1st Round Target NHL Draft 2019

2019 NHL Draft: Canadiens targets in 1st round

With such an important draft coming up, the Canadiens are looking to solidify this new reset by adding a quality player in the top-half of the first round. The 15th overall pick this year looks to be an excellent spot to pick a high-value player, similarly to the last few drafts. With the possibility of drafting potential top-4 defenseman or top-6 forward, the Canadiens are in a really good place to acquire a very solid piece moving forward.  To get familiar with who the Canadiens could pick, we took a few players we ranked around 15th overall to get Habs fans up to speed on their team’s available options:

C/LW – Alex Newhook 5’11/ 195 lbs

Alex Newhook went a little under the radar this season, but he is now considered a darkhorse top-10 pick by virtually everyone in the scouting world.  He played for the BCHL’S Victoria Grizzlies, where he put up a staggering 102 points in 53 games; which is slightly less productive than past alumnus like Tyson Jost or Kyle Turris. Newhook really established himself as a top draft pick during the World U-18 Championships this April for Canada, putting up 10 points in 7 games and even leading the team in scoring. His speed, skill and determination were key in helping him drive the offense for Team Canada, while also being tasked with key defensive situations as well!

Newhook’s greatest asset is his speed of execution. He is able to do pretty much anything at top speed, whether it’s shooting, passing, checking, stickhandling or deking. He is also extremely fast and can beat defenders one on one with his sharp edge work and great acceleration. He possesses a great shot, which can get high in little time at all. He projects as a top-6 C, but can also effectively play the right wing.

Player Comparable: Kyle Turris

LD – Cam York 5’11/ 175 lbs

Many believed that Cam York was a product of his very productive USNDPT team, but this past April during the World U18s, Cam York silenced those people, or at least made them think twice. York’s game is based on speed and agility up the ice and uses his vision to create offensive chances for his teammates. York was also very effective at stopping the oppositions offensive flow, as he often used his great positional awareness and hockey-IQ to limit zone entries and odd-man rushes.

York uses his speed and his vision to make solid plays in the offensive zone, such as a cross-ice powerplay passes or a one-touch one-timer set-up plays from the slot.

He can unload a very hard and precise one-timer which is very often place in the top corner, where mama hides the cookies!

York’s attention to detail and his strong defensive awareness make him a realistic top-4 D prospect and have many comparing him to a young Cam Fowler. Many doubt York’s ability to play as an eventual top-pair D and see him more as a safe bet to be a top-4 D instead. Some scouts see him as a possible #4 down the road with a flair for the powerplay and a general on the blue line.

Player Comparable: Cam Fowler

LD – Thomas Harley 6’3/188 lbs

Thomas Harley is one the youngest players in the draft (born in August 2001) and has arguably the most amount of untapped potential out of anyone on this list. He has realistic top-pairing upside, but his defensive lapses and decision making have many scouts question whether he can ever achieve his potential. It is worth noting that, although he is not prone to making careless mistakes often, it’s more the fact that they happen at the worst possible moment and thus stay in the back of many scouts’ minds when making a list

His offensive potential is obvious, as he has strong vision and a good overall hockey IQ. Netting 11 goals and 47 assists assist for 58 points in 68 games, Harley proved he was able to make plays and distribute many pucks, especially on the powerplay. He is, by far, the best defenseman available out of the CHL after Bowen Byram and his offensive game, especially his vision, is quite near elite, especially when he has the puck.

Standing at 6’3 and weighing close to 185 lbs, Harley has the build that every scout wants. He possesses good speed and a very good acceleration. He is effective in the defensive zone at limiting shots against and separating the opposition from the puck with his size and long reach. He needs to work on getting stronger and using his shot more often if he wishes to be effective at the next level.

Player Comparable: Thomas Chabot

With such a high ceiling, he has the potential to develop into #3 D man, capable of quarterbacking a power play and playing big minutes for his team (should he reach his potential). While he is not a sure thing, he would be one of the most high-reward picks the Canadiens could select in this draft.

LD – Ville Heinola 5’11/ 176 lbs

Ville Heinola had one helluva season in the Finnish Liiga this year for the Lukko Rauma, putting up 2 goals and 14 assists for 14 points in 34 games. Standing at 5’111 and 176 lbs, Heinola is not the strongest or the biggest of the bunch, but he is certainly one of the smartest. He often uses his positioning to get himself open for a scoring chance or a zone exit and can be categorised at being in the right place at the right time on a consistent basis, due to his anticipation and high hockey IQ.

Heinola was easily the best defenseman for Finland at the U-18 World Championships this April. He controlled the play from the back-end, made great outlet passes, tape to tape, while his teammates were at full speed. His vision is excellent and he was often found to be making the right play at the right time when he had the puck.

He was however made to look rather silly when put in pressure situations. He needs to shore up his defensive gap control and pass-lane cutting if he wishes to excel at the next level. Nonetheless, Heinola possesses a quality wrist shot, great vision and a passing game that is reminiscent of Andrei Markov. A true PP QB in the making, Heinola plays a very similar game to Henri Jokiharju of the Chicago Blackhawks and would be a solid bet to become a possible top-4 D down the line. Montreal would also be adding to the already insane amount of Finnish players on their roster, which is nice, I guess.

Player Comparable: Andrei Markov

C/RW – Philip Tomasino 6’/179 lbs

Tomasino has to be one of the most hidden gems in all of amateur hockey. Playing behind a stacked team for the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs, Tomasino was still able to put up 34 goals and 38 assists for 72 points in 67 games. That’s over a Point Per Game playing mostly third line minutes! The last player to do so was picked 5th overall in last year’s draft by the Arizona Coyotes ( Barret Hayton). He projects as a top-6 C, but could easily slot into the right wing should the team need to distribute the talent evenly in the lineup.

Tomasino has great speed and is able to use it to drive the puck into the opposing zone and gain entry with ease. He then uses his elite vision to find a open player in the slot who is coming in as a rover, or he can tap into his relentless drive for the net to take the puck to the danger area to create a scoring chance. He plays a very tenacious game and is often seen mixing it up and driving to the net. His offense looks like it could translate very well in the NHL by the effort and skill he uses.

With Tomasino, the real argument is whether her made his team better or if his team made him look better. After multiple viewings this year in the season and playoffs, it became evident that Tomasino was a big part of Niagara’s season and playoff push and he will have a central role in their success next season. Should he continue to improve as drastically as he has, there’s a good chance the Canadiens picking him at 15 could be a very valuable pick.

Player Comparable: Max Domi/ Claude Giroux

LD – Philip Broberg 6’3/193 lbs

Probably the most polarizing prospect in this draft, Philip Broberg is a scout’s wet dream. Standing at 6’ 3 and 193 lbs, Broberg has the size that every scout covets for a young blueliner. His greatest strength is his mobility, as he can often be found cruising from end to end with ease, blowing by the opposition and creating zone entries rather easily. His speed and size often takes the opposition off guard and allows him to enter the zone and make a pass to a teammate.  

Broberg has a rather solid, albeit not spectacular, wrist shot and an accurate slapshot, which he likes to us on the powerplay. Although he was not an offensive force for Sweden’s Division II Allsvenskan this season, Broberg was far more noticeable at both the U-18 Ivan Hlinka tournament in August, the U-20 World Junior Championships and the most recent U-18 World Championships in April.  While playing against his own age group, Broberg was able to stretch his offensive instincts by easily gliding along the blue line and creating space for his teammates, something NHL teams love to see in a young defenseman’s game.

Broberg’s defensive decision making has been called out at times, but he has greatly improved in this field. He now uses his reach and size far more to try and separate the opposition from the puck. He still over-commits at times, as he is trying to force a turnover and rapid counter-attack, but this can be rectified with good coaching.

All in all, Broberg would be a solid gamble to take at this point in the draft, as he has top-4 D man potential and maybe even more, should he unlock all the tools in his rather full toolbox. As far as looking at the Canadiens’ needs on the left side of their defensive corps, Broberg checks off almost every single box, but does he have the growth potential to truly take his game to the next level, or his he just another big player that peaked at junior and will never improve? The vast majority believe that the answer falls somewhere in the middle, but there can certainly be a team, picking between 10 and 20, that believes he has a much higher potential.

Player Comparable: Mattias Ekholm

C/RW – Raphaël Lavoie 6’4/196 lbs

Now, I know, the majority of Habs fans are going to absolutely freak over this pick, but that’s on the politics surrounding such a player, and not the player himself. Raphael Lavoie is a big winger from just outside Montreal who is known for putting pucks in the net, a direct need of the Montreal Canadiens. Lavoie established himself as a first round pick last year this time when he put up 30 goals and 63 points in 68 games. He followed up that incredible performance with a good, albeit underwhelming progression in output, potting of 32 goals and 73 points in 62 games this season.

Once projected as a surefire top-10 pick, Lavoie has seen his stock fall due to concerns that the oldest player in the draft, having missed the cutoff for the 2018 NHL Draft by just 2 weeks, had possibly begun to slow down in his progression curve. This is not uncommon for big men in junior, as we have seen this happen in the past with guys like Julien Gauthier of the Carolina Hurricanes (who out produced Lavoie at the same age).

However, Lavoie then exploded during this year’s QMJHL playoffs and finished 2nd in playoff scoring with a staggering 20 goals and 32 points in 23 games. Nobody can say that Lavoie doesn’t have an elite shot capable of scoring from just about everywhere, as he can be one of the most dangerous forwards in the draft. He is also deceptively fast for his size, being able to hit his top speed in just two or three powerful strides. This allows coaches to trust him with defensive missions and key penalty killing assignments. Lavoie has used his size and speed to separate opposition players from the puck and then turn on the jets for a breakaway on more than one occasion.

On the flipside, Lavoie’s compete level and willingness to get physical, or lack thereof, make him a serious question mark for scouts. Is he another Anthony Mantha type player or will be he a Julien Gauthier style flop? Many scouts believe he is closer to Mantha and will thus look at him as a very valuable prospect moving forward. Despite some question marks, he is most certainly a player the Canadiens must study long and hard before making a choice in June.

Player Comparable: Anthony Mantha

Who to draft?

Needless to say, this 2019 NHL Draft is full of very good players, especially in the top-20 or so. The Canadiens have a real opportunity to pick a player that could realistically play a big role for the franchise going forward, as the Canadiens have returned to their mantra of building through the draft. The Canadiens are obviously in need of a top-4 left-handed defenseman now, but this is not a current hole that any of these players can fix, and thus the Canadiens should be picking the best player available here.

Based on our own Post-U-18 Mock Draft, we believe that Alex Newhook will be taken far earlier than he is currently ranked ( likely goes top-10). Assuming Newhook is picked before the Canadiens pick at 15th, our personal pick would likely be a tie between Philip Tomasino and Thomas Harley, but we shall wait and see how the draft board develops and which players fall before making an absolute choice. Such is the beauty of the NHL Draft!