This has been one heck of a season for the Montreal Canadiens and their fans. Prior to the ‘’Pause’’ in Spring 2020, many Canadiens fans were gearing up for another long offseason without a Stanley Cup Playoff berth and a potential top-10 pick, but alas, destiny had other plans. The Canadiens were the 24th team of a 24-team Return to Play plan and ended up upsetting the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Qualification Round.
This win came was a double-edged sword for Canadiens fans. One one hand, the Habs had qualified for the Playoffs for the first time since the 2016-2017 season, however, they also went from a 12.5% chance of winning the 1st overall pick (or 87.5% of picking 9th overall) to landing the 16th overall pick. Many fans were even more irate when the Canadiens, led by their youngsters and cornerstone players, were eventually eliminated by the top seed in the East: The Philadelphia Flyers.
Granted, a 9th overall pick would certainly have been nice, but the Canadiens would have had to do a lot of hoping for one the top-8 prospects of this draft to drop to 9th overall. In my estimation, Lafrenière/Stützle/Byfield/Raymond/Sanderson/Rossi/Drysdale/Perfetti would be the uncontested top-8 of this draft, with many making valid cases for players like Lundell, Holtz, Jarvis, Quinn, Askarov or Amirov.
However, I have been adamant about the fact that this draft is very top-heavy from the very beginning, a quick look at my Top-62 Draft Rankings or even my Post-WJC Top-31 Mock Draft will show that the quality of players available between 10 and 20 are a very solid caliber, with many having legit top-6/top-4 potential. The famous question: Is the drop off considerable between 9 and 16? No, I don’t believe it’s as large as some make it out to be and the list of players below, who will likely be available around 16th overall when the Canadiens speak, will show why.
Seth Jarvis – RW
Seth Jarvis is a very quick and shifty RW that totally dominated the WHL in the 2nd half of the season. He plays a game predicated on speed and tenacity that would remind folks of Brayden Point. Similarly to Point in his draft year, Jarvis was the highest scoring draft-eligible player in the WHL and yet is still being criminally undervalued by scouting circles across the league (albeit not as bad as Point, who ended up being a 3rd round pick).
Jarvis’ offensive game is fueled by his exceptional skating. He uses great skating and edge work to cut along the boards and cross over into the slot, often catching defenders flat-footed. Another aspect of his game that is underrated are his board battles and 1 on 1 play. Being 5’10 and under 180 lbs, folks would expect Jarvis to be easy prey for the notoriously rugged WHL D-men, but Jarvis fought for every inch along the boards and has scored some spectacular goals due to his work ethic and never-say-die attitude.
Even though I had him going to the Habs in my recent Post-Lottery Mock Draft, I strongly believe that ranked between 8 and 15 will shock the hockey world by selecting Jarvis early on. However, if he is there at 16, he is a player that the Canadiens cannot pass on.
Jack Quinn – RW
Jack Quinn actually lives 5 minutes away from Canadiens Assistant General Manager Trevor Timmins and plays for his hometown Ottawa 67s (whom Timmins regularly goes to see). The connection between Quinn and the Habs has been a prevalent one all season, especially when the Canadiens were projected to be picking around 8 or 9. However, in this current situation, it would take some of that 2019 draft magic, which saw Cole Caufield fall to the Canadiens at 15th overall, to get a player like Quinn.
Quinn doesn’t have the long-term hype of other wingers in this draft like Alex Holtz or Lucas Raymond, mainly due to his meteoric rise up the rankings this year. This rise was due to an offensive explosion on behalf of Quinn, who put up 52 goals and 37 assists for 89 points in 62 games. Quinn led the entire CHL in 5 on 5 scoring, while playing on the 2nd line for the 67s (teammate Marco Rossi being on the 1st line) and was a key player on the power play and the penalty kill.
Quinn presents scouts with a conundrum, as he could very well become a power-forward scoring machine that could torment teams in all situations, but he could also turn into the next Jake Virtanen (sorry Canucks fans). Quinn, whom would have bee eligible for the 2019 Draft had he been born not 4 days earlier, is also one of the oldest players in this draft, which might leave scouts thinking that he’s just simply ahead of the curve in his progression and that he could not have as high a ceiling as others.
Regardless of the questions, even in comparison to 2019 1st round and 2nd round picks playing in the 3 CHL leagues (WHL, OHL, QMJHL) the only player to come close to Quinn’s goal-scoring at 5 on 5 was Toronto’s Nick Robertson. Ultimately, if he does end up falling to the Habs, he would be quite a selection indeed.