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The 2012 NHL Entry Draft is fast-approaching, and between the news of all the Habs’ new hires, who fits where into the mix, the opening of the year’s first development camp, and the future of the actual edition of the Montreal Canadiens’ roster heading into 2012-13, it’s hardly a dull off-season. To shed some extra light on the names that will be featured front-and-center in only a week’s time, Mark Edwards of Hockey Prospect was generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions for All Habs readers.
All Habs: The obvious focus surrounding this year’s NHL Entry Draft is who Montreal should pick at #3. What are some of the less-than-obvious names, maybe some of the ones we haven’t heard as much about, that the Habs should be taking an extra look at?
Mark Edwards: I’ll just mention one player because I think they will go the forward route and it’s a top 10 packed with D-men. Obviously plenty has been said about players like Yakupov, Murray and even Filip Forsberg. A little late on the scene was Teuvo Teravainen, a slippery skilled forward from Finland. Teuvo has elite vision and is very slick spinning out of checks at lightning speed. He can both distribute the puck and score. His skating is high end, 0-60 quickness is impressive. I’m not going to predict that they will pick him, but it’s probably not out of the realm of possibilities.
AH: Ultimately, who do you think will go at #3?
ME: I think barring a trade up with the Leafs they will end up with Alex Galchenyuk. Alex is our top player in our rankings. Ryan Yessie, our Sarnia-based scout saw Alex live over 40 times last season and every game he played this year. I saw Alex about 15 times last season and three times this year. As someone who is in the ‘hockey business’ I try not to root for any team. Having said that, I grew up in Montreal and it’s hard for me not to cheer for the Habs a little bit. I’d be thrilled to get Alex at #3. He has elite vision and makes players around him better. He works hard and is no slouch in the scoring department either. He has a quick release on an excellent shot. Although his first few steps could be a little better, people forget how good a skater he is. He won a race at the NHL R & D camp versus Yakupov and Andreas Athanasiou. He might need another year in junior because of his missed season but it’s not a bad thing. I have a feeling no player drafted this year will be in the NHL. It looks like we are in for a late start to the season.
AH: Day 2 could start off with some interesting names still in the mix. Who do you think might slip into the second round that would fit well with the Canadiens?
ME: I’m really interested in what Trevor will do here. Picks #33 #51 and #65 give him some flexibility. The picks might allow him to jump up into the first round to grab a player they like. As an example, if they really liked a player like Tim Bozon and are worried he might get snatched up before pick #33, they package a pick to move up and grab him. Stefan Matteau, Phil Di Giuseppe, Mark Jankowski and Oscar Dansk are others that come to mind. Picks #51 and #65 are obviously much harder to predict who might be still around. Here are a few that may be around at #51 – Lukas Sutter, Nick Walters and Scott Kosmachuk. Pick#65 is not much later but I’ll throw out a few other names who could be around: Damon Severson and Tanner Richard.
AH: Is there anyone in this year’s draft that you consider worth trading up to get?
ME: It’s really tough to answer that without being right in the middle of the situation. I guess all I can do is give a stock answer. If I was sitting at #33 and a player we had ranked pretty high on our board started to slip towards the early to mid 20’s, I’d probably get on the phone. As I mentioned earlier, they have some flexibility with the extra 2nd rounder.
AH: The Habs have a tendency to draft quite a few players from the USHL. Can you provide us with some background on some of the players Trevor Timmins is somewhat likelier to be geared towards, especially as the rounds progress?
ME: Obviously I have no idea who Trevor likes but I’ll give you a few USHL’ers that we like.
First up is obvious for us. Zemgus Girgensons of the Dubuque Fighting Saints. His coach was former Hab (okay, only five games, but it counts) and Montreal native Jim Montgomery. I have known Jim for about six years now and he is a good hockey guy. Zemgus is hugely underrated in our opinion. I can’t wait to see where he goes off the board. He is a well-rounded player who plays down the middle and has much better skills than he gets credit for. Will they take him at #3, I doubt it, but he is a solid hockey player.
Another USHL’er we really like is the previously mentioned Stefan Matteau. He plays a power forward game up and down his wing and was our fave forward from the USNTDP.
Jordan Schmaltz is a slick skating D-man from the Green Bay Gamblers. When I say slick skating, I really can’t elaborate enough about how good his feet are. He creates time and space for himself with his skating and has very good offensive skills. He is far from a physical player, but is tall and lanky and uses his reach well. He looks to be a bit of a boom or bust kid at this point. We had him ranked as high as #13 overall during the season, but consistency and effort level issues scared us off a bit.
We love Jacob Slavin from the Chicago Steel and Robert Baillargeon from Indiana as well. One other quick note, we don’t have Pointe-Claire native Mike Matheson quite as high as others. He struggled at times this season, even being benched several times.
AH: Who are some of the best QMJHL prospects that this year’s draft has to offer?
ME: It’s a weak crop from the QMJHL this year but there are some players we liked. Much has been said about Mikhail Grigorenko so I’ll leave him for today. Brandon Whitney from Victoriaville is a goaltender we like. I was upset I didn’t get to see him play at least one game at the U18’s. We have a Victoriaville-based scout who is very high on Whitney. We also like Dillon Fournier from Rouyn-Noranda. The Dorval native is a player that we see as a little underrated in this draft. He can get carried away and over handle the puck a bit when he has too much time, he is actually better under pressure. I probably could have mentioned him as an option for the Habs in the 2nd round.
AH: Out of anyone you’ve seen, who do you consider to be the most underrated in this year’s crop of players and why?
ME: I just answered this question for another interview. I’ll answer it the same way. Zemgus Girgensons who I already mentioned and Jake Dotchin from the Owen Sound Attack is another kid we really like who gets little press. Dotchin is a big kid who came into this season under the radar a little bit. He plays a solid two-way game and we think he might show off underrated offensive skill next year.
I’m going to throw out one more player who may or may not be drafted. Bret Foy from the Mississauga Majors (now Steelheads) is a kid I had the pleasure of coaching in a prospects event. He is a smart player who I think could project to be a role player in the pros.
AH: Who do you consider to be the prospect with the highest risk-reward factor?
ME: Tough one as it obviously depends on where they are selected. I’ll answer this way. Mikhail Grigorenko if drafted too early in the top 10.
AH: Rapid fire time: give us a rundown of your thoughts on these prospects. First impressions and overall thoughts…
Alex Galchenyuk: First Impression: Loved him last year and our 1st overall player this season. ‘Nuff said.
Martin Frk: First Impression: Loved him. Overall, we struggled as a staff with him because he was a bit Jekyll-and-Hyde.
Mark Jankowski: A bit limited on our viewings and tougher to evaluate but first impression was smart. Overall impression is a very smart, skilled hockey player with a high ceiling.
Tim Bozon: First impression was intriguing, then I spoke to him for 30 minutes by phone and watched the rest of his season. Overall impression is a very talented forward we see as a late 1st rounder. Great kid, spoke to him again at the Combine.
Olli Maatta: First Impression: I liked him. I saw him about 35 times live. He came miles this season. After the initial impression I thought he struggled for quite a while. Overall he improved in many of the areas that we thought he struggled at early. Mark Hunter, Dylan Hunter and Misha Donskov raved about his work ethic to me.
AH: We may be getting ahead of ourselves, but take a quick look at next year’s draft class. Who are you looking forward to watching progress into a top-ranked player this upcoming season?
ME: I’ll just name a few guys who impressed me this year in no particular order. Rasmus Ristolainen, Adam Erne, Jost Morrissey, Elias Lindholm, Jacob de la Rose, Max Domi, Jeremy Gregoire, Jonathan Drouin, Steve Santini and many more including the big boys at the top, Seth Jones and Nathan MacKinnon.
AH: Tell us about the 2012 NHL Draft Black Book by Hockey Prospect. What are some of the highlights we can find in it?
ME: The 2012 NHL Black Book includes information on players for the 2012, 2013 and even the 2014 Draft. We have player reports for 250 players for 2012 and around 100 each for the 2013 & 2014 drafts. We also included 100 actual game reports submitted by our scouts during the season. The book includes rankings for all 7 rounds for the 2012 Draft and a top 30 for the 2013 NHL Draft.
Mark Edwards is the Founder and Director of Scouting of HockeyProspect.com – In addition to scouting he has coached for 19 years. Mark coached current NHL players including Alex Pietrangelo, Wayne Simmonds and Ryan O’Reilly. He also coached 2012 NHL prospect Phil Di Giuseppe in Junior A, just a few short years ago.