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Draft Preview: Montreal Canadiens – Red, white and blueline

With the pivot position shored up, focus shifts to Montreal's defense corps.

The gaping chasm that seemed to be a black hole for the Canadiens has finally been filled. And how. Thanks to a combination of trades (Max Domi, Nick Suzuki), drafting (Jesperi Kotkaniemi) and the emergence of a prospect (Ryan Poehling), things have not looked this bright down the middle for a long time. Montreal’s bid for a playoff spot came up painfully short, but the Habs had at least one impact prospect in each of major junior, U.S. college and European hockey this season. Help is on the way.

IMMEDIATE NEEDS:The Canadiens have improved significantly at forward, but what they’re lacking at the moment is a natural scorer with sniper instincts. That’s a big part of the reason why their power play ranked second-worst in the league. Can you believe the Habs haven’t had a 50-goal scorer since Stephane Richer? That was almost 30 years ago. Sacre bleu.

LONG-TERM NEEDS: With just three proven defensemen under contract for next season, the blueline is both a short- and long-term need. Alexander Romanov, a second-round pick in 2018, is looking like a steal, but at just 19 he’s still a couple of years away from making an impact. Noah Juulsen has promise but has been plagued by an unfortunate series of injuries early in his career.

CAP SITUATION: On a roster where Carey Price and Shea Weber occupy $18.4 million in cap space, the Canadiens are in a bit of a jam, one that is exacerbated by the fact they’re taking a $3.6 million hit to have Karl Alzner play in the minors. They have almost $18 million in space but need to add a few defensemen who can take on significant roles.

IN THE SYSTEM 2019-20: Poehling signed with the Canadiens in time to play the last game of the season, and all he did was score a hat trick in his debut. He’s big and skilled and has an outstanding pedigree. If Juulsen can get healthy and stay healthy, there’s a spot for him on the blueline.

DID YOU KNOW: Barring a trade, Montreal will have 21 draft picks in two years – 11 in 2018 and 10 this year. That’s more than any other team.

LATE-ROUND GEMS:
(2000-2018 drafts)
Tomas Plekanec, 71st, ’01
Jaroslav Halak, 271st, ’03
Brendan Gallagher, 147th, ’10
Mark Streit, 262nd, ’04
Mikhail Grabovski, 150th, ’04
Alexei Emelin, 84th, ’04
Yannick Weber, 73rd, ’07
Sergei Kostitsyn, 200th, ’05
Victor Mete, 100th, ’16
Matt D’Agostini, 190th, ’05

PICKS AFTER SECOND ROUND: 102
100+ NHL GAMES: 14
PERCENT SUCCESS: 13.7%
NHL RANK: 11th

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