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Habs Prospect Review/Player Breakdown: WINGERS

August 7, 2010, 1:58 PM ET [ Comments]
Steven Hindle
Montreal Canadiens Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Heavy on the Right

As you likely noted yesterday, the Canadiens have a plethora of centermen trying to jump one another on their depth charts and, although only a few will ultimately make it, it’s always better to be safer than sorry and with a deep crop of players like the ones Montreal possesses down the middle, the Habs are certainly airing on the side of caution.

In comparison to the Canadiens depth at center, the wings seem to be an entirely different matter. After years of stocking up and icing primarily left handed shooters, the Habs are turning that trend around and, as a result, seem to be stock-piling talent on the right side while perhaps neglecting the left.

After yesterday’s list was published, I recieved some flack about the order in which these prospects are ranked, so, once again, I will explain that these rankings are not specifically based on a players talent along. I am basing the rankings on various elements, such as age, actual game experience at various levels(Juniors, ECHL, AHL, NHL, etc...) as well as talent and roster availability. Although some younger players will be more talented than others, that does not necessarily mean that we’ll be seeing them in a Habs uniform anytime soon, therefore those who have the greater mix of talent, experience and likelihood of making the Canadiens will be ranked higher on the list. Of course, there will be exception as like the ones in the Centers list. An example of this would be Danny Kristo, it’s arguable that he will be better and currently is more talented than any of the prospects on wing, but as he has yet to sign his pro deal, I have slotted behind Alex Avtsin due to the fact that we will likely see AA in Montreal before DK. Remember that this list is arbitrary and strictly my opinion and evaluation of the prospects listed below.

If you missed my segment on Centers, follow the link to catch up on Montreal's Depth at Center.

As with yesterday, I encourage to comment on my scouting reports or to provide your own in the comments section.

Right Wingers

1.Alexander Avtsin – Drafted 109th overall(4th round) in 2009 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: $600K/RFA in 2013

Outlook/Expectations: At the time that he was drafted, Alex Avtsin was more or less an after-thought for the Montreal Canadiens. He was an easy selection as his talent, size and obvious high cieling for potential was clearly there, yet the fact that he was Russian made the pick somewhat of a risk. The difficulties in bringing Russian players over has gotten easier over the years but is still somewhat of a crapshoot. Considering this case, and the fact that Alex was available in the 4th round, the Habs knew that it would be worth the risk. Add on top of that the fact that, when drafted, Avtsin clearly stated his intention to come to North America and, good or bad, was a risk worth taking. Fast forward to this summer and Avtsin’s official decision to cross the pond and sign his pro contract with the Habs and the risk factor of selecting Alex is cut in half. Now the only thing left to be seen is whether Avtsin will fit in with the North American style of game and if his incredible skills translate to the pro level. Speaking of his skill, the 6’2, 198 pound right winger absolutely demolished the opposition during his final year of ‘Juniors’ in Russia, collecting 56 goals and 110 points and then promptly graduated to Moscow Dynamo of the KHL last season and at the age of 18 registered 3 goals and 9 points in his first 30 games as a professional. As with many Russians and Europeans who grow up playing the game outside of North America, the real knock on their game is whether they will be able to adjust or not. In many cases it’s as much about a players talent as his committment and, with Avtsin committing to do everything he can to make his dream of playing in the NHL come true, it’s not a far stretch that this 4th round gamble will pay off huge for the Habs in years to come. The expectations for Avtsin are somewhat tempered as the organization will play the waiting game and see how quickly he develops, but I would not be surprised to see Alex make a distinct impression at camp this fall and for him to be a fixture on the Bulldogs. He has incredible skill and speed as well as a flair that makes him one of the more unique players to come out of Russia in recent years. He likes the physical aspect of the game, a factor that should play to his advantage as he adjust to the AHL and NHL. Alex needs to bulk up a little bit more but, as he is only 19, it’s expected that he will round out his 6’2 frame over the next season or so.

(*As an aside, many of you may wonder why I have ranked Avtsin as the top prospect on right wing at the moment, ahead of Danny Kristo, and the only reason I will give you is that Avtsin is signed and committed to the Habs with a good chance of seeing some ice-time in Montreal this season, even if it’s simply a call-up, whereas Kristo is committed to school and likely won’t sign his pro contract until after the next school year...more on Danny below).

2. Danny Kritso – Drafted 56th overall(2nd round) in 2008 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: Yet to sign a professional contract

Outlook/Expectations: Another year with the University of North Dakota and then the Canadiens are hoping that the WJC star and NCAA phenom will turn his attention to the pros. Danny is as fast as lightning and has the reflexes to match it. His speed sets the tone for his style of play as he is relentless at both ends of the ice. His two-way game is exemplary and his touch, either in the offensive zone or anywhere else for that matter, is simply sensational. Although he is now too old to play for Team USA at this year’s WJC(correct me if I’m wrong, please), the expectations are that Danny will play out his sophomore year with North Dakota and then(hopefully) sign his pro deal and join the Bulldogs once his year at school has concluded. A further note on Danny and his expectations; there is also an extra bonus to the combination of picks the Canadiens selected in ’08 and ’09 as they were able to land Kristo and then his team-mate(and currently top-ranked all-around prospect), Louis Leblanc, from the Omaha Lancers of the USHL. Leblanc and Kristo skated on the same line and led their team in scoring the year they played together and the chemistry they demonstrated was something that Canadiens management is extremely keen on re-igniting. With Leblanc having freshly inked his rookie deal with Montreal and headed to the Juniors of the QMJHL or Bulldogs, the hope is to see both of them in Hamilton next spring helping the Bulldogs in a playoff run. The combined expectations of Leblanc and Kristo are that they will bring an instant offensive duo to the team that will be set to run together for years to come(a la Getzlaf/Perry in Anaheim – ahem, just to note – they’re not going to be expected to be either Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaf, I am simply using the duo’s chemistry and likeness of situation as an example).

3. Aaron Palushaj – Drafted 44th overall(2nd round) in 2007 by Blues

Cap Hit/Contract Length: $883K/RFA in 2012

Outlook/Expectations: A 2nd round pick by the Blues in 2008 and a former team-mate of Max Pacioretty’s from the University of Michigan, Aaron Palushaj is an absolute upgrade over Matt D’Agostini. Swapped for D’Agostini during the last season, Palushaj brought a renewed level of talent and potential to Montreal’s depth on the right wing. He possesses a strong all around game and is a very smooth and quick skater. Complimenting his quick feet are slick hands. Aaron has a keen eye on the ice and has a remarkably accurate shot. To go along with other Blues prospects the Canadiens have acquired in recent months, Lars Eller and Ian Schultz, Palushaj is another great addition. He proved to be great warrior for the Bulldogs last season and as a former team-mate of Pacioretty, gives the Canadiens another possible dup with prior chemistry. It’s not expected that Aaron will make the Habs this season, but with a year to develop along with Pacioretty, the Canadiens will likely have 2 solid wingers ready to make the leap by 2011-12.

4. Ian Schultz – Drafted 87th overall(3rd round) in 2008 by Blues

Cap Hit/Contract Length: $845K/RFA in 2013

Outlook/Expectations: Ian came to the Canadiens as the second piece in the Jaroslav Halak trade with the Blues this summer and instantly adds a much needed element of prospective power-forward/grinder to the Habs pipeline. Having recently captained the Calgary Hitmen through a successful campaign in the WHL, Schultz(the younger brother of Capitals defenseman, Jeff) is an excellent physical player who not only is capable of playing rough and tumble hockey, but thrives on it. He’s already been quoted as saying that he “wants to be the ‘Milan Lucic’ of the Montreal Canadiens” and it stands to reason that that is exactly what Habs management is looking for. Schultz is a leader and solid two-way player, but as a 6’2, 200 pounder who loves to throw his weight around, he brings a surprising amount of offensive upside to the table. In 196 career games played with the Hitmen, Schultz racked up 55 goals, 72 assists(127 points), but – most impressively of all – 405 penalty minutes. He was a notable contributor in the playoffs as well, but to add a player of Schultz all around pedigree to the Bulldogs this season, and likely the Habs in 2011-12, is a huge bonus to the organization’s depth. The truth is that Ian is dead-set on proving all the critics wrong in assuming that he was the after-thought of the deal and, if his development in the AHL goes according to plan, the Habs will have two very important elements helping their top 9 in 2011-12 for less than half the cost of Jaroslav Halak for 1 year. Montreal’s expectations for Schultz’ development are somewhat similar to that of Avtsin as they are simply not sure how fast he will develop. Although that is where the comparison should stop as Schultz is so far pegged to be no more than a 2nd line power forward/3rd line grinder. It could be a matter of months or a season or more, yet at the same time, it would appear that the team is committed to both prospects development for the long-term. So, even if they don’t pan out for this upcoming season, chances are they are both definitely penciled into the Habs long-term plans.

5. Brendan Gallagher – Drafted 147th overall(5th round) in 2010 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: Yet to sign a professional contract

Outlook/Expectations: A late round selection at this year’s draft, the Habs may have another gem on their hands. Gallagher, who was a 9th round selection when he entered the WHL with the Vancouver Giants, has done absolutely nothing but exceed expectations, time and time again. The recently turned-18 year old has the size thing going against him(he’s listed as 5’8 – 163 lbs), but that is apparently no deterrent to the Delta, BC native as he has racked up 51 goals and 112 points in 122 games for the Giants over the last 2 seasons(finishing 16th in WHL scoring last season), but again, another impressive note, 172 penalty minutes! That’s quite a bit for such a small speedster who is being recognized for his hands and goal-scoring ability. The all around strong numbers suggests that Gallagher does not hesitate to play larger than his size dictates, so much so that it garnered the interest of Team Canada as he is currently trying-out for this winter’s WJC team. It’s quite an honor to be invited to that camp and, considering Team Canada thinks so highly of the 18 year old, so too should Habs fans. The expectations for Brendan will be to leave him be for the time being. He is simply sky-rocketing up the prospect charts and the Canadiens don’t want to mess with a good thing. The next season will be a big one for Gallagher, if he puts up strong numbers and has another outstanding campaign, chances are that the Habs will be interested in taking his development to the next level and bringing him up to the Bulldogs. Considering he was drafted this year, the safe assumption would be to see Gallagher in the mix with the Habs in 2012-13.

6.Maxim Trunev – Drafted 138th overall(5th round) in 2008 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: Yet to sign a professional contract

Outlook/Expectations: Montreal grabbed the skilled play-maker perhaps a bit before his time as many predicted that Trunev could have wound up as a 1st rounder in 2009, but with the slick late round choice of Trunev, the Canadiens took another chance on a highly skilled Russian player. It’s yet to be seen if Trunev will ever make the jump, but if Avtsin’s decision is any indication then Trunev may soon be inclined to follow suit. In the meantime, Maxim will continue to play in the KHL with Cherepovets. Although he has played the last 2 seasons in the KHL, there hasn’t been much in the way of outstanding numbers from the 5’11 forward. That said, the numbers of an 18 year old playing with men who have been playing pro for years doesn’t always indicate a prospect’s potential. Montreal will likely hope to bring Trunev over next summer and gage whether he can adjust to the North American game, but, until Maxim indicates he is interested in making the jump, it’s doubtful the Habs will focus too much attention on him. The expectations are for Trunev to have somewhat of a ‘break-through’ season in the KHL this season and for him to commit to Montreal next summer, but, as mentioned above, until he voices an opinion, Montreal will continue to let him develop in the K.

7. Steve Qualier – Drafted 86th overall(3rd round) in 2008 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: Yet to sign a professional contract

Outlook/Expectations: Currently playing for NorthEastern University, Qualier is a 6’3, 185 pound power forward in the making. Following up an All Star selection in the USHL as a rookie, Steve had a strong season as a rookie with NorthEastern, racking up 10 goals and 25 points, good for 3rd on the team in scoring. Drafted with the intentions of filling out his large frame, the upside of Qualier is that he has a soft touch around the net and a deceptively fast release on his wrist/snap shot. He is rather light for his size, but as he matures the belief is that he will fill out to be a strong and forceful forward in the NHL. The Colorado native has an excellent upside, yet having recently turned 21, the Canadiens will be expecting him to commit to a pro career in the next year. If Qualier is not ready to make the jump at the end of the school year, he may wind up falling down the depth chart and off of the Habs radar.

8. J.T. Wyman – Drafted 100th overall(4th round) in 2004 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: $550K/RFA in 2011

Outlook/Expectations: Wyman has more or less been an AHL’er for the majority of his career. Drafted back in 2004, J.T. never fully demonstrated the potential Montreal first saw in him, yet has become a key veteran asset for the Hamilton Bulldogs. Don’t expect to see Wyman in Habs uniform unless it’s the most dire of call-up circumstances.

Left Wingers

1. Max Pacioretty – Drafted 22nd overall(1st round) in 2007 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: $900K/RFA in 2011

Outlook/Expectations: Rushed out of the University of Michigan as an 18 year old, the expectations were very high for the 6’2 potential power forward. Alas, the quick jump to the NHL level eventually caught up with the talented speedster and his development hit a snag. Fortunately, the Canadiens were wise enough to catch it early enough and eschewed Patches back to Hamilton to give him a better chance to round out his game and develop to his potential. Unfortunately for Max, he sustained an injury last season and did not get to enjoy the full season of development the Habs wanted to see. Nevertheless, Pacioretty is expected to compete for a spot on the team this fall, yet will likely return to the Bulldogs to get a little more ice-time. The expectations are for Max to pick up some confidence in the AHL and become more of a presence around the net and to re-acquire his scoring touch. He will likely be one of the premiere players in Hamilton this season and will be at the top of the list of call-ups, but I don’t expect to see him as a full-time member of the Habs again until 2011-12.

2. Andrew Conboy – Drafted 147th overall(5th round) in 2007 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: $550K/RFA in 2012

Outlook/Expectations: Standing 6’4 and a touch over 200 pounds, Andrew Conboy has developed into an excellent grinder on the Hamilton Bulldogs over the last year. Always recognized for having somewhat of a chip on his shoulder and playing an aggressive style, Conboy has worked hard on his defensive game as, despite having a bit of an offensive touch, in order to hopefully find a way onto the Canadiens roster in the future. The expectations are for Andrew to spend another year(perhaps more) maturing and working on his two-way game with the Bulldogs before he gets a real shot or consideration by Montreal, but with such a large frame working in his favor, if he can impress defensively, there may very well be a spot for him by 2012-13.

3. Phil Lefebvre – Signed as a Free Agent in 2009 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: $522K/RFA in 2013

Outlook/Expectations: Signed as a free agent last summer, Lefebvre brings the Canadiens another possible chemistry connection as he was a team-mate of fellow Habs prospect, Gabriel Dumont, for the last couple of seasons on the extremely successful Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL. Phil is a digger and likes to play the grinders game, but as a light(186lbs), 5’11 forward, he doesn’t always come out of the corners victorious. That said, with the addition of some bulk to his frame, Lefebvre could very prove to be a valuable asset. With 3 years to go on a freshly inked rookie deal, Phil will compete for a spot on the Bulldogs this season. If he cannot make the team, chances are he will spend time developing in the ECHL, but that’s not a given. It’s likely Lefebvre will be able to stick in Hamilton and, if he can work hard and show signs of growth in the AHL, he could very become of interest to Montreal by 2012-13.

4. John Westin – Drafted 207th overall(7th round) in 2010 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: Yet to sign a professional contract

Outlook/Expectations: At 6’3, 183 pounds, the 18 year old left winger from Sweden is an interesting choice for the Canadiens. He is more of a grinding prospect, perhaps akin to Andrew Conboy, but as he is so young and is developing with Modo Jr., chances are that there is a great deal more to the this selection than meets the eye. Clearly, as the final pick of the Canadiens in this year’s draft he is nothing to write home about, yet at the same time, with such a low-risk pick, there is always the chance of a very high reward. For now, the Canadiens expect Westin to continue his development in Sweden and perhaps even become considered for the Swede’s WJC team this winter, yet that is not a necessity. Montreal will give him plenty of time and, like with many of their Russian and European picks, will only truly choose to turn their attention towards his development once he is ready to make a commitment to hockey in North America. If Westin does indeed eventually make it over, I would not expect it to be anytime before 2012-13.

5.Dany Masse – Signed as a Free Agent in 2009 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: $531K/RFA in 2011

Outlook/Expectations: Signed as a free agent last summer after his QMJHL career had come to an end, the Canadiens took a chance on a player who could very well wind up being another David Desharnais. Dany went undrafted during his years of eligibility, mainly because of his size. He was an excellent scorer in his Junior career and a game-breaker, but, unfortunately for Dany, an injury during the season last year with the Bulldogs eventually saw him tumble all the way down the depth charts. With one more year left on his RFA deal with the Canadiens, it would appear that this will be Masse’s final chance to make an impression on the organization. Although he is now 22, if he can stay healthy for the Bulldogs, he just might get the chance to show off the offensive talents that got him noticed in the first place and possibly earn another contract. The expectations for Dany aren’t that great, given how jammed the prospect pipeline and current roster is with players of his nature, yet that won’t preclude Masse from a decent career in the AHL. I don’t expect that Dany will ever truly be considered by the Canadiens, but with so much talent on his side, there’s no reason to rule out a surprise surge from the potential late-bloomer.


Mark MacMillan - Drafted 113th overall(4th round) in 2010 by Habs

Cap Hit/Contract Length: Yet to sign a professional contract

Outlook/Expectations: Taken in the same round as Habs defensive prospect, Mark was an absolute force last season racking up 80 points in the BCHL alongside Penguins prospect, Beau Bennett. The wiry 6'0, 150 pound play maker is expected to fill out his frame over the next couple of seasons and to continue his development alongside Michael Cichy and Danny Kristo this year as he joins the fellow Habs prospects at the University of North Dakota. Much like Gallagher, the wiry forward will need to adapt to the physical elements as they will face more men then boys in the upcoming season. With a knack for setting up goals, MacMillan will be an interesting prospect to watch develop. He will likely find a home in the Habs organization in 2 years time.

That's it for today, I will be back with the Defensemen tomorrow.

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