Friday, 1 April 2016

Canadiens in a no-man's land in their draft position.

Trevor Timmins was reported to be at the Cape Breton-Chicoutimi game Wednesday night, to see the Saguenéens win 5-4 and tie up the series 2-2. So he’s able to scout Pierre-Luc Dubois, but too late to scout 6’4″ centre Nicolas Roy, who we could have scooped up in the third round last year, but chose Lukas Vejdemo instead.

I’ll be watching this situation very closely, it’s sticking in my craw a little more now, that Nicolas Roy scored 48 goals this season.

In any case, it looks like the Canadiens will draft 9th or thereabouts in June, unless we win the lottery.   #8-10, where we look like we’ll land, will probably be too low for Pierre-Luc. If we win the lottery, the the top three ranked players are seen as clearly better prospects, in a higher tier, so that’s not a solution either.  As much as you'd like homeboy Pierre-Luc on the Canadiens, with a Top 3 pick, you take one of the Top 3.

Jake Chychrun is a great fallback position on paper, like what I’ve read, but I’ve never seen him play, only the Top 3 at the WJC, and Julien Gauthier on TVA’s Friday games.

But I’ve started to wonder if we can/should trade down from ninth (or higher, fingers crossed), bank a second or high-third round pick, and get Julien Gauthier at 13 or 14 where he seems to be getting ranked lately.  Especially on our team, he’d fill an organizational need for size and scoring on the wing, a combo package we don’t have.

It is a gamble, and teams usually don’t risk it, they stick to their own list, and don’t bet on what other teams’ lists say. We look at a service’s rankings, see a player ranked at 35 generally, and if a team drafts him at 25, we tend to think they could have traded down to 33 and still gotten him. But that’s if all the other teams also saw him at 35.

Memorably, in 1977 the Canadiens scooped up Mark Napier at 10th overall, and le Prof Caron was later said to be confident Mike Bossy would last until the 18th pick, when we had another first-rounder, but the Islanders didn’t cooperate, we ended up with Normand Dupont.

Or, it’s been floated that in 2006 the Canadiens thought that Claude Giroux might last until the second-round, with his slight frame and only one year for a track record in major junior. They had a man-crush on David Fischer for years, they weren’t going to pass him up no matter what, but maybe they did have fingers crossed that they’d get another shot early in the second, maybe trade up if he was falling.

Interestingly, David Fischer was a player we traded down to get, from 16 to 20, they picked up an extra second-rounder and still got their man.

So did the Flames in 2012 when they traded down in the first round to draft Mark Jankowski, who Jay Feaster memorably tagged as the “most talented player in the draft”. He’s come a long way since then, developed a lot, but he’s still not in the fold, and still not a sure thing.

By the way, if Mr. Jankowski decides to go the college UFA route, I really really hope we’re in the race to get him. Big talented centre for free, how can you go wrong?

But in terms of trading down, the Canadiens lately don’t seem to want to get cute like that. Mike McCarron and Noah Juulsen were two players who could conceivably still be had ten or so slots lower down in the draft, they weren’t quite ‘reaches’ really, but weren’t necessarily thought as ‘value’ picks, like Max Domi.

I guess if we get to that point, if the Canadiens have Julien Gauthier rated as the best player remaining when it’s their turn to speak, they’ll go to the microphone and call his name and won’t try anything fancy, that’s not Marc Bergevin’s style in these matters.

I think that no matter what we’ll have a crack at a really good player, it’s very fluid in 4-10 range right now, it's kind of futile hoping that a player like Jake Chychrun does ‘fall’ to us, or maybe trading down and still nabbing Julien Gauthier.

Or, for that matter, that we’d traded Tomas Plekanec last summer and we now had an extra first to play with.

The lower we go though, the more choice we’ll have. Two seasons ago, when we drafted Nikita Scherbak, the scuttlebutt is that the previous highest-rated player on our list was David Pasternak, we would have drafted him if he’d been available, not stolen by the Bruins. The whole story isn’t written yet, but the Bruins got the player who is much further along his development path, by virtue of being one slot higher in the draft.

Or in 2013, Marc Bergevin appeared to try hard to move up to get at Anthony Mantha, but the Wings got him at #20, while we were slotted at #25. It looks that this won’t be a catastrophe, since Mike McCarron is looking really good so far, but instead of trying to wrangle a trade with Jarmo Kekäläinen to scoop the Wings, it would have been easier to just be at 18 or 19.

So we’re almost in a can’t lose position, after the Top 3 there’s a tier of prospects who are all roughly equivalent in terms of value, but I’d like to have more of a choice in that tier by finishing lowerhigher.

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