After our introduction and honorable mentions last week, today we begin our true top-15 of the CH’s most important prospects with positions 15 to 13.
Put Lias Andersson in the “honorable mentions” if you like, or rank him 10th if you like.
Personally, I’d simply call him a wildcard player and don’t assign him a specific position in the rankings.
But he could well be important for the CH if the stars align a little…
Lias Andersson: the organization’s wildcard prospect
For those who don’t know it, Lias Andersson’s story is quite fascinating, especially his tumultuous beginnings in the Rangers organization.
Andersson, picked against all odds seventh overall by Jeff Gorton’s Blue Shirts in 2017 – observers were anticipating him more in the middle of the first round – eventually experienced some difficult episodes psychologically as he was unable to establish himself with the Rangers in the years following his draft.
Leaving the New York organization in December 2019, to clear his head in Sweden, and eventually return to the SHL, Andersson confessed to suffering from a fear of failure, developing bad lifestyle habits in the process, including a lack of sleep and late-night video games…
It was more after a transition to the wing with the Ontario Reign, the Kings’ training club, that the Swede was finally able to assert himself in North America, recording no less than 82 points, including 43 goals, in 86 games during the same period.
It’s worth noting that we simply haven’t seen this kind of statistic from a young CH prospect in Laval in recent years. Only Ylonen and Harvey-Pinard came close, and even then…
In the first instance, therefore, it’s his offensive potential and his impressive statistics with the Reign, particularly his scoring touch, that prompt us to give him a special place in this tally.
🚨 Lias Andersson on the Ontario Reign power play roofs it over Spencer Martin to tie this game at one.
Just Ontario’s THIRD shot of the game pic.twitter.com/p0aef8fA9Q
– Cody Severtson (@CodySevertson) March 26, 2023
Secondly, let’s not underestimate Andersson’s value to the Habs organization.
Of course, unless he destroys everything in his path at training camp (and even then), Andersson will start the year in Laval and is likely to be the Rocket’s best forward. He’s also likely to be the first to be recalled in case of injury.
But here’s where it gets even more interesting, especially if the CH is still a seller this season, is that there are at least half a dozen forwards in the CH’s current line-up who aren’t sitting on very comfortable chairs.
Anticipating at least one or two departures among Monahan, Dvorak, Evans, Hoffman, Pitlick, Ylonen and maybe even Josh Anderson if Hughes has his price, there’s a good chance the former Frolunda will play at least 30 games with the CH this season.
We won’t compare him to Dach or Newhook, but the acquisition of Andersson – 25 in October – is somewhat in line with the same rebuilding philosophy, which doesn’t rely exclusively on draft picks, but also (very much) on acquiring young players whose talent hasn’t been optimized elsewhere.
It remains to be seen whether Andersson will be able to do in the CH organization what he has never done elsewhere: produce in the NHL, having recorded just 17 points in 110 games in the world’s best league to date.
At the time, Jeff Gorton admitted, shortly after trading him, that the Rangers had mishandled Andersson’s development. Now that his development seems to be complete in the AHL, we’re curious to see what kind of opportunity the Montreal organization will offer him.
Although reportedly 5’11, Andersson looks small on the ice and isn’t particularly fast or physically strong. On the other hand, he has very good hands and is able to shoot quickly and accurately. You don’t score 43 goals in 86 games in the AHL by chance…
Perhaps a smart, passionate player like Andersson could benefit from a smart, passionate coach like Martin St-Louis…
In the “long shot” style on a former top first-round pick, I prefer his chances to Gurianov’s.
We’ll just have to give it some time…
Potential: 33 / 40
Insurance: 11 / 20
Use value: 20 / 30
Exchange value: 6.5 / 10
Total: 70.5 / 100
So I’ve come back a little more to the spirit of my 2021 analysis in his case.
I feel that his last year in the USHL as an overager and his first year in college as a 20-year-old “fake freshman ” showed us somewhat skewed stats that didn’t reveal his true potential. And let’s not forget that Harvard plays in a very weak NCAA division, so even his 53 points in 34 games last year as a “fake sophomore “m have to be put into perspective.
It’s as if Farrell had been placed in parallel realities for two, three years.
After his “dream season” at Harvard, the shock of reality was quite brutal in the six games he was able to play with the CH at the end of the season.
One of his most enthusiastic supporters was undoubtedly Adam Nicholas, the Tricolore’s director of development, who had known him well in the USHL while working with the Chicago Steel. I don’t know if he was a bit disappointed after seeing his “protégé’s” modest debut in Montreal, but let’s just say that the latter simply wasn’t ready for the NHL.
Nor do I know whether Simon Boisvert, who drafted Farrell to the Val-d’Or Foreurs and whose opinions I highly respect, has lowered his expectations of Farrell with what he showed the Tricolore last spring.
During his appearance on Le Retour des sportifs with Martin Lemay, Simon Boisvert says that Sean Farrell is one of the most talented prospects on the CH.🔵 ⚪ 🔴
– BPM Sports (@BPMSportsRadio) March 29, 2023
Farrell, who will already be 22 this November, just wasn’t fast enough or strong enough, so we didn’t really get to see his dominant qualities like his intelligence and shooting.
That’s why we don’t expect him to play too many games this season in Montreal. Farrell needs to get his bearings in the AHL, find his feet and adapt to the speed of the game and the strength of the players.
Use value: What’s his future in Montreal?
When the Habs are back among the NHL’s top teams, let’s say in 2025-2026 as has recently been suggested, when their core matures, where would you place Sean Farrell in the lineup?
If he can’t play on the team’s first two, or even three, lines, will we really want a Sean Farrell on a fourth line?
Don’t think so…
Make any CHdepth chart you want for the years to come, Farrell would really have to bounce back quickly at the professional level in Laval and have a whole 2023-2024 season for us to change our minds about him…
There’s a risk that Filip Mesar will never establish himself in the NHL. But there’s also a much better chance that he’ll play at least 99 games in the NHL according to this statistical model, something on the order of 70% for a 26th overall pick like him.
At least, that’s what it looks like if you look at draft picks from 2000 to 2009, as Jokke Nevalainen did in this 2020 analysis found on dobberprospects.com, which surveyed more than 2,000 players during that period.
Statistical probabilities aside, the more we look at him, the more we analyze him, the more two names come to mind when we see him play: Ylonen and Lehkonen. In both cases, the key to their success in reaching the NHL was hard work and patience. It’ll be the same for Mesar, who hasn’t fallen too far in our esteem since our last assessment last summer. In fact, we think he has a bit more potential.
Although the young Slovak probably has a little more raw talent than his “comparables”, he too will have to work hard and be patient before he can make the big leap.
Like his two predecessors, at 5’10, 168 lbs, Mesar isn’t exactly a 2 x 4, so he’ll need to add some muscle over the years and continue to play to his strengths: speed, puck control, shooting and above-average playmaking ability.
Of course, if he’d been more dominant in Kitchener last year, he’d be higher on this list, but don’t worry too much about his ordinary OHL stats (51 points in 52 games). It’s been a year of adaptation, with its ups and downs.
It’s only this year in Laval that we’ll really see what young Mesar is made of.
Let’s just say that if he scores just nine points in 40 games like Jan Mysak did last year, his value to the organization will obviously suffer.
But producing 30 or more points at age 19 would be rather encouraging, since we don’t see him establishing himself with the CH until he’s 21-22. So there’s no hurry in his case.
But let’s not forget that Jiri Kulich,the one I’d have preferred to be ranked 26th in 2022, scored 46 in 64 regular-season games in the AHL and 11 in 12 playoff games at age 18…
Mesar will have to live with this inevitable comparison, make his own way and “control what he can control” as Epictetus would say… or Stéphane Richer, depending.
We know he’d love to have “Batman” Slafkovsky back on his trio one of these days, no doubt a great source of motivation for “Robin” Mesar!
But we’ll have to start by being on the same team first.
The big challenge will be there for Mesar, and he’ll have to repeat this over the coming years: “Patience and length of time are more important than strength and rage…”, as the oldsaying goes…
Use value: 22/30
Exchange value: 6.5/10
There’s no need to fear Heineman’s sensational arrival (7 goals, 9 points in 11 games) with the Rocket last spring. It’s not uncommon for newcomers to ride the adrenaline wave and experience such irresistible sequences in their early days (see Poehling, Ryan).
Heineman really wasn’t scoring at that rate in the SHL, and no one here is going to predict a 50-goal season with the Rocket or a 30-goal season in Montreal!
However, even though he was blanked in his last six games in Laval after his hot start, it’s pretty clear that his adaptation to North American rinks won’t pose too many problems. In fact, it may even be to his advantage, especially with the devastating shot he possesses and which he will now often use from a little closer range, a shot strangely reminiscent of that of the Sabres’ Victor Olofsson, a scorer of some twenty goals a year…
There’s no doubt that Gorton and Hughes hold Heineman in high esteem, having insisted that the Flames give up the Swede in the Tyler Toffoli trade.
Backarna frös fast. Då passade Heineman på att göra sitt femte mål för säsongen 🏎💨
🎥 C More pic.twitter.com/SvM48TCLlX
– BVK ★ (@BlavitaKrigare) January 26, 2023
Heineman is strong, fast, feisty, and as we said, has a shot well above average. So he has the tools to be a fairly versatile and effective winger in a north-south style who can play on just about any trio. If he performs well on the power play in Laval, he could well get his chance one day in Montreal in this same phase of the game. After Hoffman’s departure, the CH won’t have many left-handed forwards with a shot like his…
It remains to be seen whether Heineman can develop the requisite 200-foot intelligence to quickly earn a place in the NHL sun. His defensive reads still need work, but it’s not an Everest to climb, we agree…
Like many others, the former Panthers prospect will probably have to be patient before he gets a real opportunity with the Habs. But the 22-year-old, who turns 22 in November and already has three years’ pro experience in Sweden, already displays a level of confidence and maturity in his offensive game that others don’t yet have.
Let’s bet an old friend that a few administrative decisions and/or a couple of injuries will almost guarantee him his first NHL games this season.
By adding Andersson to Farrell, Mesar and Heineman, the Canadiens now have four forwards with somewhat similar profiles – “depth wingers with potential” – who will be competing for positions and minutes in the months and years to come, in Laval as well as in Montreal.
That said, these are not players who will transform the CH’s offense, and they probably won’t all be able to play with the big club in the long term.
But I do think that Heineman, with his size, physical strength, speed and shooting, stands out a little from the pack and brings some of the rarer ingredients that the team’s leaders are looking for. That’s why I value him a little more than the others in this countdown of the most important prospects.
But we’ll also be keeping a very close eye on Lias Andersson in the coming months, as he’s surely the one who’s closest to the NHL with the blossoming he experienced last year in the AHL at the age of 24.
We’ll be back next week with positions 12 to 10!