Skip to content
Top 15 CH prospects: positions 12 to 10

After our introduction, which was followed by positions 15 to 13 (including wild card Lias Andersson), we’ve now come to the analysis of positions 12 to 10!

Looking back over the past eight years, positions 12 to 10 were most often reserved for players of the calibre of Ylonen, Vejdemo, Pateryn and Lernout: depth players with a chance of NHL careers.

Not 1000-game careers, mind you, but relatively interesting NHL careers.

In Pateryn’s case, it stopped at 290 games.

Vejdemo and Lernout were even more modest, with 13 and 21 games respectively .

But it’s already looking a lot more promising for Ylonen, 24 in October, who has 52 games with the Habs and whose above-average qualities (mobility, shooting) seem to guarantee him a few more years in the NHL, in Montreal or elsewhere.

But on the face of it, the players we’re presenting to you today will all have much more substantial careers than any of these, testifying to the quality and great depth of the CH’s bank in 2023.

12. Jacob Fowler, G | last ranking : none

Potential: 34/40
Insurance: 12/20
Anticipated use value: 24/30
Exchange value: 6.5/10
Total: 76.5/100

Of course, when it comes to including Jacob Fowler, the Canadiens’ highest draft pick since Zachary Fucale in 2013, in such a list, there’s a “new toy” effect.

He has, so to speak, pushed Cayden Primeau and Jakub Dobes into “honorable mentions” and “small thoughts”.

But by ranking Fowler 12th, we’re not telling anyone he’s the reincarnation of the Savior, either.

In fact, while some believe he has what it takes to be a #1 one day in the NHL, locally, he has yet to prove he’ll be better than Primeau or Dobes.

In short, all we can say for now is that he’s the new administration’s man, and that they undoubtedly see more potential in him than in the organization’s other young goalies.

For Hughes and Gorton, he’s necessarily a more important prospect in the organization’s long-term goaltending plans. We know that even after the arrival of Casey DeSmith, there’s still a possibility that Primeau will be put to the ballot at the end of the next camp. We may therefore be witnessing Primeau’s last months in the organization…

We had to seriously think about the future of this position in Montreal, and we did at the last draft.

That said, even though he’s probably held in high esteem on the 7th floor of the Bell Centre, we didn’t write Fowler a blank cheque. After all, we played a bit of a darting game with the goalies at the last auction. After the Floridian in the third round, then Quentin Miller from Quebec in thefourth, it was Russian Yevgeni Volokhin’s turn in the fifth round…

We seem to have understood that nothing is guaranteed with goalies!

In short, despite his fine USHL prowess with the Youngstown Phantoms, and even if CH management feels that he was the best goalie of the last auction in their eyes, we still don’t see Fowler, selected 69th, as a can’t miss goaltending prospect a la Yaroslav Askarov or Spencer Knight a few years ago.

Fowler might work out. But the opposite is also very possible, as is the case with many goalies drafted at 18.

It’s still THE most difficult position to analyze and predict, and very often, goalkeepers click after the age of 25, i.e. 7 years after being drafted!

In an ideal world for organizations, the goalie draft would be postponed by two years. With a few very, very, very rare exceptions, virtually no goaltender establishes himself in the NHL before the age of 20 anyway.

Potential and confidence to reach it

At 6’2, 223 lbs at 18, Fowler still has plenty of “baby fat”, and no one knows exactly how his body and head will react to the new training and nutritional regimens he’ll undoubtedly be forced into over the next few years.

In short, when it comes to Fowler, we can give him high marks for his potential and, by anticipation, for his long-term use value in the eyes of the organization. But in terms of “assurance of reaching his potential”, you have to be very conservative.

Exchange value and use value

The same applies to his exchange value on the market, which is generally very low for goalkeepers, young or old, not firmly established in the NHL or not clearly identified as number 1.

For example, at 31 years of age, with 134 games of NHL experience, DeSmith was only a throw-in in the most recent transaction between the CH and the Penguins…

At the draft, Hughes and Gorton reportedly even refused to acquire perhaps the finest goaltending prospect in all of professional field hockey in Yaroslav Askarov, whom the Preds offered to get their hands on the5th overall pick…

In short, no one’s going to sleep thinking about Fowler’s development over the next few years. Montembault is still young, seems here to stay and has only just entered his prime.

In the minds of the team’s management, Fowler’s anticipated use value is probably that of a future number one, but what is a number one in today’s NHL and what will it be in five years’ time?

Last time I checked, the last Stanley Cup-winning goalie was Adin Hill, the team’s 3rd goalie, 101 games of NHL experience at 27, and before him it was Darcy Kuemper and not long before Jordan Binnington…

Let’s just say, we’re no longer in the 70s, 80s and 90s and early 2000s. Goalkeepers simply no longer have the same importance in winning Cup recipes. Their value to the team is bound to suffer as a result.

Most Stanley Cups in the last 15-20 years have been won by ordinary goalkeepers who will never make it into the Hall of Fame.

The important thing is to have one who does the job at the right time.

In short, let’s be patient with young Fowler, hope he puts in the effort to deserve to represent his country at the WJC, whether in 2024 or 2025, and simply let life and the great (more or less) natural selection do its work.

11. Logan Mailloux, DD | last ranking: 9th
Potential: 33.5/40
Insurance: 14/20
Use value: 23/30
Exchange value: 6.5/10
Total: 77/100

Potential and the confidence to reach it

With the passage of time, it’s not so much his unfortunate lapse of judgment in Sweden when he was 17 that divides fans and observers about Logan Mailloux, but rather his true potential as a pro field hockey player.

On the one hand, there are the Grant McCaggs of this world who see him as the organization’s best prospect, arguing in passing that Mailloux has played very little field hockey in recent years and that we may have only seen the tip of the iceberg.

On the other hand, Simon Boisvert and Scott Wheeler see him much further down the hierarchy, believing at best that Mailloux could become a third-pair defenseman.

Boisvert never misses an opportunity to point out that what Mailloux accomplished in London last season, he did as an older, bigger, stronger, faster player than 98% of the competition he faced.

Putting his impressive stats into perspective – Mailloux was the top scorer among OHL defensemen – Boisvert (along with Mathias Brunet) often recalls that a certain Josh Brook had an even more astounding season at 19-20 in his final junior year in the WHL: 75 points in 59 games! Now, 24-year-old Brook – injured more often than not, it must be said – has yet to play a single game in the NHL.

So I’m somewhere between these two diametrically opposed assessments of the young Ontarian.

Even though he’s gone up a few percent in my evaluation, from 73% to 77%, gaining a few points in three out of four categories, I’m still in the moderate camp.

He also remains in roughly the same position in my countdown. After his absence from camp last fall due to a shoulder injury that was slow to heal, I even reclassified him 11th in my final review, the same position as this year.

To a certain extent, the comparison with Josh Brook holds water. It’s a good reminder to temper expectations and put things in perspective. We shouldn’t base our assessments too much on a prospect’s second year after being drafted from junior.

But Mailloux is a different beast on the ice from Brook. Much bigger and stronger, faster too. Mailloux just seems to have more natural athleticism and therefore greater potential than Brook, even if he shares the same flaw in his back skate and his still approximate defensive game.

But McCagg, even if he admits he’s not too firm in his ranking of the CH’s top-5 prospects, still seems to overestimate Mailloux and especially underestimate the fact that he’ll lose many of the physical and athletic advantages he had over his OHL opponents once he makes the jump to the pros, especially in the NHL.

In a dubious logic, McCagg maintains that he will continue to “be bigger and stronger than everyone else”…

Well, not according to the average height and weight of NHL players compared to OHL players, Grant! He’ll have a little more competition, let’s say!

Guhle, also physically dominant in junior, has learned the hard way that he can no longer go around like a kamikaze at every opportunity in the NHL.

Mailloux too will have to learn to position himself better defensively and make better decisions if he is to survive in the NHL, and this is precisely his main weakness, something else McCagg underestimates.

Offensively, he won’t be able to go up one-on-one as often in five-on-five situations. Even though he has a good skating stroke, long reach and fairly good hands, he could be exposed to a lot of turnovers at a higher level of play, so he’ll have to pick his moments better and simplify his game…

Finally, we’ll see if his prowess on the power play can also translate to the pros. Hopefully, he’ll be given every opportunity to showcase his skills in this phase of the game in Laval, minutes he’ll have to earn and take from other players like Trudeau and Norlinder, among others.

In short, Mailloux has the tools to become a top-4 NHL defenseman one day, say, a possible 3rd defenseman, but he also seems to be missing a few. It remains to be seen how he can use and develop the ones he has and add new ones in the pros.

So, for the time being, we have to be cautious about his chances of becoming a top-4 impact player in the pros.

The next few months in Laval will tell us a lot more about his true potential, which remains quite high in theory.

When Mark Hunter says that Mailloux has been the London Knights’ best defenseman since John Carlsson, we take note.

Usage value

With the anticipated departures of Savard and possibly Kovacevic over the next few years, Mailloux could be in line for a spot with the Tricolore. The right side of the defense could be a battleground for Reinbacher and Barron, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Of the three, he may have the best offensive arsenal and is undoubtedly the toughest, but he’s also by far the worst defensively, and that’s what could cost him playing time at 5-on-5 and shorthanded.

The CH’s plan therefore seems to be to create healthy internal competition and let the young roosters establish their own place in the hierarchy. But since there’s no overcrowding on this side, there could be something in it for everyone, at least for a while…

With the quality of the pairs coming to Montreal, the three duos should all play 15 minutes or more. Mailloux should never again see the 30 minutes of play he regularly expected in junior. But if he develops well and establishes himself on a second pair, he’ll probably play around twenty minutes one day, otherwise he’ll have to make do with around fifteen minutes on a third pair.

We know he’ll have the engine to keep up, but it remains to be seen whether his processor can keep up.

Exchange value

Of course, so far, all the efforts made by the Habs organization and by Mailloux himself since his surprise and controversial selection in the summer of 2021 have also served to preserve the player’s market value and restore the image of everyone involved.

So far, so good…

By dint of time, effort and hammering, the message of a second chance, sincere remorse and turning over a new leaf has won the ideological and media battle over that of cancel culture , which was heard loud and clear after his draft.

But whether we like it or not, there’s always the possibility of a certain popular backlash in his case. Some fans might take great pleasure in attacking him for the slightest blunder, while others might defend him, and once again, we’re back in the media whirlwind.

Montreal could then become a difficult and stifling working environment for him, and the whole circus could become a huge distraction for the organization.

Big hot markets for big-name sports teams being what they are, and Montreal being what it is…

No matter how hard we try to control the message and put some pouch-pouch on it to make it smell good, no one in the organization is ignoring this possibility in his case, and Plan Bs may already have been thought of.

Of course, no one wants it to come to that, but in such an eventuality, if Kent Hughes were able to tell all his counterparts that Mailloux has nothing to reproach himself for, that it’s the market that has become the problem in his case, there’s no doubt that there will be attentive ears at the other end of the line.

Right-handed defensemen with such high potential aren’t available every day, and the more scrupulous 2021ers could suddenly become a little less scrupulous with the passage of time, especially in quieter markets…

10. Arber Xhekaj, DG | last ranking: honorable mention
Potential: 32/40
Confidence: 16/20
Use value: 23/30
Exchange value: 7.5/10
Total: 78.5/100

Potential and assurance of reaching it

Xhekaj surprised us all at training camp last year by quickly adapting to the NHL style and, above all, by imposing his own. From a mere honorable mention in August, I had to bump him up to 9th in my final post-camp review.

Already one of the most feared players in the entire NHL, Arber Xhekaj is of course much more than just a badass. In addition to great mobility for a 6’4, 240 lbs individual, he has pretty good hands and an excellent arsenal of shots that he regularly manages to put on net. Prior to his shoulder injury, this latter quality made him one of the top scorers among rookie defensemen in the entire NHL last year.

He still needs to improve his understanding of how to position himself and make the right choices on the ice with and without the puck, but he had polished his game enormously between his last junior year and his arrival in the organization.

This ability to learn and adapt, coupled with his intelligence, gives him the confidence to realize his full potential. For the time being, this puts him just ahead of a guy like Mailloux – who still has everything to prove in the pros – in our evaluation.

Use value

A few weeks ago, I suggested that, because of his rather unique style of play and what he represents for the team’s culture, Xhekaj might be one of the three “untouchables” on the CH’s defensive brigade, along with Hutson and Reinbacher. At least, that’s my opinion, based on my analysis of the defensive style that Hughes and Gorton seem intent on implementing.

If we didn’t like Arber so much, we probably wouldn’t have drafted his brother Florian in the4th round last summer. We seem to like the character and resilience of this family that wasn’t raised on absorbent cotton.

Figuratively speaking, Arber is already a kind of big brother to all his teammates. Like it or not, as long as field hockey culture has its share of violence, fights and dirty tricks, cops like him will always be useful.

Xhekaj is the perfect last-pair defenseman, capable of playing more than 15 minutes and easily filling in in the top-4 if need be, not to mention that his style of play remains highly sought-after in the playoffs.

He could certainly become one of the three most-used defensemen on the power play, and we’ve even seen him get a few power-play auditions thanks to his shooting. Perhaps there’s a Sheldon Souray side to him.

But it will be difficult for him to get playing time in this phase of the game with competitors who still have better offensive qualities than he does, not to mention the fact that the vast majority of power plays in the NHL are now played with four forwards.

Exchange value

I’m not sure what other teams would be willing to give up for his services, but if Xhekaj were ever put on the market, the list of buyers would be as long as Canadian winters. Players in his style are hard to come by.

Never drafted, is the Ontarian already worth the equivalent of a first-round pick or a very solid established NHL player? Not impossible. In retrospect, he’d probably already be a top-20 pick in the 2020 draft if teams had a time machine…

But if the CH also want to make noise (and hurt) in the playoffs, they’d probably be better served by retaining the services of the good Arber. For as great as his exchange value may be, his use value for the CH remains even greater.


Whereas Farrell, Mesar, Heineman and Andersson were more peripheral projects, when it comes to Fowler, Mailloux and Xhekaj, we imagine that in the minds of Habs management these three players all represent pieces of the puzzle with a good chance of joining the team’s core.

Although only Mailloux was actually drafted in the first round, in retrospect Xhekaj is already a top-20 2020 player and Fowler was the best goaltender in the last draft in the minds of the team’s management. So, internally, we probably see these three players as the equivalent of three first-round picks.

Fowler and Mailloux also have a good chance of moving up considerably on this list if they develop well in the coming months/years.

So, it looks promising for what’s to come in this countdown, doesn’t it?

But the next two players we’ll be evaluating next week won’t be light-years away from today’s trio…

See you soon!

More Content