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Habs draft analysis: Mission accomplished
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Unsurprisingly, Saturday was certainly not as exciting as Friday’s magical evening for Habs fans. But that’s no big deal: everyone was pretty happy the day after… maybe even the executives!

After all, having allowed them to round out what I believe to be an elite core in 2-3 years’ time with the first-round selections of Ivan Demidov and Michael Hage, the Flanelle may well have had their most decisive two hours in recent years.

Let’s focus first on these players and some of the first-round surprises before saying a few words about the Tricolore’s other selections.

Rank 5 : Ivan Demidov

I’ve said repeatedly since February that if anyone could ever come close to, or even surpass, Macklin Celebrini as the best player in the 2024 draft, it would be Ivan Demidov. That’s why I ranked him#2 on my list and why he stayed there until the end.

So I tend to agree with his agent Dan Milstein when he says that if Demidov had played in North America this season, there could have been a real battle between him and Celebrini.

Milstein used the same logic to argue that Alexander Romanov (38th) should have been a top-10 pick in 2018. We have to admit that what happened next proved him right

In short, I’m writing this a few hours after the Habs selected Demidov at No. 5 and I still can’t believe it.

Demidov in Blue-White-Red is a reality.

There were signs that Demidov might still be available at No. 5, but I figured that Chicago, Anaheim AND Columbus wouldn’t all be able to pass him by.

The somewhat surprising – even for the main interested party! – but perfectly defensible selection of Beckett Sennecke at#3 by the still enigmatic Ducks has, of course, upset many predictions.

Basically, the Hawks, Ducks and Jackets seem to have prioritized certain needs or types of player, once again giving the lie to the theory that teams should always draft the famous “best player available” in the top-5.

Without saying that they choose exclusively on the basis of need, it proves once again that teams choose the optimal option in their own context; they opt for the player who will help them become better overall.

However, I really have the impression that the teams who chose from 2 to 5 this year were all able to opt for their optimal option.

If I’m reading this correctly, that means they would have made exactly the same selection if they’d all been able to pick2nd!

But then again, Demidov is still a hell of a pick for the Habs from where I’m sitting! We’ll be talking about him at length in the coming months!

In the meantime, we can already say that the dynamic Russian forward has the potential to become a superstar, just like Slafkovsky, and that this is exactly what the doctor recommended to the Habs.



Rank 21: Michael Hage

Following the trade of Pierre-Luc Dubois the day before the publication of our in-house mock draft, I had targeted Michael Hage as an alternative option for the Kings at… No. 21!

Hage would have been a nice long-term replacement for Dubois in Los Angeles’ plan. But Rob Blake decided instead to go in another direction, preferring to get the Habs’ 2nd-round pick, which finally allowed them to fill a need by selecting excellent goaltender Carter George at 57th.

Hage is a definite talent. Although he’s not small at 6’1, he’s a bit like the light version of Beckett Sennecke in this draft. A fluid skater with excellent hands, a good shot and great offensive vision.

After an understandably difficult start to the season following the tragic death of his father, he led the USHL in scoring in the second half of the season, recording no less than 50 points in his last 29 games. A simply exceptional performance, superior to Trevor Connelly, chosen two rows back…

Hage just needs to continue accumulating experience, then develop physically and tactically, particularly in his zone.

He’s a very promising midfield forward, an intelligent player who can even be moved around the top three if need be.

The very definition of an “impact” player: a better-than-average soldier.

It was also refreshing to hear him express himself in excellent French, having spent part of his youth in the Montreal region. Bravo!

I really don’t think Hage could have made it to 26th place. So, on the face of it, it’s an excellent move by Kent Hughes to have been able to move up 5 places to select a player the organization liked.

Buium 12th??? Luchanko, 13th?

Not to say that Zeev Buium was a slam dunk as the best defenseman in this draft, he was nonetheless my favorite in that role ahead of Sam Dickinson.

A potential superstar, Buium.

In the afternoon on Friday, there were even strong rumours that the Ducks would turn to him in the 3rd spot.

That said, Buium, who has literally won everywhere he’s been over the past two seasons (U18, U20, NCAA ), doesn’t seem to think he’s a 7up flat, and perhaps in the very conservative NHL, his lack of humility didn’t please everyone in the interview. According to him, he will single-handedly bring a “winning culture” to the team that drafts him, no less!

But I swear, if at the end of his career, 15-20 years from now, he’s only the fifth-best defenseman in this draft, I’m going to have to get a hair transplant at Hairfax in memory of Guy Lafleur!

So, what were the Flyers thinking when they reversed their pick with the Wild, leaving Buium and his incredible potential to the latter, and then turned to… Jett Luchanko at #13?

We’re talking about an improved version of Owen Beck in the best of all possible worlds. A third center. A kind of “North American Canadian” Konsta Helenius, as Elvis Gratton might have said,

For his admirers, the good Konsta was drafted just after Luchanko at No. 14 by the Sabres…

Funny, too!

Rank 70: Aatos Koivu

I confess I didn’t quite understand the hasty selection of the son of Saku, former captain of the Canadiens, and Mikko’s nephew, Mr. Wild of Minnesota. Is it pure sentiment or pure feeling? Not according to Bobrov and the Habs, but… The mystery hangs in the air.

We don’t want to be unkind, but in the case of Aatos, we’d like to say that the apple has fallen a little far from the family tree.

We don’t mind believing that he only turned 18 last week, that he’s only just starting to grow, that he’s a long way from the finished product, but still. The work as a whole remains modest, without any great panache or demonstration of character…

He does, however, have fairly good hands, a good shot – without being sensational – and good agility on skates. For the time being, he may compare his style to Sebastian Aho, but he looks more like a poor man’s Jesse Ylonen (aouch!) capable of playing center…

So there’s nothing earth-shattering about Koivu, even in Finland’s very ordinary U18 and U20 leagues.

In fact, at the U18 World Championship, he was conspicuously invisible, registering just one tiny assist in 5 games… Yet U18 is not a tournament where it’s difficult for good players to rack up points.

Draw your own conclusions…

The Others

As for the rest, there’s the charismatic Logan Sawyer (78th), who has a lot going for him: energetic, intelligent, quick to the net at the right moment, a bit of creativity and a precise shot. But we’re probably talking at best about a guy who has a chance of reaching the NHL on a fourth line. This year’s Vinzenz Rohrer…

Owen Protz (102nd), for his part, becomes the annual obscure big, bad, strictly defensive back who likes to make his opponents boo-boo. Still, there’s always got to be a project somewhere.

The burly Tyler Thorpe (130th), 6’4, 213 lbs, doesn’t seem to be a master clearing man in front of the goal. Mind you, there’s no such thing as a fool’s job, and he’s also got a pretty good shot, but will it be enough to play in the NHL one day? Really not sure…

Minus Vecvanags (134th) is the 2024 late-round goalie, and ultimately he’ll be the one the Habs chose as their 2nd 5th-round pick rather than give a chance to Justin Poirier (156th), 51 goals at 17 in the QMJHL.

Bobrov and Lapointe aren’t here to win a popularity contest, and there are plenty of little players in the organization, but still: 51 goals! And 18 more in the playoffs!

They could at least have saved themselves a little embarrassment when they hinted that he would have picked him in… the 6th round! Many people, including myself, were a little surprised that he was still available in the 70th round.

But who would be so surprised if Poirier became one of the top 25-30 players in this draft? Some kind of Donald Audette or Jonathan Marchessault? Did Serge Boisvert and that same Donald Audette-oh my! – had good things to say about him? Was there a reason other than size that bothered the Habs?

Who knows?

Finally, did I tell you about Ben Merrill (166th) as well as friendly Makar Khanin (210th) and Rasmus Bergqvist (224th)? Well, that’s that!


In short, it was two long balls in the first inning for the Habs on Friday, but the rest of the game, played in the rain on Saturday, will probably be punctuated by several pop flies and other forefield rollers

That said, in addition to Demidov and Hage, if just one other member of this crop makes it to the NHL, it could be the Habs’ best draft since 2007, and a second great one in 3 years if we think that Slaf and Hutson (2022) will also become excellent players, that Beck should normally have a very honest career, not forgetting Kirby Dach, acquired a few minutes after Slaf that year!

We’ll be back soon with our famous updated core model for the Habs. And we’ll be on the lookout, because there could well be some movement between now and then…

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