27 young players were invited to the Montreal Canadiens’ 2021 Rookie Camp which will take place at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard. With the exception of Ivan Zhigalov, who had Visa issues and therefore is unlikely to make it to camp at all, the Canadiens have a lot of talent distribution to look forward too.
Top Prospect: LD/RD Mattias Norlinder
Mattias Norlinder shows us glimpses of a puck-moving flare that had lacked greatly on Montreal’s left-defensive side (he can play RD too, which is a plus with little depth on the right side) since the departure of Andrei Markov. The 21-year-old Swede has shown great poise in his first year in the SHL, a league known for having its scoring leaders be mostly more experienced players. While Norlinder is not the biggest or bulkiest Habs prospect at 5′ 11″ and 179lbs, Norlinder can utilize his mobility to generate chances around the opposing team’s blueline.
In the 2020 World Junior Hockey Championships, we were able to watch the puck-carrying ability of Norlinder first-hand. The ability to anticipate where open ice is going to be and how he can generate offense through this vision is a skill that Norlinder seems to only improve on with every season. The skillset to dangle around opposing defenders to generate offense is not one currently possessed on Montreal’s blueline, with the exception of Jeff Petry.
Norlinder, the product of Montreal’s 64th overall pick in 2019, will bring a different dynamic to a defense-core that is, for now, mostly consisting of defensive-defensemen. While it isn’t a long shot for him to make the team out of camp, Norlinder would greatly benefit from another year of seasoning in Frölunda and take an NHL spot in 2022-23. If he were to show that he is ready now though, well, we wouldn’t be upset about it.
Top Prospect: LD Kaiden Guhle
Kaiden Guhle is an early candidate to be Team Canada’s captain at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championships. Guhle, who made the team in 2021 as an 18-year-old, recorded 2 goals and added an assist for an impressive showing. He is a physical threat every time he is on the ice, and has shown exceptional forechecking and passing abilities. The Prince Albert Raiders’ captain is a former 1st overall draft pick in the WHL’s bantam draft, and has shown that his game style replicates that of notable NHL defensemen Shea Weber and Colton Parayko to a great extent.
Guhle was drafted by Montreal 16th overall in the 2020 draft, and has been climbing the team’s defensive prospect depth chart ever since. For a player who never stops moving his feet while he’s on the ice, Guhle is another left-handed defenseman who Montreal fans are happy the team has in their system.
Top Prospect: LW Jan Myšák
Myšák, who was the Czech Republic’s captain at the 2021 World Juniors, scored more than a point-per-game as a 17-year-old with the OHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs in 2019-2020. Myšák, who was drafted 48th overall in the 2020 NHL draft, is a fierce competitor who is not scared to lug the puck and shoot at high volumes. The Czech forward quarterbacked the powerplay at the WJHCs, and was able to score 2 goals throughout the tournament.
Myšák recently recorded a hat-trick in a game against Team Finland at the Czech Republic’s U20 tournament held in July. Along with 3 goals, Myšák recorded 4 assists to tally 7 points in 9 games. It should be noted that Myšák played in the 2020 WJHCs as well, sporting the full cage as an underager, and scoring a goal and an assist throughout the tournament in the process.
Myšák is a strong forechecker and smart forward, and we’re hopeful that once he makes the jump to the NHL he will be a mainstay on Montreal’s forward core for a long time.
Top Prospect: C Riley Kidney
Kidney, a Halifax, Nova Scotia native, recorded 38 points in 33 games last season with the QMJHL’s Acadie-Bathurst Titan. He showed fans that while he may be down sometimes, he is never out. The EliteProspects 2021 NHL Draft Guide states that Kidney “has real problem-solving skills; you see him bounce the puck off his skates and instantly dangle through defenders,” just like he did on an exceptional goal against the Halifax Mooseheads in Decemeber of 2020.
Kidney was drafted 63rd overall by the Canadiens in the 2021 NHL draft, and will be one of many notable Habs prospects playing in the QMJHL this year. He might even be one of the most entertaining. A good bet to make Team Canada at the 2022 World Juniors, Kidney is a smaller forward at 5′ 11″ (168lbs), but brings high-pace action which combined with fast skating, forms a player that is altogether smart and talented.
Top Prospect: RW Jesse Ylönen
Jesse Ylönen is a gifted playmaker and sniper who recorded 17 points in 29 games in AHL Laval last season. Ylönen is another Montreal prospect who isn’t scared to attack the play with such high pace that his forechecking can sometimes lead to turnovers from the opposition.
In his NHL draft year with Espoo United of the Mestis league, Ylönen recorded 27 points in 48 games as an 18-year-old. Ylönen showed well at the 2019 World Juniors with Team Finland, where he recorded 6 points in 7 games, while also scoring in the gold-medal game against fellow Habs prospect, goaltender Cayden Primeau.
Having played his first NHL game versus the Edmonton Oilers on May 12, 2021, Ylönen was able to catch some NHL action first-hand, which undoubtedly will help his poise and confidence for the next time he is called up to the Habs. A medium-sized forward at 6′ 1” (187lbs), Ylönen is one of the better prospects in the organization as a whole.
Top Prospect: C Xavier Simoneau
Xavier Simoneau is a small forward at only 5′ 7″ (174lbs), but as demonstrated by Cole Caufield, NHL scouts shouldn’t always scout with a tape measure. Luckily for Canadiens fans, Montreal’s scouts don’t. Simoneau has scored above a point-per-game in the QJMHL dating back to the 2018-2019 season. From 2018-2021, Simoneau found himself on the Drummondville Voltigeurs, and was their captain for the last two seasons. In 2019-2020, he recorded his career-high in point totals, with 28 goals and 61 assists for 89 points in just 61 games played.
On June 23, 2021, Drummondville shipped their captain east to Charlottetown in exchange for a 2021 1st and three draft picks in 2023. They gave up a lot to acquire the star forward, but Simoneau will join a deeper-than-before Charlottetown team that has QJMHL star Lukas Cormier, as well as fellow Montreal Canadiens’ prospect William Trudeau, who was also drafted in 2021. The 6th round, 191st overall pick will look to rack up the point totals in what will be his last season in the CHL. Simoneau will be AHL ready for the 2022-2023 season.
Top Prospect: LW Rafaël Harvey-Pinard
“One on one: Rafaël Harvey-Pinard! Right to the net, and [Alexis] Gravel comes over and kicks it aside. What a move by the captain of the Huskies! Walked around Jocktan Chainey,” was the call by RJ Broadhead during a game between the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Halifax Mooseheads in the 2019 Mastercard Memorial Cup. Harvey-Pinard came dashing down his strong side of the ice and proceeded to make a nice move on the Halifax defenseman.
Harvey-Pinard was the captain of two QMJHL teams toward the end of his CHL career. The first being the aforementioned Huskies in 2018-2019, and the second being the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in 2019-2020. Harvey-Pinard is more NHL ready than most prospects on this list, and could even be considered an NHL depth-forward at this still-early of his career. His AHL action this season should be exciting, and we may catch a glimpse of him in the NHL by season’s end. Then, hopefully, by April 2022, we can hear a TV commentator say: “one on one: Rafaël Harvey-Pinard! Right to the net, and the goaltender comes over and kicks it aside. What a move by the Habs’ rookie! Walked around the defenseman!”