Canadians need to look in their own backyard in later draft rounds

The Montreal Canadiens have received their fair share of criticism over the past few decades for ignoring QMJHL prospects. While it’s understandable that in the early rounds there are some can’t-miss prospects, regardless of their country of origin, it may make sense for later rounds to focus more on players who grow up in your midst. .

Now, this is not to start a debate on having more players from Quebec in particular. I’m talking about the QMJHL players who are spreading in the Maritimes. The same can be said for the Canucks with WHL players, the Wild with Minnesota State players, etc.

An example on rolling the dice of your end-of-round choices that can turn into an interesting case to come is that of William Dufour. The 5th round pick of the New York Islanders in the 2020 draft had the season of his life with the Saint John Sea Dogs this season, leading the team with 56 goals, 60 assists for a total of 116 points.

Putting more of the focus on him, the 20-year-old certainly caught Long Island’s attention after playing a four-goal game as his team trailed the Shawinigan Cataractes 3-0, leading his team to a 5-3 victory en route to the Memorial Cup Final.

That being said, that doesn’t mean Dufour’s performance will automatically mean he’ll be an NHL stud. It also doesn’t mean the Canadiens should focus solely on QMJHL players. However, with the obsession that hockey is in Quebec and the number of scouts available, there’s no reason the team shouldn’t know everything about everyone and take a risk on someone in rounds 4-7 for example.

In the 2021 draft, the Canadiens did just that. With little information to sink their teeth into due to short seasons around the world, teams weren’t sure who they were picking after the first round. Marc Bergevin and Trevor Timmins threw darts at the board and dug into their own backyard for Riley Kidney (#63), William Trudeau (#113), Joshua Roy (#150) and Xavier Simoneau (#191).

BOISBRIAND, QC – NOVEMBER 17: Xavier Simoneau. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Fans and media alike were thrilled to finally see more than a portion of the ‘Q’ players being drafted, that being said, there was skepticism at the time. Was it luck? Would the draft decree have been completely different if there had not been a pandemic putting the world on hold? Did the team pick local players because of extreme media pressure, knowing Trevor Timmins’ near-obsession with NCAA prospects?

This upcoming draft will have some interesting names for later rounds for the Canadians to consider, if they are available. Samuel Savoie, for example, of the Gatineau Olympiques, has had a tough season on offense, but he’s a relentless controller and one of the hardest workers you can find. Jake Furlong of the Halifax Mooseheads could easily become one of those slick third-pair defenseman coaches that coaches like to use in any marginal situation.

Sebastian High has of course mentioned Noah Warren also from Gatineau more than once and I agree every time. It can be a boon to anyone writing it.

KITCHENER, ONTARIO – MARCH 23: Team White’s No. 6 Noah Warren skates during morning practice before the 2022 CHL/NHL Top Prospects Game at Kitchener Memorial Auditorium on March 23, 2022 in Kitchener, ON Ontario. (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)

Even Nathan Gaucher, the center player of the Quebec Remparts could be someone very interesting to watch. Patrick Roy took raw talent and shaped it into a freight train that holds the puck like a magnet. He’s one of those guys you love having on your third line to bravely lead your forwards. He can leave in earlier rounds but could be a good investment.

Either way, Jeff Gorton took a similar approach with the New York Rangers when he looked straight into his backyard and desperately wanted to pick New Yorker Adam Fox in the third round. He overworked his garden, which is what you’re supposed to do in the first place. Fox slipped through his fingers and ended up in Calgary, but Gorton ended up acquiring him a year later despite a trade to the Hurricanes.

Sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t. However, it’s not just this upcoming draft, but future drafts that will shape Kent Hughes’ legacy, so we’re all very excited to see where the Canadiens’ ship will head.

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