5 players the Canadiens could realistically select with No. 5 draft pick

May 10 2023, 9:05 pm

With the fifth overall selection in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, the Montreal Canadiens find themselves in a prime position to add another talented player to their already-promising prospect pool.

While they won’t have a crack at Connor Bedard or Adam Fantilli, there are still a handful of elite prospects that are already on their radar — one of which they will select when they approach the podium in Nashville on June 28.

Following the draft lottery, general manager Kent Hughes said he’s interested in selecting the top player, regardless of size or position.

“We’re looking for the player we think is the most talented, who can have the biggest impact over the course of his career for the Montreal Canadiens,” Hughes said. “I can’t tell you if it’s a big player or a small player, or whether it’s a defenceman or a forward or a goalie.”

Here are five players Montreal could take with the fifth overall pick this year.

Dalibor Dvorsky

dalibor dvorsky

NHL

  • Position: Centre/right wing
  • Size: 6-foot-1, 201 pounds
  • Nationality: Slovakian
  • 2022-23 stats (AIK, HockeyAllsvenskan): 38 GP, 6 G, 8 A, 14 PTS

Dalibor Dvorsky may be projected to go 12th on Sportsnet’s latest Top 16 Mock Draft, but it’s very possible that the Habs take this big two-way centre early.

At age 14, he was a point-per-game player in Sweden’s U16 league, proving maturity and poise beyond his years. The 17-year-old Slovakian has continued that trend, putting up 14 points over 38 games among men in the SHL last season.

TSN analyst Craig Button has been singing the Slovakian forward’s praises as of late too, saying his size would complement some of the Habs’ smaller forwards like Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield, and even fellow prospect Joshua Roy.

Button’s colleague Bob McKenzie agrees with that assessment, saying “the Slovak centre has the size, strength, skill, and competitiveness to project as a solid two-way No. 2 NHL centre, equally adept at scoring goals and making plays.”

Will Smith

will smith

IIHF

  • Position: Centre
  • Size: 6-foot, 172 pounds
  • Nationality: American
  • 2022-23 stats (U.S. National U18 Team): 60 GP, 51 G, 71 A, 127 PTS

Ranked at No. 4 by Sportsnet and No. 5 by The Hockey News, Will Smith could very likely fall into Montreal’s lap at the Draft this year. And they’d be lucky to get him.

Known best for his impressive playmaking ability, this six-foot-tall right-handed centre also seems to have a nose for the net, scoring 51 goals and 75 assists in 60 games with the United States National Team last season.

Smith’s also had success at the international level, representing his home country at the World Junior Championships twice. He put up an impressive 11 goals and 13 assists in just 11 games. As a result, he was named MVP of the 2023 IIHF tournament.

Zach Benson

zach benson

NHL

  • Position: Centre
  • Size: 5-foot-10, 159 pounds
  • Nationality: Canadian
  • 2022-23 stats (Winnipeg Ice): 60 GP, 36 G, 62 A, 98 PTS

Projected to go sixth overall by Sportsnet, Zach Benson is a versatile forward that can play both centre and left wing.

Although he is listed at five-foot-10, 159 lbs, Benson plays a big game. The 17-year-old put up a whopping 36 goals and 98 points over 60 games this past season in the WHL with the Winnipeg Ice.

According to Cam Robinson of Elite Prospects, Benson “has some of the best hands and the highest work rates of any player in this group.”

“His motor is seemingly endless and allows him to thrive at his stature, proving he can do in the NHL is the next hurdle, but one he’s prepared for,” Robinson adds.

Ryan Leonard

Ryan Leonard

Rena Laverty / USA Hockey NTDP

  • Position: Centre, Left Wing, Right Wing
  • Size: 6-foot, 172 pounds
  • Nationality: American
  • 2022-23 stats (U.S. National U18 Team): 57 GP, 51 G, 43 A, 94 PTS

Over the past season, 18-year-old Ryan Leonard has found success at center, right, and left wing for the United States National Team Development Program, netting 39 goals and 73 points in 45 games played.

Even when he’s not on the scoresheet, analysts have noted that the six-foot forward plays a mean two-way game.

“Leonard brings a dual-threat offensive package, abrupt forechecking habits, strength along the wall, and pro-level habits,” Robinson wrote in the EP Rinkside Post-U18 2023 NHL first-round mock draft. “He’ll transition extremely well.”

“If you want to get a power forward out of this year’s draft, he’s your guy,” EliteProspects Rinkside Editor in Chief J.D. Burke added.

Sportsnet currently has Leonard projected to go fifth overall in the draft.

Matvei Michkov

michkov

NHL

  • Position: Right Wing
  • Size: 5-foot-10, 178 pounds
  • Nationality: Russian
  • 2022-23 stats (HK Sochi): 27 GP, 9 G, 11 A, 20 PTS

Matvei Michkov has all the makings of an NHL superstar. The problem is that whoever drafts him will have to wait at least three years for the Russian player to make his way to North America.

Michkov is under contract with Kontinental Hockey League club SKA St. Petersburg through the 2025-26 season.

When asked about potentially selecting him, Hughes called the five-foot-10, 172-pound winger “a special case,” and says the organization has to evaluate the risks that would come with selecting him fifth overall if he’s still available.

“It’s kind of a risk-reward assessment for any team that is considering drafting him,” he said. “It would be a tiebreaker … if you’re considering Michkov and another player you deem very, very comparable in terms of talent and potential, then those factors are probably going to weigh him down.

“If we determine that Michkov is a lot more talented than the other players available at the draft, we’ll have a decision to make,” Hughes concluded.

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