Montréal Hits Offseason Jackpotby Kasim Husain | November 10, 2015, 1:05 PM ET
Millionaires' GM Kasim Husain made a splash at the SICHL draft, thanks in part to a hotly negotiated trade with the Whitehorse Huskies that some say was an overpay, sending Brendan Gaunce, Jordan Subban, and a 6th rounder to the Great White North in return for the 21st overall selection, the club had three first round picks for the first time in franchise history. Those three selections, and the rest of the team's haul on draft day, include the following:
Mitchell Marner, 3rd overall, from the OHL's London Knights, was the compensation prize for missing out on the Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel sweepstakes. "In a lot of previous years, this kid would be a candidate for 1st overall. He's not pro-ready, but once he gets there, we see some Patrick Kane-style dynamic offensive upside in him," commented the GM.
Travis Konecny, 14th overall: with the pick previously acquired in the Roman Josi trade with the Monarchs, Montréal selected another big-scoring but even more diminutive prospect from the OHL. The Ottawa 67s forward is another odds-on favourite to run away with the OHL scoring title.
Evgeny Svechnikov, 21st overall: Svechnikov is a big-bodied power winger with goal-scoring and playmaking ability playing in the QMJHL. While Montréal brass likes that he's chosen to come over to play junior in Cape Breton, it also believes worries over his nationality scared teams off from picking the talented Russian earlier.
With their second rounder, the Millionaires may have caught a falling potential star in Oliver Kylington, a two-way puck-moving blueliner whose 1st round stock dropped precipitously due to injury and attitude concerns. Offence continued to rule the day in the third round, as the team rattled off Swedish winger Robin Kovacs who led the a mediocre AIK squad in scoring during his draft year, Oshawa Generals' rover Mitchell vande Sompel who is tipped to pace the OHL in scoring from defence barring injury, and American forward Thomas Novak whose skill may allow him to draw into the lineup regularly on the Minnesota Golden Gophers, an unusual distinction for a freshman. The fourth round saw the Millionaires pick heady pivot Brad Morrison from the WHL's Prince George Cougars and a diminutive Ukrainian scoring sensation in the Québec Remparts' Dmytro Timashov. Defence was the order of the 5th round, as the club tabbed Finnish two-way dman Veeti Vainio and reentry Jeff Taylor, a key cog on the 2015 Frozen Four-winning Union Dutchmen's blueline.
After some wheeling and dealing with Kansas City and Hamburg, Montréal owned seven picks in the final two rounds, and selected the following players: goaltender Joel Daccord, who is committed to brand new NCAA entrant Arizona State, a lone offensive bright spot on the lowly OHL Sudbury Wolves in import Pavel Jenys, captain of the Q's Saint John Seadogs and projectable utility forward Spencer Smallman, a collegian-bound German forward in Western Michigan's Frederik Tiffels, slick Czech winger Lukas Jasek playing a little over his head in the tough Extraliga, Konecny's unheralded teammate Jeremiah Addison who waited until the 67s' playoff run to break out offensively, and finally a flyer pick in Rudolfs Balcers, a Latvian tearing up Norwegian hockey's scoring books.
GM Husain was evidently not done re-tooling the potential new-look Millionaires, as free agency saw the club reconstruct its blueline, and bring in depth at all areas of the roster. In a move sure to please season ticket holders, star dman Zdeno Chara agreed to a lucrative one-year contract with the fledgling expansion team, surprising many SICHL analysts. The team also offer-sheeted Brett Bellemore from the Krunch on a one year deal, and signed Kyle Quincey, who figure to join holdovers Danny DeKeyser, Zach Redmond, Matt Tennyson, not to mention super rookie John Klingberg, in forming a patchwork yet credible defence for Montréal.
The team may still struggle for goals this year, but it has brought in veterans to surround young talents like Jonathan Drouin and Brett Connolly, as the team signed forwards Manny Malhotra, David Moss, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The latter is a good story as few French products actually make the pros, and while adding another Francophone is potentially welcome sight for the culturally sensitive in the team's fanbase, sceptics point out he is not actually Québecois. Montréal also picked up some young prospects in the free agency pool who may percolate on the shuttle between Charlottetown and la belle province for some time, including forwards Daniel Carr, Garnet Hathaway, and Joshua Winquist, as well as mammoth Swedish netminder Anton Forsberg.
Earlier in the offseason, the Millionaires also managed to shore up both its goaltending future and forward depth by taking on Alexander Semin's albatross of a contract from the Huskies, receiving into the bargain budding goalie talent Philipp Grubauer and veteran Jason LaBarbera, as well as Whitehorse's 2016 4th and 7th round picks, all in exchange for long-suffering and twice-traded original Millionaire Nicklas Bäckström.
While excitement is definitely building after the full-scale makeover in the offseason, it remains to be seen what the team's coaching staff will do with the new talents it has at its disposal - seasoned hockey fans in Québec know the proof is in the day-to-day play in the regular season, even if the playoffs still seem a distant dream in the deep Canadian conference. There are also stubborn rumours that management aims to capitalize on the renewed fan interest in the young SICHL franchise provoked by the infusion of battle-tested pro credibility into the team's widening pool of young talent, so stay tuned for further news on that score.