Montréal #SICHLSUMM17 Reviewby Kasim Husain | September 5, 2017, 2:36 PM ET
"We get it already, you're building for the future," muttered one veteran Montréal media member, "but when does the present start to matter?" Hockey-mad Montréalers have been patient with the fledgling Millionaires franchise, which is entering its sixth season in the SICHL in 2017-2018, but pressure is building to succeed and soon or else. The organizational stable of forward talent, however, is about to mature, and with prized prospects like Patrik Laine, Mitchell Marner and Viktor Arvidsson expected to take a regular shift this season alongside retunring young guns Jonathan Drouin and Sam Reinhart, the question in Montréal is less where the goals are going to come from but how the team is going to prevent them.
Despite the climate of press speculation and fan expectation, the ultimate focus of this August weekend in Edmonton was the SICHL entry draft, and Millionaires GM Kasim Husain was busy over the weekend, meeting with GMs and discussing everything from rule changes to last-minute deals to put the team in the position to draft players. In total, Montréal made 11 picks in the 2017 draft, taking five defencemen, five forwards, and one goaltender, and picking a club-record four Americans, three Canadians, and one Finn, one Belarussian, one Swede, and one Czech. The following is a summary of the team's selections:
- 1st round (4th overal)l, Gabriel Vilardi - the power forward racked up points with the OHL's Windsor Spitfires, and was one of the top-ranked players in the year's draft.
- 2nd round (29th overall), Nicolas Hague - standing 6'5, Hague is an imposing figure on the blueline for the OHL's Mississauga Steelheads and projects to be able to play a major role on both sides of the puck as a pro, possibly even as a top pair defender.
- 2nd round (38th overall), Grant Mismash - as befits his last name, Mismash can beat opponents with a mix of skills. The two-way University of North Dakota commit out of the US National Team Development Program has proven physicality (192 PIM in his draft-eligible season), offensive touch, and is known to work hard onthe backcheck.
- 3rd round (57th overall), Evan Barratt - the slightly undersized forward is another high hockey IQ forward out of the USNTDP, who will ply his trade at Penn State next year. He needs to improve upon his skating and prove that he can produce at the collegiate level.
- 3rd round (61st overall), David Farrance - the two-way defender completes Montréal's run of three USNTDP picks, and will join a presitgious program at Boston University. His projectability as a great-skating powerplay quarterback is impressive, and if he can improve his slapshot and his defensive positioning he could end up being a steal.
- 4th round (99th overall), Petrus Palmu - an overage Finnish forward who piled up points for the Owen Sound Attack last year, there is thought in some scouting circles that if Palmu were any bigger than 5'6 he could have sneaked into the second round.
- 5th round (113th overall), Kirill Ustimenko - the big Belarussian netminder posted stellar numbers for St. Petersburg of the KHL's junior league last year, and will have plenty of time to become another candidate for the first starting goalie to be developed by the Millionaires franchise as he develops in Russia.
- 5th round (136th overall), Sebastian Aho - twice passed over for the draft, Aho is small like his identically named counterpart in the London Monarchs' system. There are two major differences - position (this Aho is a defenceman) and nationality (this Aho is Swedish rather than Finnish) - but there is a chance that this overager could make an impact as a pro defender as soon as his draft plus one season, not unlike fellow Millionaire Jyrki Jokipakka.
- 5th round (137th overall), Logan Cockerill - a small offensize wizard in the mould of a previous Montréal pick Anthony Louis, Cockerill will join Farrance in moving from the USNTDP to Boston U next year. The winger has the skating and competitiveness to put size concerns to rest and be a contributor at the next level, assuming his development goes to plan.
- 7th round (169th overall), Daniel Bukac - Bukac is a beanpole of a defenceman for the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings, having grown to his listed height of 6'4 from just 5'6 two years prior. He is raw and only gradually figuring out what to do with the new tools his size provides him with, but his skating and physicality are impressive considering his growth spurt, and he may have some untapped offence to his game as well.
- 7th round (172nd overall), Jocktan Chainey - a teammate of first overall pick Nico Hischier with the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads, Chainey played in all situations for the Mooseheads and acquitted himself well with his hockey IQ. He needs development in all areas of his game, considering he's a 7th round pick, but he has some potential considering the trust he has already earned to play big minutes.
GM Husain was already a bit wistful about the event in Edmonton at the time of this press availability: "We're a competitive league, no doubt, but it's weekends like these that are good reminders of the camaraderie that exists around hockey." Seeming evidence of this camaraderie was Montréal's participation in the first eight-teem trade in league history on the eve of the draft, which saw them receive forward Dan DeSalvo from Calgary and move minor-leaguer Jean Dupuy to Nova Scotia. Other teams involved in the deal included Hamburg, London, Whitehorse, Havana, and St. Louis. "I won't confirm or deny how much alcohol was consumed prior to the completion of that deal," Husain said. "We expect DeSalvo to be a difference-maker for Charlottetown this year, and we wish Dupuy the best on his voyage with the Clippers."
Two other pre-draft trades took place. The first was with one of the league's two new expansion teams, the Banff Rockies, who acquired prospect d-man Brett Kulak and a sixth-round pick in the 2017 draft from Montréal in exchange for forward Jake Evans, Banff's seventh-round pick in 2017 and their fourth-rounder in 2018. "We like Brett a lot and know he'll play a role in the SICHL, but we think Evans has similar upside to be a pro contributor, but on a timetable that better fits when we as a team are going to be competitive," said Husain. "I'd also like to compliment Ian Constable on a really successful first draft weekend in the league. I like the way he's building his team, and am also really grateful for his willingness to drive me and our fellow GMs around Edmonton this weekend without ever having met us before."
The biggest deal of the weekend was with the ever-busy Boston Colonials' GM Gary Graves. Montréal traded star defender John Klingberg along with prospect defenceman Mitchell Vande Sompel and Boston's own 4th-round pick in 2017, in exchange for prospects Sean Day and Taylor Raddysh, Kansas City's 2nd-round selection in 2017 and Calgary's 4th-round pick in 2018. "I am incredibly proud of John's progression," said GM Husain, who previously picked Klingberg as GM of the now-defunct Oslo Vikings, and then acquired him in a deal with the London Monarch for yet another star defender, Roman Josi. "He's going to get an opportunity to be a part of a good team in Boston, but he's been a solid contributor for us. We're also really excited about Day and Raddysh, who we both expect to contribute to our team in as little as two years' time." Incidentally, the Klingberg trade brings to five the number of selections the Millionaires own in next year's four round: "I guess homework for next year's draft starts today!" commented GM Husain.