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The Montreal Canadiens have the 16th overall pick in the first round of the NHL entry draft, which will be held Oct. 6-7. This is the fourth of five profiles of players who could be on the Canadiens’ radar.
Team: Chicoutimi Saguenéens
Height/weight: 6-foot, 181 pounds
Central Scouting Bureau: 13th among North American skaters.
The Canadiens don’t have a history of drafting francophones in the first round of the NHL entry draft. The last time they drafted a Québécois was in 2009 when the draft was held at the Bell Centre and they selected Louis Leblanc. Prior to Leblanc, they struck out in 1998 with Éric Chouinard whose back-to-back 100-point seasons in the QMJHL were the prelude for an NHL career that lasted only 90 games, including 13 with the Canadiens.
In light of their experiences, it will be interesting to see if they take a gamble on Hendrix Lapierre should he be available at No. 16.
A year ago, they probably would have jumped at the chance to draft Lapierre. The No. 1 pick in the 2018 QMJHL draft averaged nearly a point a game in his first junior season and his stock was high after he collected 11 points in five games to lead Canada to a silver medal at the Gretzky Hlinka Cup. He was in the top 10 in most draft projections and TSN’s Craig Button ranked him No. 2 behind Alexis Lafrenière. Button called him a complete two-way player and compared him with the Florida Panthers’ Aleksander Barkov and the Boston Bruins’ Patrice Bergeron.
But the past season wasn’t kind to Lapierre. After a slow start, he was sidelined twice by what were thought to be concussions and he finished the season with two goals and 15 assists. After consulting with a variety of doctors, it was determined that Lapierre’s concussion-like symptoms were the result of a spinal injury stemming from a concussion he suffered in February 2019. A spinal injury doesn’t seem like good news, but Lapierre has been cleared to play.
Teams considering Lapierre have to weigh his early potential against the injury and the slow start.
On the plus side, Lapierre is a playmaker capable of seeing the ice well and unloading precision passes on both his forehand and backhand, making him very effective on the power play. His shot is accurate, but he needs to shoot more and will be more dangerous when he adds some strength.
On the negative side, it was difficult to get a good read on his development because of his injury problems. His size and skating are only average and he has to get stronger. The Gatineau native goes into the draft as a wild-card who could make some team very happy, but he could also be the second coming of Louis Leblanc.
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