Habs on Verge of Boasting 3 Rookie of the Year Prospects

 

 Subban, Kristo and Leblanc Making Gainey Proud

Finally, Bob Gainey’s outlook from the summer of 2009 is starting to shine through the clouds in Montreal.

Yes, Bob removed himself from his perch atop the Habs organization in January, yet his imprint on this Canadiens team will be felt for years to come.

Handing the reigns over to Pierre Gauthier wasn’t the popular option, but it was the easiest in terms of transition. Gauthier, along with Trevor Timmins and Julien Brisebois form the core of the Canadiens management team and are truly the men with which Gainey conferred on a regular basis while rebuilding this franchise from practically the ground up.

Since Gainey’s takeover, and the employment of Timmins and Brisebois, the Habs have become a sharp and focused team. Their management unit is used to the pressure of being able to come up with solutions without seeing their team slide to the bottom of the standings and, despite Bob no longer being with the team, his systems, structures and draft picks will mold the Habs over the course of the next 10 years.

To make a long story short, the Habs are a pretty good team this year because of what Bob did last summer, but they will be an ever better team for years to come for the work that he and his staff completed during his tenure as GM.

Gainey and Timmins brought us Carey Price and Jaro Halak. They have also brought us the Kostitsyn’s(works in progress), Ryan O’Byrne, Tomas Plekanec and Maxim Lapierre, among those currently playing on the Habs roster. Yet, it will not be for another couple of years that we will truly get to see what Gainey and Timmins had envisioned when building the Canadiens into what they are today.

Three examples of why the future is getting brighter and brighter in beautiful Montreal are PK Subban, Danny Kristo and Louis Leblanc.

The Habs have numerous other prospects which are earning their stripes as well, yet it is clear with these 3 players that the Canadiens have a base to build from.

Here is a quick brief on each player and what they have in store for the Canadiens.

PK Subban

Drafted:  2nd Round, 43rd overall in 2007

                                        — Regular Season —  —- Playoffs —-
Season   Team                        Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM  GP   G   A Pts PIM
————————————————————————————–
2005-06  Belleville Bulls            OHL    52    5    7   12   70   3   0   0   0   2
2006-07  Belleville Bulls            OHL    68   15   41   56   89  15   5   8  13  26
2007-08  Belleville Bulls            OHL    58    8   38   46  100  21   8  15  23  28
2008-09  Belleville Bulls            OHL    56   14   62   76   94  17   3  12  15  22
2009-10  Montreal Canadiens*         NHL     2    0    2    2    2
2009-10  Hamilton Bulldogs           AHL    66   17   34   51   76
————————————————————————————–
         NHL Totals                          2    0    2    2    2

Clearly PK is an offensive force. His presence on the Bulldogs has elevated to the top spot in their conference and, despite other plausible candidates for the Rookie of the Year award in the AHL, such as Tyler Ennis, PK has to be far and away the leading candidate.

His point totals place him 2nd overall among Defensemen and 3rd overall among Rookies. His +/- total, a tidy +39 in 66 games, places him 2nd overall in the AHL.

Subban started off a little rough around the edges at the start of the year. Although it’s not the NHL, the AHL is still quite a step up from the Junior levels and PK needed a brief time to adjust. That said, that adjustment period was certainly brief as PK has been on fire since the start of 2010.

Despite having yet to release the nominees for the AHL Rookie of the Year, I can almost guarantee you that PK Subban is the leading candidate.

His development this season has allowed Habs management the opportunity to clear some room this summer on the blue line as it’s clear that Subban is ready to play in the NHL and most certainly will be come 2010-11.

Danny Kristo

Drafted: 2nd round, 56th overall in 2008

                                     — Regular Season —  —- Playoffs —-
Season   Team                        Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM  GP   G   A Pts PIM
————————————————————————————–
2006-07  U.S. National Under-18 Te   NAHL   39    8   10   18   34
2007-08  U.S. National Under-18 Te   NAHL   14    4    4    8    6
2008-09  Omaha Lancers               USHL   50   22   36   58   18   3   3   0   3   2
2009-10  U. of North Dakota          NCAA   39   14   21   35    8
————————————————————————————–

Yet again, another Habs pick who is tearing up his respective league.
This time though, there is no questioning if Danny is a Rookie of the Year candidate because he has already been declared the winner of the ROY award in the WCHA.

 Kristo named WCHA Rookie of the Year

Danny has impressed at all levels and was recognized as one of Team USA’s dominant forces during their recent WJC victory. He may not be as close to the big show as PK Subban, but so long as the Habs continue their recent concept of letting their prospects develop at the proper level, Kristo should likely wind up in Hamilton within a year or two, depending on his choices regarding school. Currently at North Dakota, Kristo is only a rookie at the NCAA level, so he has some time before he needs to make the jump. Yet, once again, if he continues to sky-rocket through his development, expect Kristo to be knocking on the door at Montreal’s training camp sooner than later.

Louis Leblanc

Drafted: 1st round, 16th overall in 2009

    — Regular Season —  —- Playoffs —-
Season   Team                        Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM  GP   G   A Pts PIM
————————————————————————————–
2008-09  Omaha Lancers               USHL   60   28   31   59   78   3   2   1   3   2
2009-10  Harvard University          NCAA   31   11   12   23   50
————————————————————————————–

Louis, the youngest of this trifecta of Habs hopefuls, is also enjoying his first year of hockey at the University level. Although playing for Harvard does not exactly allow Leblanc to play as many games as the Canadiens organization would to see him play, he has nonetheless demonstrated continual development and progression.

Much like Subban, Leblanc started off quietly at Harvard, yet as the season has worn on, Louis has shown more and more that he is capable of being an immediate threat. He has done it at every level of play so it seems only natural that he hasn’t had that much difficulty adjusting.

The results of Leblanc’s quick tranisition has earned him a nomination as Rookie of the Year in the ECAC.

Leblanc Among Finalists for Rookie of the Year Award

Leblanc, the youngest of these Habs picks, is also the highest ranked of them all. Louis, drafted in a dream-like state by his home-town team in their home-town arena in front of friends, family and all of the Habs fans, is a smart man. Hence the choice to attend Harvard. Yet his astuteness and intelligence are not merely for the classroom. His on-ice vision is impeccable as his former team-mate and current blue chip Habs prospect Danny Kristo can attest to. The two Habs prospects played together in Omaha and displayed incredible chemistry, something that is sure to be a bonus for the Canadiens once these two reach the NHL.

There are other notables who are on their way up to the big club, but in terms of what Bob Gainey truly did to make this Canadiens team better in the future, that question will likely be answered by the 3 gentlemen listed above.

With the chance to boast 3 Rookie of Year players at 3 different levels, it definitely seems like the management/scouting staff that Bob Gainey put in place, that is now Pierre Gauthier’s to manage, is in excellent shape.

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Go Habs!!!!!

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  1. George Prax says:

    To be fair, the Habs had a pretty good team two years ago before Gainey decided to blow it up. But we’re not here to discuss that and I agree that this year’s team is actually pretty good.

    We could argue the merits of drafting one player over another until the cows come home. Truth be told, this team doesn’t look all that bad going into the future.

    While I was certain that PK was a shoe-in for rookie of the year in the AHL, I had no idea that Kristo and Leblanc were doing that well. Of course, it’s one thing to have success at the college level, another to translate it into NHL success, but it’s definitely a reason to get excited if you’re a Habs fan. All three are going to be in the NHL sooner rather than later, especially PK, and are going to be the staple of this team heading into the future.

    Great article Steven, I’m definitely going to refer to this in my upcoming blog.