2023 NHL Entry Draft, Arber Xhekaj, Jacob Fowler, Montreal Canadiens, NHL Entry Draft, Quentin Miller

Canadiens’ 2023 Draft Deep Dive: Rounds 2-7 Edition

The Montreal Canadiens kicked off day two of the NHL Entry Draft with eight picks in their pocket. Although they had to wait out the duration of the second round, they owned four selections in the following two rounds. The Canadiens traded their 37th pick in this year’s draft to the Colorado Avalanche in the Alex Newhook deal, including their 31st pick.

On day one, the Canadiens made shockwaves by taking the first defenseman of the 2023 draft in David Reinbacher. While this year’s class was rich in offensive talent, general manager Kent Hughes opted to beef up his blue line. The Canadiens were lacking in right-handed defensemen, and Reinbacher’s style is something the team will covet for years. We’ll see how long it takes him to translate his game to North America while he plays against men in Switzerland.

Related: Canadiens’ 2023 Draft Deep Dive: 1st Round Edition

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Hughes couldn’t find a way to sneak into the second round via trade, so 32 picks later, the Canadiens were finally up. One area of concern is the Canadiens’ lack of goaltending depth, and this year’s draft had plenty of capable netminders to fill that need. With the 69th pick in the first round, the Canadiens were officially on the clock for the first time on day two.

Canadiens Draft Strong Bloodlines

In Round 4, the Canadiens used all four of their picks to take players at all three positions. If the name Florian Xhekaj rings a bell, it’s likely due to his brother, Arber, playing for the team already. Florian plays the left wing and can be as feisty and aggressive as Arber. He’ll join the Brantford Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) next season, and perhaps one day, he’ll be joining his brother with the big club.

Arber Xhekaj Montreal Canadiens
Arber Xhekaj, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

With their final pick of the draft, at 197, Montreal picked up Luke Mittelstadt from the University of Minnesota. His brother, Casey, is on the cusp of becoming a great player for the Buffalo Sabres, and Luke is banking on doing the same with the Habs. His defensive game was above average at the NCAA level, showcasing quality gap control and front-net presence. His skating looked good, but he’ll need to face up against tougher competition as an overage defenseman.

Canadiens Add Three Goaltending Prospects

The Canadiens kicked off day two with a bang, selecting Jacob Fowler at pick 69. A top-five North American goaltender by Central Scouting, Fowler is an exceptionally gifted and athletic netminder. He was phenomenal for the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League (USHL), helping the team capture the USHL Clark Cup Championship and earning the Clark Cup MVP and USHL Goaltender of the Year.

Jacob Fowler Montreal Canadiens
Jacob Fowler, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Determined to add more depth between the pipes, the Canadiens used their 128th selection to take Montrealer Quentin Miller, along with their 144th selection to pick up Yevgeni Volokhin out of Russia. Miller is a homegrown kid from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) who served as backup to William Rousseau with the Quebec Remparts. Volokhin was sharp for Mamonty Yugry of the Russian Junior Hockey League (MHL) and will return next season for another run.

Leaving the 2023 draft, it’s clear that Hughes wanted to place heavy emphasis on building up their depth from the net out. Of their nine picks this year, only three play the forward position — one centre and two wingers. Reinbacher is, without a doubt, the cream of the crop for Montreal in 2023, but don’t count out the potential of some of their later picks. Fowler at 69 is excellent value for a potential starting goaltender in a couple of years, and their defensive depth improved drastically on the right side. Time will tell when and if these young prospects pan out, but Canadiens fans are crossing their fingers and toes that the draft class of 2023 will be one to remember five years from now.

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