What will the Canadiens look like next season? Unless you have already forgotten the players on the injured list, the CH formation will be very familiar to you.
Montreal will remain a very young team and will rely on the individual and collective progress of its workforce to achieve sustainability.
In two years, for example, Nick Suzuki will be 25, Kirby Dach, Cole Caufield, Arber Xhekaj and Jordan Harris 24, Kaiden Guhle and Justin Barron 23, Juraj Slafkovsky will be 20, Sean Farrell, Lane Hutson, and Owen Beck will no doubt have made it to the NHL by now and there will probably be a few players drafted this summer, who knows, Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli or Leo Carlsson hopefully in the lottery?
But barring a surprising ascent, there will in principle be at least another difficult season to live through, with a few more undesirables in the line-up.
The first four centers are known. Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach will still be the top two. Despite the criticism, and the absence of top wingers since Caufield’s injury, Suzuki is on course for a second straight season of 60+ points at just 23 years old.
Dach started the season on the wing, but he proved in the weeks before his injury that he could be a quality second centre. He had 9 points in his last 11 games and played between 18 and 23 minutes.
Christian Dvorak has just had knee surgery and is expected to be fit for training camp. We see his offensive limits, but he will still have two years left on his contract at 4.5 million per year, he is not harming the team and he will serve to bridge the gap with the next generation, that is to say Owen Beck or even a center drafted in the top 5 or 6 this summer. In health, Jake Evans is a fourth quality center.
Barring injuries, we can let Owen Beck, second-round pick in 2022, play one final season in the junior ranks and participate in the World Championship in a leading role with the Canadian team.
With the return to health of Juraj Slafkovsky, whom we will keep in Montreal against all odds, like this season, the emergence of Raphaël Harvey-Pinard and the arrival of Sean Farrell, the left side is very young, but it could be some interesting fights.
Farrell has never touched an NHL rink before, but given his talent, his dominance in the NCAA, 51 points in 31 games, his experience at the Olympic Games and the World Championship with men, we can dare to predict a place in Montreal in 2023-2024. He will be 22 in November.
That leaves Mike Hoffman, Rem Pitlick, Michael Pezzetta and Emil Heineman. In an ideal world, Hoffman, 33, would be traded this summer or have his contract bought out. A transaction would be surprising this summer. Will his inconsistency and poor decisions with the puck still be tolerated by next year’s trade deadline? Is the game really worth the candle?
Caufield was on his way to a 46-goal season at just 22 years old before seeing his year come to an end to heal his shoulder. He is a number one right winger.
Josh Anderson’s progress in recent months makes him a second quality right winger. Anderson has amassed 13 points, including 7 goals, in his last 18 games, he brings a lot of speed and robustness and he finally seems to have understood the main concepts of team play.
Acquired for rental player Evgenii Dadonov (8 points in 8 games since joining Dallas), 25-year-old Denis Gurianov isn’t perfect, but he has an impressive physique at 6-foot-3 and scoring skills undeniable. He has scored in his last three games, and now has five points, including four goals, in nine games since his acquisition. He should be offered at least one qualifying offer.
There remain Brendan Gallagher, Joel Armia, Jesse Ylonen and Alex Belzile (he deserves a contract of at least one year) for two positions. Gallagher, after many years of loyal and effective service, is unfortunately a drag due to repeated injuries, underproduction (Jesse Ylönen has two more points in two games less) and a terrible contract in force for four more seasons at 6.5 million per season. Will we have the courage to buy out the contract of this valiant striker of almost 31 years?
The defense will be similar. We will no doubt try by all means this summer to trade veteran Joel Edmundson, now limited to 19 minutes and less use per game, so as not to deprive Arber Xhekaj and Jordan Harris of playing time.
Barring injuries, Logan Mailloux, William Trudeau and Jayden Struble will graduate in Laval, Lane Hutson will stay in the NCAA for another year, as will Adam Engström in Djurgardens, Sweden.
We expect to see Samuel Montembeault and Jake Allen in net again.
This is basically the overall picture. But beware, Kent Hughes is never short of surprises for the fans…
23-year-old defenseman Rasmus Sandin, the Maple Leafs’ late first-round pick in 2018, has every chance to make a name for himself since being acquired by the Capitals. He already has nine points in just six games and has played 25 minutes or more in four of his last five games, including a nearly 30-minute night against the Devils a week ago.
Despite his undeniable offensive qualities, the Leafs traded him because they want to win at least one round this spring and they could no longer tolerate his vulnerability on defense. They got in return a veteran, Erik Gustafsson, hardly superior however since his arrival in Toronto, but also, above all, recovered a choice at the end of the first round.
Now five points from last playoff spot, the Capitals can afford to be patient with Sandin.
They got it with the Boston Bruins’ acquired late-first-round pick for defenseman Dmitry Orlov, who would enjoy full free agency at the end of the season. A nice recovery.
Sandin had a tough game against Buffalo on Wednesday. Two lost battles for the puck along the boards and a lack of rear mobility in the neutral zone led to three goals for the Sabres.
The future will tell us if Toronto was right in its case or if we ran out of patience.
1- Alexandre Pratt suggests organizing a World Cup of Hockey expanded to 18 teams, like in baseball. The gaps in the score do not seem to scare him.
2- No one is safe from the pranks of their children. Daniel Brière knows something about it. He apologized on Wednesday for the behavior of his son Carson, who vandalized a wheelchair at a nightclub. The details of Simon-Olivier Lorange.
3- Did Jean Pascal manage to intimidate his opponent during Wednesday’s weigh-in, in anticipation of Thursday night’s fight at Place Bell in Laval? Yes, says his trainer. Simon Drouin was there.