While it’s impossible to predict precisely how these newcomers and youngsters will join the core of the team, there appears to have been a drastic shift in philosophy when it comes to expected results.
The core of the team has largely remained the same as the one that led the Habs to the Stanley Cup Final last season, but the team has taken a more attack-oriented approach than in recent seasons. offering many opportunities for young hopefuls to make their mark and take it to the next level.
This does not mean, however, that the Canadiens have abandoned their defensive approach which has served them very well in the last decade, but in concrete terms, the current squad should be able to make more exciting plays in the offensive zone and, ideally, more goals. .
Which player should hatch?
At only 20 years old, the best is yet to come for Cole caufield. Due to his incredible 2020-2021 season, which saw him win several honors, including the Hobey Baker Trophy awarded to the best player in the NCAA, the bar is already high.
He will show up at training camp as one of the favorites to win the Calder Trophy, but he will do so after he has already proven his worth to the team with a 10-game audition late in the season. , to which are added 20 eliminatory games.
It is still unclear whether he will be able to maintain his production from last year of around 33 goals in an 82-game season. However, we already know that Caufield is hugely talented and is the kind of player the Canadiens haven’t had in the last ten years.
It might be unfair to have so many expectations of such a young player, but Caufield’s journey to the NHL has proven to us that he is the kind of player who shines in the big moments and takes advantage of the opportunities that come with it. come to him, as evidenced by his 2.15 points per 60 minutes of playing time in the most recent playoffs, the highest among all Habs players.
He also had some very good five-to-five stats at the end of the season. Note the fact that this production is quite sustainable and that it would not be surprising if it increases as it finds its cruising speed in the NHL.
On the power play, Caufield won’t be content just to score goals. His menacing shot, one of the best in the entire league, will create passing lines and scoring chances for his teammates.
He may not end his rookie season leading the team in scoring as it is not entirely up to him, but he should still manage to create scoring chances that will lead to long appearances in the attacking zone. .
In short, Caufield is cut for the Montreal market. He has everything to become a star player and has the focus, dedication and talent to make it happen.
What about the center position?
With the departure of Phillip Danault, a golden opportunity presented itself to Nick suzuki. His usage time should increase drastically, as should his responsibilities as he is the favorite to occupy the role of first center of the team.
With these new responsibilities, Suzuki will finally have the chance to show the rest of the hockey world an aspect of his game that remains extremely underestimated: his defensive intelligence.
Yes, the Canadians will miss Danault, but Suzuki can absolutely follow in Danault’s footsteps on defense, as well as producing offensively as we have come to expect from a top line player.
The quality of the opposition will increase, but so will that of his teammates, especially if Suzuki is paired with Brendan Gallagher.
It’s no longer a secret: Gallagher is the equivalent of a “cheat code” in hockey.
No other player in the team can make his teammates better, besides increasing their chances of scoring, when he is on the ice.
For example, when Gallagher found himself on the ice with Danault, they were able to control 57% of the shots, an impressive statistic. However, when they were separated, that stat dropped to 47% for Danault as Gallagher continued to control the majority of shots.
There are center players in the League who can put the brakes on attackers while still maintaining excellent attacking stats. While there is no guarantee that this will be the case for Suzuki in the next season, he is perfectly suited for the role, especially if he can count on the invaluable help of Gallagher.
Who will score goals?
It would not be wrong to say that the Canadians currently have their best offensive training in years.
Mike Hoffman, Josh Anderson and Tyler toffoli will be able to score goals, but all three will use different ways to get there.
Hoffman is a natural scorer, as he combines shooting and precision to score the majority of his goals. You can expect a 25-plus-goal season from him, depending on how quickly the chemistry is created within the team’s power play.
Anderson, on the other hand, looks a lot like Hoffman, as he scores thanks to excellent scoring chances. However, he scores more goals by rushing towards the net and creating his own scoring chances with good positioning, rather than a good throw.
As for Toffoli, he is the opposite of the first two scorers since he tends to shoot a lot to create scoring chances, in the same way as Gallagher does.
This trio of talented winger should be able to do more than lead the team’s offense five-on-five, although that aspect of their game remains very important. All three of them will be crucial to power-play success, especially if Hoffman can continue to produce at the same rate he has achieved with his teams in recent years.
Who will be the surprise of the season?
The Canadiens solidified their third and fourth lines with the acquisitions of Mathieu Perreault and Cédric Paquette, to the point where these combinations should be better than any third or fourth line formed last year.
However, there will be injuries and some hopes may be able to come and lend a hand to the Canadians.
One immediately thinks of Ryan Poehling, the number one candidate to be recalled. After a disappointing first season in the AHL, Poehling managed to establish himself as one of the Laval Rocket’s top players last season.
Not only has he increased his output from 0.36 to 0.89 points per game, but he’s also taken giant strides to take his career to the next level. His defensive play has also improved greatly, as has his skating, his strength and his ability to use his wingers every time he is on the ice.
Jesse Ylönen also has the potential to cause a surprise this season, thanks to his formidable shot and excellent skate. He’s not the kind of player to place on a third or fourth line, but if a Top 6 player were to go missing, Ylönen would be a logical choice to contribute offensively.
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard still has a lot to learn in the AHL, but if his rookie season is any clue of things to come, he would be an ideal player to recall if the team were looking for fighting spirit, since he is in the same mold as Brendan Gallagher. Even if he will not score as many goals as the number 11 of the Habs, he will drive his opponents crazy by positioning himself constantly in front of the opposing net.
What are the challenges at the blue line?
With the announcement that the captain Shea weber was going to be absent for a long time next season, there would be minutes and roles to fill at the blue line.
As usual, it will be at Jeff petry to lead the charge while Weber is away and, since he’s consistent both offensively and defensively, you can be sure Petry will do the job with poise and even strength.
On the power play, Petry will once again be one of the team’s key players. While he doesn’t have the same formidable shot as Weber, he remains one of the most productive power-play defenders in the league, as evidenced by his 15 power-play points last season, placing him in tenth place. among defenders.
The use of four forwards on the power play will also make up for Weber’s absence. However, the team will need a playmaker on the second wave, a role that could be given to Alexander Romanov.
His vision, coupled with his penchant for staying in the top of the zone and creating passing lines, make him one of the more interesting options to see his usage time with the advantage of a man increase.
David Savard and Brett Kulak are also candidates to play on the power play, but they should already be used extensively in the company of Ben chiarot and of Joel edmundson to silence opposing attackers five-on-five, a role they perform admirably.
What will the management of goalkeepers look like?
After having had knee surgery, Carey Price should be in its position at the start of the season, but like the last campaign, expect its use to be more limited than it was five years ago.
As we could see during the team’s recent playoff run, the rest served Price well, resulting in increased responsibilities for Jake allen, who performed very well in his first season in Montreal. He will try to keep that same level of play this season as an assistant to Price.
But don’t be surprised if a third goalie shows up with the team. Cayden Primeau isn’t quite ready to take on the NHL’s number one goalie role, but the young goalie should be able to get a few starts when the opportunity presents itself.
It’s not easy to predict where the Canadiens will end the next season, especially given the changes made this summer. Still, with the fact that they stand to score even more goals this season thanks to their additions, it would be reasonable for them to aim for the playoffs again this year.
Once the playoffs begin, as was the case last year, anything can happen. The hockey played there is different and Canadians know the style suits them very well.
But in the long run, this season will allow the team to measure themselves against other teams in order to assess the progress of certain players to determine if they are ready to take a more important role with the team as well as to know the real one. value of the new development program.
The veterans will need to continue to lead the charge, but the coming season may be one where they will pass the torch to the next generation.