The NHL Season is less than a month away and with that being said, let’s take a look at the upcoming season for the Montreal Canadiens. Last year when the season began, Montreal wasn’t expected to have a good year as they were in the mode of “rebuilding”. The season went a lot better than expected as the Habs finished the year 14th in the NHL despite missing the playoffs by a mear two points.
They got production from a ton of guys last year like Tomas Tatar, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Brendan Gallagher who all had great seasons, but they need more guys to step up. More on that later on in the article.
The offseason was a fairly quiet one for the Habs before they offer sheeted Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho. There were also talks about signing big names like Jake Gardiner and Matt Duchene, however, we can still keep our fingers crossed on Patrick Laine if the cost isn’t absolutely crazy which it probably will be. In the end, the Habs would just end up filling some holes that were left at the end of last season.
In goal, they signed 30-year-old goaltender Keith Kinkaid to fill the void that was left when the Habs announced that Antti Niemi wouldn’t be coming back at the end of the season. On the blueline, they added Ben Chariot after losing Jordie Benn as he would end up signing in Vancouver. More on the free agency signing can be found here.
What Can We Expect From The Habs This Season
All eyes this pre-season will be on rookies Ryan Poehling and Nick Suzuki. These are currently the two highly touted prospects of the Habs future and both guys have a solid shot of possibliy making the team out of camp. However, if they don’t make the team out of camp, they will likely see a ton of ice-time down in Laval and could see time in Montreal at some point in the season if injuries don’t occur.
With Kinkaid getting at least 25 starts throughout the season, this will keep Carey Price healthy and well-rested which is exactly what the Habs need. It has been proven over the last few years that goaltenders who play less than 60 games are able to take their team deep into the playoffs.
Forwards And Defensemen
Montreal has a very young team and looks very promising heading into the season. Offensively, they will be led by guys like Brendan Gallagher, Max Domi and veteran left-winger Tomas Tatar.
The hope would be that Tatar and Domi can duplicate the success they had last season. Gallagher has already proven to be a 30 goal scorer in the league. The Habs have two solid lines and should have a solid bottom-six as well, as soon as they decide who they are going to pair up.
The Habs blue line, which has been shaky, looks very solid this year. On the first pairing, you have Shea Weber and 21-year-old Canadian defensemen Victor Mete. This is going to be a huge test for Mete who I believe should be a second pairing guy, but the Habs don’t have anything better on the left side at this time.
Chariot and Jeff Petry will take the second pairing to start the year. I’m very excited to see what Chariot is able to bring to the table for the Montreal Canadiens. Rounding out the final pairing will be Mike Reilly and Noah Juulsen. As much as I love Brett Kulak, I think Reilly starts the year on the bottom pairing, but Kulak will see some time splitting as well.
Who Needs To Step Up
Montreal had a ton of production last year from multiple guys but there are some guys I would like to see some more production out of next season. These guys are all capable of putting up huge numbers if they are put with the right pairing and don’t fall into year-long slumps.
Lehkonen has played three seasons with the Habs and has been a middle-six guy for them over that time. Last season, he put up 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points in 81 games. In his rookie season, he put up 18 goals in 73 games which was a career year from him goal wise.
The Habs bottom two lines is the only question mark for me at this time. If Lehkonen can continue to be that third-liner who can move the puck well and put up around 20 goals for Montreal, that would be another great surprise for Montreal and add depth to their middle six core.
If Juulsen is able to make the team out of training camp which I believe he should be able to, he’ll be a very interesting player to watch coming out of training camp. Juulsen has battled injuries throughout his first two seasons, but could be a break-through defenceman for the Montreal Canadiens next season. The 22-year-old defenceman has played well, but could use some improvement to his offensive game which should come with more added playing time.
It’s also an added benefit that Juulsen is waivers exempt so it won’t be an issue if the Habs wanna call him up on the odd chance he doesn’t make the roster. He’s an all-around defensemen and I expect to see him bloom this season.
The Habs will once again find themselves playing hockey in the postseason. They have found a dependable back-up in Kinkaid and they have sured up the Montreal blue-line. Columbus and Toronto have both taken a step back after losing key pieces in the offseason and will likely find themselves behind the Montreal Canadiens in the standings this season.
The only question now is how deep can the Habs go in the playoffs.