First, before I begin, I said “So Far” because I’m not convinced the season is over yet. So every NHL season comes with its surprises and disappointments and some of these may have made a bigger impact than we expected. In this article, I’m going to take a look at the Montreal Canadiens and whose stood out to me and who really dropped the ball so far. My surprises may be different than who you may have been surprised by, but the disappointments I think are guys who would stand out in anyone’s mind when you look at some of the letdowns the Habs had this season.
Nick Suzuki – The London, On native is in his rookie season with the Habs after making the jump from the Ontario Hockey League. Suzuki was a beast in the OHL, putting up 34 goals and 60 assists for 94 points in 59 games. This past season, Suzuki split time between the Owen Sound Attack and reigning champion Guelph Storm.
He made the Habs opening night roster out of camp and has stayed with the team the entire year, putting up 13 goals and 28 assists for 41 points in 71 games. Those 28 assists are fourth on the Habs so far this year. Despite how bad the Habs power play has been this season, Suzuki has been one of the bright spots with 14 power play points. One part of Suzuki’s game that’s impressive is his ability to stay out of the box as he has the least amount of penalty minutes on the team.
Ben Chiarot – When Montreal signed Chariot in the offseason, they filled an instant need on the blue-line. This season, we’ve got a career year out of the 28-year-old defensemen who put up nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points in 69 games. Over the past few seasons, Shea Weber has struggled to stay healthy and that has put all the weight on Jeff Petry.
Chariot has taken some of that pressure off Petry and both defensemen have been having great years respectively. Now with Mete out, I expect Chariot to continue to play a big role once hockey returns and heading into next season as he’s solidified himself as a top-four defensemen for the Canadiens.
Ilya Kovalchuk – Yes, I’m aware he’s no longer on the Habs, but in his brief time with the Habs, he made the biggest impact on the team all season. The Habs signed him looking for a boost with all the injuries and the lack of scoring they have been getting this season. What the Habs ended up getting was the vintage version of Ilya Kovalchuk as he put six goals and seven assists for 13 points in 22 games played.
He wasn’t just a boost on the ice, but a boost off the ice as well and showed that he absolutely loved playing in Montreal. On February 23rd, the Habs opted to trade the Russian forward to the Washington Capitals in exchange for a third-round pick in the upcoming draft. However, the hope is that Kovy returns to the Bell Centre ice when he becomes a free agent on July 1st.
Keith Kinkaid – This is easily the biggest disappointment for the Habs this season as Kinkaid had high expectations when he was signed by Montreal. He had a solid year in 2017-18 where he went 26-10-3 with a 2.77 goals against and .913 SV percentage, but ever since, his numbers have dipped off. Montreal wasn’t looking for him to play in 41 games like he did in Jersey, but we did expect him to play anywhere from 25-30 games.
However, Kinkaid appeared in only six games with the Habs before being sent down to the Rocket de Laval. This forced the Habs to call up Charlie Lindgren, a guy who could’ve used another full season down in the AHL. During his time with the Canadiens, he went an abysmal 1-1-3 with a 4.24 goals-against average and .875 save percentage.
Sadly, Kinkaid didn’t do much better in Laval as his numbers there were 3-7-3 with a 3.44 goals-against average and .876 save percentage. He was recently re-assigned to the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL which means he’s seen his time in the Canadiens organization come to a close.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Let’s call it a sophomore slump for the 19-year-old Finnish Native. In his first season, he proved everyone wrong by putting up 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points in 79 games. This season, he had some injuries which limited him to only 36 games in which he put up six goals and two assists for eight points over that time.
Montreal decided earlier this season to send him down to Laval to develop which has turned out pretty well. In 13 games with the Rocket, he’s got a goal and 12 assists. I do expect Montreal to start him down in Laval next season, but I think he’s the first guy up when a player begins to struggle or gets hurt. Expect him to be as promised even though he’s hit this rough patch.