December 31-in-31: Montreal Canadiens

Pablo Ruiz

2020-12-16

The Canadiens were busy this offseason after making some noise in the playoffs, despite being the 24th seed. They beat the Penguins and gave the Flyers all they could handle and did it on the backs of their young centers in Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, as well as their veterans in Carey Price and Shea Weber

This was a signal to Marc Bergevin that they are closer to competing than people may have thought. Despite a weak regular season, they had strong underlying numbers and controlled possession throughout the year. A lack of true talent is what cost the team a lot of wins and that is why they went out and added some NHL players in free agency and through trade.

The addition of Jake Allen will reduce Price’s workload and allow him to play rested. While they also no longer have to fear putting their backup goalie in net for a game, as they have one of the best in the league. The additions of Josh Anderson and Tyler Toffoli upfront will create three scoring lines that can control play. Anderson will add a strong physical presence that the Canadiens have lacked in their lineup for years. On the backend, they added Joel Edmundson who is a big physical defender that will make the Canadiens tougher to play against.

There is a lot to be excited for if you are a Habs fan, but none more exciting than their prospect pool. They boast one of the best crops of prospects in the league with a lot of these players on track to develop into NHL players. 

Graduating

These are the players who are no longer going to be considered prospects after earning a spot on the team last season and playing well enough to get more NHL playing time in this upcoming season. 

Nick Suzuki

Not only did Suzuki graduate from the OHL directly to the NHL, but he did it with an immediate impact. By the time the playoffs were over, most considered the rookie to be one of the Canadiens’ very best players. He got time on both the power play and penalty kill throughout the season and finished fifth in team scoring this year. 

The things that made him successful at the junior level transferred over to the NHL. Defensively, he has a very active stick whether it’s blocking passes or lifting an opponent’s stick to steal the puck. While in the offensive zone, his creativity and shiftiness allow him to create open space and a passing lane. Despite being on the smaller side, Suzuki is good at retrieving pucks in corners and isn’t afraid to drive the net.

Jake Evans

Evans only play 13 regular-season games by the end of the regular season as he spent most of the year in the AHL, but, the 13 games he did play, left enough of an impression to play six more in the bubble. Most people have him penciled in as the Canadiens’ fourth-line center. He is everything you want in a fourth-line center, which is that he works hard and likes to play a gritty game on the forecheck.  

Risers

These are some of the prospects who have had their stock rise the most since the last offseason with their improved play.

Alex Romanov

After such a successful draft+1 year, it seemed like Romanov was going to have a hard time topping it in his draft+2, but he did. He won the Best Defenceman at the World Juniors and improved on his rookie season in the KHL