Some might mistakenly believe that rebuilding means only sinking in the rankings to accumulate top draft picks for several years.
This is one element among others, but the growth, individual and collective, of young people in the place is also an essential element for successful renewal.
The Canadian will reach the quarter mark of the season in California this weekend. The current ugly streak, only two wins, in overtime, in ten games, lags behind last year’s performance after 18 games by three points, colleague Simon-Olivier Lorange reminded us on Tuesday.
The Canadian had a very young team last year, even more so with the departures of Mike Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin and Joel Edmundson, but so far he has not yet established that he was superior to last year. Perhaps this long trip to the American West will allow CH’s young players to take off.
The situation was obviously disturbed by the unfortunate defeat of Kirby Dach in the second match of the season. Dach showed the most marked improvement last year, at age 21, with 38 points in 58 games and effective defensive play at 6-foot-4, 217 pounds. He eased the pressure on senior center Nick Suzuki.
That gives us the expected output at 24: 16 points in 18 games, en route to a 72-point season, generally adequate defensive output, no Selke Trophy bid, in short, safe value without MacKinnon or Matthews.
Despite his 15 points in 18 games, Cole Caufield needs to give more. He scored only five goals, but only one in five-on-five play. But last year he showed that he is not just an attacking specialist with 19 of his 26 goals in such circumstances. Let’s see how long we can keep him separated from his companion Suzuki.
Alex Newhook is an interesting acquisition. It seems to reveal more on the wing. He brings the speed of the three. Without being transcendent, he can improve the offensive trio. He is only 22 years old and scored 55 points in the entire season. It’s rare to pick a player of this value at 31e or 37e choice in total.
The loss of Dacha also hurts in terms of the individual growth of individual young people. Christian Dvorak is by default on the second three. Offensive qualities are clearly not the same. It’s hard to ask Juraj Slafkovski and Caufield to produce with a center with limited offensive potential. Slafkovsky, 19, is taking steps in the right direction, though, enough that there are no longer any proposals to send him back to the minors.
Don’t dream of Jaromir Jagr. But if he can score 30 goals per season while winning his trench wars with his imposing 6-foot-4-inch, 230-pound frame, Montreal will win its bet.
Defenseman Kaiden Guhle is probably the young player whose improvement has been most spectacular, even though he was already very good last year. Guhle, only 21 years old, played 24 minutes in Boston. He is by far the most reliable back on the defense and has collected six points in fourteen games without participating in the power play.
Acquired for Artturi Lehkonen before the March 2021 trade deadline, right-hander Justin Barron, a rare commodity in Montreal, has established himself as a relatively reliable fourth baseman with some offensive potential after a half-hearted training camp. Jordan Harris and Arber Xhekaj have shown their limits since the start of the season, although Xhekaj’s robustness and his ability to play peacemaker provide him with interesting relief.
Otherwise, Samuel Montembeault, who is still considered a young goalkeeper at the age of 27, is also improving. His statistics are higher than last year. He shows consistency and takes the resources to get a contract for several seasons.
As we can see, there are still gaps in training at this stage of reconstruction. There is still a lack of impact players that would allow CH to strive for the Stanley Cup. Will Dach become that dominant center when he returns next year?
If Caufield isn’t a five-on-five threat again, we’ll have to hope for another strong winger to arrive, either through the draft or on the free agent market in two or three years.
Despite his production of 18 points in 15 games in his first pro season in the American League, at age 20, Joshua Roy has to prove he can be just as productive in the NHL. It’s too early to tell, too early to rule out. Filip Mesar has 22 points in 11 games since being reinstated to the Ontario Major Junior League. He remains a small striker in a team that has several of them, let’s see what happens next.
On defense, David Reinbacher is expected to be the first defenseman without becoming a big star. However, he could form a solid duo with Guhle in two or three years. We mustn’t dismiss too quickly the left-handed defender Adam Engström, 20 years old, even superior compared to last season in Rögle.
Lane Hutson, 19, is producing at an incredible rate in the NCAA. He has 14 points, including 8 goals in 11 games, coming off a 48-point season in 39 games in his rookie year, a performance greater than that of Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar and Adam Fox at the same age. But they were able to establish themselves in the NHL despite their small size because they were also able to be effective with equal numbers. Hutson doesn’t have the speed of the other three. But his hockey IQ remains terrifying. You never know how a smaller defenseman will adjust to the National Hockey League until you see him in the National Hockey League. For CH, we hope the transition will be successful.
The more we think about it, the more the 2024 draft, with a pick in the top 5 increasingly likely, could become crucial. Important parts are still missing.
Jake Allen to help in Edmonton?
Jake Allen is third on the list of goaltenders the Edmonton Oilers may be interested in, according to colleague Frank Seravalli. A photo of the Canadiens goalie even adorns his text. While he rightly points out Allen’s health weakness, he seems to be overestimating his value by saying the price to get him could be high.
It’s hard to see the Oilers, already stuck on the salary cap, getting an oft-injured 33-year-old goaltender, at least a decent one in Montreal (he’s posted an average above 3.30 and a subpar .906 save percentage over the past three seasons ) with an annual salary of HRK 3.8 million for this and next year. CH could absorb some of his salary, but is he interested in doing so given the low return that can be expected for his services? Not forgetting that even at 1.9 million, Edmonton would still have gymnastics in terms of salaries?
Nothing is impossible in hockey. Ken Holland and his advisers may have enormous admiration for Allen. If the line bites, you can get the fish out of the water as fast as possible!