Going forward, the Montreal Canadiens have a beautiful future. However, one of the most important veterans is Phillip Danault. He is likely the best defensive forward on the Canadiens but there is so much more to the 26 year old.
For one, his offensive game is incredibly underrated. Many deem him to just be a product of his linemates but there are plenty of flashes that prove otherwise. His defensive game is something special that only few in the league possess.
Phillip Danault is more than a guy who plays off his linemates offensively. A good example is that since playing regularly with Danault, Brendan Gallagher has managed to become a 30 goal scorer. Most of the 2017-18 season, Gallagher played with Tomas Plekanec but his goals per game has gone up with Danault.
Gallagher was one of the leaders in 5-on-5 goals in the league and Danault is a huge part of why. He finished just behind Max Domi (44) for team lead in assists with 41. Many of which were primary on Gallagher’s goals. The fact is the two helped each other a lot. It also helped having a skilled forward like Tomas Tatar on the other wing.
The trio has proven to have great chemistry. All three compliment each other as they each bring something to make them successful. Danault brings the play-making ability that helped his linemates have career years. Gallagher is the hard working grinder. As Tatar, is the more pure skill guy. That doesn’t mean the three can’t switch roles at times.
The Defensive Side
Danault is the absolute definition of a two-way hockey player. Every night, he and his linemates play up against the opposition’s top line. This is something that many players on the team are not able to do while putting up points.
Danault is a player who likely also received a few votes within the top 10 for the Selke award given to the best defensive forward. His +17 rating was tied for third on the team in plus-minus with Andrew Shaw and Victor Mete. Only linemate Tomas Tatar and Max Domi were better in the category. The difference is he had the toughest job to shutdown the team’s best centre.
Accomplishing this can be tough as you are tasked with playing against some of the most elite centres in the game. He has handled it tremendously. Danault has one of the best plus minus for defensive centres in the game. He is ranked 29th in the entire league in that category, and 20th among centres. He was ahead of the likes of Jordan Staal and Joe Thornton who were assigned main defensive responsibilities for teams who made playoffs. Sure, Thornton is aging so it more expected but Danault is better than Staal in more ways than people realize.
Danault also had a better points per game than Staal this past season. (0.65 for Danault vs. Staal’s 0.56). In fact, Danault’s stats resemble Jordan Staal’s from when he was around the same age.
What should we expect from Danault
This upcoming season, Danault will likely start the year as the top line centre with his two regular linemates. They will be assigned to shutdown top lines.
However as the season goes on, the Canadiens will likely rely less on him as the youngster Jesperi Kotkaniemi gains more experience and responsibility. Expect Danault to be a 45 point player if healthy next season. The best case scenario is that the 26 year old, continues to improve and gets his name in Selke talks. Either way, Danault will be a big part next season.