The Montreal Canadiens ended disappointingly having just missed the playoffs by a mire two points. However there is a lot of positive going forward. Here are some of the reasons to remain optimistic.
Young Core and Prospects
The Habs also have a great prospect pool lead by Nick Suzuki and Josh Brook who should both be playing in Montreal full-time within the next two years. They also have Alex Romanov who is the youngest player in the KHL who will be likely coming overseas to the join the organization for the 2020-21 season.
This is something that will be great for the Habs as they have a pretty weak left side on defense. Aside from Mete, there isn’t a real everyday NHLer. Sure, Brett Kulak is a good bottom pairing defenseman but he is playing higher up than he should be.
With that being said, Habs should focus on getting a few left handed defenseman at the upcoming draft this year.
This is by far the worse spot on the team going forward and they will likely work on improving the defensive core this summer.
Adding Centres has made a difference
Last year, they got a bunch of centres to make the position one of their best in the prospect pool. This is a big difference than what we were saying a year ago at this time. The prospect pool at centre was pretty bare aside from Poehling and Jake Evans.
They also improved a lot this past season, as they added Kotkaniemi and Domi to their centre group. These two are big improvements to a declining Tomas Plekanec, Logan Shaw and Jonathan Drouin who held those spots in the 2017-18 season. In fact, at one point Paul Byron who barely played centre filled in for a struggling Habs team during that season.
Having these two alongside Phil Danault for the past season, has been a breath of fresh air as the team was the most improved them in the league.
The best part is that Danault is the oldest of the group at only 26 years old. While Domi will likely return to the wing once 20 year old Ryan Poehling is ready to play on the top three lines full-time. At 24, he is still a relatively young option to play at centre while he had his best season putting up 28 goals and 72 points in 82 games. He did this in a limited powerplay role.
While the 18 year old rookie Jesperi Kotkaniemi put up 11 goals and 34 points in 79 games while playing limited powerplay time.
As for Ryan Poehling, he played one game following his college season. In that game, he scored a hat-trick and added the shootout winner. By doing so, Poehling became the first Montreal Canadien to score a hat-trick in his first game since Alex Smart did in the 1942-43 season.
The centre position is something Habs fans will be excited to watch for many years to come.
As for goalies, the Canadiens starter will be Carey Price for the foreseeable future. However, Habs prospect Cayden Primeau just won the Mike Richter Award for the best goalie in the NCAA. So the team’s future success between the pipes may go beyond Price’s career if the 20 year old takes over. This is quite possible given that Price has about 6-7 great years ahead of him before Primeau is finally ready to take over the job.
Despite being good between the pipes for the near future, it is hard to say who the backup will be as Antti Niemi won’t be back and Charlie Lindgren just may not be good enough. Lindgren had a rough year with the Laval Rocket hampered with injuries. When healthy, his numbers weren’t great as both Michael McNivens and Dan Lacouvee had better numbers for the Rocket.
Lindgren had a good performance for the Habs in the final game of the season, but that is too small of a sample to say he will be the backup next season. The safe thing to do would be for Marc Bergevin to get another veteran this summer. So that a reliable goaltender could play 20-25 games behind Carey Price. Or another young goalie who is ready to take the next step in case Lindgren isn’t ready. That is something Bergevin will need to work on. However it shouldn’t be the main priority. He should be making shoring up the left side of D the first thing to progress.