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Offseason Outlook: Montreal Canadiens

2019-07-10

2018-19 Grade: F (Last year: F)

Things have gone from bad to worse for Montreal. After trading away a lottery pick, the Habs had to move elite prospect Brady Tkachuk to get it back. Only to trade it away again and pass on Alex Turcotte for Dylan Cozens, a very good prospect in his own right but far from a foundational player and a pick that saw its value plummet immediately after the trade.

Studs:

Once again, there are no studs in the Montreal dressing room. This is a team that tied Florida for what was almost the worst season in the history of the DCHL (both GMs need to thank Detroit). This team is devoid of talent and looking at 3-4 more years of bottom-feeding.

Duds:

This one has to go to GM Collington. While the results of trading 1st overall aren’t really his fault (nor are they conclusive until any of these players actually see pro-time), the path leading up to the trade was his own doing. No doubt the Habs’ sophomore GM has learned a few valuable lessons.

Keys to Success:

1.    Stock the cupboard

The rebuild is in full swing in Montreal, and that’s a good thing. While they still lack that foundational piece, Cozens, Adam Boqvist, Kristian Vesalainen, and Spencer Knight are all solid pieces to build around. Add these prospects to Dennis Cholowski and Roope Hintz, rookies who may see pro time in the DCHL this year, and you have a few things to be excited about in Montreal.

2.    Find a young 1C

Obviously, Montreal feels they have this in Cozens. While that remains to be seen, the consensus is that Cozens is far from a sure bet to be an impact C in the NHL. While he may end up as an elite winger, that doesn’t help Montreal’s lack of depth down the middle.

3.    Stay the course

The Habs have slowly accumulated a respectable group of young players and prospects. With ample cap space, it may seem like a good idea to go for it in free agency and compete this year. This would be a mistake. Montreal has too many holes in too many places, and is better served sitting out one or two more seasons and accumulating more high-end talent.

Top 3 Prospects:

Dylan Cozens– Taken 7th overall in the 2019 NHL draft by the Buffalo Sabres, Cozens plays a mature two-way game and possesses subtly high-end hockey sense, lightning speed, and a deadly shot. He is a gifted playmaker with great vision, and plays with pace with the puck. Projected DCHL Arrival: 2021-22

Adam Boqvist– The 8th overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft, Boqvist is a dynamic offensive-defenseman that can carry plays with the puck on his stick. He has the toolbox of a top line forward, slick puck-handling ability, and excellent vision and positional awareness. Projected DCHL Arrival: 2021-22

Kristian Vesalainen– Poised to claim and NHL job this year, Vesalainen is in the best position to become a valuable DCHL player. He’s a big forward with good offensive tools including a powerful shot. Drafted 24th overall in the NHL by the Winnipeg Jets, Vesalainen is in prime position to play protected minutes on a contender in 2019-20. Projected DCHL Arrival: 2020-21

2019-20 Outlook:

Montreal is still just plain bad and will be for a few more years. Despite this, GM Collington remains his own worst enemy. If he can learn from his mistakes, Montreal could be at the top of the weak Atlantic division in a few years’ time. For now, Habs fans can safely stay in the closet for another embarrassing season.