In this series, we will provide our expectations for the Habs players going into the 2021-2022 regular season. To simplify our analysis, we have split the roster into 3 groups: forwards, defensemen and goalies. In each group, we have identified a few main segments that we see the players falling into.
Without further ado, here is our analysis on the forward group of the Montreal Canadiens.
|Left Wing||Center||Right Wing|
|Toffoli (LW, RW)||Suzuki||Caufield|
|Hoffman (LW, RW)||Dvorak||Gallagher|
|Drouin||Poehling (C, LW)||Anderson|
|Lehkonen (LW, RW)||Evans||Armia (RW, LW)|
|Perreault (LW, RW)||Paquette (C, LW)||Byron (LW, RW, C)|
Additions: Hoffman, Perreault, Paquette, Dea, Dvorak
Subtractions: Danault, Tatar, Perry, Staal, Frolik, Kotkaniemi
Nick Suzuki (15G, 26A in 41 games; 7G, 9A in 22 playoff games):
Suzuki is coming off a very strong sophomore season in which he tied his point production (41 points) in 15 fewer games. While his first season in Montreal opened everyone’s eyes to his potential, this season cemented his status as a star 1C in the NHL.
Similarly to last year, Suzuki elevated his game when the playoffs rolled around, finishing first in points for the second consecutive year.
2021-2022 Prediction: In both of his first 2 seasons, Suzuki had small periods of time where he was less effective. This year, we expect to see a consistent effort from game 1 to 82. With the departure of Danault, Suzuki will be relied on in all situations but has shown that he is more than capable of this. As his linemates are likely to be Caufield and either Toffoli or Drouin, we expect to see Suzuki approach the point-per-game threshold.
Cole Caufield (4G, 1A in 10 games; 4G, 8A in 20 playoff games):
Caufield had one heck of a year. His Wisconsin Badgers won the season title and made the Frozen Four. He unanimously won the Big Ten Player of the Year award, won the Jim Johannson College Player of the Year and the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.
He then signed his entry-level contract with the Habs, scored 3 goals in 2 games with the Laval Rocket and then made the jump to the NHL where he scored his first 2 NHL goals in OT.
In the playoffs, Caufield quickly found himself on the top line with Suzuki and Toffoli, and finished 3rd in points (4 goals and 8 assists) on the team behind his linemates.
2021-2022 Prediction: Caufield earned first dibs at top line minutes in the playoffs last year, and we expect him to start the year with Suzuki. While he will likely face more adversity this season, Caufield has proven that he excels in the big moments. No one will be surprised to see Caufield in the Calder discussion all year long.
Tyler Toffoli (28G, 16A in 52 games; 5G, 9A in 22 playoff games):
Tyler Toffoli came into Montreal as an analytics darling. His contract was widely considered a steal, but little did we know just how much of a steal it would turn out to be. Toffoli’s 28 goals in 52 games ranked 7th in the NHL. It’s been awhile since we’ve had a goal scorer make the top 10. He was on a 44 goal pace over an 82 game season. His playoff production was very respectable too, although it dropped off towards the end as he visibly was playing through an injury.
2021-2022 Prediction: We don’t expect Toffoli to put up the same goal pace as last season, but it’s reasonable to expect that he could reach 30 goals this year. He will likely slot in with Caufield and Suzuki, which will only pad his stats.
Brendan Gallagher (14G, 9A in 35 games; 2G, 4A in 22 playoff games):
Gallagher was and will always be the heartbeat of this team. It is obvious every single time he gets injured and finds himself out of the lineup for an extended period. The team simply doesn’t win much at all without him. The perennial 30-goal scorer was on a 32-goal pace over a full season, so his offense is still there. It was much less present in the playoffs, although we suspect he was still recovering from his hand injury. He was also heavily relied upon to defend the top lines in each series with Danault, so that didn’t help his playoff production either.
2021-2022 Prediction: Gallagher’s regular season offense is elite. It was no different last season. That said, we enter unchartered territories as his most regular linemates of the last 3 seasons, Philip Danault and Tomas Tatar, have accepted deals elsewhere. With Caufield a virtual lock to play with Suzuki, and the centre position so tenuous as of the writing of this article, it’s hard to say who Gallagher will play with, and if he will develop chemistry with them to sustain his torrid goal pace of the last few years.
Christian Dvorak (17G, 14A in 56 games)
Dvorak enters the Habs on the heels of an unmatched offer sheet to Jesperi Kotkaniemi. The question is who you want to consider him a replacement for: KK or Danault. From our perspective, he is more offensively capable, and less of a defensive stalwart (although he is still very capable at defending). Ultimately, he is more likely to be seen by the team as a Danault replacement.
In the shortened 2021 season, Dvorak was on pace for a career year of 25 goals and 20 assists (based on an 82 game season). 12 of those goals would have been power play goals, and these are something the Habs are in desperate need of.
2021-2022 Prediction: Dvorak will be playing between 2 strong wingers, regardless of who they end up being (there are a lot of good options). It’s very possible that he plays with the most talented linemates in his NHL career thus far. Bergevin has already stated that he will be relied upon in all situations and will be given a lot of responsibility. With all of this considered, we expect to see a career year for Dvorak in all offensive categories. We wouldn’t be surprised to see him be in range of the 50 point mark.
Mike Hoffman (17G, 19A in 52 games; 1G, 0A in 4 playoff games)
Hoffman is a prolific goal scorer – one of the very best in the NHL, especially on the power play. We didn’t watch him much at all this year but by all accounts, the scoring touch is still as strong as ever, but his defensive game at 5v5 is severely lacking.
2021-2022 Prediction: Hoffman’s success in Montreal will be heavily predicated on getting him the right linemates. He will need an excellent playmaker on his line, as well as at least 1 defensively responsible player. We could see players like Drouin and Dvorak fitting the bill here. If things click with Hoffman in Montreal, watch out.
Josh Anderson (17G, 7A in 52 games; 5G, 1A in 22 playoff games):
The powerhorse signed a 7 year deal with the Canadiens shortly after being acquired in the famous Max Domi trade. While he has his detractors, we’d say he lived up to his paycheque in his 1st season wearing le bleu-blanc-rouge. The knock on him is a lack of consistency and tunnel vision. He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s a horse on skates. But he doesn’t really see his teammates all that well. When he’s on, he’s a force. When’s he’s off, his impact is limited. That said, he has a knack for big moment goals. Let’s look at his playoff goals:
- Scored the opening playoff goal in the Toronto series.
- Scored the tying goal (thank you Fleury) in game 3 against Vegas to force OT.
- Scored the dramatic OT goal in that very game.
- Scored the opening goal against Tampa Bay in game 4, giving MTL its first lead of the series.
- Scored the OT goal in the same game to keep their Cup hopes alive.
2021-2022 Prediction: Anderson needs to find consistency, and we think that he will find it this year, if he manages to stay healthy. He will never be an adept passer so he needs to stick to his guns. He’s a rare player in this league, and Montreal needs to maximize his skillset. We’re expecting 25 goals out of him this year.
Joel Armia (7G, 7A in 41 games; 5G, 3A in 21 playoff games):
Joel Armia is an enigma. When on top of his game, he might be one of the most effective forecheckers in the game and the hardest person to take the puck away from. When he is not on top of his game, he is generally invisible. Last season was easily the toughest year of his career, due in large part to his concussion and his positive COVID-19 test which derailed his season and caused the entire team to shutdown for a few weeks.
In the playoffs, Armia played on a dominant line with Perry and Staal that surprised everyone with their grit, tenacity and scoring touch. Without them, the Habs do not make the Cup Final.
2021-2022 Prediction: After inking a new 4-year deal with the Habs, we hope that the contract security will result in more consistent play from Armia. While he may be slotted into a 4th line role, his linemates will be no slouches and could very well wreak havoc against other teams’ bottom lines. If Armia can solve his consistency issues, and avoid injury for the first time in four years, we expect to see a return to form from his first two seasons with the Habs where he was on pace for 18 and 22 goals respectively.
Jonathan Drouin (2G, 21A in 44 games; no playoff games played):
Drouin might be the hardest player to get a read on in this whole series. He has proven that he has elite skill on numerous occasions but has never been able to play with consistency. Last season saw him have a good year in terms of playmaking; however, goal scoring was non-existent. This may have been due to the hand injury that had been plaguing him. Towards the end of the season, Drouin took a personal leave of absence and did not return for the Habs’ Cinderella playoff run.
2021-2022 Prediction: Assuming health is a non-factor, we expect to see a rejuvenated Jonathan Drouin. While we cannot begin to guess who his linemates will be due to the many viable line combinations, there’s no shortage of scoring wingers for him to set up. Whether he plays with Caufield, Gallagher, or Anderson, we would expect to see him rack up the assists. Here’s hoping he can show some flashes of the level of play we saw from him in juniors/Tampa. Doing so would make him the ultimate dark horse.
For your enjoyment:
Players on the Rise
Jake Evans (3G, 10A in 47 games; 1G, 1A in 7 playoff games):
With the departure of Phil Danault and Kotkaniemi, Evans will be the second oldest center on the team. We expect him to help Suzuki eat up the tough defensive minutes this year.
Ryan Poehling (11G, 14A in 28 games (AHL)):
What happens with Ryan Poehling will be interesting this year. He showed great improvement in Laval last season, and is poised to make the next step by securing a full-time role in the NHL. Time will tell if he continues to trend in the right direction.
Abundance of Depth
Every year, Bergevin goes out and acquires a few depth/role players. This summer was no different. As we head into the 2021-2022 season, it is unclear where any of the below will fit into the lineup, if at all. The most likely reason to see any of them in the lineup is injuries. Lehkonen and Perreault will be battling for the 4LW spot.
Unlikely to See NHL Action
None of these guys are likely to make the team this year, but who knows if one of them can surprise the team in training camp. Due to the abundance of depth above them, it is unlikely that they are even called upon in the case of injury.