Montreal Canadiens 2019-20 Season Report Card Grades

MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 11: Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - DECEMBER 11: Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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C+. Vejdemo played his first 7 NHL games this season and recorded a single goal while playing sheltered minutes (8:01/night). While he didn’t exactly make a huge impact, he displayed the potential of becoming a fourth-line player in a season or two, sporting good possession metrics. At 24, he still has time to improve, and we may see him play with the Habs on a more regular basis in the upcoming seasons.. . . LUKAS VEJDEMO

. RYAN POEHLING. C -. Ryan Poehling did not make life any easier for himself with his brilliant 3.5 goal performance in last year’s season finale against the Leafs. The expectations for him were exponentially higher than they merited to be when considering his collegiate career. While played excellently in the preseason, a concussion dissipated the chances of him starting out the season in the NHL. He did, however, end up playing 27 games with the Habs – mainly on the left-wing, which is not a position he has often played – and recorded a solitary goal and a single assist. While this production is far from what he had hoped for, it permitted him to spend most of the season developing under the tutelage of Joel Bouchard in Laval, which is a blessing in disguise. Unfortunately, as his play for the Habs was sub-standard, and his grade will have to reflect that. I do not doubt, however, that he will bounce back next year and compete for the fourth-line centre spot with the next player we’ll look at..

. JAKE EVANS. B -. Jake Evans finally got his NHL opportunity this season, 6 years after having been drafted by Bergevin in the 7th round. He played 13 games and tallied 2 goals and an assist while winning 51.6% of the 56 faceoffs he took. He also demonstrated his penalty-killing ability, which is a useful skill to have in a player projected to play in the bottom-six. I was actually pleasantly surprised to see him use his frame in a couple of games (he’s 6’01”), as I had envisioned him as someone to avoid physical play. He is also a quicker player than I had expected, creating a few breakaways. I think he will be a solid and versatile fourth-line centre next season and he may even be able to fill the shoes of a third-liner in a few years to come..

JESPERI KOTKANIEMI. D. The sophomore slump has rarely been more clearly exemplified than it was by our beloved KK this season. Having bulked up significantly during the summer, he seemed slower and still got knocked over very easily. The impressive playmaking ability he had demonstrated as a rookie was rarely displayed in his second NHL season. Kotkaniemi recorded 6 goals and 2 assists in 36 games and was sent down to Laval, where he played 13 games and scored a single empty netter and returned to his prolific playmaking ways, assisting 12 times. Having suffered a season-ending spleen injury a couple of weeks ago, he will need to recover from that before he can work on improving his balance and agility. Whether he starts next season in the AHL or with the Habs is a complete unknown right now, and will be dictated by his performance in the preseason. Let’s see if he impresses there as he did as a rookie.. .

Nick Suzuki is a phenomenal hockey player. And he is just getting started. The Habs have been searching for a point per game, 200-foot centre for decades, and if you ask me, they have finally struck gold. Suzuki entered training camp off the back of an incredible playoff run with the Guelph Storm, and with minimal expectations placed upon him in terms of immediate NHL impact, he thrived and cracked the opening night lineup; and he played every game this season. He finished the season with 13-28-41 totals in 71 games played; this made him the rookie with the 5th most goals and the 6th most points. Throughout the season, he became increasingly involved in the special teams, becoming the focal point of the first power-play unit and growing into the role of a penalty killer. While his point production stagnated in his final 9 games, his all-around game remained strong, chipping in defensively and transitioning the play to the attack. This kid is going to be good, the high-end playmaking ability he displayed, to go along with his deceptive play style and his slingshot release all point toward him becoming this team’s top forward. The (almost) only A+ of the season is deservedly earned by the player who will be the next face of the franchise.. . . NICK SUZUKI. A+

Domi had a rather inconsistent season. At times, he was an unstoppable offensive force; and others, he was invisible. Sounds similar does it not? Domi finished the season with 17 goals and 27 assists for 44 points in 71 games; a rather large step back from his 72-point campaign a year ago. One interesting thing to note, he was always at his best when he was very much involved in the play and not staying back and waiting for it to come to him; which is the exact thing Drouin worked on during the offseason. It will be interesting to see where Domi the younger’s contract negotiations will lead this summer. He could end up with a deal anywhere between 2 and 8 years and $5 and $7 million a year. My guess, which is really not worth all that much, is that he signs an identical contract to Drouin’s in terms of cap percentage at the time of signing, which was 7.3% in 2017 for $5.5 million. If the cap ends up being in the range of $84 million next season, this would be a five year, $6.15 million deal. I am rather curious to see how wrong I’ll be.. . . MAX DOMI. B

A. Philip Danault is quite the player. While his offensive production is always criticized for not being that of a first-line centre, he quietly finished second on the team in points with 47, including a career-high 13 goals with little time on the power-play. Of course, throughout 71 games, he will not be mistaken for an offensively-dominant player, but paired with him being one of the league’s best defensive forwards, he is undoubtedly an integral part of this team. Danault also sported a 59.6 CF%, which is just stupidly good, considering just how good the opposition is when he steps on the ice. Any guesses on how many Selke votes he receives this season? On a side-note, heed to Danault’s advice and practice some social-distancing techniques in order to keep yourselves and those around you safe from the Coronavirus.. . . PHILIP DANAULT