Montreal Canadiens: Tomas Tatar Snubbed and Criminally Underrated by NHL Rankings

MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 27: Tomas Tatar #90 of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - FEBRUARY 27: Tomas Tatar #90 of the Montreal Canadiens. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens left winger had one of the best season of anyone at his position. But he barely ranks inside the top 20.

The Montreal Canadiens made a huge trade on the eve of training camp 2018. The rumours that lasted all summer that had captain Max Pacioretty leaving town finally resulted in action on September 10. Just days before teams were to hit the ice to begin training camp, the Habs dealt their star goal scorer.

Pacioretty was off to play for the Vegas Golden Knights. They had just surprised the hockey world by making it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in the first year of their existence. It was, by far, the best inaugural season by an NHL expansion franchise ever.

Everyone predicted the Golden Knights would be awful in their first season (even those who now say the draft was in their favour and they knew the team would be good). As the wins continued to pile up, the Knights approached their first trade deadline leading their division.

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They had a plethora of draft picks and prospects at their disposal from trades made at the expansion draft, and they decided to use a few of those assets to add to their expansion roster. The Golden Knights traded a first round pick in 2018, a second round pick in 2019 and a third round pick in 2021 for Tomas Tatar.

Tatar had proven to be a solid two-way winger for the Detroit Red Wings to that point in his career. His first full season with the Wings, he scored 19 goals and 39 points in 73 games. He followed that up with seasons of 29, 21 and 25 goals. The year he got traded to Vegas, he was in the midst of a bit of a down year, but was still on pace for 20 goals.

After finishing the season with the Golden Knights, Tatar did reach 20 goals but struggled to mesh with his new team. He had four goals and six points in 20 regular season games and then added one goal and one assist in eight playoff games, while sitting as a healthy scratch from the team’s other 12 postseason contests.

When the Pacioretty deal was being finalized, Vegas needed to move out a little money to make things work with the salary cap. So, they included Tatar who lost a lot of his trade deadline value when he cost them first, second and third round picks. Still, he was an intriguing piece for the Habs who also received Nick Suzuki who was a first round pick in 2017 as well as a second round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.

While Suzuki has turned out better than expected at this age, Tatar has blown the most optimistic expectations out of the water.

His first season with the Habs saw the Slovakian winger find amazing chemistry with linemates Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher. Tatar would finish the season with 25 goals and a career high 58 points. Most importantly, the then 28 year old showed he still had lots of great hockey left in him.

He proved that again this year as he was even better than his initial season in Montreal. When the season pressed paused and eventually called an end to its regular season, Tatar was leading the Habs in scoring with 61 points in 68 games. His 22 goals were also tied for the team’s best with Brendan Gallagher.

Tatar, Danault and Gallagher form the best possession line in the NHL right now, and Tatar leads the way offensively for the trio. That’s why, when I saw published its list of the 16 best left wingers who will be returning to play this summer, I thought Tatar would definitely be in the top ten.

Not only was he not inside the top ten, he wasn’t on the list at all. I actually had to stop and ask myself if Tatar is a left winger. Why else would he not be on the list.

So then I looked at some numbers. Among players that play left wing this season, Tatar was tied for 8th in scoring with Matthew Tkachuk who played one more game than the Habs winger. Tatar is more of a setup man than a goal scorer, as he ranks 19th in goals by left wingers and 6th in assists. But how he is not among the 16 best on the 24 teams that are returning to play?

I mean, his offence speaks for itself as only seven left wingers had more points than him this season. Since we are talking best left wingers, we have to consider the player’s defensive game as well and Tatar’s is among the best in the league.

Looking at possession stats, no one in the league that played even semi-regularly had a better Corsi-For percentage than Tatar. That means, if you are on the other team and Tatar is one the ice, you couldn’t be less likely to have an opportunity to put a puck on net.

The only regulars that were close to Tatar’s 60.14 CF% were, well his two linemates, and ironically Max Pacioretty.

If you want to put Pacioretty ahead of Tatar on the list, sure. That makes sense. Alex Ovechkin, Artemi Panarin, Brad Marchand, Kyle Connor and Jonathan Huberdeau should all be above Tatar as well. As for anyone else? You could make a case for Teuvo Teravainen and Matthew Tkachuk, but there is no way Tatar should be outside the top ten.

Look at the bottom of the NHL’s list. I know we haven’t seen hockey in a while but someone has to tell them it isn’t 2016. Filip Forsberg and Jamie Benn? Tatar had 22 more points than Benn and 13 more than Forsberg.

Next. Habs Have Shocking Odds Against Pens. dark

With the Habs returning to action when training camp opens on Monday, it will give Tatar yet another chance to prove just how invaluable he is at both ends of the ice. Hopefully the folks at will tune in to a few Habs games.