Looking at the new Montreal Canadiens lines are a clear sign of optimism

Jul 22, 2020; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; Montreal Canadiens players stretch during a NHL workout at Bell Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 22, 2020; Montreal, Quebec, CANADA; Montreal Canadiens players stretch during a NHL workout at Bell Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports /

The Montreal Canadiens began practice today with some new lines, new faces and a new side of optimism ahead of the season.

Media is all done and over with as the Montreal Canadiens took to the ice sporting some new lines. Many of these were predicted over the offseason, and it’s important to keep in mind that it’s only Day 1, and they could change. However, with only 9 days left until the season opener, I doubt Claude Julien is wasting time with experiments.

Forward Lines


Jonathan Drouin and Nick Suzuki had a lot of chemistry going during the playoffs. At the same time, Suzuki took his game to a new level to where it won’t be long before he is openly acknowledged as the Habs’ number one centre. Josh Anderson is the new kid on the block with a long-term contract to show for it. It’s safe to say the pressure is there, but it won’t be dire. That said, Anderson is coming off an injury and a low-point total, and eyes will be on him to improve.


The ultimate work line of Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher is reunited once more. The trio had the majority of the top matchups for the Montreal Canadiens and was also responsible for most of the production. Injuries got in the way of Gallagher putting up a third 30-goal season, but with health, he should be in that range once again.


Another line with another new toy in Tyler Toffoli. He adds the depth scoring the Montreal Canadiens need more of coming off good runs with the Los Angeles Kings and Vancouver Canucks. Jesperi Kotkaniemi needs a start similar to how the 2019/20 season ended. His play in the playoffs was night and day, and if he can bring that and combine it with a growing Armia, it could prove to be a reliable line to run.

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Most likely, the fourth line, which could have some rotating parts as the season goes on. Jake Evans looks to be Nate Thompson‘s successor as the fourth line centre, while Artturi Lehkonen‘s defensive play at the expense of offensive production has seen him slotted in the team’s depth. Paul Byron is another player who has run into injuries and will like to produce more, if not at 5v5, then on the penalty kill. Hopefully, he does as a $3.4 million fourth-liner is far from ideal in a flat cap world.


These could easily be members of Montreal’s taxi squad. Ryan Poehling has the most to prove out of all the players here, and he may get reps on the fourth line. Michael Frolik was a late offseason signing who is versatile as far as positioning and usage go, while Jordan Weal has always been a Julien favourite. Corey Perry wasn’t at practice, but he could easily be in this group or the fourth line when he does arrive.

Defence Pairs


The carousel of Shea Weber defence partners fell on Ben Chiarot last season. The two seem to complement each other well, and Chiarot had a particularly good offensive season in 2020. There doesn’t seem to be a reason to break up a good thing, and these two were good together.


Jeff Petry and Brett Kulak were arguably the Montreal Canadiens’ best pairing last season. They did a particularly good job in holding the Pittsburgh Penguins down, helping the team advance to the playoffs for the first time in 2017. Joel Edmundson is new, a big body and can allow Petry to be more advancing on the backend than before. That said, I don’t think his spot next to Petry is a lock at the moment.


Brett Kulak gets the demotion to the third pair while buzzing prospect Alexander Romanov slides in on the left. The hype around the 2018 second-round pick is off the charts, and the coaching staff doesn’t seem worried at what he can bring. What’s interesting is that his defence partner isn’t set in stone yet. According to Eric Engels, both Victor Mete and Xavier Ouellet were taking turns slotting in on Romanov’s right, making that a training camp battle to pay attention to.

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Again, there aren’t many surprises here, but there are some questions and thoughts for the next nine days. Will these lines and pairings stick?