Montreal Canadiens: 3 Biggest Reasons Habs are Stanley Cup Contenders

Jan 28, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Brendan Gallagher. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 28, 2021; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens Brendan Gallagher. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports /
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Montreal Canadiens, Nick Suzuki
MONTREAL, QC – OCTOBER 10: Jesperi Kotkaniemi Montreal Canadiens Nick Suzuki (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

Young Players Take on Huge Roles

The Canadiens made a lot of changes in the offseason, but when they moved Max Domi it sent a clear message that they were going to rely on their young centres to play big roles for the team this season.

21 year old Nick Suzuki, 20 year old Jesperi Kotkaniemi and rookie Jake Evans were basically handed roles down the middle this season. Phillip Danault, at 27, is the leader of the bunch, and the only other natural centre with the team is 21 year old Ryan Poehling who is on the taxi squad.

It hasn’t hurt, in fact, having the trio of young centres, as well as Alexander Romanov on defence, has been a huge reason for the team’s success this season.

Suzuki is leading the team in ice time among forwards and has 12 points in 12 games while playing on the first line with Jonathan Drouin and Josh Anderson. He is playing a terrific two-way game and the Habs top line applies tons of pressure to the opposing defence every single night.

Kotkaniemi is playing third line centre with Tyler Toffoli and Corey Perry, though Joel Armia was on the line before he was injured. The Finnish centre has seven points in 12 games, giving the Canadiens tremendous depth down the middle of the ice.

Evans is playing fourth line centre as a rookie, but he is also second among forwards in average time on ice while shorthanded. He is also averaging close to ten minutes per night at even strength, which shows the Habs have a trusted fourth forward line and a dangerous penalty kill that has already scored seven shorthanded goals.

On defence, rookie Alexander Romanov has looked like a 30 year old and not a 20 year old since day one. He plays a great two-way game, quarterbacking the second unit of the power play, and dropping the shoulder for the odd thunderous body check.

In year’s past when the Habs got off to a great start, it was basically the same team we had seen in the past, but Carey Price was putting up a 1.50 GAA for a few weeks to start the year.

It was the same old roster, but we were expecting different results. Now, with so many young players taking on huge roles it’s not the same old roster anymore. It’s a roster that has turned over quite a bit and the young players look terrific.