Montreal Canadiens: The Danault Dilemma

MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 30: Phillip Danault Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
MONTREAL, QC - JANUARY 30: Phillip Danault Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /
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Montreal Canadiens, Nick Suzuki
MONTREAL, QC – OCTOBER 10: Jesperi Kotkaniemi Montreal Canadiens Nick Suzuki (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images) /

The Emergence of Canadiens youth

The Canadiens former 3rd overall pick Jesperi Kotkaniemi was expected to take bigger strides in his second year but did not do that. A sophomore season riddled with injuries and subpar play led to a significant dip in his totals. He tallied only eight points in 36 games, battled injuries and then was sent down to Laval where he scored 13 points in 12 games. In his absence, Nick Suzuki took little time to get noticed and had a very strong rookie year. Slowly climbing up the lineup, he finished the regular season with 41 points in 71 games and finished 9th in Calder voting.

Once Montreal made the ‘play ins,’ Kotkaniemi was finally healthy and made an immediate impact. He looked like a completely different player against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. He was skating much better, wasn’t forcing plays, and played arguably his best hockey as a Canadien. Suzuki was able to build on his regular season success and was a lethal force from the get-go.

In the postseason, Kotkaniemi and Suzuki led the Canadiens in goals with four. Danault only had one in ten playoff games.

Suzuki finished the playoffs with 2nd most points/60 (behind Jonathan Drouin) with 2.19 while  Kotkaniemi was 4th with 1.73.

Danault was 14th with 0.92. 

Suzuki outscored Danault in the regular season and postseason in his rookie year. He refined his game throughout the year and forced his way into the first line center role in the playoffs. While he did not score at the rate Suzuki did, Kotkaniemi tallied four goals and had an impact beyond the scoresheet: dominating possession and creating chances.

The offensive weaknesses of Danault’s playoff performances were exacerbated in tight playoff checking hockey to the point where he ended up being moved to a pure defensive line with Paul Byron and Artturi Lehkonen. He did thrive in that role.