Montreal Canadiens: Could Russian Star Andrei Kuzmenko Choose Habs?

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - 2022/03/18: SKA Hockey Club player, Andrei Kuzmenko (Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - 2022/03/18: SKA Hockey Club player, Andrei Kuzmenko (Photo by Maksim Konstantinov/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) /

The Montreal Canadiens season hasn’t gone well but they have a few bright lights that will be on the roster for a long time.

One thing that we learned (eventually) in the 2021-22 season is that the combination fo Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield on the Habs top line is for real. The pair, especially Caufield, did not get off to the best start, but they found their chemistry in the second half of the season.

Since Martin St. Louis took over as head coach, the pair have been dynamite.

St. Louis stepped behind the bench on February 9th, and the Habs young, dynamic duo took off. They have each played 35 games since then, with Suzuki scoring 12 goals and 32 points and winger Caufield sniping 19 goals and 32 points. They are both scoring at a 75 point pace over a full season.

Suzuki is 22 years old and Caufield is 21, so the pair are almost certain to continue getting better and better for the next several seasons.

The only real question for the pair going forward is who will play with them? The Habs don’t have an ideal third wheel for their top line. Rem Pitlick has played there with mixed results. Josh Anderson has looked great at times and sort of invisible at times on that line. Jonathan Drouin could get an opportunity but his inconsistency and injury history add a few question marks.

It is possible, that the perfect winger could come from Russia. Left winger Andrei Kuzmenko is coming off a terrific KHL season and is looking to make the jump to the NHL next season.

The 26 year old right shooting winger scored 20 goals and 53 points in 45 games for St Petersburg. According to the TSN Insiders on their Insider Trading segment last night, Kuzmenko is going to have a large audience of teams courting him in the coming days and weeks.

The Russian is reportedly looking for a place where he would have a big role in the NHL and not necessarily a place where he would be contending for a Stanley Cup immediately. Obviously, if a team could offer both that would be quite tempting, but the best teams would likely have worse roles for Kuzmenko.

Meanwhile, the Canadiens are looking for a skilled left winger to play with Suzuki and Caufield, who are both quite young and scoring at just about a point per game pace these days.

That’s a pretty tempting role for a player looking to fit in somewhere in the NHL.

Of course he could sign on a much better team, but are the Tampa Bay Lightning offering a first line role? Are the Carolina Hurricanes going to tell Andrei Svechnikov to sit down on the power play to make room for a 26 year old rookie? Are the Colorado Avalanche offering up a spot on Nathan MacKinnon’s line?

No, of course not. If Kuzmenko goes to one of those teams he might get a second line role or get pushed down into the bottom six.

That isn’t happening in Montreal if he shows the least bit of offence. There is a huge opening on the Canadiens top line and it would have to tempt the Russian star.

We won’t know for a few weeks or maybe even until the offseason what Kuzmenko decides. But the Canadiens are going to give him something interesting to think about.

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