Grading Johnathan Kovacevic's season

Johnathan Kovacevic held down a role for much of the year, mostly by making smart plays and being a tough competitor.
Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens
Carolina Hurricanes v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

In keeping the content rolling for June, we continue on with another defenseman ranking.

Johnathan Kovacevic is the next name on the list and is a utility depth defender, who gets the job done. Kovacevic has spent most of his time with Montreal on the third defence pair, sprinkled in with a little time on pair two. He is a hard hitter, who picks his times wisely and plays a stout defensive game.

If I had to guess, I would say that the Winnipeg Jets aren't too pleased with the Habs for claiming Kovacevic off waivers. Especially given that they were playoff contenders this year, although they were eliminated in five games. It's not as though he would have sent them over the edge, but he would have given them a nice depth option.

This was his second season with the Canadiens and while he isn't going to light up the scoreboard, he has proven that he belongs in the NHL. It was a weird decision on the Jets' part to send him down to the AHL Manitoba Moose, considering that he hasn't looked out of place with Montreal. Yes, Winnipeg has a more established blueline, but Kovacevic is a quick learner and would have been a huge help to the team.

Kovacevic and Arber Xhekaj made up a formidable duo on the third defence pairing, bringing grit, and steady puck movement. I would also think that they would be one of the least enjoyable pairings to play against because of their size. Kovacevic is more of the stay-at-home defender, while Xhekaj would be a bit more adventurous with the puck.

Kovacevic established a new career high in goals with six and his plus-minus was the best of his career with a plus 11. While he didn't go around trying to take out the opponents, he did stand up for his goalie and teammates and his penalty minutes (42) were reflective of that. All in all, he may not be a guy that sticks around for a long time, because there are better options internally, that haven't arrived yet, but he has been effective.

For his 2023-24 season, a year of growth for the club and Kovacevic solidifying himself as a full-time NHL defenseman, I will grade his year as a C. He has room to grow and will learn plenty more as he gets more playing time. But I believe that he will top out as a third-pair guy, who will be able to help on the second pair if need be.