Montreal Canadiens: Johnathan Kovacevic Is Becoming Mr. Reliable Since Waiver Claim

Nashville Predators v Montreal Canadiens
Nashville Predators v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Winnipeg Jets must be kicking themselves each time they watch Johnathan Kovacevic play for the Montreal Canadiens.

Winnipeg put him on waivers and the Canadiens wasted no time claiming him. The 6’5” right-shot defenseman has been a constant on the Habs blueline ever since; providing a steady presence on the inexperienced right side while David Savard was injured. If not for Kovacevic, the right side would have featured 22-year-old Justin Barron and 25-year-old Gustav Lindstrom, who have limited NHL experience. 

It’s wild to think he couldn’t crack the Jets lineup but hasn’t been a healthy scratch once while with the Canadiens. He won’t ever wow you offensively, but he gets the job done. Kovacevic is big and strong, and his mobility is impressive for a big man.

Where he shines perhaps the most is defensively, and he is difficult to play against. The combination of size and strong positioning make him difficult to get past. Along the boards, he can close off gaps quickly and he finishes his checks hard. 

I’m not sure the Jets fully thought their decision through. Because I can’t think of a team who wouldn’t make use of him on their roster. He is a utility player, and Martin St. Louis uses him as a penalty killer and when defending leads late in the game, as often as he can.

Another notch in his belt that further attests to his importance for the Canadiens is his defence partner. Rookie Jayden Struble is barely 15 games into his NHL career, and Kovacevic has been his defence partner the entire way. The duo has played well, and Struble has felt confident in his partner’s defensive ability, which has translated to more frequent rushes with the puck. 

With Barron still growing and Logan Mailloux and David Reinbacher developing, Kovacevic has fit in with the Habs flawlessly. An inexpensive option, who is intelligent and moves the puck well is just what the Canadiens could use. He isn’t great at one thing, but he is good at many of the little details.

Kovy has been Mr. Reliable, and for the rebuilding Canadiens that is more than enough. Keeping the offence to the outside of the ice and away from the front of the net are two things he is efficient at doing. And the offensive support he provides for the team isn’t expected but appreciated.

He looks like another example of the Canadiens masterclass of waiver claims.