Montreal Canadiens: Young Blueline Is Coming Along Nicely

New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens
New York Islanders v Montreal Canadiens / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Montreal Canadiens have pieced together some promising pieces on their blueline.

As evidenced by their league-leading 30 points from their defence, the Habs are brewing out NHL defensemen at an impressive rate. It’s difficult to assess accurately who will feature on the blueline and who will be moved. But regardless of that, the Canadiens could be carving out an enviable position. 

With the 2024 Draft ahead, they will likely add another defender or two. However, even if they don’t, plenty of talent exists in the Canadiens prospect pipeline. This has benefitted the organization already, and a few more options are yet to play an NHL game.

Canadiens Building Talented Defence

There are three groups that the blueliners will be divided into. Players that have signed their entry-level contracts, allowing them to play for Montreal or Laval. And those who have yet to play professionally on North American ice.

Montreal Canadiens

The Canadiens have relied on the youth to help them through their rebuild. Fortunately, a few of the current blueliners were on the team during the 2021 Stanley Cup finals run. They may not have to shave, but already they have Stanley Cup playoff experience. Guhle and Barron that is. 

Kaiden Guhle

At the top of the under-25 blueline group is Kaiden Guhle, the Habs 2020 first-round draft selection. He was seen as a defensive defender, with some bite, crossing his side of the blueline could be risky. After dominating the WHL, Guhle turned pro and hasn’t looked back since.

There are no sure things in hockey, and among the most difficult to gauge is prospect evaluation. But Guhle appears to be the top dog right now, and if not for Mike Matheson, I believe he would be a top-pair defender. Guhle remains the defensive, physical presence and he still has so much room to grow. 

Justin Barron 

Justin Barron has such a high offensive ceiling, but if he wishes to reach it, he will need to clean some things up. A big focus on playing in his zone would go a long way because he seems uncomfortable. If he can iron out the decision-making and make quicker, simpler plays, the team would benefit from having Barron for the long haul.

Throughout the group of defenders, aside from Matheson, Barron’s offence is a difference maker. From the opponent’s blueline in, he is an assassin, posing as a dual threat, using either a heavy, accurate shot or a slick pass. From his blueline in, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got sent down to Laval soon to address his defensive lapses. 

Jordan Harris

Jordan Harris can do it all, but his standout trait is his high hockey IQ. He showcased how smart and quick he is in his rookie season, and he has done the same this season. On a crowded left side of the blueline, Harris’ steady play has kept him in the lineup.

He isn’t the biggest or strongest player on the Canadiens roster, but he gets the job done. His fluid skating and quick decision-making allow him to stay out of trouble. Offensively, while he isn’t a lethal shooter or elite playmaker, Harris would create more by simply firing a tippable shot on the net.

Jayden Struble

Jayden Struble is one of my favourite defensemen on the team, and his style fits brilliantly with the Habs. Physically he is a specimen - Marc Bergevin referred to him as a ‘Greek God’ - and it’s easy to say why. Struble looks like a 30-year-old veteran who has been patrolling the Canadiens blueline for years.

Defensively he is stout, his defensive stick and strong four-way mobility keeps him in the play. He can keep up with speedy players and outmuscle some tough customers. Struble has shown that he isn’t afraid to pinch or unload a shot on the net, he looks like a good one. 

Laval Rocket

Bright spots have been few and far between for the Laval Rocket, be it injuries or poor goaltending. Truth is, Kasimir Kaskisuo was needed long ago. Anyways, the young blueliners have been honing their craft in Laval, and they’ve shown promise. 

Arber Xhekaj

This is a weird one and if I’m being frank, I believe Arber Xhekaj is too good to be in the American Hockey League. He is a beast who is very coachable. After a rookie season for the ages, Xhekaj has toned his game a little. 

Thankfully he has seen more offensive opportunities and increasingly made positive plays with his hitting. You can see there is room for him to grow offensively. His shot is heavy and creates problems for the goalie, and he is a great passer, who’s mobility serves him well on the attack. 

Logan Mailloux

Logan Mailloux seems like the next logical option to carve out a top-four role on the Canadiens blueline. Mailloux is the Canadiens most talented right-shot defenseman, offensively and he is rangy, which he uses to defend. His large frame and reach make him hard to get around.

Physically, he has no issue sending opposing forwards flying with a big hit. He thrives in a power play setting - where he shows off his great skating, high IQ and a variety of different shot selections. He might be another season away from the NHL, but the Canadiens can be patient with him, considering his potential.


Lane Hutson

If you’re not familiar with Lane Hutson yet, you will be soon enough. Hutson is the most offensively talented player in the entire Canadiens prospect pool, and he is a defenseman. Ever since Andrei Markov left the team the powerplay has been abysmal, for the most part - but Hutson presents hope.

With Guhle and Hutson, not necessarily in that order, as the Habs future one-two punch of the left side of the blueline, the Habs are looking pretty good. Hutson has the potential to impact the Canadiens defence just like Quinn Hughes, Cale Makar and Adam Fox before him. Every level of competition has been more of the same, Hutson's brain and skills take over and he excels.

Adam Engstrom

Adam Engstrom is one of the Canadiens' more underrated prospects, but he is a talented prospect who isn't far from turning pro. Engstrom was selected in the third round of the 2022 draft with the 92 overall pick. Since being drafted, Engstrom has been developing in the SHL with Rogle BK, the 20-year-old has played 73 SHL games, and the left-shot defender has eight goals and 12 assists.

What stands out most about Engstrom is his skating ability and his vision. He does all the subtle things well, and he is so positionally aware. Engstrom does everything well, making him a coach's dream, and a player that the opposition's coach hates to coach against.

David Reinbacher

Whether you agree with the pick or not, Kent Hughes decided to draft David Reinbacher with the fifth overall selection at the 2023 draft. Reinbacher chose to return to Switzerland for another season in the NL, and given the attention he will eventually gain, it appears to be a wise decision for the player. I believe that he would have adapted to the North American ice, which would have allowed him to improve his decision-making speed.

He isn't perfect, but as a 19-year-old he has been the best defenseman on his team in the top Swiss league. He skates beautifully, especially when you consider his large frame, which he still hasn't finished growing into. As a right-shot defender, he is a hot draft commodity and he has all the traits to become a top-four NHL defenseman.