Anaheim DucksArizona CoyotesBoston BruinsBuffalo SabresCalgary FlamesCarolina HurricanesChicago BlackhawksColorado AvalancheColumbus Blue JacketsDallas StarsDetroit Red WingsEdmonton OilersFlorida PanthersLos Angeles KingsMinnesota WildMontréal CanadiensNashville PredatorsNew Jersey DevilsNew York IslandersNew York RangersOttawa SenatorsPhiladelphia FlyersPittsburgh PenguinsSt Louis BluesSan Jose SharksSeattle KrakenTampa Bay LightningToronto Maple LeafsVancouver CanucksVegas Golden KnightsWashington CapitalsWinnipeg Jets

MCKEEN’S 2023-24 NHL YEARBOOK – MONTREAL CANADIENS – Team Preview – Player Profiles

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 22: Cole Caufield (22) of the Montreal Canadiens waits for the puck during the first period of the NHL game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Montreal Canadiens on November 22, 2022, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, QC (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire)

Review: After posting a 22-49-11 record in 2021-22, the Canadiens were looking for incremental steps last year and that’s what they got. Nick Suzuki put forth his second straight 60-plus point campaign and is looking like a solid cornerstone of the Canadiens’ future. Cole Caufield was encouraging too with 26 goals and 36 points in 46 contests, though a shoulder injury complicated matters. Injuries were unfortunately a recurring theme for Montreal with forwards Kirby Dach, Jonathan Drouin, Sean Monahan and top defenseman Mike Matheson all missing significant chunks of time. Goaltender Sam Montembeault was able to stay healthy, but he had a miserable time, posting a 3.42 GAA and .901 save percentage in 40 contests. To be fair, Montreal ranked 30th in five-on-five expected goals against (203.85), so Montembeault wasn’t getting any support from those in front of him. With all that hardship, the Canadiens 31-45-6 record could be seen as the smallest of wins, especially given that it was a 13-point improvement compared to the prior campaign.

What’s Changed?Drouin walked as an unrestricted free agent, but Montreal was still able to bolster its promising young forward group with the acquisition of Alex Newhookfrom Colorado. The Canadiens also acquired Casey DeSmith from Pittsburgh, adding another veteran to their goaltending mix.

What would success look like? There’s so much potential here. If Monahan stays healthy and performs like he was in 2022-23 before getting hurt, then a bounce back to 50 points is possible. If Caufield also remains healthy then he might breach the 30-goal and 60-point marks for the first time. If head coach Martin St. Louis can guide Newhook like he has some of Montreal’s other young forwards, then the 22-year-old might be in line for a breakout year. If Slafkovsky, taken first overall in 2022, had a good summer and takes some of the lessons from his subpar rookie campaign, he could breakout too.

What could go wrong? If ifif. So much could break the Canadiens’ way, but Montreal is dealing with a lot of unknowns. By far the worst of it is this: Even if everything outlined above happens, the Canadiens could still miss the playoffs. The defense was horrendous last year and is likely to lag the growth of the offense. In goal there’s no clear solution, even after adding DeSmith, who struggled with Pittsburgh last year. Plus, the competition in the Atlantic Division is tough, making the margin for error slim.

Top Breakout Candidate:It’s got to be Caufield. After all, the 2022-23 campaign would have been his breakout season if not for injury. Of all the “ifs” outlined above, he’s the closest Montreal has to a sure thing. The talent is clearly there and even with all the ups, downs and injuries he’s gone through, Caufield still has accumulated 49 goals over the past two years. There should be a lot more scoring in his future.


Nick Suzuki - C

Montreal is building a promising young core of forwards, and Suzuki is at the center of that movement. After becoming the 31st captain in Montreal’s storied history before the season began, the Canadien center showed why he’s the new face of the franchise by scoring 26 goals and 66 points in 82 contests. That gave him a staggering 28-point cushion over Kirby Dach, who finished second in the scoring race. Part of the reason Suzuki easily led the team in points was because Dach and Cole Caufield were held back by injuries, finishing with 58 and 46 games played, respectively, in 2022-23, but that also makes what Suzuki did more impressive. Under ideal circumstances, he would have played regularly with Dach and Caufield, but that trio only amounted to just 27.2% of Suzuki’s even-strength minutes. Suzuki ended up dealing with a revolving door of linemates, which was far from a good position for him, but he managed to perform regardless. A combination of injuries and the team still being in a rebuilding state also left Montreal 29th on the power play with just a 16.1% success rate. Suzuki was leaned on heavily with the man advantage and recorded a team-best 17 power-play points, but one must wonder how he might do if the Canadiens overall improved in that regard. The good news is the rest of the young core should start catching up to the 24-year-old, giving him more to work with. Coupled with Suzuki’s own continued development, there’s a fair chance he’ll reach the 70-point mark for the first time, if not higher.

Cole Caufield - LW

Montreal signed Caufield to an eight-year, $62.8 million contract over the summer. It is quite the commitment to make to a forward who has never recorded more than 43 points in a single season, but in this case, it could be a steal for the Canadiens. Caufield’s career has gotten off to a promising start, though there have also been major roadblocks. He struggled terribly under head coach Dominique Ducharme during the 2021-22 campaign, posting a goal and eight points in 30 outings, but once Ducharme was replaced by Martin St. Louis, Caufield underwent a complete reversal, scoring 22 goals and 35 points in 37 contests. Standing at 57, Caufield’s size has been a point of concern for a while.Which is something St. Louis can relate to, having faced the same sort of questions during his playing days, so it seems appropriate that the new bench boss was able to get the most out of the creative winger. The 22-year-old’s success under St. Louis continued into the 2022-23 campaign with him scoring 26 goals and 36 points in 46 games through Jan. 19th before shoulder problems ended his season. He did show determination before that though, having separated his shoulder Dec. 23, he attempted to remain in the lineup after it was popped back in. However, after it happened again Jan. 3rd, the recommendation was made to undergo surgery. Even then, Caufield said he would have pushed through it if Montreal was in the running for a playoff spot. So long as he stays healthy, Caufield should easily set new career highs and maybe even flirt with the 40-goal milestone.

Josh Anderson - RW

Anderson is the type of player that teams always value and sometimes overvalue: the big forward who isn’t afraid to use his strength to make life miserable for the opposition while also not looking completely out of place with the puck on his stick. Anderson had 21 goals and 32 points in 69 contests last season, making it the sixth time in seven years he’s finished above 15 goals (the lone exception being 2019-20 when he was limited to 26 games) and the second time in his career he’s surpassed the 20-goal milestone. That’s an okay level of production, but it’s nowhere near enough to warrant his $5.5 million cap hit. It’s his gritty play – he recorded 72 PIM and 139 hits last season – that makes him come even close to justifying his pay. Unfortunately, Anderson’s aggressive style has come at a cost, with the 29-year-old missing 26 contests over the last two years. Injuries are going to continue to be a point of concern, especially after his 2022-23 campaign ended due to a high-ankle sprain sustained March 22nd. If he can stay healthy, then Anderson might earn an opportunity on the top line, creating space for 57Cole Caufield and 511Nick Suzuki. That role won’t lead to the towering forward being an offensive force in his own right, but his presence will be good news for his linemates.

Kirby Dach - RW

When the Blackhawks selected Dach with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, they were looking at a big center who could skate well and was tough to lodge the puck from once it was in his possession. He didn’t end up doing much with Chicago though, despite getting every opportunity, and after being limited to nine goals and 26 points in 70 contests in 2021-22, it was decided that a change of scenery might be in his best interests. The Canadiens clearly thought they could get the most out of Dach, sacrificing the 2022 No. 13 and No. 66 overall picks to get him and, so far, that bet has worked out. He set career highs with 14 goals and 38 points in 58 contests with the Canadiens last season despite playing just four games past Feb. 14th due to injury troubles. Montreal often had him shift to the wing to work alongside Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki, complementing the smaller forwards with his size. Depending on who is healthy to open the campaign, Dach might find himself pushed off the top line in favor of fellow big man Josh Anderson, but even if that happens, the 22-year-old should still play big minutes, likely alongside Sean Monahan and Brendan Gallagher. Dach is also expected to stay on the top power-play unit regardless, which is important given that 16 of his 38 points last year came with the man advantage. There is reason for cautious optimism here and to hope that, provided Dach stays healthy, he’ll reach the 50-point milestone.

Christian Dvorak - C

Dvorak can be best described as fine. He had 10 goals and 28 points in 64 appearances last season, which is a bit below average for him, but not enough of a decline to be startling. He’s never reached the 40-point milestone, and the 27-year-old probably never will, especially if injuries keep getting in the way. He didn’t play past March 7th last season because of a knee issue that led to surgery and hasn’t participated in over 70 games in a single campaign since 2017-18. Still, when he is available, he’s okay defensively, helps kill penalties (finished fourth on Montreal with an average shorthanded ice time of 2:18) and is an asset on the draw (had a 52% faceoff success rate last season and is at 52.4% over his career). That’s not enough to get people excited about Dvorak, but at least it justifies using him to center the third or, when necessary, second line, despite his mediocre offensive output. It’s also sufficient to make his $4.45 million cap hit acceptable and potentially even make him a trade candidate if a contender is looking for depth up the middle at the deadline. Regardless of who he plays for though, Dvorak is likely to be fine, and nothing more.

Brendan Gallagher - RW

There was a time when Gallagher was a glue player for the Canadiens thanks to his work ethic and goal-scoring prowess, but his six-year, $39 million contract, which began with the 2021-22 campaign, is shaping up to be a disaster. After surpassing the 30-goal milestone in each of 2017-18 and 2018-19, followed by him contributing 22 goals and 43 points in 59 outings in 2019-20, the 31-year-old has failed to even record 25 points in any of the last three seasons. Last year was a new low for him, finishing with eight goals and 14 points in 37 contests. Ankle issues took a toll, but even when he was healthy, Gallagher wasn’t productive, with his 0.38 points per game being a career worst. Even on a rebuilding quad, Gallagher also saw his role diminish, from an average of 16:55 of ice time in 2019-20 to 14:17 last season. The silver lining is he’s healthy going into the 2023-24 campaign and feels upbeat about how his offseason training went. There’s also an opportunity for him to play a bigger role after Montreal parted ways with Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Drouin over the summer. Gallagher is still a big risk going into the season, but those at least provide some reasons to hope for a bounce back campaign.

Alex Newhook - LW

Opportunities have been hard to come by for Newhook. Taken by Colorado with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, he served primarily in a bottom-six role with the Avalanche, consequently providing just 27 goals and 63 points in 153 contests over the last two years. A change of scenery was warranted and, after Montreal’s acquisition of Kirby Dach worked out perfectly a year prior, the Canadiens decided to see if lightning would strike twice by trading for Newhook over the summer. However, while Dach was a nice fit for Montreal’s top-six, Newhook again might struggle to get an opportunity. Newhook is a natural center, but between Nick Suzuki occupying that slot on the first line, Dach or Sean Monahan likely taking the second unit position and Christian Dvorak being a natural fit for the third line, Newhook is probably going to have to shift to the wing. Even then, there’s no guarantee he’ll find a top-six spot and might instead serve on the third line. However, that scenario only works if everyone stays healthy. While Newhook has managed to be durable, several of Montreal’s skilled forwards haven’t been as reliable. Combine that with Newhook’s versatility to slot in as a winger or center, and he might be the first forward to move up to a top-six role if Montreal runs into injury issues. With that in mind, the 22-year-old will be someone to keep an eye on, because while at first glance he seems like a fair bet to record 30-40 points, circumstances might lead to this being a bigger season for him.

Sean Monahan - C

The 2022-23 campaign was one that offered a glimmer of hope for Monahan, but in some ways, it was also his most disheartening yet. After undergoing hip surgery in 2021 and then again in 2022, Calgary was ready to move on. He was far removed from his 82-point campaign in 2018-19, recording just eight goals and 23 points in 65 contests in 2021-22, making him a liability even when healthy. The rebuilding Canadiens were happy to accept Monahan along with a conditional 2025 first-round pick in exchange for covering the final season of his seven-year, $44.625 million contract. Montreal gave Monahan a chance to serve as a top-six forward, and he rewarded them by recording six goals and 17 points in 25 outings. In terms of points per game, it was his best showing since 2019-20, but he didn’t play past Dec. 5th due to a foot injury followed by season-ending groin surgery. Montreal still liked him enough to ink him to a one-year, $2 million contract over the summer, but the short-term nature of the deal underscores the risk he still comes with. Monahan is penciled in to start the season as the Canadiens’ second-line center, but will his body allow him to do that over the course of an 82-game campaign? After all, he’s now undergone three surgeries in as many years. Even if he does stay healthy, how productive will he be? He showed promise in 2022-23, but 25 games are hardly an ideal sample size. The 28-year-old (29 on Oct. 12) is at very least a comeback candidate, but a high-risk one.

Juraj Slafkovsky - LW

First overall picks are often expected to be ready to compete in the NHL right away and many are up for that challenge. At first glance, Slafkovsky, who was taken by Montreal with the top pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, appeared ready to step into the world’s best league. Not only did the 63, 238-pound forward already possess NHL size, but he had experience playing with adults after scoring five goals and 10 points in 31 games with TPS Turku of the Finnish League in 2021-22. Slafkovsky also participated in the 2022 Winter Olympics, scoring seven goals in seven contests with Slovakia and contributed another three goals and nine points in eight outings during the 2022 World Championships. Despite that, he was limited to four goals and 10 points in 39 contests as a rookie with Montreal. To be fair, injuries, which prevented him from playing past Jan. 15th, contributed to his poor showing. Coach Martin St. Louis also attempted to ease him into the lineup, giving the Slovakian native an average of just 12:13 of ice time, which significantly reduced his offensive opportunities. There was a silver lining though, because while he wasn’t a big threat with the puck, Slafkovsky did utilize his size, recording 33 PIM and 53 hits. Unfortunately, in the short-term, he might continue to serve in a bottom-six role. Slafkovsky has the potential to eventually establish himself as a top liner, but it might be a few years before we see that side of him.

Joel Armia - RW

Although two seasons remain on Armia’s two-year, $13.6 million contract, he probably isn’t part of Montreal’s long-term plans. The 30-year-old is far removed from the Canadiens' rebuild-driven youth movement and while Armia is entering his sixth campaign with Montreal, it would be a stretch to call him a staple of the team. Injuries have played a role in that, with Armia failing to log more than 60 contests in any year with the Habs, but his relative lack of offensive contributions – he’s recorded just 20 goals and 42 points in 144 contests over the last three seasons – also make him easy to overlook. Still, the Finnish winger has his uses. He’s fine defensively and can be confidently plugged in on the penalty kill. He’s also got size at 6-foot-3, 216 pounds, and while he's not the most physical forward out there, he has dished out 6.58 hits per 60 minutes over the last three campaigns, which was good for sixth on Montreal in that span (min. 50 games). Looking ahead, Armia should be penciled in on the Canadiens’ third line, though their younger forwards might do enough to lodge him from that position. It wouldn’t be surprising if his average ice time in 2023-24 dipped below the 14:57 he saw last season, and he might even see some time as a healthy scratch.


Mike Matheson - D

Acquired by Montreal from Pittsburgh over the summer of 2022 as part of the Jeff Petry trade, Matheson was given a golden opportunity with the Canadiens. He averaged a respectable 18:48 of ice time in Pittsburgh while providing 11 goals and 31 points in 74 contests in 2021-22, but Montreal saw Matheson as its clear No. 1 defenseman. With that in mind, Matheson jumped to 24:27 per game last season, including an average of 3:11 with the man advantage. Injury troubles during the first half of the campaign prevented 2022-23 from being a true breakout season, but he was still incredible when healthy, contributing eight goals and 34 points (nine on the power play) in 48 outings. He also helped kill penalties, blocked 80 shots and, while plus/minus always needs to be taken with a grain of salt, finished with a plus-seven rating on a rebuilding squad. In other words, he was everything Montreal could have hoped for and then some. To make matters better, the Canadiens will get three more years of Matheson at a $4.875 million cap hit. His injury history is a concern – which is a recurring theme when evaluating Canadiens players – but if he can stay healthy, then it’s not unrealistic to believe he can finish with 50-60 points in 2023-24.

David Savard - D

Savard is 32 years old and will turn 33 on Oct. 22, so he might be in the twilight of his career by the time Montreal’s rebuild is in the rearview mirror. However, he deserves a lot of credit for doing the hard work now that might serve as the foundation of the team in the future. The Quebec native sacrificed himself last year, blocking a career-high 176 shots despite playing in just 62 contests, while also serving in a leading role on the penalty kill and acting as a mentor for the team’s young defenders. That culminated in him receiving Montreal’s Jacques Beauchamp Trophy, which goes to the player deemed most dominant without earning any other honor and can be seen as a way to highlight otherwise underappreciated players. One person who clearly didn’t underappreciate him was head coach Martin St. Louis, who asked Savard to average 22:23 of ice time. As younger defensemen like Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Arber Xhekaj and Justin Barron start to come into their own, Savard could find himself being gradually phased out. The veteran blueliner is still likely to see good minutes this season, but he probably won’t find himself second to only Mike Matheson in average ice time again. Even if Savard’s role doesn’t decrease, he’s not much of an offensive threat and shouldn’t be counted on to meaningfully exceed his 2022-23 totals of three goals and 20 points.

Kaiden Guhle - D

Guhle is far from the Canadiens’ only young defenseman, but he might be theirmost promising one. He’s got size and knows how to get the most out of that advantage, both with his physical play and by competing in tough areas. Adored more for his defensive skills, he wasn’t seen as having a ton of offensive upside when he was selected with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, but that aspect of his game has developed nicely, making him a factor in all situations. With that skill set, rather than ease him into the lineup, Montreal asked Guhle to play an average of 20:31 of ice time in his rookie campaign, and he responded by recording four goals, 18 points, 27 PIM, 77 blocks and 84 hits in 44 outings last season. It was a strong showing, to the point where he might have even garnered a small amount of Calder Trophy consideration if injuries hadn’t gotten in the way. As it is, he’s primed to have a solid sophomore campaign. His power-play ice time was limited to 0:35 per game last season, but all Guhle’s offensive production as a rookie came at even-strength anyways, so it’s not unreasonable to believe he can flirt with the 30-point milestone even without being usedon the man advantage. The 21-year-old is also a good bet to surpass the 150 mark in each of blocks and hits provided he can stay healthy.


Samuel Montembeault - G

Even five years ago, no one would have believed it if someone had told them that the Montreal Canadiens would be spending the final half of goaltender Carey Price’s contract scrambling to figure out who on Earth to start each night in net – and even fewer would have believed that former Florida Panthers prospect Samuel Montembeault would be leading the charge for a rotating trio including himself, former St. Louis Blues starter Jake Allen, and former Pittsburgh Penguins backup Casey DeSmith.

But of all the options Montreal has to choose from, Montembeault may be their most reliable. Although the team has struggled and fallen firmly into rebuild territory, the 26-year-old backstop made the best of the situation. His raw numbers weren’t overly impressive, but his goals saved above expected put him in the conversation for goaltenders who made the most with the least league-wide; he was able to scrape together the best performance of anyone in Montreal over the last few years, despite being a mid-season pickup initially only brought on board to help the team weather the storm of too many injuries. He plays a fairly goal line-based game, preferring to utilize an impressive lower-body game and above-average flexibility to seal off the bottom of the net but staying on his feet on his goal line for longer to prevent holes from opening up at the top of the goal itself. And perhaps most importantly for Montreal, he does well preventing rebounds; while some goaltenders thrive spitting the puck back out into traffic, the somewhat disjointed structure in front of Montembeault and Allen last season made it difficult to have much faith in what might happen if the puck stayed in play after a first or second shot. That likely isn’t enough to push Montreal back out of the basement just yet, but it should be enough to keep them from entering free-fall – which might be all they’re asking for.

Projected starts: 55-60