After a summer with multiple changes, the Montreal Canadiens opening night roster will look much different than years prior. For one, Marc Bergevin made it his priority to add grit by acquiring Shea Weber and Andrew Shaw. However, he also went out and got possibly the best player in the KHL over the past few seasons in Alex Radulov. While Radulov is a risky signing him for a year gives the Habs a chance to evaluate whether or not he will take his opportunity seriously. The move also helped address a need for top six forwards which they have been lacking for the last few seasons.
The Canadiens currently have 26 players under one-way contracts, with 23 roster spots some players will be on the outside looking in. Not to mention that prospects such as Arturri Lehkonen, Charles Hudon, and Martin Reway could be pushing for a spot in the middle six forwards. This year’s training camp could be very interesting in Montreal with all the roster spot battles.
Here is the projected lineup:
Max Pacioretty– Alex Galchenyuk– Brendan Gallagher
The line that finished the last four games last season together will likely start the next one together. The trio dominated in the short time together, but they have had success together during December 2014. the three players seem to compliment each other well. Galchenyuk and Pacioretty seem to split the duty of triggerman and playmaker well among themselves, providing a double threat for opposing teams defense. Both players should be good to hit 30-40 goals each and 65-70 points. Then there is the workhorse Brendan Gallagher that gives his linemates a boost no matter how bad the game is going. Gallagher could find himself switched with Radulov later in the season but in the beginning, he should slot in alongside the snipers.
Arturri Lehkonen/ Sven Andrighetto– Tomas Plekanec– Alex Radulov
The second line starts with reliable two-way centre Tomas Plekanec. Plekanec has often been seen as the first line centre to start a season, but with the emergence of Galchenyuk, he can now be in a secondary scoring role more suited for him. Unlike the end of last season, Plekanec will have a good offensive player to help him produce points in Radulov. Radulov will also be best suited to start his time back in the NHL by playing alongside the team’s most reliable forward. As for the left wing slot, there is no lock in for the spot. As Bergevin often states he likes to give a chance for a rookie to make the team, this would likely be the spot that is up for grabs. Right now, Andrighetto has the advantage because of experience but Arturri Lehkonen’s two-way game could transform well causing him to steal the spot.
If there isn’t a prospect who is ready for second line duties on a full-time basis, expect Andrew Shaw to play on the second line as his grittiness makes him valuable to any line.
Daniel Carr/ Sven Andrighetto- David Desharnais– Andrew Shaw
Much like the second line left wing role, it will be a battle for the third line. Carr would likely fit better than Andrighetto in this spot because he adds more size to what is a very small third line. However, because of experience and the fact that Carr can return to the AHL without having to clear waivers, Andrighetto would have an advantage if he doesn’t get a spot on the second line. Either way, both players will make this line more of a scoring line than shutdown line. David Desharnais has had success last season playing as the third line centre where he even won the Molson Cup for November. However, he struggled when playing higher up in the lineup.
As for having Shaw on the third line instead of the second, it gives the Canadiens some grit to an otherwise soft line. Shaw will play bigger and gives his linemates energy much like Gallagher will do in the top six.
Paul Byron– Torrey Mitchell– Phillip Danault
This fourth line has all the qualities for a successful fourth line. Byron brings his speed which can help him play up the lineup if injuries occur. He also plays a good defensive game which helps him create breakaways on the penalty kill for himself. Mitchell is the ideal right-handed 4th line centreman being the only one on the team. He will often be out on the ice to take important faceoffs. Danault will slot in on the line as yet another defensive stalworth that could bring occasional offense when needed. The three players likely won’t be flashy but they will get the job done.
Nathan Beaulieu– Shea Weber
It’s no secret that newly acquired Weber will be on the top defensive pairing, as he has averaged over 25 minutes per game for years. He has all the intangibles to stay an elite defenseman except for his skating ability. Which is why Beaulieu, a proven puck moving defenseman would be the best bet to play alongside Weber when the season starts. Although Beaulieu has yet to prove that he can play top pairing minutes on a regular basis, he has shown flashes that he could be a very good defenseman. He will need to show that he can remain consistent in his play this upcoming season, as Markov can no longer play 25 minutes a night at 37 years old.
Markov is still the best left-handed defenseman on the team, but with the acquisition of Weber and departure of PK Subban, the Habs need a smooth skater on the first pairing. Earlier in his career, Markov was that smooth skater but after knee injuries and age his days as one of the league’s best defenseman are behind him. He can still serve as a good second pairing defenseman while having possibly the best skater on the team in Jeff Petry alongside him. Petry has become a proven top four defenseman that can carry up the puck and create offense. He is also solid his own end.
Mark Barberio– Alexei Emelin/ Greg Pateryn
Many fans criticize Emelin for being a bad defenseman, but really his $4.1 million dollar cap hit that makes him look worse than he really is. Although Emelin is the defenseman to create the least offensively, he still has a lot to offer defensively with his hits and blocking shots. He is a serviceable defenseman, but there is also Pateryn who can do a lot of the same for much cheaper. The Canadiens could consider trading Emelin which will let Pateryn slide into the top six if that’s the case. If Emelin stays expect him to stay in the lineup instead. As for Barberio, he led the Habs in puck possession stats last season. He also has had success with both defensemen showing that he deserves his spot full-time in the top six after spending the start of last season in the AHL.
After a year of injuries which Price only played 12 games, he is back to 100% and ready to start next season between the pipes. However, goalie coach Stephane Waite has reported that to avoid injury Price will only play 55-60 games if healthy. This is to avoid getting over-worked and injured yet again before the Playoffs. That’s where newly acquired Al Montoya comes into the mix. Montoya has been one of the most reliable backups in recent years. He will be able to step up and play 20-25 games for the Canadiens next season providing his veteran presence.