With all the massive changes the Montreal Canadiens have gone through over the last few months, MHN looks at who are now the top-5 most valuable players in the organization as of today.
The landscape has drastically changed in Montreal, as many veterans, previously seen as the cornerstone pieces of the franchise, were moved in favour of top youngsters and draft picks. General manager Kent Hughes and ecutive vice president Jeff Gorton have paved the way for a new era in Montreal, with some top-end youngsters rising up to prominence as the prime building blocks of a future contending hockey club. Here is the updated Top-5 list of the most valuable players in the organization as of today:
1. Nick Suzuki
Nick Suzuki is the most established youngster on the team and the heir apparent for the club’s captaincy. He has figured prominently in the team’s activities and was present during the night of the draft to welcome the Montreal Canadiens’ newest members. After putting up 61 points on one of the worst offensive clubs in the NHL this past season, Suzuki proved he could overcome adversity and still perform, no matter the quality of the team. What’s more is that the young man plays a position of critical importance for the Canadiens, as he is the only bonafide top-six centre on the team, and has the potential to become even more. Having already shown himself a clutch player in the playoffs at such a young age, he is arguably the Montreal Canadiens’ most valuable asset.
2. Cole Caufield
Some folks were ready to give up on Cole Caufield at a certain point last season, due to his underwhelming offensive production in the first half of the season. Despite being one of the Montreal Canadiens’ most impactful offensive players during their 2021 NHL Playoff run, the youngster simply didn’t get off on the right foot and couldn’t recover under then-head coach Dominique Ducharme. With Martin St. Louis, Caufield was not only able to bounce back, but began to score goals at an elite level. His 22 goals in 37 games under Martin St. Louis put him at a 49-goal pace during a full calendar season. With the team looking to play a more exciting brand of hockey predicated on speed and skill, Caufield is a player that perfectly embodies that identity moving forward; making him a cornerstone piece of the organization moving forward.
3. Juraj Slafkovsky
Placing Juraj Slafkovsky at this rank is a little bit of a no-brainer. The most recent 1st overall pick is the most valuable asset in the organization to not have yet played a game for the Monreal Canadiens. The 6’4 220lbs power forward will be a major part of the club’s quest to become perennial Stanley Cup contenders and he will likely attempt to make that impact right out of training camp this season. Players of Slafkovsky’s build and talent are rather rare to come by in drafts, and thus makes him a very interesting piece moving forward for the club. Hughes has spoken at length about his desire to get bigger and faster at forward and Slafkovsky is basically the poster boy for that movement, without sacrificing any skill or speed in the process.
4. Josh Anderson
This may shock some folks, but Josh Anderson holds a lot of value in the NHL at the moment and is very highly regarded by both management and the players. The Canadiens’ veteran power forward is also highly regarded throughout the league and has been the subject of many trade proposals from rival teams over the last six months. The Canadiens have refused some substantial offers for the 28-year-old in the past and interest in him isn’t expected to drop in the immediate future, given the aforementioned rarity of such players in the league. Although other players have the potential to pass Anderson in terms of overall value down the line, he remains the most valuable veteran for the Canadiens and, if moved, could return a very interesting haul. That being said, it looks like Hughes and co believe he is more valuable to the team right now as a player than a trade asset.
5A. Kirby Dach
The fifth option here was difficult, but Kirby Dach lands at No. 5 by proxy of his top-end potential and the price the Montreal Canadiens paid to acquire him. There were quite a few teams interested in Dach when Chicago made him available this summer. The Canadiens were aggressive in acquiring his services, sending a 13th overall pick and a 3rd round pick to Chicago in exchange for the lanky centre. It will be up to the Canadiens to help Dach reach his full potential over the course of the next few seasons to ensure his value and importance to the success of the club remain high for the long term. If not, he could quickly be surpassed by other top youngsters in the organization. That being said, Hughes and Gorton were brought in precisely to optimize the development of the club’s young players and Dach is the first big test for them. Succeeding where the Blackhawks could not would go a long way in setting up the organization for the future.
5B. Kaiden Guhle
Kaiden Guhle also deserves to be on this list and is Dach’s biggest competition for the top 5 at the moment. The punishing defender is a highly coveted player across the league and his MVP performances in the WHL playoffs last spring only reinforced his position as the top defensive prospect in the organization. Guhle is the kind of defenceman that teams look for to stabilize a defensive pairing and come up big in clutch moments. He’s shown consistent growth in his game since the Canadiens selected him at 16th overall in the 2020 Draft and he seems primes to make an immediate impact in the pros, as he looks to prove that he can be a cornerstone piece for the Canadiens moving forward.
*Honourable Mention: 2023 1st Round Pick
Although not yet a player that is part of the Montreal Canadiens organization, this pick should return quite the player for the Canadiens next summer. The Montreal Canadiens have made some positive changes to their lineup since Kent Hughes, but not enough to pull them out of the basement of the NHL standings. NHL analysts and NHL betting odds project another low finish for this upcoming season. Their defensive brigade is, on paper, one of the worst in the league, while their lack of clarity at the goaltending position makes it even less likely that the club will be much better at keeping the puck out of their net next season. Especially with Atlantic Division teams like the Detroit Red Wings or the Ottawa Senators getting even better this offseason, it will be difficult to imagine the Canadiens finishing outside of the bottom-10 this season, unless Hughes surprises us with some major moves.
With the 2023 NHL Draft expected to be one of the best in recent years, the Montreal Canadiens aren’t likely to sacrifice their 1st round pick for anything short of a star at this point. With the star power expected to be available in the top-10 next year, this pick could provide the Montreal Canadiens with a core player that will help them become a competitive team in the not-so-distant future.