The Montreal Canadiens began practicing with their final roster today and their line combinations certainly have people talking, giving them a glimpse of what to expect on Wednesday night against Toronto.
The Montreal Canadiens weren’t done making some interesting changes, as they lined up the players for their first official practice, giving us an idea of what the starting lineup will look like on Game 1.
The top line should be quite familiar to Canadiens fans. Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki are joined by Josh Anderson to complete the club’s main unit. The trio have spent some significant time together in the past, dating back to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2021. It hasn’t been a perfect combination in the past, but it does combine the perfect amount of skill, speed and grit into what will be a very entertaining trio.
Where things become interesting is likely the 2nd line, as rookie Juraj Slafkovsky is lining up next to veterans Christian Dvorak and Brendan Gallagher. Head coach Martin St. Louis is looking to give his young winger two of the hardest working and most defensively sound forwards to help bring him along in his first few steps in the NHL. Dvorak and Gallagher is a combo that has worked well in the past, especially the tail-end of last season, and having them mentor Slafkovsky and make extra space for their young linemate will be very valuable to his development in the NHL.
Kirby Dach and Sean Monahan are a duo that has made a ton of sense right from the get-go. With the abundance of centres at Montreal Canadiens training camp (never thought you’d hear that, eh?), Monahan and Dach are a perfect match. Dach is a puck-carrying, playmaking centre that has deficiencies on the left side faceoff circle, while Sean Monahan is a known goal scorer that plays a rugged game and has a career average of 50% at the dot. The two will complement each other well, and the Canadiens have put goal-scorer Mike Hoffman to their left as another offensive option for them to create offence with; making this more of a 2B line than a prototypical 3rd line.
The 4th line of Jake Evans, Rem Pitlick and Evgenii Dadonov is responsible and speedy enough to cause headaches in the opposition but looks to be just a combination of “what’s left” rather than a strategic combination of assets. The eventual return of Joel Armia will likely further complicate the bottom six.
Michael Pezzetta and Jonathan Drouin were the extras at practice. Drouin rotated on the second line at practice, while Pezetta rotated on the fourth line.