With the Montreal Canadiens quickly approaching the midway point of the schedule, it’s the perfect opportunity to take a look at some of the biggest talking points from the start of the 2022-23 season.
Starting the season with one rookie defenceman in an NHL lineup is considered risky, but trusting a quartet of rookie defencemen in an NHL lineup is practically unheard of.
And when it comes to the play of Arber Xhekaj, Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris and Jonathan Kovacevic, it’s much more than just a feel-good story.
They haven’t just been treading water, either. You could easily argue the four-least experienced defencemen in the lineup have carried the veteran players who were supposed to act as mentors in their first NHL season.
Harris, Xhekaj and Guhle have all reached the 10-point mark, which places them among the most productive rookie defencemen in the league.
What’s more, they have scored the vast majority of their points at 5v5, which points to a potential for a significant amount of untapped offensive potential.
Leading By Example
No successful NHL team has built itself into a yearly contender without the help of a strong leader.
The Canadiens have not reached that point, but thanks to a significant uptick in production from Nick Suzuki this season, fans can rest easy knowing the team’s leadership is in good shape.
Suzuki has used a stoic approach to navigate the high-pressure situation in Montreal and has done so with aplomb given the potential firestorms that tend to gravitate toward the Canadiens every week.
It would be unfair to compare Suzuki to some of the legendary leaders that have graced the Canadiens’ lineup. Still, his calm, measured approach does remind many fans of some of the most outstanding leaders in franchise history.
Cole Caufield hasn’t just become one of the best goal-scorers in the league.
With 15 of his 19 goals coming during even-strength situations, Caufield has also become one of the most impressive players in the league without the benefit of playing on a five-man unit that actually leads to an uptick in scoring chances.
Only Connor McDavid (16), Sidney Crosby (16), Jason Robertson (18), and Mikko Rantanen (19) have scored more even-strength goals than Caufield this season.
If the Canadiens can somehow manage to breathe some life into their listless power play, expect Suzuki and Caufield to enjoy an immediate increase in production.