With the new year upon us, one can expect a bold year from Montreal Canadiens General Manager Kent Hughes, so here are some hot-take predictions that could be on the way in 2023.
1) Montreal Canadiens Will Win One Of The 2023 NHL Draft Lotteries
The Montreal Canadiens currently have some of the best odds to win the 2023 NHL Draft Lottery as we speak, and it might even get better as they continue into the dog days of winter.
Currently in 27th place in the NHL, the Canadiens’ 1st-round pick is currently weighted with the 6th-best odds to win the Draft Lottery, while Florida’s 1st-round pick is currently holding the 9th-best odds.
With Montreal just two points away from the Arizona Coyotes (28th) and the San Jose Sharks (29th), they could very well find themselves in the bottom four of the NHL by week’s end, and thus getting them very close to their goal of a high pick.
But we can go one step further, the Canadiens currently have the second-best odds to win the Draft Lottery if you combine the odds of both 1st-round picks that they own; and those odds could continue to increase as Florida and Montreal continue to slide down the standings.
They may not win the No.1 pick, but the way things are going, they just might have a shot.
2) Montreal Canadiens Will Trade Joel Edmundson and Sean Monahan At Trade Deadline
The seeds have been planted on this for a few months now.
Edmundson has been a coveted name since the summer, but the Canadiens held off moving him because they wanted a veteran presence around their many rookies. However, as the games go on, it seems the youngsters are making the veterans expendable, which is a GM’s delight, as it gives them a good position of bargaining leverage with his peers, since they don’t need to move Edmundson.
With Monahan, things are a little more complicated. His injury has brought up questions about his health and ability to stay in the lineup, but, at the same time, look how bad the Canadiens have been without him.
It’s fair to say that the loss of Monahan coincided right around the same time Montreal began its slide down the rankings, and their flip-flopping of Kirby Dach at centre or wing is due in large part to the loss of Monahan.
So yes, his injury may have created some concern, but the massive blow his loss made to the Canadiens might actually outweigh the concern and up his value while he gets ready for a return to play in January.
3) Josh Anderson Will Be Moved At The Draft
After months of teams calling on Josh Anderson, there will finally be an offer that is simply too good to refuse that will make Kent Hughes pull the trigger on a deal for his prized power forward.
Anderson plays that rough, rugged style that you want to keep in your lineup, but, a player of his ilk may start to slow down. His current pace would see him finish the year with only 28 points, with 20 of them being goals.
If this is supposed to be his prime, the danger is the significant risk of further regression later on, and that is why Kent Hughes has been drumming up interest and refusing his colleagues until he finally gets the offer he’s looking for.
Teams came close at the 2022 NHL Draft, where Hughes refused a 1st-round pick for Anderson, but with a stagnant Cap for one more season, teams may be more inclined to bite the bullet via trade than shell out big money via free agency.
4) Cole Caufield Will Sign An 8-year, 8M Deal At Season’s End.
Cole Caufield is going to hit 40 goals this season, and it will earn him the richest contract a forward has ever signed with the Montreal Canadiens.
Some may say that he shouldn’t earn more than Nick Suzuki’s $7.875M contract, but it’s hard to argue that they were at the same point in their careers when they signed their extension.
Caufield has done more and would have achieved a milestone that very few, elite players get to by age 22, and that may put him over the edge, earning him a contract akin to his good friend, Jack Hughes.
5) Montreal Canadiens Include Five Rookies On 2023-2024 Roster
After starting the 2022-2023 season with five rookies in Jordan Harris, Kaiden Guhle, Arber Xhekaj, Jonathan Kovacevic and Juraj Slafkovsky, the Canadiens will follow up such a historic feat, with yet another one.
In 2023-2024, the Canadiens will have cleared out many of their veteran contracts, to make room for rookies.
Players like Jesse Ylönen will finally get his shot at a full-time roster spot, while incoming Sean Farrell and surprising Owen Beck will crack the opening-day roster.
Justin Barron, who has only played 10 NHL games so far, will crack the roster out of camp and, if he doesn’t play more than 21 games from here on out, will still be considered a rookie.
Finally, if the above prediction is correct, and the Canadiens do pick in the top 5, then you’ll quickly have a fifth, as one of Connor Bedard, Adam Fantilli or Leo Carlsson look like they’re primed to make the jump to the NHL. All three look much more ready right now than Slafkovsky was this past fall, meaning the Canadiens could be icing one of their youngest rosters of all time next season.