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Top-3 Canadiens Players With Most To Prove Before Season’s End



Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Belzile

With just under 16 games left in the NHL season, a handful of Montreal Canadiens players have a great opportunity to prove themselves.

The Canadiens have had a record amount of injuries, but, with injury comes opportunity.

That’s essentially what the Canadiens will be doing between now and April 13, as they have a unique opportunity to get long looks at some of their players in more important roles down the stretch.

With this time, general manager Kent Hughes will get a better handle on how he could piece his roster for next season.

Rafaël Harvey-Pinard has already seemingly punched his ticket to a starting job on the Canadiens’ fourth line next season with his timely offence and inspiring play.

With head coach Martin St-Louis giving him over 17 minutes of ice time of late, it’s quite evident to see that Harvey-Pinard has seized his opportunity.

But, who else could use the next month to prove their worth to the Habs’ management team?

We take a look below:

Alex Belzile

There is perhaps no bigger underdog story in the Canadiens organization over the last couple of years than that of Alex Belzile.

The 31-year-old joined the Canadiens organization five years ago and is now getting his first true chance with the big club after their ridiculous string of injuries.

Having played a total of 19 games over the past four seasons with the Canadiens in the form of injury-prompted recalls, Belzile has matched that number over the last two months alone.

However, this time, things are going his way.

The veteran forward has not only been a big help down the middle for Montreal, with Kirby Dach, Jake Evans and Sean Monahan all injured, but he’s been a big component of their penalty-killing and defensive strategy at even strength.

Despite only getting an average of 11 minutes of ice time a night, Belzile is showing he has what it takes to be a bottom-six player for the Canadiens; something that could allow Hughes to offload his more expensive contracts for underperforming players.

Jonathan Drouin

Jonathan Drouin has had a very tenuous ride in Montreal since being acquired back in 2017.

After his last two seasons were set back due to injuries, Drouin has done slightly better this year in keeping away from the injury bug.

Drouin has mentioned a desire to return to the Habs next season on multiple occasions, but, he’s still got 16 games to continue on his current streak to convince Canadiens management.

The 27-year-old started the season on the wrong foot, with just 5 points in his first 19 games of the season.

The pending free agent then ran into some injury trouble that kept him out until the new year; and that’s when things started taking a turn for the better.

In his last 21 games, Drouin has been able to register one goal and 17 assists for 18 points; and this with an average ice time of about 15 minutes this season.

After finally breaking his 14-month goal-scoring drought, Drouin looks confident and comfortable for the Habs, holding down a centre role and thriving in it; which is complete irony given the reasoning behind his acquisition in the first place.

Whether it’s with the Canadiens or elsewhere in the NHL, the next 16 games will be crucial in convincing management teams across the NHL that, when healthy, Drouin can be an effective top-9 player in the NHL.


Denis Gurianov

Denis Gurianov was acquired by general manager Kent Hughes in exchange for Evgenii Dadonov a few days prior to the NHL Trade Deadline as an end-os-season experiment.

With Gurianov holding a $2.9M cap hit until the end of the year, Hughes will have the next 16 games to evaluate whether it makes sense to provide Gurianov with a qualifying offer at the end of the season or cut him loose.

After two very strong games during the Habs’ western road trip, Gurianov has gone back to the inconsistent play that got him in the dog house with the Dallas Stars over the last few years.

He possesses all the tools; the speed, the size and the enviable shooting ability, but simply isn’t able to put it all together on a consistent basis.

The 25-year-old now has 16 games, with consistent power play time and over 13 minutes of ice time to prove that he could be an interesting piece for the Canadiens moving forward.

The ball is entirely in his court as of right now, but, after less-than-desirable performances against the Golden Knights, Hurricanes and Rangers; time is quickly running out.

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Gurianov played fine when he was on the top line with Suzuki, but since he’s been on a different line he’s disappeared. That’s all we need to know about him. He won’t be utilized on the top line if we resign him, so it doesn’t make much sense to keep him, especially when you consider we have too many RW already. Drouin is done in Montreal regardless of what he says. I wish him well, but see ya! Belzile is a keeper if he’s willing to continue in the role he’s had as a leader in the AHL and a call-up when we’re in injury trouble. If he’s looking to be a full time NHLer, then maybe we have to let him chase his dream elsewhere. I’d like to keep him, but we have multiple kids coming that will need a place to play, so I guess the ball is in his court as to what he wants.

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