Canadiens Call-Ups To Force Kent Hughes’ Hand In Offseason
The Montreal Canadiens have been decimated by injuries this season, and it’s almost been a blessing in disguise.
The Canadiens now have ten regulars missing from their lineup after the club announced that Christian Dvorak would miss the rest of the season with a knee injury.
It’s a ridiculous number of injured players that would normally cripple a club; but, for the Habs, it seems to have brought on a sense of opportunity within the organization.
Here are some players who are on the verge of forcing general manager Kent Hughes to make room for them as of next season:
Rafaël Harvey-Pinard has won over the Montreal Canadiens faithful with his relentless energy and hard-nosed efforts.
On top of registering eight goals and five assists for 13 points in 26 games; the 24-year-old forward has provided invaluable defensive play for the Canadiens after losing some key veterans.
Harvey-Pinard has worked his way into both sections of Montreal’s special teams; positioning himself as an invaluable piece when the games are on the line.
He’s quickly gained the trust of head coach Martin St-Louis, who has praised his energetic forward on multiple occasions for his versatility.
Harvey-Pinard’s performances down the stretch have gone a long way in ensuring his position within the hierarchy of the Montreal Canadiens organization; even if his offence has cooled of late.
He’s a restricted free agent this summer, which means the Canadiens will have to offer him a new deal; but it’s easy to think the Canadiens could get a bridge deal worked out on the cheap to keep the young heart-and-soul player on the team moving forward.
#Habs forward Rafael Harvey-Pinard had a great game last night vs #GoldenKnights.
Here are some quality chances that he got during the game
— Chris G (@ChrisHabs360) March 6, 2023
Justin Barron may have had a rough start to his season after being demoted to the Laval Rocket, but his stock has been on the rise ever since.
Starting off the year in the AHL as one of the more productive defencemen in the league with 16 points in 25 games, Barron received a call-up just after Christmas and hasn’t looked back.
He joined the Canadiens while on their heavy road trip in December, and initially seemed to struggle, like most of the team at that time.
However, upon returning to Montreal and getting used to the pace of the NHL again, he’s become one of the more effective defenders on the team.
Not only has the 21-year-old defenceman registered three goals and eight assists for 11 points in his last 18 games; but he also leads all Canadiens defencemen in assists-per-60 and points-per-60 since his call-up.
Barron’s improved offensive production has come directly from his more assertive decision-making with the puck and his much-improved skating ability; especially on the rush.
He’s gained in confidence, allowing him to join the rush with ease and overload the opposition; contributing to much of his offensive spike of late.
With right-shot defencemen being a major need in the organization, the Canadiens are surely thrilled with Barron’s upward progression so far this season.
He’s proving that he could be a regular NHL defenceman as early as next season with his consistent play, which might require a move, considering how many bodies there are on defence.
Even if the Canadiens do eventually trade Joel Edmundson this summer, they may also have to make an additional due to Barron’s strong development.
Sweet jesus that pass from Justin Barron to Anthony Richard.
Habs lead 5-4! pic.twitter.com/D6lXxb1483
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 15, 2023
Alex Belzile has been in the Canadiens organization for the last four years and played 19 NHL games with Montreal prior to this year, regular season and playoffs combined.
After patiently honing his craft with the Laval Rocket after a few cups of coffee in the NHL over the last couple of seasons, the 31-year-old veteran finally got his first real chance at the NHL.
Needless to say, he’s more than seized the opportunity to impress, especially as of late.
Belzile has been the most offensively performant player on the Canadiens roster for the last five games; posting three goals and two assists in the process.
Belzile leads the Canadiens in points-per-60 since his call-up with an impressive 3.09 ratio; while also being a major piece on their penalty kill unit as well.
The veteran’s ability to play both centre and wing, coupled with his two-way acumen and strong attention to detail, has helped him position himself quite favourably for next season.
The pending free agent now has 12 points in his last 22 games; which could prompt the Canadiens to push out some of their less-performant bottom-six players in order to bring him back next season.
He would surely be a low-cost 4th-line player, but he’s proven to have the attitude and work ethic the Canadiens are looking to implement from top to bottom moving forward.
Goals in three straight? 🔥
We love to see it, Alex Belzile. pic.twitter.com/829phj02wk
— NHL (@NHL) March 10, 2023
Keep It Up
Denis Gurianov wasn’t a call-up per se, but he is a newcomer that is slowly showing signs of being able to fit within Martin St-Louis’ offensive concepts.
The 25-year-old had a few rough patches in the first couple of games#GoHabs after joining the Canadiens from the Dallas Stars, but has recently begun to show much of the offensive potential that made him the 12th overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft.
His four goals and one assists for five points in nine games are encouraging for a young man that has had trouble finding his game in the past.
However, with the Montreal Canadiens, Gurianov fills a very strong need within the forward group: A pure shooter.
And, as of late, he’s showing it.
Since joining the Canadiens nine games ago, no player has a higher goal-scoring rate per 60 minutes than Gurianov at even-strength.
The young Russian has looked more and more confident with and without the puck as well; engaging in a strong forecheck and actively bringing the puck to the net with his size and speed.
The soon-to-be restricted free agent will be owed a $2.9M qualifying offer if the Canadiens wish to retain his services beyond this season; making the next 14 games very interesting.
He hasn’t stolen anyone’s spot yet on next year’s lineup, but, if he continues to improve the way he has the last week, we may be having a different conversation in April.
Oh baby, Denis Gurianov goes skate to stick and then roofs the backhand.
Habs now leading 3-2! pic.twitter.com/oczETww9og
— Scott Matla (@scottmatla) March 14, 2023
Put some respect on my boy Jesse’s name
The Headline is specifying players who were not on MTL NHL team next year.
That means players that were’nt in the plans for Hughes rebuild that might force his hand.
RHP wasnt on the radar before this year.
Belzile wasnt on the radar before this year.
Barron was expected to take atleast 2 years
Garianov took the place of a pending UFA we didnt plan on signing.
Ylonen was Expected to earn a roster spot.