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Montreal Canadiens

By The Numbers: Canadiens Rookie Defencemen Outplaying Vets



Montreal Canadiens Harris

As the Montreal Canadiens prepare to embark on the final stretch of the 2022-23 schedule, we’re starting to get a better idea of the key players on the blue line.

With five rookies in the mix, expectations were rather low, but as you’ll discover in this article, the young players in the Canadiens’ defensive group did not disappoint.

Expected Goals For And Expected Goals Against

We’re going to use expected goals for and against in this article because it gives us a better idea of their likely results moving forward.

As has been the case throughout the season, both Jordan Harris and Jonathan Kovacevic feature among the most effective defencemen on the blue line.

expected goals for Canadiens

Harris, in particular, does a great job mitigating chances (xGA/60), whereas Kovacevic’s biggest impact is felt when evaluating expected goals for (Rel. xGF/60). Much like Kovacevic, Justin Barron is slowly yet surely making a case for himself as an impact defenceman.

Mike Matheson definitely drives the play toward the offensive zone, as evidenced by his strong xGF/60, however, he does drag a little when it comes to his defensive play.

You’ll note Kaiden Guhle is much further to the right than some may have expected, although since he’s been removed from the top pairing, which wasn’t a reasonable assignment to begin with, Guhle has improved his underlying numbers significantly.

We can also simplify things a little by looking at their overall expected goals for percentage (Rel. xGF%).


xGF% relative Canadiens

Once again, Harris, Kovacevic, and Barron lead the pack, with Matheson completing the quarter of Canadiens defencemen who make a positive impact.

However, there’s more to hockey than just expected goals. It’s an incredibly important statistic that allows us to project their upcoming seasons with more accuracy, but in the modern NHL, you also expect defencemen to contribute to offensive production.


Nova Scotia features some of the most breathtaking scenery in Canada, not to mention an incredibly friendly local population. And now, they can also boast that Barron, a proud Nova Scotian, is far and away the most productive player on the Canadiens’ blueline.

Canadiens Points per 60 defencemen

Unsurprisingly, Matheson has also generated an impressive amount of production, as has Guhle, who is one of only three defencemen that is producing more than a point per 60 minutes of ice time.

You’ll note neither Harris nor Kovacevic feature among the top defencemen in points per 60, though, combined with their excellent on-ice results, you’d be hard-pressed to argue their relatively low production leads to the bad outweighing the good.

Brass Tacks

There’s a common theme to the most dominant Canadiens blueliners this season: they tend to be puck-moving defencemen.

Furthermore, despite their lack of experience in the NHL, four of the fives rookies have produced very encouraging numbers this season, a rather encouraging sign for a team that will rely upon them for the foreseeable future.

It goes to show, experience is important, but in today’s NHL it pales in comparison with raw talent and mobility.

All statistics are 5v5 unless otherwise noted. Via NaturalStatTrick.

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Allan A KATZ

So if four out of five have encouraging numbers is #5 Xhekaj? Due to trades if one youngster needs to be in Laval would it be Xhekaj? In a year or two if Huston is ready, if Mailloux flourishes in Laval who are the candidates to be sent packing?

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