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Canadiens Gurianov Gamble Paying Off For Kent Hughes



Montreal Canadiens

Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes took a gamble on pending restricted free agent Denis Gurianov, and it’s certainly paying off as of late.

When the 25-year-old Gurianov was acquired from the Dallas Stars in exchange for veteran Evgenii Dadonov, the idea was that Gurianov held much better potential than the simple mid-round pick the Canadiens could have received for Dadonov.

That logic proved to be sound.

There’s Something There

Although Denis Gurianov was getting lost in the shuffle in Dallas, he was taken 12th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft for a reason: He had the size, speed and shooting ability to be a dangerous NHL player.

What Gurianov likely needed was a true opportunity and a change of scenery; and he’s gotten exactly that in Montreal.

It wasn’t easy for the young man to join the Montreal Canadiens on their western road trip right off the bat, but he adjusted quite nicely once the Canadiens returned home and got a few practices in.

His strengths immediately stood out to the Canadiens’ coaching staff, drawing the praise of head coach Martin St-Louis; who applauded Gurianov’s play.

“There’s something there,” said St-Louis in his post-game interview.

But St-Louis was also quick to remind us all that Gurianov’s evaluation and development weren’t over; as they still needed to refine some aspects of his game.

“He’s got a top-six shot, he’s got the speed of a top-six, but, to be a Top-six player in the NHL. You need more than that generally, because you’re playing against other team’s top-six players,” said St-Louis over a week ago about Gurianov needing to diversify his game. “To just be fast or have a good shot is not enough; you have to be able to play the game.”

The message, it seems, was well-received by Gurianov.

Message Received

In Gurianov’s last seven games since St-Louis comments regarding the diversification of his game, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound forward has played a more complete game.

He’s not only registered four goals and two assists for six points in that span; but he’s also seen his minutes rise significantly; going from 13 or 14 minutes a game to 17 and 18 minutes a game.

Gurianov has been a noticeable member of whichever line he’s been assigned to.

Not only has he become a solid trigger-man of late; but he’s now begun using his speed and size to become an effective player in transition.

In the past, Gurianov would quickly get rid of pucks when coming down the ice with possession, but he’s slowed down his game and has been showing off some underrated playmaking abilities.

Having a player of that size with that kind of transition ability is rare in the NHL, and having both the shooting and playmaking ability to generate offence on the rush is even rarer.

He’s also been a great addition to the Montreal Canadiens’ power play which, don’t look now, has been on a tear over the last two weeks.

Being a left-shooting forward with a strong offensive arsenal, another rarity on the Canadiens right now, he’s been a key member of the Canadiens’ new-look first wave.

Gurianov has been solid along the right circle, moving Nick Suzuki to the left circle and giving the Canadiens three shooting options from the top of the zone with Mike Matheson at the point.

The irony, however, is that, although he is getting his shots in; Gurianov has been asked to play a more intelligent game with the puck on his stick, and it’s helped him show up more of his puck skills and passing abilities.

With players respecting Gurianov’s shot, they swarm him more aggressively, which has allowed Gurianov to wire passes to the point or across the dots for high-end scoring chances.

Even defensively, Gurianov has shown some progress, due largely to an increase in effort and intensity in his game.

In his first few games with the Canadiens, Gurianov looked tentative and hesitated a great deal, whereas, over the last two weeks, he’s looked more assertive in all three zones.

He’s using his body better, helping out on backchecks and playing a more aggressive forechecking game that puts a ton of pressure on the opposition.

Decision Looming

When the clock strikes midnight on the Montreal Canadiens’ season come April 13, Hughes will have a decision to make when it comes to Gurianov’s future with the club.

The Russian forward already has already recorded eight points in his 13 games with the Canadiens, and is seemingly getting hot with 10 games left on the season.

Gurianov will see his one-year $2.9M contract expire this season as a restricted free agent. For the Canadiens to retain his rights, they will need to provide him with a qualifying offer, a minimum offer of $2.9M on a one-year deal.

However, similarly to Rem Pitlick, the Canadiens could decide not to qualify Gurianov, allow him to become a free agent and then sign him to a more team-friendly contract.

There is also the slim chance that Gurianov, who seemingly enjoys his new environment, could simply decide to take less in an effort to prove, over the length of a full season, that he deserves more money in the long term.

Either way, if the 25-year-old continues to perform the way he has and uncovers more of the potential that made him such a promising prospect just a few years ago; it’ll be a question of when, not if.

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His confidence must have been shot in Dallas. No way they trade him if he played they way he has for Montreal. MSL seems to know how to improve a players mindset, and this improves there play. This team could come together and be competitive faster than people think. Especially with pickups like Gurianov and MSL’s leadership. If they can stay relatively healthy and get more consistent goaltending (big if, but I have faith in Monty), then this team makes the playoffs next year.

John Stone

we need goalies my man.. Dont wanna be a hater or anything..”snacks” monty.. is at best a backup. But i do also see some great goaltending on his part.. so its a big “what if?”.. But time will tell.. We have alot of young talent.. too many to name .. alot of offensive talent to boot aswell.. So im think cayden may see himself here after next season when both montys and allens contracts are up ( correct me if im wrong .. didnt research into that part to see when their contracts are up) but regardless of when.. we have also Vrbetic .. Dobes.. Desoriers ( sorry if i mispelt ) .. lonf shots i know.. but theyve been pretty good in their respective leagues!.

Last edited 2 months ago by John Stone
W H Twittle

Montambeault could become a #1 but not an intimidating #1 which is what most championship teams have needed. Primeau is hot-and-cold. Vrbetic and Desrosiers are so-so. Dobes may surprise.
Habs need to get a top 5 pick in the 2025 draft. The next scary good goaltender is d’Aigle.

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