Montreal Canadiens Awards: MVP, Unsung Hero, Breakout Player
The Montreal Canadiens will not be well-represented at the 2023 NHL Awards ceremony, but there were a handful of players that stood out from the crowd, bringing a silver lining to what was otherwise a very gloomy season.
Most Valuable Player
There are a few options when it comes to the Canadiens’ MVP this season, but despite solid results from captain Nick Suzuki and scoring phenom Cole Caufield, no player came close to matching the impact made by Samuel Montembeault.
Beyond the surprising results, Montembeault’s emergence as a possible NHL starter is a healthy reminder that goaltenders need two things to be successful in this league: health and opportunities, which is worth keeping in mind once we discuss prospect Cayden Primeau’s future with the team.
Top goalies of the 2022-2023 regular season https://t.co/RtBkDPbkvW pic.twitter.com/Vot8gRBzro
— MoneyPuck.com (@MoneyPuckdotcom) April 15, 2023
Most Improved Player
Montembeault is a great candidate for this award as well, however, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the progress made by veteran Josh Anderson.
Anderson cracked the 20-goal mark for the first time since with the Canadiens, but more importantly, he modified his game to play a much more team-friendly style of hockey.
Rather than trying to do everything on his own by relying on his fantastic speed and penchant for driving the net, Anderson started utilizing his teammates, which led to much healthier underlying numbers in the second half of the season.
It’s easy to say a player needs to change his style, but it’s a rather difficult proposal for players who have made their way to the NHL based by playing a certain way.
Not only did Anderson evolve, but he also showed head coach Martin St-Louis that he can be a valuable member of the team going forward, which certainly was not the case in the first few months of the season.
Josh Anderson’s goal tonight, Tierney with another assist pic.twitter.com/CxFlFbbF7F
— Habs Fan TV (@habsfantv_) March 10, 2023
He received the least amount of press among the many rookies that populated the Canadiens’ blueline this season, but that didn’t stop Johnathan Kovacevic from providing the team that claimed him on waivers with fantastic value.
Kovacevic finished first among defencemen in several key statistical departments at 5v5: shot control, scoring chance control, and expected goals for percentage.
The only player that came close to displacing Kovacevic at the top of the respective lists was his most common defensive partner, Jordan Harris, who could also be considered one of the team’s unsung heroes.
The Canadiens may not have spent any assets when they acquired Kovacevic, but that doesn’t mean he should be considered a valuable part of the team.
At 25 years old, Kovacevic is young enough to grow with the current core of players and also happens to be signed to a very reasonable contract, which pays him just $766,667 per season until 2024-25.
He’s reliable, cheap, and managed to stay healthy throughout the season, a rarity on the Canadiens roster.
Mike Matheson doing his thing, and Johnny Kovacevic RIPS one to get the #Habs back in the game. pic.twitter.com/DYiQuz57nx
— Matt Drake (@DrakeMT) April 9, 2023
Once again, Montembeault should be considered when it comes to breakout players, but given Rafael Harvey-Pinard’s storybook ascension from the AHL to the Canadiens’ top line, it’s only fair to say the 2019 seventh-round pick deserves the honour.
With 14 goals in 34 games, not only did Harvey-Pinard contribute offensively at a time when the team needed it most, but he also managed to finish tied with Mike Hoffman for fourth overall in goals scored.
Of course, we can’t expect him to score on more than 20 percent of his shots going forward, but when it comes to Harvey-Pinard, his underlying numbers were very encouraging, his tenacity was contagious, and thanks to a breakout season, his future with the organization is rather bright.
Rafael Harvey-Pinard’s third goal that sent the hats FLYING pic.twitter.com/VYaJY6rqsV
— Habs Fan TV (@habsfantv_) March 26, 2023
Most Reliable Player
The Canadiens once again led all teams in the NHL when it came to man-games lost, but there was one beacon of health in the organization, and he happens to be the youngest captain in team history.
Not only did Suzuki set a career-high in goals (26) and points (66) while playing with over 30 different line combinations, but he was also the only player that managed to play every game, a rather impressive feat that added to Suzuki’s Ironman streak.
Nick Suzuki with his 25th goal of the season and it’s a beauty
— Habs Fan TV (@habsfantv_) April 13, 2023
Most Entertaining Player
Cole Caufield’s penchant for scoring goals should not be ignored, and he’s definitely in the running for the team’s most entertaining player, despite undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery in January.
But when it came to breathing life into the Bell Centre, few players provided as much entertainment as rookie Arber Xhekaj, who fulfilled a crucial role for a team embarking on a long-term rebuild.
From stealing Zack Kassian’s soul to providing a surprising amount of offence as an undrafted defenceman making his NHL debut, there were very few better storylines in the NHL this season.
Something named Arber Xhekaj just absolutely bullying Zack Kassian pic.twitter.com/QwdxkdVN0v
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) October 20, 2022
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I have enjoyed reading these articles, specially the weekly Habs Prospect Ranking columns. Most of the time, they are well written and entertaining. I generally agree with the comments and opinions enclosed so thanks for your input and the time spent on writing and research. But let’s get real here: Picking anyone other than Nick Suzuki as team MVP is ludicrous. Suzuki is the one single constant on this injury riddled roster. Nick leads team in Goals, Assists, Points, games played etc. Plays in all situations from PP to PK to 5 v 5. Suzuki is Habs MVP and its not even close
I appreciate the support, and I definitely love it when people don’t agree with my opinions in a respectful manner. So, much obliged!
And yeah, you have a point about Suzuki, but from a purely statistical standpoint, I think Montembeault takes it because his play led to more wins.
However, Suzuki is a great candidate as well.
Love your articles. Keep up the good work but I strongly disagree on this. Habs MVP from any perspective -statistical and otherwise – is Captain Nick. Led the team in every offensive stat possible. And he was the true leader of the team both on and off the ice. That’s the definition of MVP
Glad to see Kovacevic get some love here. Over at THW, Blain Potvin gave him a C- grade for the season!!!
If not for Matheson, you could legitimately say from a statistical standpoint, Kovacevic was their best defenceman.