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Habs Prospects

The Potential Montreal Canadiens Opening-Night 23-Man Roster



Montreal Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens are headed to Mont Tremblant for a few days to participate in a team bonding exercise away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

It’s an intelligent decision by team captain Nick Suzuki, who is all too familiar with the toll playing a complete season in the NHL takes on a body.

It also allows the players to stop worrying about potential cuts to the training camp roster.

As it stands the Canadiens still have 29 players at camp, though that includes two injured players, Chris Wideman (indefinitely) and Christian Dvorak (week-to-week).

Here are the official NHL rules regarding the Opening-Day Roster:

There may be a maximum of 23 players on each Club’s playing roster at any one time from the commencement of the NHL regular season through the trade deadline. Prior to the start of the season, each Club must submit to the NHL its “Opening Day Playing Roster” which shall be comprised of not more than 23 players. Each Club must have a roster of at least 20 players, composed of 18 skaters and two goaltenders. Players on Injured Reserve do not count in the 23-man limit.

If need be, the Canadiens can simply place either player on the injured reserve to clear up roster spots.

That leaves the Habs with 27 players and 23 positions to fill.

Montreal Canadiens players remaining at camp

Forwards (*16, 15 with injuries)

Remaining Forwards: Josh Anderson, Joel Armia, Cole Caufield, Kirby Dach, Jake Evans, Brendan Gallagher, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Emil Heineman, Sean Monahan, Alex Newhook, Tanner Pearson, Michael Pezzetta, Juraj Slafkovsky, Nick Suzuki, Jesse Ylonen, and Christian Dvorak (injured).

If we attempt to create a projected lineup, we can get a better idea of the forward situation. The key here is creating the lineup with the players we believe will remain in the NHL, not necessarily the line combinations. A player like Monahan may end up on the top line to help them win faceoffs and maintain a high level of play, which would then make their production sustainable.

In this scenario, I kept Slafkovsky in the NHL so that he could continue to evolve alongside Dach.

Here are the 11 players who we can safely assume will have a job in the NHL once the regular season begins:

Cole Caufield – Nick Suzuki – Alex Newhook

Juraj Slafkovsky – Kirby Dach – Rafael Harvey Pinard-

Tanner Pearson  – Sean Monahan – Josh Anderson

?? –  Jake Evans – Brendan Gallagher

extra(s): ??

That leaves two spots or three spots available, depending on what type of roster the Canadiens want to use. For now, we’ll assume they’re going to run a traditional 14 forward, 7 defenceman, 2 goaltender roster breakdown.

Armia, Heineman, Pezzeta, and Ylonen are the players who are fighting for spots, though it should be noted that Heineman does not require waivers to be assigned to the AHL, whereas Ylonen, Pezzetta, and Armia do need to be placed on the waiver wire.

It’s also worth noting that Ylonen is one of the few players in the lineup with high-end shooting talent, something the Canadiens lineup desperately lacks.

Given that Armia is a veteran, it’s safe that despite some calls to send him to the AHL, he’s bound for the NHL roster.

Therefore, due to the waiver situation, I would predict the opening-night forward lineup to seem similar to the following, at least in terms of which players are present.

Cole Caufield – Nick Suzuki – Alex Newhook

Juraj Slafkovsky – Kirby Dach – Rafael Harvey Pinard-

Tanner Pearson  – Sean Monahan – Josh Anderson

Joel Armia –  Jake Evans – Brendan Gallagher

extra(s): Pezzetta, Ylonen

Personally, I’d put Ylonen higher in the lineup if the coaching decisions were up to me, but at the very least, he deserves a spot among the top 14 forwards. Heineman, on the other hand, simply did not do enough at training camp to warrant potentially losing Ylonen on waivers.

There’s also the matter of whether Slafkovsky should play in the NHL this season.

MUST READ: Canadiens Using Dach With Slafkovsky For Important Reasons

In my opinion, keeping him in the NHL is fine as long as he’s given a significant uptick in ice time alongside talented players, such as Dach. If the Canadiens cannot guarantee using him in a situation that’s conducive to thriving, the AHL becomes the most logical landing point.

Defencemen (*10, 9 with injuries)

Remaining Defencemen: Justin Barron, Kaiden Guhle, Jordan Harris, Johnathan Kovacevic, Gustav Lindstrom, Mike Matheson, Mattias Norlinder, David Savard, Arber Xhekaj, and Chris Wideman (injured)

We’ve already discussed this topic to a certain extent.

Now that Logan Mailloux has been assigned to the AHL, there are just 10 defencemen vying for seven spots.

Wideman is injured, which takes him out of the picture, leaving us with nine players in the mix.

Guhle, Harris, Kovacevic, Matheson, Savard, and Xhekaj more or less have the top six locked up, leaving Barron, Lindstrom, and Norlinder battling for the seventh defenceman spot.

Given that both Barron and Norlinder may figure into the team’s long-term rebuild plans, not to mention the fact that neither requires waivers to join Mailloux in the AHL, it seems like Lindstrom is the best choice as the defensive group insurance policy. Keeping Lindstrom in the NHL would also allow both Barron and Norlinder to play heavy minutes for the Rocket, rather than toiling away in the press box.

Projected defensive lineup:

Mike Matheson – Kaiden Guhle.

Jordan Harris – Johnathan Kovacevic

Arber Xhekaj – David Savard

extra: Gustav Lindstrom.

You’ll note that I am using Guhle on the right side, however, the goal is to avoid saddling him with yet another veteran who acts like an anchor when it comes to his development. That was the case last year when he played with either Savard or Joel Edmundson.

With that in mind, using him on his off-side makes more sense than anchoring him to a declining veteran.

Goaltenders (3)

Remaining Goaltenders: Samuel Montembeault, Cayden Primeau, and Jake Allen.

This is fairly straightforward.

I could be and often am wrong, but I don’t see the Montreal Canadiens carrying three goaltenders on the roster due to the fear of losing Primeau on waivers.

If Primeau had shown enough to be considered a player who should be in the NHL this season, the Canadiens wouldn’t have to put him on waivers in the first place.

Unfortunately, his numbers in the NHL are atrocious, and though his stats in the AHL are decent and you could argue that he was never given a fair shake during his starts with the Habs, most franchises already have a goaltender or two in their system who are roughly Primeau’s age.

Many of those goaltenders have better numbers, too.

Of course, injuries could play a part. We saw the Columbus Blue Jackets claim Spencer Martin on waivers last week, which may create a little more anxiety for Canadiens management.

Keep him in the lineup is still a possibility, and the team may want to ‘paper’ some of their players to the AHL to allow a few more days to arrange a trade if there’s interest in Primeau, but for now, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over the prospect of him being claimed on waivers.

Brass Tacks

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the complete potential Montreal Canadiens roster heading into the 2023-24 season:


Cole Caufield – Nick Suzuki – Alex Newhook

Juraj Slafkovsky – Kirby Dach – Rafael Harvey Pinard

Tanner Pearson  – Sean Monahan – Josh Anderson

Joel Armia –  Jake Evans – Brendan Gallagher


Mike Matheson – Kaiden Guhle

Jordan Harris – Johnathan Kovacevic

Arber Xhekaj – David Savard


Samuel Montembeault

Jake Allen


Gustav Lindstrom, Michael Pezzetta, Jesse Ylonen

Cut From Camp

Emil Heineman, Justin Barron, Mattias Norlinder, Cayden Primeau

Do you agree with the lineup? Disagree with the player choices for our projected Montreal Canadiens lineup? Let us know in the comments below the article!