Connect with us

Habs Prospects

Canadiens Goaltending Overhaul Paying Dividends For Club



Montreal Canadiens goaltending prospect Jacob Fowler

A year ago, the outlook for the Montreal Canadiens’ goaltending depth chart was very worrisome, but it’s quickly becoming an organizational strength.

The future of the Canadiens’ crease has been a major topic of conversation ever since the departure of Carey Price, as the Canadiens didn’t seem to have anything in the pipeline ready to replace him yet.

Keyword: Yet

However, within the last year, the Canadiens have been able to add some interesting names, as well as benefit from surprising upswings in development, to shore up a position of dire need.

Let’s circle back:


Admitting There’s a Problem

By the end of the 2022-2023 season, the Montreal Canadiens had the improving Samuel Montembeault and veteran Jake Allen on the team, with 23-year-old Cayden Primeau in Laval and 21-year-old Jakub Dobès as the only other noteworthy prospect in the system.

Despite his experience, Allen was already pushing 33, and Montembeault still hadn’t truly established himself in the NHL, while the rebuilding Canadiens were starting to have doubts about Primeau’s ability at the NHL level.

Placing all their hope in a signing in free agency or a trade would open them up to potential disaster, as we saw in New Jersey this season with their never-ending question for a true starting goaltender, despite a loaded roster at forward.

It was clear that the club needed to solidify themselves in such a key position to give themselves the best chances of winning down the line.


Calling In Reinforcements

The easiest way for a rebuilding club to improve at a position is to draft the players they need to fill a crying need; which is exactly what the Canadiens did at the 2023 NHL Draft

In a rare move on the draft floor, the Montreal Canadiens drafted not one, not two, but three goaltenders on the same day: Jacob Fowler, Quentin Miller and Yevgeni Volokhin.

Of the three, Fowler stood out in a big way for his prowess in the USHL as well as his infectious attitude. He was seen as a goaltender with true starter potential down the line; something the Canadiens haven’t had in their system since they scooped up Cayden Primeau in the 7th round of the 2017 NHL Draft.

And, despite some confusion as to the amount of draft capital spent on goaltending, all three youngsters have gone on to have exceptional seasons in their respective leagues.

Jacob Fowler has had quite the rookie season, ranking 1st among freshmen goaltenders with a sparkling .924 save percentage and third in the entire NCAA among starting goaltenders with 20 games played.

His strong performance this season earned him a spot on Team USA’s gold-medal-winning World Junior roster, as well as a nomination to the Hockey East All-Rookie Team.

Respected members of the scouting community like Scott Wheeler have Fowler as the third-best goalie prospect currently outside of the NHL, suggesting the youngster has more potential than a simple NHL Starter.

Quentin Miller has also had a very respectable season in the QMJHL, splitting his time between the Quebec Remparts and the Rimouski Oceanic. The 19-year-old has put up solid numbers this season, especially after he was traded to Rimouski.

He’s expected to be a big part of the Oceanic’s push for a Memorial Cup, as they host the event next season.

Finally, Yevgeni Volokhin has been torching the MHL, the Russian junior league, this season with a 0.938 save percentage and a 1.57 goals-against average.

The 18-year-old is expected to get a promotion to the VHL, the second division under the KHL, next season; where he will be further tested.

Volkhin is more of a long-term project for the organization, having the luxury of patience to let the youngster develop in Russia for as long as he needs; but the results are promising.


A Strong Base

Going into the 2023-2024 campaign, the Canadiens were in a bit of a situation. Not only did they have to trade newly acquired Casey DeSmith, but Montembeault was a pending free agent and Cayden Primeau was waiver eligible.

General manager Kent Hughes was able to swap DeSmith for Tanner Pearson and a 3rd-round pick in what can only be described as a cap-dump deal, but then three goalies remained.

It was clear the Canadiens were trying to move Jake Allen, but they weren’t about to do that without signing Montembeault to a contract extension first.

By December 1, the Canadiens and Sam Montembeault had agreed on a team-friendly, three-year extension worth $3.15M; solidifying the starting goaltender position in Montreal in the short-term.

However, by that point, the market for goaltenders had all but dried up in the NHL, making a Jake Allen trade nearly impossible.

The Canadiens thus worked their way to the NHL Trade Deadline with a three-goalie rotation and, although it may not have been an ideal decision for the organization or the players involved, it somehow worked out.


Patience Is a Virtue

With all these youngsters now in the Canadiens system and Montembeault signed to an extension, Cayden Primeau was on the hot seat to perform and show that he should still be in the plans for the Canadiens moving forward.

However, that’s a tall task for a young goaltender who only plays a game or two per month due to a three-goalie rotation. Despite a few tough starts to begin the season, Primeau’s performances began to improve.

Even in losing efforts, he began to routinely steal some surefire goals away from the opposition, despite his team leaving him out to dry on certain nights.

By the end of February, Primeau was not only the Canadiens goalie with the best save percentage; he was also the only one to record a shutout during the entire 2023-2024 campaign for the club.

And his performances didn’t go unnoticed.

Jake Allen was eventually moved to the New Jersey Devils an hour before the NHL Trade Deadline; and Primeau was quickly given a start where he secured his second straight shutout against the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 41-save performance.

And, in the words of the 24-year-old: “This is just the beginning”.


From Weakness to Strength

The outlook for the Montreal Canadiens’ crease now looks significantly better than a year ago; with strong depth from the main club to the amateur levels.

Despite NHL betting odds again pegging the Canadiens for a bottom-five finish this season, the club has finally set themselves up for some stability after the departure of Price.

With Allen traded, Montembeault and Primeau will now occupy the starting and backup role, respectively; while Jakub Dobes continues his sharp development curve in the AHL as of late.

Counting on Fowler, Miller and Volokhin developing in the NCAA, QMJHL and, hopefully, VHL next season; the Canadiens have seemingly turned one of their biggest organizational needs into a strength.

Now, if Kent Hughes and the Montreal Canadiens can somehow do the same at forward; the rebuild will look to be in tip-top shape moving forward.

That’s, of course, easier said than done.

*For more NHL betting lines and futures, head over to FanDuel