The Canadiens’ biggest organizational needs before the season
The Montreal Canadiens have filled their cupboards with a wide variety of prospects, but there are still some needs to be filled before the end of the upcoming season.
The Canadiens are still in a transitional phase to try and build a lasting contender over the next couple of years, and there are a few areas the team will need to address in order to maintain that success over time. Since the Canadiens aren’t likely to compete for a playoff spot this year, they can spend most of the season targeting prospects or draft picks that will help them acquire NHL prospects or young players. to positions in need, especially at the trade deadline. Last season, the Canadiens managed to fill a major organizational need by trading Artturi Lehkonen to Colorado in exchange for right-handed defenseman Justin Barron. It may have been difficult to let Lehkonen go, but Barron filled a huge hole in the right side of defense back then and more such trades are likely to be on the way next year.
That said, which positions are most needed right now? We break it down below:
After Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach, the Montreal Canadiens don’t have much depth in their prospect pools when it comes to the most crucial position (pun intended) in hockey. From this junction, the Canadiens have Riley Kidney (2021), Owen Beck (2022), Oliver Kapanen (2021), Jan Mysak (2020) and Blake Biondi (2020) as centers with legitimate NHL potential in their pool. leads. Of the group, Kidney and Beck are arguably the only ones with a chance of ever being a top-6 center down the line, but that may still be a big deal at the moment. General manager Kent Hughes has spoken at length about his desire to secure center depth on the main roster and in the organization, so we can expect that need to be filled quickly.
With Ryan Poehling traded and Jake Evans seemingly moved to one of the last six roles with the Montreal Canadiens and only Kidney, Mysak and Beck as legitimate contenders for future offensive duties in the middle, the Canadiens will likely fill that need over the course of next year. They’ve already taken a lead with the acquisition of Kirby Dach, who could be their immediate solution as a possible top-six center in the future, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Canadiens draft a top center range with their 2023 first-round pick, especially if they pick up high.
The Canadiens have been heavy on draft defensemen, especially left-handed defensemen, over the past four drafts. The selections of Alexander Romanov (2018), Jordan Harris (2018), Jayden Struble (2019), Mattias Norlinder (2019), Gianni Fairbrother (2019), Kaiden Guhle (2020) and William Trudeau (2021) have seen the club really doubled on a position of need at the professional level that the former general manager Marc Bergevin failed to fill at the time. Kent Hughes then added Lane Hutson, Adam Engstrom and Petteri Nurmi as left-handed defensemen, making the position the Canadiens’ greatest organizational strength; ultimately allowing them to move Romanov in a flurry of deals that brought Dach.
With so many left-backs selected over that stretch, the Montreal Canadiens have seen the depth of their right-handed defensemen dwindle at the worst possible time. With veterans Shea Weber and Jeff Petry in the final years of their careers, it wasn’t until the 2021 NHL Draft that the Montreal Canadiens really began to address the dire need for defensive prospects who shoot right. The draft of Logan Mailloux, despite all the noise surrounding him, as well as defenders Dimitri Kostenko and Daniil Sobolev, demonstrates the imperative need to rebuild their ranks on the right side of their defense.
With Mailloux’s situation still up in the air, the Montreal Canadiens were still short of a right-handed defenseman in their prospect pool with legitimate top-4 potential until this latest NHL trade deadline, when the new general manager Kent Hughes has acquired the 20-year-old. Justin Barren. Despite acquiring Barron, the Canadiens are still thin on the right side, especially after trading Jeff Petry this week. Perhaps the recent chatter about right-handed defenseman Nils Lundkvist could be a way for the Canadiens to solidify a position that has quickly become an urgent need for the organization.
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It’s no affront to Cayden Primeau, who is coming off an impressive playoff streak in Laval, but the Canadiens are lacking any real top-notch goalie hope right now. They’ve done a good job of adding goalies to the prospect pool in each draft like Frederik Dichow (2019), Jakub Dobes (2020), Joe Vrbetic (2021) and Emmit Croteau (2022), but ultimately fails not to run out of hope in that position which would be the heir apparent to the No. 1 goalie job. That’s not to say that none of the goaltenders listed above could eventually become an NHL starter, but they are far from certain at the moment.
Unfortunately for the Canadiens, the 2022 NHL Draft wasn’t good for goaltenders and so couldn’t target one with the four picks they had in the first two rounds. It should be expected that Canadians will want to deal with this issue in the very near future, as the health of Carey Price has created urgency for a sustainable replacement plan at such a vital position. There may be better goaltenders available in the 2023 NHL Draft, but, for the purposes of rebuilding the Canadiens, they may seek a more developed option via trade, in the future.