Rabid Habs

Where The Future Fits – Part 3

Habs' Nathan Beaulieu

Part 3 is players already in the NHL, those are players likely to contribute next year:

(Read Part 1 & Part 2 here!)

A big part of the potential improvement in the Montreal Canadiens next year is linked to a couple of talented former 1st rounders who were solid contributors this past season, but who can become even bigger pieces next year and going forward. Those payers are center/left winger Alex Galchenyuk and defenseman Nathan Beaulieu. Galchenyuk has been the subject of one of my blogs as well as the topic of a lot of discussion with Habs fans over the past few months, much of the discussion related to him playing center.

My thought on Galchenyuk’s progression is, ideally he develops into an elite center and becomes a top 12-15 center in the NHL. However if he was to develop into a star left winger, that would still be ok. I think sometimes people over think the center position. The Boston Bruins won the cup without dominant centers. I think a team that would be strong on the wings, on defense and in nets can win a cup. At the end of the day, as I stated above, Galchenyuk’s growth into a more impactful offensive player will be a key for the Habs next year. He showed flashes this past year but also had stretches where he would disappear or be playing a very individual game. Part of his growth is consistency night in and night out. The other part is to simplify his game, to play a bit more north south and take the puck to the net when he has a chance. I think at times he tries the hard play when the simple one would work and be so much easier. PK Subban went through this early in his career, so I think it’s something Alex can grow out of with maturity and progression. I believe he can take the next step next year in terms of potentially scoring 30 goals or at least being in that range while also being a good playmaker. 60 to 65 points is well within his reach. He could also positively impact the struggling powerplay and take some heat off Andrei Markov and Subban on the points.

The second youngster who could come into his own is Nathan Beaulieu. He took a nice step last year, showing he could be a solid NHL defenseman night in and night out. It was very apparent that he focused on his defensive game and played relatively safe, occasionally jumping into the rush to create off man situations. Where I see potential growth with him over the next couple of years is, once he’s mastered the defensive side of the game, he can more confidently jump up in the rush and generate some chances on offense. His main assets are his excellent mobility and above average hockey sense. Those are tools that can allow him to be as good as he wants to be at this level. With the addition of Jeff Petry late last year, the Habs now boast 4 defensemen with above average offensive tools who can create things from the back end. I think we will see these guys jumping up more to help boost the attack. Nathan  could also improve his shot from the point as well as his shot selection.

A few other young players that spent time on the roster last year that could grow into bigger roles… I think a guy like Devante Smith-Pelly has a lot to prove. He is a guy with good size and speed plus he brings a scoring touch. However in Anaheim he had a reputation for not being in the best of shape. I believe if this can be fixed, he’s a player that can give this team a lot more than just a physical dimension. We saw in the OHL the impact that shedding 10lbs had on Micheal McCarron’s speed and agility. The opportunity is there for DSP and he has the tools to grow into a bigger role. To begin he will be in the mix for the bottom 4 spots in the lineup on the wing.

Another young winger who has a lot of upside is Jacob de la Rose, at 19 he did not look out of place in an extended audition last year. He’s big, fast and a smart player, very advanced defensively for his age. The thing with him is, I wonder if he would not be better off honing his craft playing bigger minutes in the AHL in St.John’s for another year? The bottom 2 lines are quite crowded with Brandon Prust, Lars Eller, Dale Weise, Torrey Mitchell, Brian Flynn, and Devante Smith-Pelly, not to mention Michael Bournival who could be in the mix. Trading a guy like Eller could open a spot for him, so that could be an option. Speaking of Bournival, one has to wonder if the arrival of Smith-Pelly and Flynn spell the end of him in Montreal? He is no longer waiver exempt, so unless they want to risk losing him for nothing, I doubt they would try and send him down. I think we may see him moved either as part of a package to bring in more scoring or for a draft pick.

In conclusion, I don’t see the young players named in these blogs as the quick fix to more offense, but I think Galchenyuk, Beaulieu, Andrighetto, Hudon, plus maybe McCarron or Scherbak can play a role in the team improving in 2015-2016 especially on the offensive end. Combining their growth with a couple of key additions would be my preferred formula.

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