The Montreal Canadiens are in full swing, and it has been really eventful. Highlights include locking the top pick in this summer’s NHL Draft at the Bell Center and the appointment of Christopher Boucher as the new director of hockey analytics.
With four months left before the boot camp opens, the fun is just beginning. Here are four predictions, some bolder than others, about what’s coming this summer for the Hab.
Shane Wright will be the first overall pick
Let’s start with the most likely prediction. General Manager Kent Hughes will take the stage to start the draft in July and announce Shane Wright as the first overall pick sent his team’s fan base into a frenzy.
Sure, there are improvements to be made in Wright’s game just like any other 18-year-old prospect, but his track record, both as a player and captain, speaks for itself. He is a person of high character and has the highest floor in this year’s category. The fact that he’s a productive center who can play effectively on his end makes him a perfect fit for the Canadians and will give them depth into the middle they haven’t had in years.
It has become the norm to dissect and find flaws in consensus no. 1 generally tops the draft, especially when they’re not considered a generational talent. This trend will only be amplified because Montreal holds the top pick, but Hughes, Executive Vice President Jeff Gorton and the Boy Scouts crew won’t miss the chance to draft Wright.
Nick Suzuki will not be named captain
Wright would create a dynamic, brilliant, top-six center duo over the next decade with Nick Suzuki, who has become an important part of the Habs heart since acquiring it from the Vegas Golden Knights. The 22-year-old has grown into a leadership role with the team but has yet to be named captain.
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Hughes has indicated that he would like to have a new captain in place early next season, to replace Shea Webber. Several players, including Suzuki, have been suggested to take on this role. There is also the possibility that a seasoned veteran will be brought in to take command.
While Suzuki is certainly a strong candidate, management will likely choose a more experienced player, someone like Joel Edmondson or Brendan Gallagher, in the short term until Suzuki is fully ready to take on the responsibility. His time will come for him to receive the most prestigious honor, but for now he already has enough pressure to treat him as one of the faces of the franchise.
Management will find a way to ease their head crunch
One of the challenges facing the Canadians this season is their lack of cover space. With no room for maneuver, management will have limited options to improve the roster for 2022-23 and beyond. They’ll have to get creative out of some contracts, but expect to have a small space to work with by the time the free agency starts on July 13th. But the task will not be easy.
Transferring Weber’s contract is likely to be one of the players’ first moves made this summer that will help mitigate their LTIR status, especially if Carey Price starts the season there. Jeff Petrie will likely be taken up and replaced with another veteran who fits the new way the group wants to play and can guide the team’s young defensive prospects. Strikers such as Joel Armia, Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Drouin can also be traded if the price is right and does not constrain Hughes in the future.
A veteran will be added
Hughes has said on multiple occasions that he would like to add some leadership and veteran personality to the squad. That priority may have changed somewhat after seeing the team’s reaction when Martin St. Louis took over behind the bench, but he’s still trying to change the roster mix and composition.
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It appears Kris Letang will not be returning to the Pittsburgh Penguins and rumors continue to link him to the dorm. Will it be a Petri replacement? While the connection is clear, it’s hard to see relevance given where Canadians are in their rebuilding. Letang wants to win, and he wants a big long-term deal that makes the match between the two parties less clear. The cheapest option seems to be the sensible way to go.
If Wright is indeed brought into the fold, it is reasonable to believe that Hughes will bring in someone with experience, likely on his ward, to support him and who also makes the team better. Does bringing someone like David Byron make sense in this context?
It’s hard to guess what Hughes and Gorton might do given that this is their first season at the helm, plus they have many more questions than answers at the moment. No matter what happens over the next several weeks, the Hab is sure to look drastically different when the disc drops next season.
Melissa has been covering Montreal Canadiens for hockey writers since March 2020. She is also the Director of Social Media and Marketing at THW as well as co-host for Chicks and sticks, a weekly show produced by THW. In 2006, she led the Tennis Canada and Rogers Cup social media initiatives and was the main person responsible for their sponsorship for over 10 years. She has written articles for many tennis websites and interviewed Roger Federer and Serena Williams. While her sports career began in tennis, her first love has always been hockey. She has a BA in Journalism from Concordia University.