In the past few seasons, Lars Eller has been one of if not the most polarizing Montreal Canadien. Some people see him as a strong two-way centre in the making that can be a second line player on a good team while others do not believe he will ever amount to anything more than an average 3rd or 4th liner and last season he played both roles. Which of those roles will he fill in 2014-15?
Last season was a season of highs and lows for Eller. After coming off of his most promising season to date during the lockout shortened campaign where he averaged 0.65 PPG, some people had big expectations for the big Dane. Eller started the season off on a hot streak clicking with the ‘EGG’ line alongside Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. However, after the line was split up, Eller disappeared until the latter part of the season. This slump had some Canadiens fans doubting that Eller would amount to more than a depth player despite his first round pedigree. The playoffs turned out to be a whole other story where he, along with Rene Bourque (who had also had an enigmatic season), were two of the Canadiens best forwards. Eller led all Montreal forwards in scoring in the playoffs with 13 points in 17 games and was only one point shy of the team’s leading playoff scorer P.K. Subban, ending his season on a high note.
Season Stats: 77 GP, 12 G, 14 A, 26 PTS, -15 rating, 68 PIMS, 2
PPG, 3 GWG, 137 SOG, 15:57 ATOI
(Because of the lockout-shortened season, we are pro-rating all of 2012-13’s numbers over a typical 82-game year. We are using a four year average for Eller because he only played seven games in his initial NHL season.)
This summer, Eller received a long-term contract extension with a cap hit of $3.5 million per season. Suffice it to say, the new deal suggests the organization and GM Marc Bergevin believe Eller is close to the player we saw during the lockout shortened year and the most recent playoffs than the one we saw during the bulk of the 2013-14 regular season. I expect Eller to have a longer leash this coming season and get more time on the powerplay than he has seen in the past, however, I believe his production will also be strongly affected by who he plays with and how well they play. At this point it could be anyone’s guess who his most common linemates will be, especially if injuries come into play.
As long as Eller can stay healthy, he’s likely to eclipse his production from last season. In particular, he should be able to provide more than three powerplay points – his output last year – especially if he does receive more time on the man advantage. If he can force his way into a top six role, he could be primed for a breakout season but if he’s on the third line, his production could still be sporadic.
Depending how deep your pool is, Eller could be a good player to take a
chance on in the later rounds as he should still be on the board after his poor output during last year’s regular season. I know it is a broad range but Eller could score anywhere from 35-55 points this coming season. Keep an eye on training camp to see where the coaches have him in the early going to get a bit of a read on where they see him in the pecking order as that will largely determine where you should be picking Eller in those late rounds.