While he had an injury-plagued season, Phillip Danault still had a respectable year offensively which helped land him a three-year deal this summer. How will he follow up on that in 2018-19?
After some wondered if his increased output in his first full season with the Habs, Danault set out to quash those thoughts and did a good job of doing so early on. In the first 11 weeks of the season, he produced at a 0.62 point per game clip which is a 50-point pace. There was a case to be made that he shouldn’t have spent so much time on the top line but that type of output is pretty good compared to the centres Montreal has deployed in recent years.
Unfortunately for him and the team, not a lot went right after that. He suffered a concussion taking a shot to the head in January and though he came back just before the trade deadline, he took a high stick to the face in early March that wound up ending his season. In between his stints on IR, he only scored once in his final 18 games.
In terms of his deployment, Danault was used in all situations. He ranked fourth among Montreal forwards in even strength ATOI (although he was third among centres) while logging nearly two penalty kill minutes and one power play minute a night. He wasn’t particularly productive in his PP time as he had just two assists all season in that situation.
All in all, it wasn’t a bad year overall for Danault who has quickly established himself as part of Montreal’s core. However, with a bigger contract now, expectations will be higher for him moving forward.
Season Stats: 52 GP, 8 goals, 17 assists, 25 points, even rating, 34 PIMS, 0 PPG, 2 GWG, 94 shots, 16:35 ATOI, 52.7 CF%
3 Year Averages
With not a whole lot being done to strengthen Montreal’s situation down the middle for next season (bringing back Tomas Plekanec and adding Matthew Peca helps the depth but neither project to be impact performers), Danault’s role should resemble the one he had last year. In other words, he’ll be moved anywhere between lines one and three but most of his time will be spent in the top six.
His line will draw some of the tougher checking assignments to free up Jonathan Drouin’s unit to try to produce more offensively so even though he should have some decent wingers to flank him, Danault’s output will be affected by that. From a special teams perspective, he’ll once again log plenty of time shorthanded. As for the power play, that’s a whole different question.
As things stand, is there really a legitimate second unit option down the middle? Plekanec isn’t going to help in that regard, Jacob de la Rose (if he’s in) isn’t an offensive threat, and Peca is more of a wildcard at this point. Andrew Shaw, who often lined up as the second unit middleman, is hurt to start the year as well. The stars appear to be aligning for Danault to get more time with the man advantage, especially to start the season.
In his two full seasons with the Habs, Danault has averaged 0.49 and 0.48 points per game. While it’s far from a given that he’ll be exactly in this area again, it’s reasonable to assume he’s going to be somewhere around there, especially given that his role doesn’t appear to be changing. If he stays healthy, he could push for 40 points once again.
As he is more of a playmaker than a scorer, Danault will need to be dropped lower in rankings in leagues that value goals higher than assists. Pools that put a high emphasis on power play production will also hurt his value although that could change if he starts to see time more regularly on the second unit. Give him a small bump for ones that count faceoffs as he has been a little above average in that regard since joining the team back in 2016.
In a standard 12-team league, Danault probably should stay on the waiver wire until he gets on a hot streak. However, for deeper points leagues, he has the potential to be a good third or a great fourth centre and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s undervalued a little bit because he missed so much time last year. I won’t call him a sleeper pick but I think he could be a value selection as a top-six player towards the back end of the draft.