Depth has been the order of the day for Habs this season and it has paid off in spades. Claude Julien has four solid lines he can roll out regardless of the matchup and this is reflected in the first Three Stars of the season. Two lines and a defenceman made the list, but the honourable mentions for January could be a long list.
First Star: Tyler Toffoli
Signed on the third day of free agency to a very reasonable contract, Toffoli has paid off big time so far. He feasted on his former team in the Canucks (they’ll see him four more times this season) and is now among the league leaders in goals. Playing on the Canadiens’ third line (there’s that depth again) with the emerging Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Armia or another new acquisition in Corey Perry, Toffoli has helped balance the teams; attack. He may not be the swiftest, but he makes up for it with his instincts, smarts and a nose for the net
Stats: 8 GP, 6 G, 3 A, 9 PTS, +6 rating
Second Star: Jeff Petry
Petry just keeps getting better with age it seems. Off to a torrid start to the season, he’s now among the league leaders in scoring by a defenceman. An all-situation workhorse, at times Petry is the best player on the ice and we seem to be seeing that be the case more often all the time. On most teams, he would be the first paring right-side defenceman, but with Shea Weber arguably taking that spot, the Habs may have the best 1-2 punch at right defence in the league.
Stats: 8 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 PTS, +7 rating
Third Star: Nick Suzuki
Speaking of getting better all the time – the ceiling for Nick Suzuki just keeps getting higher. He plays such a mature game that it can be hard to believe that he’s just 21, and with the comparisons to a young Patrice Bergeron starting to roll in, Habs fans have every reason to be excited. He’s brilliant in the offensive zone and makes the smart play almost every time, and the same can be said on the defensive side of the puck as well. Suzuki is nothing short of a two-way force, and the future looks bright down the middle for years to come.
Stats: 8 GP, 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS, +1 rating
Honourable Mention: Josh Anderson
Big, tough, fast and skilled with a great shot – Anderson has come as advertised after Marc Bergevin made a splash to acquire and sign him over the summer. With a toolkit like that, it can hardly come as a surprise that he was a hot commodity and took a significant commitment to get signed long term. Like Toffoli, he has a significant effect on balancing the lines, creating a 1B option along with Jonathan Drouin and Suzuki.
Stats: 8 GP, 4 G, 1 A, 5 PTS, +3 rating