This is the second of the two-part grade articles evaluating the Montreal Canadiens forwards during the second quarter. The period of games spans February 13 through March 15.
Players must have played in a minimum of three games to receive a grade
Tyler Toffoli – Grade: A+
Stats: 14 Games, 8 G, 5A, +9, 4 PIM, 2 GWG, 22 Hits, 4 Bks, 41 Shots
Grade Comments: The Habs leading scorer, Tyler is Mr. Clutch when it comes to scoring a timely goal when the team needs it most. His hockey sense is top-notch and he uses that well in forechecking situations to disrupt the opposition and cause turnovers. Although he produced only one assist and failed to score a power play goal this past quarter, he was among the team leaders in average ice time with the man advantage. More and more, the signing of Toffoli as a free agent is looking like the best move that Marc Bergevin has made while managing the Canadiens.
Jesperi Kotkaniemi – Grade: A+
Stats: 14 Games, 3 G, 5 A, +3, 6 PIM, 17 Hits, 4 Bks, 18 Shots, 53.16% Faceoffs
Grade Comments: Kotkaniemi improved nicely during this quarter. After the team’s coaching changes, I have noticed Jesperi gaining a little more ice time. In particular, his time on the power play has also increased and he has been part of the promising improvements with the man advantage. Kotkaniemi produced three assists on the power play during the quarter, compared to only one in the first quarter. What was very impressive was his work in the faceoff dot, as he added ten percentage to his faceoff winning percentage in this stretch. That is an area he has been criticized for lacking but like all young centres in the NHL, that is a skill that takes many games before gaining prowess.
Brendan Gallagher – Grade: A
Stats: 14 Games, 5 G, 4 A, +8, 6 PIM, 2 PPG, 1 GWG, 19 Hits, 3 Bks, 42 Shots
Grade Comments: The engine and spark plug of the Montreal Canadiens, Brendan had another strong showing. Although he scored two fewer points than the first quarter, he also was given around 20% less average ice time on the power play. In some games, Ducharme has scrambled the lines and Gallagher has seen different linemates, but when he was reunited with Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault, he seemed to play better and produce more points. Brendan’s scoring increased by two points during this stretch, going against the grain of many of his teammates while the team had their struggles.
Corey Perry – Grade: A-
Stats: 13 Games, 4 G, 3 A, +5, 7 PIM, 1 GWG, 16 Hits, 1 Bks, 13 Shots
Grade Comments: Corey was given more ice time during this quarter rising up in the lineup. The move has paid off as he more than doubled his point production. Perry is proving valuable on the power play in front of the net presence, as he is difficult to move and can react correctly when a puck appears in the slot and picked up two assists with the man advantage. One of the attributes I love about Perry is his low panic threshold; he holds on to the puck under pressure and only moves it when the time is right.
Tomas Tatar – Grade: B
Stats: 13 Games, 1 G, 7 A, +2, 0 PIM, 1 PPG,
Grade Comments: Tomas equalled his points last quarter although his assists were much higher. He was a healthy scratch for the first game of the season in this stretch as well. Although he was given less ice time on the power play, he doubled his point production. He had a breakout game on March 6th against Winnipeg where he scored three assists and his line produced eight points. He was paired that night with his usual linemates Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault. Since that time, I have noticed more jump in his game and while that hasn’t always led to points, he seems to be more involved.
Jonathan Drouin – Grade: B
Stats: 14 Games, 1 G, 7 A, -2, 4 PIM, 16 Hits, 3 Bks, 28 Shots
Grade Comments: Jonathan’s offensive production dropped three points in this quarter which was somewhat surprising since his average ice time went up a minute and a half, or two typical NHL shifts. Coach Dominique Ducharme has known Drouin since his time in the QMJHL and appears to have confidence in using him a little more. His defensive game has declined and I wonder if he has gone into some old habits of thinking offence first. To his credit he did shoot more often, increasing that statistic by fifty percent.
Nick Suzuki – Grade: B-
Stats: 14 Games, 2 G, 4 A, -1, 6 PIM, 22 Hits, 11 Bks, 17 Shots, 45.54% Faceoff
Grade Comments: Nick’s offensive production took a significant drop last quarter, going down by half. That’s disappointing enough but his defensive play also suffered. Although he did miss the presence of his winger Josh Anderson when he was injured for three games, that’s not enough to explain the drop in his play. To his credit, Nick did improve his faceoff winning percentage by five percent although he still needs to reach that magic fifty percent standard. It’s possible Suzuki is facing the infamous “sophomore slump”.
Josh Anderson – Grade: B-
Stats: 11 Games, 2 G, 3 A, -3, 9 PIM, 1 PPG, 33 Hits, 3 Bks, 30 Shots
Grade Comments: Josh suffered a lower-body injury on February 25th against Winnipeg when he was the victim of a slew foot-like move to drop him to the ice. He missed three games despite some pundits predicting the injury was a concussion or something serious. After returning to the lineup, he produced four points in six games. Despite this, I find he has not played quite the same way as he did in the first quarter as I feel he is playing a little tentative at times. If I am correct, I predict Anderson will pick up his play more so in the next quarter.
Phillip Danault – Grade: C+
Stats: 14 Games, 1 G, 5 A, +8, 8 PIM, 10 Hits, 5 Bks, 22 Shots, 49.4% Faceoffs
Grade Comments: Danault finally scored a goal and threw that monkey off his back! Coach Ducharme had been trying to help Danault get past that goal-scoring slump by reuniting him with Tomas Tatar and Brendan Gallagher. It worked on March 10th, game 25 of this season; that goal put him one point over his total from the first quarter. I saw some improvement leading up to that game and afterwards also, as it looks like his confidence on the ice was growing. However, Danault is still limited in his offensive skills, and I don’t believe he will get back to his offensive totals from the previous two seasons. With the rise of Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, it’s unlikely Danault will get back to those levels, barring injuries to those other centres. Phillip is still a very useful player for his defensive play although his faceoff percentage dropped to a sub 50% level for the first time in a long while. Unfortunately, his presence in every overtime situation he’s taken part in has been ineffective at best.
Joel Armia – Grade: C
Stats: 14 Games, 3 G, 2 A, +2, 4 PIM, 31 Hits, 3 Bks, 33 Shots
Grade Comments: It’s difficult to compare Armia’s play from this quarter to the last one since he played in only seven games in the first quarter. Despite that, he scored the same number of points in both game spans. It’s possible Joel is still impacted by the concussion he had earlier this season. During this 14-game stretch, Joel produced points in only four games. One of those games was a two-goal game where he was excellent. I realize Armia is unlikely to be more than a secondary scorer since he has been a very inconsistent player. I believe the improved play of Corey Perry may cost Armia more ice time.
Jake Evans – Grade: C-
Stats: 12 Games, 0 G, 3 A, +2, 2 PIM, 24 Hits, 9 Bks, 10 Shots, 40.74 Faceoff
Grade Comments: Evans was a healthy scratch for two games at different times last quarter. He produced one more point than he did in the first quarter but did not score a goal. Jake still showed decent defensive play at times, although there were a few times where he seemed a little overmatched, especially on the road. He is a rookie and is still going through the growing pains of learning on the job. Unfortunately, Evans’ faceoff percentage dropped considerably, down from a respectable 50.9% in the previous quarter.
Paul Byron – Grade: C-
Stats: 14 Games, 2 G, 2 A, +0, 6 PIM, 37 Hits, 8 Bks, 13 Shots
Grade Comments: Byron continued his role as a bottom-six forward this term. His scoring total went up by one point but he did end his goal drought in this quarter. Unfortunately, I found that in most games, Byron was largely invisible. In past seasons wearing a Habs jersey, Paul’s presence on the ice was evident nearly every shift. He used to be an excellent forechecker due to his tenacity, speed and acceleration. I just have seen too little of all of these traits. In the previous quarter, he was a healthy scratch for one game. After being reinserted into the lineup he showed more effort than before, but that effort was really inconsistent in the second quarter. It may be time for him to be scratched again in the third quarter.
Artturi Lehkonen – Grade: C-
Stats: 7 Games, 0 G, 0 A, -4, 0 PIM, 13 Hits, 3 Bks, 7 Shots
Grade Comments: Artturi is still a decent defensive player when he gets a chance to play. He struggled greatly during three games against the Winnipeg Jets in this quarter and only played limited ice time during half of the games when he was in the lineup. I don’t expect much offence from Lehkonen, particularly if he’s on the third line. He still has good speed, anticipation and hustle in that role and has value. The improved play of Corey Perry may hurt Artturi’s chances at getting regular ice time unless there is an injury to the forward group.