After a rough first quarter of the season, the second wasn’t any better for the Habs. Even so, there were a handful of forwards that exceeded expectations, earning themselves a decent grade in our report card.
Players must have played in 5/21 games to receive a grade.
Tyler Toffoli – A: Yes, an ‘A’ grade. Toffoli didn’t play all that much (not even half the games) but he looked like the version of himself from last season, one that was a scoring threat every night and unlike a lot of Montreal’s forwards, he actually produced at a pretty good clip. That, coupled with a team-friendly contract, made him a primary target for Calgary who didn’t waste any time trading for him.
Stats: 10 GP, 3 goals, 6 assists, 9 points, +3 rating, 0 PIMS, 25 shots, 17:50 ATOI
Laurent Dauphin – A-: Part of doing these grades is evaluating players based on realistic expectations. For Dauphin, he basically had no expectations coming into this stretch but did well enough to play himself into a regular role. That’s pretty impressive for someone who hasn’t seen regular NHL action since late 2016/early 2017. He’s not a late-bloomer that’s going to become a regular for the Habs down the road but as far as this season has gone, his performance in this stretch is one of the bright spots.
Stats: 12 GP, 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, -5 rating, 13 PIMS, 11 shots, 14:35 ATOI
Christian Dvorak – B: It has been a tough season for Dvorak with some early struggles and injuries. However, he was playing better for a little while and was showing flashes of being capable of playing on the second line, the role that Marc Bergevin envisioned when he dealt two early draft picks to get him. His most recent injury came at the end of this segment and derailed what had easily been his best stretch of the season up to that point which earns him a pretty high grade here.
Stats: 18 GP, 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points, -5 rating, 15 PIMS, 35 shots, 18:07 ATOI
Rem Pitlick – B: While the usual small sample size caveat is required here, Pitlick didn’t look out of place in his first few games with the team. The question will be whether or not he can produce enough in a more limited role now that several regulars have returned from injuries and COVID protocol but nevertheless, he made a good enough first impression to justify taking a longer look at down the stretch.
Stats: 6 GP, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points, -2 rating, 2 PIMS, 7 shots, 16:14 ATOI
Artturi Lehkonen – B-: Lehkonen started to come on in the second half of this stretch and I’m admittedly putting a bit of emphasis on it as a whole bunch of bad grades doesn’t make for a good read. Lehkonen’s baseline performance continues to make him a useful player even when the puck isn’t going in (which is normal for him) and every so often, he can go on a little run that makes you wonder why he doesn’t score more than he does. While I don’t think this will spark that long-missing level of consistency, he finished up strong which was good to see.
Stats: 18 GP, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, -6 rating, 2 PIMS, 40 shots, 14:29 ATOI
Michael Pezzetta – B-: No one denies that he plays with plenty of energy and hustle but one of the consistent concerns with Pezzetta is his penalty trouble. He only had seven minors in this stretch which isn’t great but it’s better than he has been at times in the minors as well. Add to that a trio of goals despite limited ice time and you wind up with a decent grade for a player who has done well to hang on to a roster spot for as long as he has.
Stats: 18 GP, 3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points, -4 rating, 34 PIMS, 17 shots, 8:24 ATOI
Jesse Ylonen – B-: I don’t think Ylonen did anything to hurt himself in terms of his standing with the organization in his stint with the Habs. That said, I’m not sure he helped himself much either. He was okay which is perfectly fine for someone getting their first semi-extended stint of NHL action. His shot looked good and he hustles out there and now it’s just a matter of figuring out how to contribute beyond those two elements. All in all, it was an alright stretch from the youngster but I was hoping to see him stand out a bit more.
Stats: 7 GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, +2 rating, 2 PIMS, 8 shots, 12:54 ATOI
Jonathan Drouin – C+: On the one hand, he didn’t play all that well which can be said for just about every veteran and some of the younger players. On the other hand, Drouin led the Habs in points in this segment of the season which has to count for something. In the proper role with lower expectations, I think we’d see Drouin differently than we do now where he’s being paid as a go-to threat. In a middle-six role at a couple million less, he’d be viewed as a quality piece instead of an overpaid underperformer, a designation Drouin shares with many this season.
Stats: 18 GP, 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points, -5 rating, 15 PIMS, 35 shots, 18:07 ATOI
Josh Anderson – C+: Another player that was hit hard by injuries, Anderson had a bit of a scoring touch when he was in the lineup, tying for the team lead in goals despite missing just over half the games. But even with that, there were quite a few nights where he was pretty quiet overall which isn’t ideal (particularly over a small sample size). Yes, he can play physically but he needs to be able to improve on making an impact beyond skating fast, driving the net, and hitting people. Considering what’s at stake in the second half of the season (nothing), this would be as good a time as any for him to be deployed in some other roles.
Stats: 10 GP, 4 goals, 1 assist, 5 points, -2 rating, 21 PIMS, 23 shots, 16:20 ATOI
Nick Suzuki – C: Considering he’s still on his entry-level deal, it shouldn’t be too surprising that Suzuki had some really good games in this stretch and some really bad ones with more of the latter than the former. He’s being asked to shoulder a bit too much of the load and while that should help him from a long-term perspective, he definitely struggled over the last couple of months.
Stats: 21 GP, 4 goals, 6 assists, 10 points, -10 rating, 14 PIMS, 46 shots, 17:50 ATOI
Cole Caufield – C: There’s always a fine line to balance between process and results when doing these and Caufield is a good example of that. He certainly wasn’t scoring but it wasn’t for a lack of chances. Granted, part of his role is to be an above-average shooter which is a negative but a shooting percentage in the 2% range doesn’t automatically mean he was playing terribly; there was some bad luck in there and not all of it is due to Dominique Ducharme. More is expected from him but I don’t think he played as poorly as the stat line suggests.
Stats: 17 GP, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points, -8 rating, 2 PIMS, 46 shots, 14:58 ATOI
Ryan Poehling – C: The young centre is getting consistent playing time. That part is good but what isn’t as good is the fact he’s not doing a whole lot with it. There were simply too many nights where he was barely noticeable. He isn’t good enough offensively to play in the top six and, quite frankly, his defensive play hasn’t been great either. It’s still too early to write him off altogether but he needs to do a better job of taking advantage of the opportunity he has to play his way into a full-time spot on this team.
Stats: 21 GP, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, -12 rating, 4 PIMS, 36 shots, 13:13 ATOI
Jake Evans – C: I don’t like that he was shuffled around between playing centre and the wing and it’s not like he was producing better at one position than the other. Evans just wasn’t producing at all. He has raised the floor of his game high enough to warrant a spot on the lineup on an every game basis but too often he was a passenger in terms of trying to drive the play. It’s a learning curve for sure and this hasn’t been a great environment for development but I’d like to see a more stable and consistent level of performance, not just the odd highlight reel flash.
Stats: 17 GP, 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points, -10 rating, 6 PIMS, 35 shots, 16:43 ATOI
Mike Hoffman – C-: Hoffman lived up to his reputation for not helping a team much beyond his goal-scoring prowess in this quarter of the season. He had a few goals and, well, that’s about it on the good side. On the bad side, his effort level was sporadic and he had some absolutely dreadful plays in his own end as well as defending in transition, several of which wound up in the back of the net. When things are going well, he’s the type of player that can stand out in a good way. When it’s going as poorly as this season is, Hoffman can stand out in a bad way and we saw a lot of that.
Stats: 13 GP, 3 goals, 2 assists, 5 points, -6 rating, 12 PIMS, 31 shots, 17:40 ATOI
Brendan Gallagher – C-: Part of this is a small sample – he barely met the GP criterion – but Gallagher just didn’t do a whole lot. He wasn’t playing different than usual – the hustle was there, he drove the net regularly, and fired shots from odd locations – but the production and frankly, the effectiveness, just weren’t there. It’s not entirely fair but as the highest-paid forward on the team now, he needs to produce to meet expectations. It didn’t happen in the short stretch of games he had before his injury.
Stats: 6 GP, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, -5 rating, 2 PIMS, 11 shots, 15:01 ATOI
Mathieu Perreault – D: Another one who narrowly met the GP threshold, Perreault was simply quiet in the handful of games he played. For someone with a decent track record of being a capable depth producer, the Habs needed more than just quiet minutes from him. There really isn’t anything else that needs to be said here.
Stats: 6 GP, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 points, -3 rating, 0 PIMS, 4 shots, 13:49 ATOI
Cedric Paquette – D: My expectations were pretty low for Paquette this season which is taken into consideration with this grade (why it’s not lower). He’s not an NHL-calibre player anymore – he’s not a good checker and for a centre, he can’t win a draw (28.6% in this quarter). I think management is trying to be respectful of the veteran by not waiving him (or waiting as long as possible) but in an ideal world, he’s not playing much down the stretch.
Stats: 12 GP, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, -2 rating, 2 PIMS, 7 shots, 9:52 ATOI
Joel Armia – D-: Armia is supposed to be good defensively but he struggled in that regard. He’s supposed to have some offensive abilities – we’ve seen it in stretches over his time in Montreal – but he showed none. He’s supposed to at least play with some effort. No luck on that front either. That’s a terrible combination resulting in what was a terrible performance for the winger.
Stats: 12 GP, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, -2 rating, 6 PIMS, 9 shots, 13:22 ATOI
N/A: Lukas Vejdemo (4 GP), Alex Belzile and Rafael Harvey-Pinard (3 GP each), Brandon Baddock and Cam Hillis (1 GP each)