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Earlier in this series, I lamented the lack of the depth on the left wing in all facets of the Habs' organization. There was one blue chip player and little else to be all that excited about. Fortunately for the Montreal Canadiens, the situation on the right side is much better both in quality and quantity.
As quite a few wingers in the organization can play both sides, their positions for the purposes of this series will be based on the position listed on our depth chart.
Cole spent most of the 2011-12 season being one of the most vaunted scorers on the team, something that isn't expected to change next year. What will change is that, barring another long-term injury, he won't be the only scoring winger on the right side as Gionta will be ready to return from injury and should be counted on to score at least 20 goals again. Unfortunately there are some question marks beyond those two though.
White was often thrust into an offensive role which is clearly something he's not capable of playing. He can, however, be a good energy guy from the fourth line. Palushaj is supposed to be an offensive player but he too failed to produce when given the opportunity. He no longer is waiver exempt and his presence on the team next year is far from a certainty. The same can be said for Michael Blunden as although he brings a physical element, he brings little else and is in danger of losing his job. Staubitz as we all know can fight. If Michel Therrien wants a pure 'enforcer' he might be kept around. If not, he'll be looking for a new home next year.
Needs Assessment: Low - Assuming White is re-signed, three of the four wingers will already be in place. There is a need for a shutdown player as White isn't ready to step into third line minutes but beyond that the needs are limited. There also is the possibility that one of the players listed on Hamilton's roster below could move up and take on that role (a certain former first rounder pops to mind). Of the different areas the Habs have to fill, this is one of the better stocked ones.
Most of the signed players fall into two rather extreme categories - players who did well and players who couldn't have played much worse if they tried. Leblanc had a quality rookie campaign with Hamilton and although he looked overmatched at times with Montreal, he did enough to demonstrate that he will be a quality player for them in the near future. Gallagher had yet another high scoring season in junior while playing an important role at the World Juniors. He is jumping up the prospect depth chart in a hurry as a result.
Then there are the negatives. Avtsin followed up a lousy rookie season with the unthinkable, an even worse sophomore season that at times saw him nailed to the bench while ECHL'ers on tryouts saw playing time. He's under contract still but I have to wonder if both he and the organization may be thinking re-assignment to Russia might be in his best interest. Berger came to the Hamilton under the guise of being a power forward. Unfortunately, to qualify for such a label, he'd actually have to score, something he did just once in 47 games.
Schultz, the one player who doesn't fall into either category, took advantage of some early injuries to play his way back into the organizations' good graces, even earning himself a couple days on the NHL roster partway through the season. Quailer, who just signed this week, should bring a bit of grit to a lineup that looks like will be lacking in that department with a bit of scoring touch.
Needs Assessment: Low - If Leblanc starts the season in Hamilton (I'm a big proponent of that idea although I know I'm in the minority there), there will be precisely zero holes to fill in terms of filling roster spots. It's hard to pin this on a rookie but I think Gallagher's development (the speed of it) will go a long way in determining their early season success; if he can handle a regular scoring load as a 20 year old, they'll be in good shape. I wouldn't be surprised to see one player added but that could very well be a player on an AHL-only deal to allow Berger and/or Quailer to get more regular minutes by playing the ECHL.
The Habs lack quantity here but their lone prospect, Danny Kristo, has legitimate NHL upside. He's not the greatest all-around player but he's a natural scorer, something the team lacks in its prospect corps. His college days will one way or another be over after this coming season so sooner than later we'll know if he will go into the clubs' system or opt for the free agent route.
Needs Assessment: High - It's nice that the lone prospect in this category has NHL potential but possibly having a situation late next year where the team may have no unsigned prospects at a forward position (at least those that are natural right wingers) can't be a good thing. (Having one position where that's the situation - goalie - is bad enough, two would be problematic.)
- Assessing the Depth: Centres posted by B. La Rose
- Assessing the Depth: Left Wingers posted by B. La Rose
- Assessing the Depth: Goaltenders posted by B. La Rose