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P.K. Subban or Carey Price? Which of those two Habs superstars is the best is a debate of its own, but they’re in a class of their own. So which of the Canadiens takes bronze among the club’s top three players?

Could it be 19-year-old Alex Galchenyuk? Surely he’s a superstar of the future, but does what he brings to the team now qualify him for top three honors?

What about Andrei Markov? He may not have the legs after a number of knee surgeries, but he’s still a lethal threat on the powerplay. Or is he too far removed from his prime to maintain an overall game that bests his teammates?

Brendan Gallagher recently crafted a hamburger at McDonalds. That’s got to count for something, right? While delicious, ”Le Gallagher” isn’t what qualifies #11 for consideration. No, it’s the feisty forward’s grit and determination night in and night out that does.

As the votes came in on the HabsWorld forums and from the writers, two player stood out: Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty. Each brings a valuable element to the Habs lineup.

Plekanec proved he can shut down some of the league’s best players in Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews this season. His consistent two-way game is among the NHL’s best, and with 16 goals and 14 assists through 53 games, he remains among the Canadiens’ top three scorers.

Pacioretty, meanwhile, is a potential 40-goal scorer this season and the best sniper the Habs have had in years. With 22 goals through 44 games, Max would be on pace for 41 goals over 82 games. Injuries limited his ice-time this season, but the milestone is still in reach with 29 games to play.

So who is the Habs third best player? You can join the discussion on the HW forums and read below to see what others wrote.

Answers from HW’s writers:

Alexander Létourneau: I’d have to go with Tomas Plekanec, who has ridiculed my earlier assertions that he would fizzle out this season to a reinvigorated Lars Eller. Obviously no one’s been shining through this tough stretch but Plekanec has displayed consistency throughout the season, aside from what I thought was a mediocre start. As of this writing (Jan 28), he leads all Montreal Canadiens forwards in time on ice, is second in goals scored, second in points, top in +/- and tied for second in the NHL with three shorthanded goals. His four game-winning goals are second only to Max Pacioretty. I’d like to see a better faceoff percentage, as 48.4% is lowest among the top three centers, but all in all, he’s continuing to produce and be a factor in all game situations. I don’t see too many disappearing acts with him on the ice. He’s a veteran that can be leaned on by Michel Therrien and he’s lived through some Habs debacles before. Maybe he has the right insights to get them out of this one.

Matthew Macaskill: I have to go with Plekanec based on his two-way game and the important minutes he plays against the opponents’ best players. When a player like Plekanec can not only shutdown some of the best players in the league and do so while putting up points of his own, he’s a vital member of the team. In addition, he does so whilst playing alongside an aging Brian Gionta and a revolving door of wingers on his left wing. I like Pacioretty as the team’s fourth best. I think if he played as hard as Gallagher needs to for success, Patches would be among the league’s elite.

Kevin Meldrum: Montreal’s third best player is Max Pacioretty. He can be a dominant scorer. He has a quick release that is right up there with the best in this league. If he drives hard to the net more like the game against Boston he could score 40 plus goals year after year. His assists are done this year, but he is the only threat Montreal has on the ice to score every shift. When provoked he adds a physical element to his game which makes him that much more effective. Max is also playing more of a two-way game this year combined with some shorthanded minutes which shows that the coaching staff has trust in his game in all three zones.

Michael Richard: I would say Budaj. He’s the only one who’s been doing his job lately.

Norm Szcyrek: I have to say it’s a tie between Markov and Plekanec. Both have been top pairing/line players for the past number of seasons. Until last season when Subban grabbed the #1 ranking on the team, Markov has been the team’s best defenceman for several seasons now. Similarly, Plekanec has been the team’s #1/2 center for the past number of years. Both play in all situations [even strength, power play, penalty kill], and both have been drafted by the Habs, spent time in the minors, and stayed with the team for the full careers to date.

Mitchell Tierney: This debate really does come down to Pacioretty vs. Plekanec, with both having plenty of factors in their favour. However, I believe that it is Pacioretty who is ultimately the better of the two for a variety of reasons. The main factors that nominate Plekanec are his two way hockey abilities and his consistency. While Pacioretty has lacked consistency throughout his career, it is rare that he is not an offensive threat, even if he isn’t scoring. Furthermore, Pacioretty’s two way game is underrated and he does often see time on the penalty kill and certainly doesn’t look out of place. There is also the importance that Pacioretty has to the team: he is the only high end offensive talent. When Pacioretty is scoring the team is winning – it is almost as simple as that. Most of the quality stretches for the team over the past couple of years have coincided with Pacioretty playing at his highest level. This is no coincidence. A lot can be said for the consistency and leadership of Plekanec but ultimately Pacioretty’s offensive upside makes him the third best player on the Canadiens.

Responses from the HW community:

DON: Best eh? Pacioretty is terribly weak on defense and backchecking (will do it when feels like it, but his main weakness), so Plekanec it is.

The Chicoutimi Cucumber: Plekanec. No question at all in my mind. He is only a shade less important than Price and Subban, even though his contributions are sadly underrated by fans.

JoeLassister: Today: Plekanec. Tomorrow: Galchenyuk. That being said, put Galchenyuk between Pacioretty and Gallagher and he becomes our best forward, IMO.

sim.on: Totally agree with [JoeLassister]. Also I would love to see patches centered by Plek, but obviously MT will never do that because that would just decrease DD s impact / value even further.

Not that I don’t have faith in Chucky but if for whatever reason he doesn’t become the player we all believe and hope he will be (perennial all-star center averaging 1 + ppg) then we will be really screwed. This team’s ability to be a contender in the future relies heavily on his development.

hab29RETIRED: I’d say that Pleks is the best all round player on this team. Win or lose, he plays well. That being said, when MaxPac is scoring this team is winning more. When his line is dry so is the Habs offence and with a team that struggles to score, I think you have to give the nod to MaxPac. I think his contract may be the best in hockey. How many guys on pace for 35+ goals are locked up for $4.5M for another 5 years?

In another year or two, we may be discussing if Galchenyuk is the best player on this team, but I wouldn’t put him in the top 3 right now.

Lovett’s Magnatones: Pacioretty. Only first liner on the whole team, he might be a 40 goal scorer if he had a true first line center like Crosby or Joe Thornton passing him the puck.