The Habs had surprisingly few troubles scoring goals through the first quarter of the seasons which has resulted in some high grades for their forwards.
Joel Armia – A-: Armia has always been a player that has shown flashes of offensive potential but hasn’t been able to put it together for a long stretch. He certainly took some strides in that direction in the early going and is more than halfway to his career high in goals. What’s also nice is that the added production hasn’t come at the expense of his play at the defensive end.
Stats: 19 GP, 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points, +5 rating, 2 PIMS, 51 shots
Nick Suzuki – A-: Suzuki has quickly gone from someone who a lot of people thought would start in the minors to start the season to a pretty important part of Montreal’s forward group. He has found ways to be productive with limited ice time and didn’t look out of place during his limited stint down the middle either. A solid start to his pro career.
Stats: 21 GP, 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points, +2 rating, 4 PIMS, 31 shots, 47.0% faceoffs
Brendan Gallagher – B+: I keep expecting Gallagher’s scoring to level off. Instead of pushing for new career highs in goals each season, eventually he has to hold steady, right? He’s proving me wrong once again as he was on pace for a new top mark through the first quarter and played a big role on Montreal’s top line.
Stats: 21 GP, 9 goals, 7 assists, 16 points, +8 rating, 0 PIMS, 72 shots
Phillip Danault – B+: Any thought that his uptick in production was just a one-time thing can be put to rest as Danault hasn’t missed a beat from last season. Defensively, he hasn’t been as sharp as he can be (especially on the penalty kill) which is what has him falling just outside the ‘A’ range.
Stats: 21 GP, 6 goals, 10 assists, 16 points, +9 rating, 6 PIMS, 32 shots, 53.6% faceoffs
Tomas Tatar – B: Tatar had a hot streak just before the end of this stretch to take over the team lead in scoring. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he also had the team lead in penalties, most of them being of the unnecessary variety. Some of those proved quite costly which takes him away from what would have been a higher grade.
Stats: 21 GP, 7 goals, 13 assists, 20 points, +1 rating, 20 PIMS, 55 shots
Jonathan Drouin – B: His offensive output was similar to this point a year ago (one more goal, one less assist through the same number of games) so while it’s fair to say he’s playing better, it also requires the qualifier that he’s playing better compared to the end of last year. Drouin played like this in the early going last season but when he comes back, the expectations will certainly be higher as they’re missing him more than they probably expected right now.
Stats: 19 GP, 7 goals, 8 assists, 15 points, +4 rating, 6 PIMS, 44 shots
Nick Cousins – B: It took some time for Cousins to even get into the lineup as he was scratched and battled back trouble early on but when he did get in, he made more of an impact than I think most expected. As a result, he went from being a fringe player to a regular pretty quickly. Any time a depth player can do that, they’re more than doing their job.
Stats: 15 GP, 2 goals, 5 assists, 7 points, +4 rating, 2 PIMS, 26 shots
Max Domi – B-: From the standpoint of comparing his production to last season, yes, the start of this year has to be considered a bit of a disappointment for Domi. I’m of the mindset that 2018-19 was the outlier and that his output was going to dip. He’s never been a prolific scorer and through this set of games, he’s still on pace for 15 goals and over 50 points. Maybe that’s a bit low but it’s not a massive drop either. I also give him some credit for mostly keeping his temper in check as aside from one bad game in that regard; he did a good job at staying out of the box.
Stats: 21 GP, 4 goals, 9 assists, 13 points, +5 rating, 8 PIMS, 49 shots, 44.7% faceoffs
Artturi Lehkonen – C+: As usual, Lehkonen has been a good complementary player and has held his own while shifting between the second and third lines while also playing both wingers. However, the continued inability to score remains a concern. It’s one thing to help create some chances but at some point, more of those need to be converted into goals.
Stats: 21 GP, 3 goals, 5 assists, 8 points, +2 rating, 14 PIMS, 42 shots
Nate Thompson – C+: The veteran has exceeded my expectations in the early going this season (though they weren’t the highest to begin with). He’s filling the role he was brought in to fill – win draws and kill penalties. The former is going better than the latter but he’s still one of Montreal’s better defensive forward. Thompson also deserves some credit for improving his skating over the offseason which has helped him on Montreal’s fourth line.
Stats: 21 GP, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points, +1 rating, 5 PIMS, 26 shots, 54.7% faceoffs
Jordan Weal – C: Weal has shown some good offensive flashes at times but generally speaking, he hasn’t had anywhere near the type of impact he had after being brought in at the trade deadline last season. Injuries will provide him with a chance to lock down a more regular role so he has a lot at stake over these next few weeks.
Stats: 13 GP, 3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points, -4 rating, 10 PIMS, 26 shots
Jesperi Kotkaniemi – C-: This was one of the trickier grades to pick. Yes, he has struggled offensively. On the other hand, he has shown that he’s more physically ready to handle the NHL and he isn’t getting pushed around so often. It’s also important to note that Kotkaniemi is still one of the youngest players in the league which has to be considered as well. It hasn’t been a good start for him by any stretch but it’s not time to sound the alarm bells either.
Stats: 14 GP, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points, -1 rating, 2 PIMS, 20 shots, 43.9% FO
Paul Byron – D+: Byron has never been a prolific shooter and he’s shooting even less in the early going. Part of that is due to reduced speed which has greatly lowered his scoring opportunities. On the surface, it looks as if he’s gone from a core player to a depth piece in a hurry. But considering the Habs haven’t won without him this season, maybe I’m completely underestimating his importance as well.
Stats: 19 GP, 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points, +3 rating, 4 PIMS, 11 shots
N/A: Charles Hudon (2 GP), Ryan Poehling (4 GP)