The 2021-22 season was a tough one offensively for many of Montreal’s forwards which resulted in them being one of the lowest-scoring teams in the league. Despite that, a few of them still did well enough to manage a decent grade as we wrap up our report cards.
Players must have played in at least 20 of 82 games with Montreal and still be with the organization to receive a grade.
Rem Pitlick – A-: It’s important to note that I grade on performance relative to expectations, not just performance. No, Pitlick wasn’t the best forward for the Habs but for a waiver claim, the fact that he produced at a pretty good (albeit unsustainable) rate is quite impressive. I don’t think he has shown enough to be part of the top six for the Canadiens moving forward but Pitlick showed enough to give him another look next season. Considering he was parachuted in as simply a healthy forward when the Habs were hit hard with injuries and COVID trouble, Pitlick more than lived up to his end of the bargain.
Stats: 46 GP, 9 goals, 17 assists, 43 points, -9 rating, 12 PIMS, 52 shots, 17:16 ATOI
Jake Evans – B: Evans wasn’t one of Montreal’s best forwards this season but he was one of their more impressive ones nonetheless. He showed some improvement offensively that provides some hope that he’ll be able to live up to his extension even if he finds himself as low as the fourth line depending on whether or not a certain Kingston centre is drafted next month. Evans has been a slow developer throughout his career and that has continued into the NHL but he has become a quality depth piece for this team which was good to see.
Stats: 72 GP, 13 goals, 16 assists, 29 points, -5 rating, 22 PIMS, 124 shots, 15:35 ATOI, 49.8% faceoffs
Nick Suzuki – B-: For the most part, it was a decent year for Suzuki. He went through the ups and downs of truly being the all-situations top centre for the entire season for the first time. Offensively, he held his own most of the time but defensively, there were some surprising struggles that ticks his grade down a little. There’s still room for Suzuki to improve in all facets and even if he doesn’t become a true number one, he’ll be an impact middleman for this team for years to come.
Stats: 82 GP, 21 goals, 40 assists, 61 points, -29 rating, 30 PIMS, 186 shots, 20:30 ATOI, 49.6% faceoffs
Laurent Dauphin – B-: Dauphin was a bright spot after being recalled from Laval, doing well enough that they decided to keep him up the rest of the way. For someone that hadn’t really had any extended NHL action for a few years, that’s a great accomplishment. He showed enough that he could be viewed as an option for a depth spot with the Canadiens next season as a defensively capable player who provides an honest effort each night. Good for him.
Stats: 38 GP, 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points, -10 rating, 25 PIMS, 50 shots, 13:17 ATOI
Cole Caufield – C+: Everyone knows how Caufield’s season went by now. He struggled mightily under Dominique Ducharme and was much more productive under Martin St. Louis, working his way close to the top of the rookie leaderboard by the end of the year. This grade is basically an average of those two as a result. While Ducharme didn’t use Caufield in the most optimal way, Caufield’s lack of production during that stretch isn’t just on the former coach; some of the blame has to go to the player as well. He needed to play better at the start of the year and he may have lost the Calder Trophy because of it.
Stats: 67 GP, 23 goals, 20 assists, 43 points, -24 rating, 10 PIMS, 188 shots, 16:40 ATOI
Michael Pezzetta – C+: Like Dauphin, Pezzetta did well enough after being recalled to stay with the big club the rest of the way which, for someone that had been a fringe AHL player for most of his first three professional seasons, is a very good accomplishment worthy of a decent grade. But he took way too many dumb penalties early on and while he was much better in that regard towards the end of the year, his effectiveness went down. It’s hard to find a balance between being aggressive but not going over the line and that’s what Pezzetta will need to do if he wants to be considered an option for a regular spot on the fourth line moving forward.
Stats: 51 GP, 5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points, -7 rating, 81 PIMS, 49 shots, 7:50 ATOI
Christian Dvorak – C: Like Caufield, Dvorak was underwhelming under Ducharme and considerably better under St. Louis with the grade representing an average. He largely was as advertised overall – a capable defensive centre that’s good at the faceoff dot but, despite some good raw offensive skills, the offence doesn’t materialize with any sort of consistency. It’s easy to see why some feel he’s best served as a high-end third liner but if the Canadiens have a more favourable offensive environment under St. Louis next season, there could be room for an uptick in production yet.
Stats: 56 GP, 11 goals, 22 assists, 33 points, -19 rating, 24 PIMS, 87 shots, 17:22 ATOI, 56.7% faceoffs
Josh Anderson – C: I always find Anderson a hard player to evaluate since he’s not the type of player that does a lot of things. He skates fast, drives the net hard, and plays with a bit of physicality. But he’s not great defensively, not adept at playmaking, and not even that great of a shooter with a lot of his goals typically coming from in close. Anderson did the things he’s supposed to do well and didn’t show much growth in the other areas. At $5.5 million, they will need more production (staying healthy would help) or some demonstrated improvement in his weaker elements for him to impact the game as much as they want him to.
Stats: 69 GP, 19 goals, 13 assists, 32 points, -25 rating, 65 PIMS, 151 shots, 17:13 ATOI
Jonathan Drouin – C: I don’t think Drouin was discernibly better than he had been in the past but he was able to pick up assists at a decent enough rate when he was healthy to keep this grade respectable. I don’t think there are many left that think he is a long-term part of Montreal’s future but if Drouin’s still around next season and hovers around a 48-point (over 82 games) clip, they should be able to get something in a trade for him at the deadline. He’s talented enough to be much more than that if he can find a way to be more impactful on a consistent basis but his history suggests that’s unlikely to happen.
Stats: 34 GP, 6 goals, 14 assists, 20 points, -9 rating, 23 PIMS, 62 shots, 17:05 ATOI
Paul Byron – C-: Once he was able to return from his hip injury, Byron was largely ineffective with it being revealed after that the hip is still bothering him to a degree which certainly played a role in his struggles. His days of being a core role player are clearly done and at this point, Montreal needs to be approaching this offseason with the idea that he either should not be a full-time regular because of the lingering hip injury or that the injury will prevent him from being around all that much. He’ll be an expensive depth piece for one more year.
Stats: 27 GP, 4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points, -8 rating, 2 PIMS, 33 shots, 12:36 ATOI
Mike Hoffman – C-: For a player that was supposed to come in and really help the power play, Hoffman scored all of four times with the man advantage. At even strength, he was his usual self – an okay secondary scorer that will give back a good chunk of his production with soft play defensively. Had he been even a bit more productive with the man advantage, I think his season would have been more tolerable. I have to think changes are coming to Montreal’s power play structure next season and if that happens, perhaps Hoffman will become more of an impactful piece.
Stats: 67 GP, 15 goals, 20 assists, 35 points, -24 rating, 32 PIMS, 154 shots, 17:02 ATOI
Ryan Poehling – C-: This might be a little harsh in terms of play relative to role but Poehling had a glorious opportunity to cement a spot for himself in Montreal’s future plans. He didn’t accomplish that. Instead, he showed that he’s a perfectly capable fourth liner that won’t hurt you defensively but the game-to-game consistency (and even effort level) isn’t there. That’s what’s holding him back from moving up on the depth chart and as the new regime starts to bring other players in, his spot becomes that much more in question. That’s a pretty lousy outcome to Poehling’s season as a result.
Stats: 57 GP, 9 goals, 8 assists, 17 points, -21 rating, 6 PIMS, 91 shots, 12:11 ATOI, 46.4% faceoffs
Mathieu Perreault – D+: Perreault was signed to be the type of player he was in Winnipeg, one that could move up and down in the lineup and play in different roles. He had that type of usage early on but struggled pretty much in all of them (aside from one game), resulting in very limited usage down the stretch after clearing waivers. The only reason this isn’t lower is that his cap hit was under a million. When players at that price tag struggle, it’s not as big of a deal as a pricier player underperforming.
Stats: 25 GP, 4 goals, 5 assists, 9 points, +2 rating, 4 PIMS, 27 shots, 11:15 ATOI
Brendan Gallagher – D: It’s something that pretty much everyone but Marc Bergevin saw coming but Gallagher looked like a shadow of himself this season. Yes, lingering injuries and a very short summer didn’t help but seven goals from the highest-paid forward on the team (Suzuki’s post-ELC deal doesn’t start until next season) simply isn’t anywhere near close to good enough. Gallagher was counted on to be a key producer for the Canadiens and instead produced like a low-end third liner. He had a very bad year, plain and simple.
Stats: 56 GP, 7 goals, 17 assists, 24 points, -7 rating, 69 PIMS, 142 shots, 15:01 ATOI
Joel Armia – D: We’ve all seen the good and bad from Armia. The good is when he looks like an impact power forward that can play in the top six. The bad is when he looks like he’s going through the motions. There was way too much of the latter this past season. On a higher-end contract for role players, that’s simply unacceptable.
Stats: 60 GP, 6 goals, 8 assists, 14 points, -15 rating, 14 PIMS, 103 shots, 13:43 ATOI
Cedric Paquette – D-: Expectations were pretty low for Paquette heading into the year. If he could kill penalties and take a regular shift on the fourth line, he’d do okay at least. That didn’t happen. Instead, he looked a couple of steps slow, wasn’t all that great at killing penalties, couldn’t win a faceoff (not ideal for a centre), and found himself in Laval in the second half of the season (where he has done much better, to his credit). He’ll be hard-pressed to land a one-way NHL deal this summer as a result.
Stats: 24 GP, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, -6 rating, 25 PIMS, 31 shots, 8:51 ATOI
N/A: Brandon Baddock, Alex Belzile, Adam Brooks, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Cam Hillis, Artturi Lehkonen, Tyler Pitlick, Tyler Toffoli, Lukas Vejdemo, Jesse Ylonen