It was only a matter of time before the Habs added a defenceman off the waiver wire. That came on Saturday as the team claimed Johnny Kovacevic off waivers from Winnipeg.
The 25-year-old is somewhat of a late bloomer. He turned pro in 2021 after three seasons with Merrimack and has spent most of his three-year time in the pros with Manitoba of the AHL. Last season, he had 11 goals and 19 assists in 62 games, both career-highs while also getting into his first four career NHL contests where he was held off the scoresheet while averaging just under 11 minutes per game. He had an assist in two preseason contests with Winnipeg.
At 6’4, Kovacevic immediately becomes one of Montreal’s tallest defenders although it’s worth noting that he is not a particularly physical player. For his size, he’s more of a finesse piece but is a strong skater which fits in well with what the Habs are looking for.
It’s worth noting that Kovacevic is in the first season of a three-year deal signed this summer. It pays the league minimum in all three seasons so if he winds up panning out or at least being good enough to hold down the number seven spot, he could stick around for a little while. In 2023-24 and 2024-25, his AAV will be below the NHL minimum.
There are still several spots on the back end up for grabs with it looking like Joel Edmundson won’t be ready to start the season. Some prospects have certainly stood out more than others so far in camp but five of them (or four plus Corey Schueneman) will get a chance to make one last impression in tonight’s preseason finale against Ottawa.