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With the Habs having passed their first quarter mark of this season recently, it’s time to grade the Canadiens players’ performances for the first quarter.  The first quarter set of games ended with the November 25th match against Los Angeles.  Having done the goalies and defence already, now we take a look at the forwards.

Skaters must have played in at least five games to receive a grade.


Nick Suzuki

Fan Vote Average 7.2,  Writer Vote Average 7.0

Suzuki is on pace to set career highs in points, but just barely above his total from last season. While his play hasn’t been poor, there was certainly more hope that his game would take a bigger leap forward as a 24-year-old. He is still a minus player which is troubling as he’s a key player in the long term for the team and needs him to have a positive contribution while he’s on the ice. There are far too many giveaways in his own zone if he’s to become a top-line centre. At the same time, his Corsi rating is much improved at 55% as is his faceoff winning percentage at 53%. It’ll be a long season for the captain as there’s lots of work to be done.

Stats: 21 GP, 6 goals, 11 assists, 17 points, -7 rating, 6 PIMS, 48 shots, 20:44 ATOI

Cole Caufield

Fan Vote Average 7.1, Writer Vote Average 7.6

After signing a massive $7.85M contract in the offseason, Caufield is on pace to score just 24 goals, a far cry from where the team needs him to be. Perhaps that contract has set unrealistic expectations for a 22-year-old player who has yet to play a full season in the NHL. Forgetting about the goalscoring, Caufield’s play has improved quite a bit. In his worst games, he’s invisible, which I say as a positive since he’s not sticking out like a sore thumb with costly turnovers or missed passes in the neutral zone. He’s got a 58% Corsi rating and was plus-one, a big improvement. When he’s on, he’s a dynamic player who creates room and scoring chances for everyone. The Habs need more goals from Caufield but otherwise, he’s off to a good start.

Stats: 21 GP, 6 goals, 11 assists, 17 points, 1 rating, 6 PIMS, 81 shots, 18:52 ATOI

Sean Monahan

Fan Vote Average 7.1, Writer Vote Average 7.4

Monahan started off the season on fire, controlling the play when he was on the ice. He cooled off a bit over the last six games of this stretch (no points, -6), but before that, he was clearly the best Habs player and showing why he was such a strong contributor in Calgary for many years. He plays a strong game in all zones with a 52% Corsi rating and is excellent in the faceoff circle at 58%. Hopefully, the other Habs centres on the team are watching Monahan because he is arguably the best middleman any of them have played with in the NHL. If he remains healthy and continues to play a strong game, the Habs should get a nice return at the trade deadline.

Stats: 21 GP, 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points, -6 rating, 8 PIMS, 47 shots, 18:13 ATOI

Alex Newhook

Fan Vote Average 6.6, Writer Vote Average 6.9

As a new player, we are just getting to know Newhook who started off the season with a bang with goals in the opening game with blazing speed. Due to injuries, he bounced between wing and centre which I don’t think helped him adjust to the new team and systems. The audition at centre did not go well and he finished the segment playing back on the wing, which seems to be a better fit. Newhook has shown he’s an aggressive forechecker with great speed and was on pace to easily exceed his career highs in goals and points (14 goals, 33 points) before suffering a recent long-term injury.  If he can find some chemistry with some linemates, and not be juggled between positions, the 22-year-old Newhook could turn out to be a great pickup.

Stats: 21 GP, 6 goals, 6 assists, 12 points, -5 rating, 8 PIMS, 29 shots, 16:43 ATOI

Brendan Gallagher

Fan Vote Average 6.6, Writer Vote Average 6.7

For the last few years, Gallagher has largely played third line with Christian Dvorak and a rotating cast of left wingers and anybody watching could tell there simply wasn’t any chemistry. It was painful to watch after enjoying the chemistry with Tomas Tatar and Phillip Danault for years. Finally this season, Gallagher has been teamed up with Monahan and lately, Suzuki and it’s a much better fit. He was on pace for more than 20 goals and 40 points at the one-quarter mark which would be pretty close to where his career average numbers project. Considering he has three more seasons after this one at $6.5M, the Habs need him to contribute.

Stats: 21 GP, 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points, -12 rating, 18 PIMS, 48 shots, 13:57 ATOI

Jesse Ylonen

Fan Vote Average 5.9, Writer Vote Average 6.6

After putting up 16 points in 37 games last year, Ylonen demonstrated he is an NHL player and is finally getting his chance – well, sort of. His usage was limited to just eight minutes a game at even strength (with two more on special teams) in mostly fourth line minutes. And that’s when he was not a healthy scratch as he only played 14 of the 21 games. Despite this, he played with speed and defensive awareness and demonstrated at times to have good offensive instincts. He completely undressed the Sharks goalie for a game-winning shootout goal. Improved playing time and opportunity would be a welcome sight for Ylonen.

Stats: 14 GP, 3 goals, 1 assist, 4 points, 0 rating, 6 PIMS, 15 shots, 10:42 ATOI

Tanner Pearson

Fan Vote Average 5.7 Writer Vote Average 6.0

Coming over at the end of September (in a pointless trade!), Pearson barely had time to adjust to his new team but still started off very strong with three goals and five points in his first five games and played inspiring hockey with Monahan and Gallagher. After that, it was pretty slim production with only two assists in 16 games. He plays a responsible game but at 31 years old and a $3.25M cap hit, you would expect more from someone getting third line minutes with quality linemates. For the Habs, he’s taking up valuable playing time away from younger players like Ylonen and Harvey-Pinard. The sooner Hughes trades him (without retaining salary), the better.

Stats: 21 GP, 3 goals, 4 assists, 7 points, -3 rating, 13 PIMS, 34 shots, 14:14 ATOI

Juraj Slafkovsky

Fan Vote Average 5.6, Writer Vote Average 6.3

Despite horrible player development decisions from Habs management, Slafkovsky is becoming an NHL player. Last season he clearly wasn’t ready and struggled in virtually every aspect of the game. Yet Habs management did nothing until an all-too-predictable injury ended the teenager’s season. This season Slafkovsky is actually competitive, winning his share of puck battles, playing better defensively, and occasionally making strong offensive plays. He’s starting to get better-quality linemates and even power play opportunities. A significant improvement over last season and well-deserved for this young man. If he can continue to develop and improve his game over the season, he will have successfully put last season behind him and overcome the Habs horrific player development program.

Stats: 21 GP, 2 goals, 4 assists, 6 points, -3 rating, 14 PIMS, 31 shots, 12:54 ATOI

Jake Evans

Fan Vote Average 5.5, Writer Vote Average 6.0

Evans is one of the anomalies on the team with a positive plus/minus. He’s been playing a dependable fourth line role for a few years now and has been doing that well. He contributed offensively at a 0.23 points per game clip which is not that far off his career average of 0.33 points per game. Solid in the faceoffs at 51.3% and leading all forwards with 20 blocked shots, Evans is playing his role well.

Stats: 21 GP, 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, +3 rating, 6 PIMS, 16 shots, 13:08 ATOI

Christian Dvorak: Fan Vote Average 5.4 Writer Vote Average 5.9

After starting the season injured, Dvorak was a welcome relief at centre which allowed the team to put other players in better positions (like Newhook). As usual, he was strong on faceoffs (56%) and responsible defensively. Coming back after missing time is never easy so it’s understandable that he struggled offensively and played at just a 22-point pace. In recent games, he saw time with Caufield and Slafkovsky and didn’t look completely terrible. But this was likely a short-term experiment as by this point, even Habs management has to realize that Dvorak is not an offensive weapon. It is not unreasonable to expect 40-50 points from someone making $4.45M, but we just need to accept that isn’t going to happen.

Stats: 11 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, -1 rating, 0 PIMS, 15 shots, 15:54 ATOI

Michael Pezzetta

Fan Vote Average 5.4, Writer Vote Average 5.3

The big knock against Pezzetta last year was taking too many penalties. This season, Pezzetta has shown some improvement in this area while still providing energy and aggressiveness on the fourth line. Not to mention the courage to stick up for his teammates at a moment’s notice against any opponent. If he can continue to do these things while occasionally contributing offensively, there’s always going to be a place for him.

Stats: 17 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 0 rating, 14 PIMS, 17 shots, 7:47 ATOI

Rafael Harvey-Pinard

Fan Vote Average 4.7, Writer Vote Average 5.4

After putting up 20 points in 34 games with a 24% shooting percentage last season, Harvey-Pinard was due for a regression. But simply put this is not the player we saw last season. The tenacious forecheck seemed to be a little less tenacious and a complete reluctance to shoot had Harvey-Pinard on the outside looking in before his injury. Starting off playing 13-14 minutes a night at the start of the season, he was down to 10-12 minutes before his injury, including a season-low of just five minutes against Arizona. For Harvey-Pinard to stay in the NHL, he needs to be the player from last year who was relentless in forechecking, backchecking, winning puck battles, and creating turnovers.

Stats: 13 GP, 0 goals, 4 assists, 4 points, 1 rating, 2 PIMS, 11 shots, 13:09 ATOI

Joel Armia

Fan Vote Average 3.4, Writer Vote Average 3.9

Armia was rightfully demoted to Laval and reportedly was nothing but pure professional in his approach. This attitude likely was something that was considered when injuries occurred and a call-up was needed. Scoring one goal in six games (13 goals prorated over an entire season) would actually be pretty reasonable production for Armia. Is it wrong to hope he puts together a strong season so that the Habs can trade him without having to retain salary or give up draft picks? At this point in time, we need something to root for.

Stats: 6 GP, 1 goal, 0 assists, 1 point, 1 rating, 2 PIMS, 8 shots, 12:38 ATOI

Josh Anderson

Fan Vote Average 3.1 Writer Vote Average 3.1

Without a shadow of a doubt, Anderson is off to the worst start of his career. Normally you can expect 20 goals from him but this year he’s completely snakebitten in goalscoring and his overall play is suffering badly. If Martin St. Louis is getting credit for helping turn Caufield’s performance around, he should be getting his fair share of responsibility for Anderson. For months fans have heard St. Louis talk about restructuring Anderson’s game to be more creative and play more East-West. When I hear a coach say these types of things, it always makes me nervous because in this instance Anderson is simply not meant to be an East-West player. He doesn’t have hands like Suzuki and can’t head fake or turn on a dime like Caufield. But what he does have is impressive speed, size, and brute strength to drive the net and he is fearless against opponents. He has been successful throughout his NHL career by playing to his game. Hopefully, the experiment is over for St. Louis and he will just push Anderson to be the best version of himself. I am optimistic that if the approach changes, Anderson will turn things around and he’ll be the Anderson that fans have come to enjoy watching.

Stats: 21 GP, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, -5 rating, 24 PIMS, 42 shots, 16:52 ATOI

First Quarter Grades: Goalies and Defencemen