OTTAWA, ON. — It’s finally here folks; the Montreal Canadiens 2015-16 regular season begins tonight! It’s been a long summer with no shortage of Habs news, including the trade of Brandon Prust, Max Pacioretty voted Captain by his teammates, and Galchenyuk officially beginning his journey as an NHL centreman. Expectations for the Canadiens this season are high as they sport one of the most prominent goal scorers in the league, a Norris Trophy winning defenseman and arguably the best goaltender in the world.
Instead of coming up with predictions for the team as a whole, I thought it would be fun to come up with “most likely” candidates. Last time I did something like this was nearly a decade ago when I graduated high school and voted for the grad that was most likely to live with mom and dad or be the first one to die in a zombie apocalypse. By the end of this you may all decide that I should have left this game in high school but nonetheless, here we go…
Most likely to finish with the most penalty minutes – Nathan Beaulieu
With Brandon Prust traded to the Vancouver Canucks, the Montreal Canadiens will be searching for a new leader in the penalty minutes column. Last year Brandon Prust finished with 134 penalty minutes with Subban finishing second with 74 minutes. Honestly, I was very close to picking Tinordi for this category, but I am not convinced that he will play enough games to rack up the minutes. Beaulieu finished fifth on the team in penalty minutes last season despite playing 62 games. As much as Nathan isn’t afraid to push the pace of the game, he’s not afraid to play with an edge or stick up for his teammates.
Most likely to compete for the goal of the year – Alex Galchenyuk
Alex Galchenyuk has some of the dirtiest, softest hands in the league and definitely one of, if not the most creative player the Montreal Canadiens have outside of PK Subban. Playing his natural position of centre and starting the year with Lars Eller and Alexander Semin, Galchenyuk will have a chance to truly come out of his shell and show the NHL what he can do. At the young age of 21, Alex will be heading into his fourth season in the NHL. Is this the year he breaks out?
Most likely to challenge Pacioretty for the most goals – Alexander Semin
Semin is the only player on the Habs roster to ever reach the 40-goal mark in his career. However, Semin reached 40 goals in the 2009-10 season. His goal production has dipped substantially since then; in fact, he only scored 6 goals last season in 57 games with the Hurricanes. A big part of me wanted to pick Tomas Plekanec here given that he finished second on the team in goals last season and heading into a contract year he may have added motivation (not that he needs it to be productive) to prove that he can bury. Honestly, I don’t think anyone on this team comes close to Pacioretty’s goal totals.
Most likely to get promoted to the big club – Charles Hudon
Jacob De La Rose may be a slightly safer choice here but I feel that Hudon is the player the Habs may turn to if in need of a spark. He’s been a consistent offensive contributor since junior and finished second with the Bulldogs last season in points with 57. Michel Therrien likes responsible players at both sides of the ice and Hudon can bring that and some offence to a team that struggles to score.
Most likely to be traded – Tom Gilbert
Not much of a surprise with this pick, although many Habs fans would advocate for Alexei Emelin. The Habs have a logjam at defence and Gilbert never solidified himself as a valuable everyday player for the Habs last season. With a salary of $2.8M and becoming a UFA at the end of year, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gilbert was included in a package at some point throughout the season.
Most likely to win the Lady Byng Award – Tomas Plekanec
Many Habs fans have advocated years for this. With Tomas in a contract year he could create more buzz around the league as a potential trade candidate or free agent. Perhaps the extra profile is what the gentleman needs to garner consideration for the award.
Most likely to have a career best in goals and assists – Lars Eller
I strongly feel that this is Lars Eller’s chance to finally breakout. Full disclosure though, I’ve said this the last two seasons. Although he won’t be starting the season at his natural position at centre, he will be playing on the second line with Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Semin. Eller should no longer be called upon to shutdown the opposition’s top line and should have increased powerplay opportunities. Eller has the skillset and has paid his dues, here’s hoping he can contribute consistently offensively.
Most likely to challenge Carey Price for the teams MVP – PK Subban
PK Subban is one of the most electric players in the NHL. He has a rare ability to change the tone and pace of a game. He’s become a leader on the team and seems utterly determined to help push the Canadiens to the next level. With a Norris Trophy under his belt, Subban wants the Stanley Cup and understands that the Canadiens core is strong but can’t last forever. The time to win is now and Subban looks locked in.