Predicting Montreal Canadiens' Final 2013-14 Roster
Canadiens coaches and management will have to trim that number down to 23 before opening night on October 1.
There are some new faces in camp this season, all of whom will be looking to make an impression. Injuries to some veterans have also created openings where others will need to step up and fill the void.
Here's what the Montreal Canadiens' final roster should look like before the puck drops on the 2013-14 season.
Forwards: Sure Things
The Montreal Canadiens have the core of their forwards back for the 2013-14 season, yet there were a couple of noteworthy changes that will be seen come opening night.
Replacing him in the top six is Danny Briere. The former Philadelphia Flyer and Buffalo Sabre signed a two-year, $8 million contract in July and will certainly receive the amount of playing time that comes with that kind of money.
Youngsters Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk played well enough last season to earn guaranteed spots in the top nine come October 1. Center Lars Eller had a breakout 2013 season and comes to training camp completely healthy.
There is a chance that captain Brian Gionta won't be ready for the start of the season, according to TSN.ca. General manager Marc Bergevin has said that he won't miss much more time if he isn't ready to go against the Maple Leafs on October 1.
Taking all that into consideration, we can assume the following forwards are a lock for the opening-night roster:
- Rene Bourque
- Danny Briere
- David Desharnais
- Lars Eller
- Alex Galchenyuk
- Brendan Gallagher
- Brian Gionta
- Max Pacioretty
- Tomas Plekanec
- Brandon Prust
Forwards: On the Bubble
The Canadiens will dress 12 forwards each night, which leaves two openings up front to start the season.
Travis Moen, George Parros, Gabriel Dumont, Ryan White and perhaps Louis Leblanc will be looking to secure one of those spots in training camp.
Moen was awful last season (six points, minus-four in 45 games) and could (should) find himself traded or waived before the start of the season.
Parros was acquired to add toughness to the Canadiens lineup, and he'll certainly get his fair share of playing time once recovered from a rotator cuff injury. It probably won't be opening night, however.
Dumont played well during his brief time in Montreal last season (three points in 10 games), but he stands just 5'9", and Michel Therrien is probably looking for more size out of his fourth-line center.
This leaves us with White and Leblanc.
It seems that general manager Marc Bergevin wants White in his lineup. He's got the size (6'0", 194 lbs) and plays a physical, gritty game that Montreal desperately needs to go along with its smaller, skilled forwards.
Expect White to get yet another chance to prove he belongs with the Canadiens.
Canadiens fans have been waiting for 2009 first-round pick Louis Leblanc to become a mainstay in the Montreal lineup, and this could be the year it happens.
The 22-year-old bounced in and out of the Canadiens lineup in 2011-12, posting 10 points in 42 games. Injuries during the NHL lockout devastated his chances at cracking the 2013 Habs lineup, and he posted a mere 18 points in 62 games in the AHL last season.
Leblanc is walking a very thin line between still being considered a prospect or a first-round bust. While it was a different regime that drafted him four years ago, the Canadiens brass are still hoping he turns into a useful asset.
Expect Leblanc to be given the chance to prove he does belong at the NHL level.
Defense: Sure Things
What a difference nine months can make.
In January of 2013, the Montreal Canadiens were going through their abbreviated training camp without P.K. Subban. He was a restricted free agent and could not come to terms on a contract with general manager Marc Bergevin. His future in Montreal was up in the air.
Fast forward nine months, and Subban enters training camp as the reigning Norris Trophy winner. He's a lock to lead the Montreal blue line in all situations in 2013-14.
Joining Subban as sure things on the Canadiens blue line will be:
- Raphael Diaz
- Alexei Emelin (once healthy)
- Josh Gorges
- Andrei Markov
Diaz is coming off his best year as a pro in which he scored 14 points and was a plus-14 in 23 games. He is fully recovered from the concussion that limited him last season.
Gorges and Markov are both mainstays on the Habs back end and will be in the lineup each and every night when healthy.
Defense: On the Bubble
With Alexei Emelin's injury, there will be two spots open on the Habs blue line for opening night. Coach Therrien will be looking for two of the following players to step up and take one of these spots during training camp:
- Nathan Beaulieu
- Francis Bouillon
- Davis Drewiske
- Douglas Murray
- Jarred Tinordi
Murray was a late addition by Marc Bergevin this summer. The hulking defenseman (6'3", 245 lbs) was presumably signed to provide hits and blocked shots while Emelin recovers.
Expect to see Murray crack the opening-day roster. He could find himself in the press box if he struggles with Montreal's fast pace, however.
Bergevin also re-upped Drewiske to a two-year, $1.275 million contract. The 28-year-old Wisconsin native has been a borderline NHL player his entire career and will likely find himself in the press box on more nights next season.
Beaulieu is Montreal's top defensive prospect, according to Hockey's Future, and has great offensive talent and vision. He doesn't quite seem ready on the defensive end, however, and should start the season in Hamilton.
This leaves a battle between Francis Bouillon and Jarred Tinordi for the sixth defensive position.
Bouillon is the incumbent, having played in all 48 games last season. He is 37 years old, however, and stands just 5'8". His age and size could be working against him.
With his recent defensive signings (Drewiske and Murray), Bergevin has made it clear he prefers big defensemen. If it is indeed size he covets, Montreal's general manager would surely prefer to see Tinordi's 6'6" frame in the lineup on a nightly basis.
The 21-year-old played in eight regular-season games last season and was Therrien's choice to replace Emelin on the playoff roster. He finished the regular season as a plus-five before stumbling (along with the rest of the team) to a minus-three in the postseason. He did not look out of place and proved he was ready for the NHL.
Tinordi will need a very strong camp to send Bouillon and his 724 career games to the press box. With his confidence sky-high after having a taste of the NHL last season, expect him to do just that.
There are no questions surrounding Montreal's goalie situation.
Peter Budaj is the backup, a role which is very well suited for him.
Dustin Tokarski and Robert Mayer will be in Hamilton, waiting for the call if there's an injury on the big club.
Second-round draft pick Zachary Fucale will play another year in junior, with hopes of playing for Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
But in Montreal, it's all about Carey Price. He is the unquestioned starter and will be looking for a big rebound year.