Buying or Selling Montreal Canadiens Players' Hot Starts in 2013-14

Brandon DuBreuilContributor IIIOctober 14, 2013

Buying or Selling Montreal Canadiens Players' Hot Starts in 2013-14

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    Alex Galchenyuk is proving to be the real deal.
    Alex Galchenyuk is proving to be the real deal.Derek Leung/Getty Images

    The Montreal Canadiens feature some players who have had incredibly hot starts to the 2013-14 season. 

    With the season still in its infancy, it is difficult to predict whether these individual's fast starts will turn into season-long success. However, by looking at historical data, pure talent and early trends, one can make an educated guess. 

    Here are the Montreal Canadiens players' hot starts that fans should be buying and selling in 2013-14. 

Buying: Lars Eller

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    Lars Eller leads the Habs in goals.
    Lars Eller leads the Habs in goals.Francois Lacasse/Getty Images

    There were some serious doubts as to whether Lars Eller would be able to build off his positive 2013 this season. After all, he did get knocked unconscious in Game 1 of Montreal's opening-round loss to the Ottawa Senators. Those kinds of hits can derail a player's career.

    Give credit to Eller, however, for how he has bounced back.

    The Great Dane returned home last summer more determined than ever. After an offseason of rigorous workouts, he returned to Montreal in the best shape of his career after adding 20 pounds of muscle. And boy, has it paid off. 

    Eller has scored five times in the team's first five games while adding two assists. He has played so well that he has already overtaken David Desharnais as the team's No. 1 center. 

    Look for Eller's emergence as a top center in the league to continue. 

    Eller has used his size, speed and skill to dominate in the offensive zone. He has terrific puck control down low, using his 6'2" frame to shield the puck from defenders. He has gone hard to the net and put himself in position to score easy goals. 

    The 24-year-old, former first-round pick has been one of the Habs' biggest surprises so far in 2013-14—look for his hot start to continue.

    A 25-goal, 70-point season certainly seems within reach. 

     

Selling: Andrei Markov

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    Andrei Markov is logging heavy minutes to start the season.
    Andrei Markov is logging heavy minutes to start the season.Gerry Thomas/Getty Images

    Andrei Markov is generally known for his offensive creativity from the back end. With this being the case, two points in five games probably doesn't seem like such a hot start. 

    While the Russian defender isn't piling up points in the early going, he is playing some of his best defensive hockey since returning to the Canadiens lineup last season. Markov is tied for the team lead at plus-five and ranks second with eight blocked shots (Josh Gorges has 15).

    It's refreshing to see Markov look more like he did before his three knee operations. Yet there's one troubling statistic that makes it seem like he can't continue at this pace: He's averaging 24:41 in ice time per game.

    Twenty-five minutes of ice time a night is OK when you are 24 years old and you are the reigning Norris Trophy winner (see P.K. Subban). It's not OK when you're a decade older and coming off three major knee operations.

    By playing Markov 25 minutes a night, coach Michel Therrien is risking not having him around much longer. He simply can't sustain that much wear and tear on his gimpy knees. At this stage of his career, Markov should be limited to 18-20 minutes per night.

    Montreal's defense is banged up, which is probably why Therrien has been leaning on Markov so heavily to start the year. But it's a long season, and Montreal will be a better team with Markov in the lineup for all 82 games. Therrien must start looking at the bigger picture instead of focusing on the here and now.

Buying: Alex Galchenyuk

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    Alex Galchenyuk is off to a great start in 2013-14.
    Alex Galchenyuk is off to a great start in 2013-14.Andy Devlin/Getty Images

    The Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets passed on Alex Galchenyuk with the first two picks of the 2012 NHL entry draft. His start to the 2013-14 season likely has both of those team's regretting that decision.

    The 19-year-old phenom has burst onto the scene this season and sits tied for the league lead in assists at six. He also has a goal for seven points in just five games.

    While Galchenyuk probably won't finish the season with the most assists in the NHL, there are plenty of reasons to buy into his hot start.

    Galchenyuk is a natural point-getter—he had 144 points in just 103 OHL games with the Sarnia Sting. Add to that skill the maturity he gained by playing the entire lockout-shortened season in Montreal, and you have a recipe for success.

    After being sheltered to mostly third-line duty in 2012-13, Galchenyuk has earned top-six minutes and power-play time this season. He has consistently been one of Montreal's best forwards and should continue to get more ice time as the season continues.

    Galchenyuk is currently on pace for 115 points. Even the most optimistic of Habs fans know that number is extremely unrealistic. However, the youngster certainly has the talent to lead the Canadiens in scoring. A 75-point season could be attainable if he continues to be given the opportunity by Coach Therrien.

    When you invest a top-three draft pick on a player, you do so with the hopes that he becomes one of the best players in the league. And while it's far too early to put that label on Galchenyuk, his start to this season is certainly showing promise.

Selling: Raphael Diaz

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    Raphael Diaz has been inconsistent over the past year.
    Raphael Diaz has been inconsistent over the past year.Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

    Raphael Diaz is another Montreal Canadien off to a good start in 2013-14. He has three assists and a plus-one rating while averaging just over 20 minutes of ice time in five games.

    He has, at times, looked like Montreal's top defenseman. Don't expect that to continue much longer, however.

    Diaz also had a hot start to last season before becoming frustratingly inconsistent down the stretch. Granted, a concussion that caused him to miss 25 games likely played a factor in his late-season struggles. But there's no hiding the fact that he looked overmatched on most nights near the end of the 2012-13 season while healthy.

    As Andrew Berkshire of Habs Eyes on the Prize points out, Diaz plays well in the right situation. Unfortunately for Montreal, being counted on for top-four minutes is not the right situation.

    The current state of the Montreal blue line is forcing Diaz into a much bigger role than Michel Therrien would probably like for him. But to Diaz's credit, he has responded by playing well—so far.

    But last season proved he is not quite ready to be a top-four defenseman in the NHL. A third pairing with a sprinkle of power-play time works best for the Swiss defender. Expect his play to dwindle over the coming weeks, at least until Montreal's defense is healthy enough so that Therrien can use Diaz properly.

Buying: Brendan Gallagher

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    Brendan Gallagher celebrates a goal against Edmonton.
    Brendan Gallagher celebrates a goal against Edmonton.Andy Devlin/Getty Images

    Brendan Gallagher is coming off a fantastic rookie season that saw him tie for Montreal's lead in goals and finish second in Calder Trophy voting. A sophomore slump in 2013-14 was a legitimate possibility.

    Instead, Gallagher has picked up right where he left off in 2012-13, scoring three goals and two assists through the Canadiens' first five games. He has teamed up with fellow sophomore Alex Galchenyuk to form one of the best winger combinations in the NHL this season.

    The type of game Gallagher plays primes him for success. He's fearless and full of hustle and grit. And for what he may lack in size or natural talent, he makes up for in determination.

    The 21-year-old's favorite place on the ice seems to be right in front of the opposing goalie. As soon as the puck enters the offensive zone, Gallagher is in front of the net ready to score. He has an internal drive that few possess, and it undoubtedly factors into his success.

    Gallagher has been overlooked by scouts and general managers his whole life, yet he manages to succeed by hustling and playing a brand of hockey that coaches love. He does all the little things right and is being rewarded in Montreal for it.

    Gallagher has earned a top-six forward role with the Canadiens; don't expect him to relinquish it any time soon. He has proven he can score on the best goalies in the world, and he will continue to do so in 2013-14.

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