Projecting the Best Montreal Canadiens at Each Position in 5 Years
The Montreal Canadiens' five-year projection at each position is quite exciting.
This should not come as much of a surprise, given that the core of the Canadiens' current talent is still less than 25 years old.
The Habs have done a great job of finding skill through the draft in recent years. This has put them in a position to be a very successful team over the next half-decade.
Here is a projection of the best Montreal Canadiens at each position in five years.
Center: Alex Galchenyuk
Alex Galchenyuk is already a top-six forward with the Montreal Canadiens, and he hasn't even turned 20.
The third overall pick in 2012 made the team out of his first professional training camp and hasn't looked back since.
Coach Michel Therrien brought him along slowly last year, giving the rookie just over 12 minutes of ice time per game. Galchenyuk still managed nine goals and 27 points while earning his coach's trust as the season went along.
This season, the youngster is proving last year was no fluke, as he has already potted six goals and added 11 assists in 25 games. His ice time is above 15 minutes per game and shows flashes of brilliance almost every night.
Galchenyuk is currently playing left wing but will most likely be shifted to his natural center position at some point in the next year or so. He is undoubtedly Montreal's future up the middle and is the most exciting forward the Canadiens have had in a very long time.
Five-Year Depth Chart
1. Alex Galchenyuk
2. Lars Eller
3. Michael Bournival
4. Jacob de la Rose
Right Wing: Brendan Gallagher
Brendan Gallagher is already the best right winger on the Montreal Canadiens, and in five years time he will be only 26 years old and in the prime of his career.
What Gallagher has accomplished as a hockey player already is quite astonishing.
A steal in the fifth round of the 2010 draft, the 5'9" native of Edmonton forced his way onto the Habs last season with his hustle and grit. He then climbed the Canadiens' depth chart and finished the year on the top line, alongside David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty. His play was rewarded with a second-place finish in the rookie of the year balloting.
This season, Gallagher has been igniting any line he plays for.
It was he who helped The Kid Line get off to its hot start as they helped Montreal's offense get through early-season injuries. And it has been he who has gotten both Desharnais and Pacioretty back on track as their trio has become Montreal's go-to line over the past four wins.
Gallagher is also Montreal's leading goal-scorer this year with nine in 24 games. For his career, he has netted 24 in 68 NHL games.
Not bad for someone who scouts didn't think would ever play in the world's top league.
Five-Year Depth Chart
1. Brendan Gallagher
2. Michael McCarron
3. Sebastian Collberg
4. Christian Thomas
Left Wing: Max Pacioretty
Projecting Montreal's future at left wing is a little more tricky than it is at the other two forward positions.
Currently, Montreal's left wing is made up of Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Michael Bournival and Daniel Briere.
Galchenyuk will likely be moved to center at some point in the next season or two. Bournival is also a natural center and could be playing up the middle by 2018. Briere will be 41 and will have hung up his skates.
The prospect pool on the left side is one of their thinner groups, with Charles Hudon, Tim Bozon and Artturi Lehkonen leading the way, at least according to HockeysFuture.com. All three have great potential but are certainly not locks to be good NHL players.
This leaves us with Pacioretty.
Pacioretty is currently Montreal's top offensive forward, and he has proved that by leading the team in goals for each of the past two seasons. For his career, he has 75 goals over 262 games.
In 2018-19, Pacioretty will be 30 years old and still under contract with the Canadiens at a very affordable $4.5 million (not taking into account any future contract extensions).
While 30 is generally considered to be nearing the end of your prime as an NHL player, it certainly isn't too old to still be a top-line player in the NHL.
There's also reason to believe Pacioretty will continue to improve over the next few years.
Usually you know what you're getting from an NHL player by the time they're 25 years old. But this might not be the case with Pacioretty.
He's really in just his third full season in the league, when you consider that his 2010-11 season was cut short due to injury (before that, he had played just 86 career NHL games over two seasons as he was bounced around between the NHL and AHL). Hockey at the NHL is a hard game to learn and Pacioretty got a late start.
Patches, as his teammates refer to him, was a bit of a late bloomer and still has plenty of room to grow. There are still holes in his game, like the fact that he often disappears from the score sheet for weeks at a time. Becoming a more consistent scorer will help push Pacioretty's career to the next level.
Five-Year Depth Chart
1. Max Pacioretty
2. Artturi Lehtonen
3. Charles Hudon
4. Tim Bozon
Defense: P.K. Subban
This one is easy.
P.K. Subban has already established himself as a world-class defenseman and is still just 24.
He won his first-ever Norris Trophy last season in just his third NHL season.
He currently leads the Canadiens in scoring with 21 points in 25 games. He's second in the NHL in power-play points by a defenseman with 11 (Erik Karlsson has 12).
The only hiccup in the argument that he will be Montreal's best defenseman in five years is that he's set to be a free agent at the end of this season.
He will be a restricted free agent, however, and it's fully expected that general manager Marc Bergevin will have his best player signed to a long contract well before other teams get the opportunity to present him with an offer sheet.
Defense: Nathan Beaulieu
While his early 2013-14 play proved he isn't quite ready for the NHL, Nathan Beaulieu still has a very bright future ahead of himself.
The first-round pick from 2011 is generally considered the top prospect currently in Montreal's system and will almost certainly become a Bell Centre regular sometime in the next year or two.
He is described as "a highly mobile defenseman who carries the puck well and can make things happen on the rush" by HockeysFuture.com. He is still developing his play in his own zone but seems to have the potential to be able to handle the minutes that come with playing on the top-defensive pairing.
Beaulieu is currently playing with the Hamilton Bulldogs after having a taste of NHL action early in 2013-14. Since being demoted, he has scored twice while adding five assists in just 14 games.
Nathan Beaulieu has the honor of being the only player on this list who isn't currently playing with the club. That fact in itself should have Habs fans drooling over the potential this team has over the next half-decade.
Five-Year Depth Chart:
1. P.K. Subban
2. Nathan Beaulieu
3. Jarred Tinordi
4. Alexei Emelin
5. Morgan Ellis
6. Magnus Nygren
Goalie: Carey Price
Carey Price needed to get off on the right foot this year. A bad start, after last year's horrendous finish, could have meant a different tone to this article.
Instead, Price has been fantastic in 2013-14, with his 10 wins, 2.00 goals against average and a .936 save percentage. He has silenced the few critics who dared to voice their opinion last summer.
It appears Stephane Waite has made a difference after all. The goaltending guru was hired away from the Chicago Blackhawks this past offseason and has Price living up to his immense potential.
The 26-year-old is the face of the Canadiens franchise and appears to be on the verge of a career year.
Price's contract will expire in 2017-18, meaning he is signed for four more years after this season. He will be 31 at that time and should have plenty of time left in his career, assuming he stays healthy.
Barring any organizational disasters, don't expect Montreal to allow Price to walk in five years time. The memories of the Patrick Roy incident are still far too clear.
Five-Year Depth Chart
1. Carey Price
2. Zachary Fucale
3. Dustin Tokarski