Power Ranking Montreal Canadiens' Top 6 Forwards for 2014-15 Season
The Montreal Canadiens top six forwards will look slightly different in 2014-15. Gone are Thomas Vanek and Brian Gionta, likely to be replaced by P.A. Parenteau and Alex Galchenyuk.
Coach Michel Therrien will presumably enter the season with his top line from last season in tact, meaning David Desharnais will center Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher.
The second line is less certain, but considering the depth the Canadiens have at center, expect Tomas Plekanec to play in the middle with Galchenyuk and Parenteau on his wings. There is a chance Galchenyuk could move to center at some point next season, but it likely won't happen to begin the year.
Taking into consideration past performances, future potential and contributions at both ends of the ice, here's a power ranking of the Montreal Canadiens top six forwards for the 2014-15 season.
6. P.A. Parenteau
P.A. Parenteau is the new guy in town for the 2014-15 season. He should immediately slide in as the second-line right winger, and for that reason he cracks the top-six power ranking.
The Habs acquired Parenteau and a fifth-round pick in exchange for Daniel Briere on June 30. Neither player fit in with his team last season, and both are hoping a change in scenery will help.
Parenteau appeared in 55 regular-season games last year, scoring 14 goals and 19 assists. MCL strains on both knees kept him out of the lineup on different occasions, as Arpon Basu at NHL.com reports.
The 31-year-old from Hull, Quebec, will be hoping a return to his home province will help him get back to being a 20-goal scorer, like he was in 2010-11 with the New York Islanders.
The Canadiens will be hoping so as well, as they look to replace the hole in the lineup left by Vanek.
5. Alex Galchenyuk
Alex Galchenyuk enters his third NHL season, despite being just 20 years old. He has shown flashes of brilliance over his first two seasons and will be looking to take a big step forward in 2014-15 as a top-six forward.
Galchenyuk appeared in 65 games last season as a midseason hand injury, and then a late-season knee injury, forced him to miss time. He did manage 13 goals and 18 assists in the regular season before adding two goals in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals.
His talent is unquestioned, so it seems that health will be the biggest key to Galchenyuk becoming an elite forward next season. If he can stay on the ice, a 20-goal season should be attainable.
Galchenyuk will likely start the season as the second-line left winger. He should also see plenty of time on the power play. The opportunities should present themselves for him to take a huge leap in his development.
He has the ability to be great and could very well be near the top of this list by next summer. But for now, he's slotted at No. 5.
4. David Desharnais
David Desharnais plays an important role for the Canadiens offensively as the top-line center. When he's at his best, setting up Max Pacioretty and company, the Habs score goals. His game is a little one-dimensional, however, and that's why he gets slotted at No. 4 on this list.
The 27-year-old finished the 2013-14 season with points in 79 games. He led the forwards in assists with 36 (P.K. Subban had 43). Setting up goal scorers is definitely the best part of his game.
But Desharnais needs to become more consistent if he wants to remain a No. 1 center in the NHL. He isn't strong defensively, meaning that when he's not contributing on offense, he's not doing much to help the Canadiens.
That's the reason why, early in 2013-14, he was a healthy scratch for a couple of games. He simply can't play as a third- or fourth-line center. Therrien had no choice but to send him to the press box when he was doing nothing in terms of offense.
Desharnais had a solid second half last season, however. He found his game once he was reunited with Pacioretty and Gallagher. The Canadiens will be hoping for Desharnais to take another step forward in his development in 2014-15 by becoming a bit more consistent.
3. Brendan Gallagher
Brendan Gallagher continues to improve as an NHL right winger, as he heads into just his third season in the league. He is becoming one of Montreal's most important top six.
In 2013-14, the 22-year-old finished third in team scoring with 41 points and also third in goals scored with 19. Eight of those goals came on the power play in 81 games played.
But the biggest reason Gallagher gets the third spot in this ranking is because of his tendency to make any line he plays on better.
Regardless of whether it was the EGG line (Eller, Galchenyuk, Gallagher) to begin the season, the top line with Desharnais and Pacioretty or any other combination of players Therrien put him with, that line upped its game with Gallagher on the wing.
His style of play opens up space for other players to maneuver. He is tenacious on the forecheck and has a knack for stripping the opposing defensemen down low. He can also finish a play with a quick shot to the back of the net.
Gallagher is an important piece of Montreal's present and future. He's already one of the team's top forwards after just 125 career regular-season games and should continue to get better as he matures.
2. Tomas Plekanec
Tomas Plekanec earns the No. 2 ranking because of his contributions in all aspects of the game. As Montreal's best all-around forward, he is extremely valuable to the team.
Plekanec acts as the second-line center, meaning he's expected to chip in offensively. Last year he did, scoring 20 goals, second behind Pacioretty, and adding 23 points.
But what's unique about the way Therrien uses Plekanec is that the Czech is also used as the top checking center, a role usually designated for a team's third-line center. Plekanec played heavy minutes against the opponent's most dangerous line last season and still managed to finish the season plus-11.
Plekanec is also used on the most important faceoffs and acts as one the team's top penalty-killing forwards. He often plays on the second power-play unit as well, which added up to 19:46 of ice time per game, tops among the Canadiens' forwards.
It's hard to underestimate Plekanec's value to the Montreal Canadiens. He chips in across the board and, for that reason, earns the No. 2 spot in the top-six power rankings.
1. Max Pacioretty
Max Pacioretty's ranking as Montreal's top forward is about as clear-cut as it gets.
The 25-year-old left winger led the Canadiens in scoring last season with 60 points, despite playing just 73 games. What's even more impressive is that he scored 39 goals, 19 more than second-place Plekanec.
His career year was noticed around the NHL as he continues to grow into one of the league's premiere scoring wingers. In fact, his .53 goals per game ratio tied him for third in the entire league with Corey Perry among those who played at least 37 games, behind just Steven Stamkos and Alex Ovechkin. That's some pretty elite company.
Pacioretty is easily Montreal's best forward, and he'll be leaned on accordingly in 2014-15. His ability to stay healthy, and to continue scoring, will be a key to Montreal's success next season.
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