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NHL Predictions: Ranking the Montreal Canadiens' Forwards Going into Next Season

Jason HitelmanCorrespondent IJuly 13, 2011

NHL Predictions: Ranking the Montreal Canadiens' Forwards Going into Next Season

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    I thought that it may be interesting to take a look at the Montreal Canadiens forwards—or those that will presumably be on the team, I should say—on the roster heading into the 2011-2012 season.

    Last season was certainly disappointing for some and unexpectedly positive for others.

    The fact of the matter is that this group of forwards will never be touted as flashy superstars and will most likely go unnoticed and unappreciated by critics around the league.

    Nevertheless, they seem to get the job done.

    I think that the addition of Erik Cole gives the Habs three legitimate scoring lines. Perhaps I'm wrong, but time will tell.

    Have a look at my preseason ranking.

     

    Follow Jason on Twitter: @jhytel

13. Andreas Engqvist

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    As of this moment, it looks like Andreas Engqvist will be starting the season centering the Canadiens' fourth line.

    Obviously, expectations should be low, as the Swede only has three games in the NHL under his belt.

    Hopefully, we will be able to see what the 6'4" Engqvist is made of. 

12. Travis Moen

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    When the Canadiens signed Travis Moen in July of 2009, I was excited. I thought that the Habs were getting a physical depth forward who could punish the opposition and chip in a few goals if need be.

    That, evidently, is not the case.

    I don't know if Moen is to blame, but he looks a tad soft in a Habs jersey. It's as if as soon as he signed the three-year contract with the Bleu-Blanc-et-Rouge, he tried to play with the finesse of Yvan Cournoyer.

    Unfortunately, Moen doesn't have the speed and hands of some of his teammates.

    I'd love to see him drop the gloves more than he does, but he just doesn't seem to be into it.

    To be fair, he was second on the team in hits with 129. I just don't feel like it's enough.

    Hopefully, unlike in years past, Moen will be relegated to the bottom two lines. He can be valuable killing penalties, but that's about it, I fear.

11. Ryan White

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    Ryan White collected 70 hits in just 27 games last season, so he should definitely be grouped in the "hits-anything-that-moves" category.

    Given the fact that he will play a full season with the Canadiens next year, he will certainly lead the team in hits.

    White may not be the largest player around (he's listed at 6'0", 200 lbs), but he'll never shy away from a fight.

    His grit is invaluable to the team, and he should be a fan favorite for years to come. 

10. Mathieu Darche

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    Mathieu Darche did his job and more last season.

    After being awarded the first one-way contract of his career, the 34-year-old registered 26 points in 59 games—his highest total ever.

    When the injury bug hit the forward corps, Darche filled in to the best of his abilities. He went to the net and even saw his fair share of power play time.

    He'll be a valuable third or fourth-line forward next season.

9. David Desharnais

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    David Desharnais is a prime example that hard work pays off.

    He went undrafted because of his size and speed (or lack thereof) but spent countless hours trying to improve his game.

    He finally worked his way onto the big club after years in the ECHL and AHL.

    Desharnais has fantastic vision but needs the proper linemates to play with. He seemed to have good chemistry with Benoit Pouliot, but Pouliot was in the coach's doghouse for a good portion of the year, limiting both of their TOI.

    I wouldn't mind seeing Desharnais playing as a winger with Lars Eller and Andrei Kostitsyn.

    Depending with whom Desharnais plays, his season could go either way.

8. Scott Gomez

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    Let's be honest: It can't get any worse for Scott Gomez.

    Gomez had the worst year of his career last season, registering lows in points (38) and plus/minus (minus-15).

    Heck, his faceoff winning percentage was a mediocre 48 percent.

    Gomez has been working hard this offseason in hopes of not repeating his shameful performance. He's made it a goal to prove to Canadiens fans and himself that he can be a valuable player moving forward.

    I feel that with two solid wingers in Brian Gionta and Max Pacioretty flanking him for the entire season, Gomez could have a decent year.

    If he flops again, I don't know what to say.

7. Lars Eller

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    Lars Eller showed Montreal Canadiens fans flashes of brilliance last season, and hopefully, it was a preview of what is to come.

    The 22-year-old Dane was watched with much scrutiny, being the primary player shipped over from St Louis in the Jaroslav Halak trade.

    After coach Jacques Martin gave him fourth-line duty to hone his defensive game for most of the season, Eller found near-instant chemistry playing with Andrei Kostisyn.

    I expect it will carry over into next season, when we'll be able to witness the further development of the young centreman.

6. Andrei Kostitsyn

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    Andrei Kostitsyn looked lost for most of the season.

    It appeared as if the Belorussian was lost on the ice for most of his shifts, though once the puck ended up on his stick in the offensive zone, he knew what to do with it.

    Kostisyn possesses a killer shot that I feel he should be using more often.

    Thanks to a new linemate in Lars Eller, I think he might be doing just that.

    Season after season, Kostitsyn is slammed by Habs fans for not reaching his potential. Every single one of them believes that Andrei K should be scoring 30 goals.

    Depending on the icetime that he and Eller get, and the defensive match-ups that get put on against them, this may just be Andrei's year. 

5. Erik Cole

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    Erik Cole played like he wanted a big contract last season with the Carolina Hurricanes, scoring 26 goals and 52 points.

    Well, he got one.

    The big-bodied Cole would have been the second-leading point scorer on the Canadiens behind Tomas Plekanec who notched 57.

    Not too shabby, I dare say.

    It still remains to be seen if his game will be as impressive on a brand new team (it didn't work on the Edmonton Oilers), but I'm sure that his friend and fellow upstate New Yorker Brian Gionta had some encouraging words about the team and the city that he'll be calling home for the next four years.

    For the record, I think it'll work.

4. Brian Gionta

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    Brian Gionta's 29 goals led the team last season. There is no indication that with a healthy Patches on his line for the entire season, that he won't score more.

    This should be the year that Gionta eclipses the 30 goal mark on the Habs.

    The diminutive captain is certainly leading by example.

3. Max Pacioretty

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    Before Max Pacioretty's season abruptly ended, he managed to score 14 goals and 24 points in 37 games.

    Things were looking up for the 22-year-old American and certainly for Canadiens fans, who had been waiting a very long time to see a power forward like Max on the team.

    Hopefully, the rehab has gone well, and Pacioretty will be able to pick up from where he left off.

    I think it will be entertaining to watch the further development of a very talented player.

2. Tomas Plekanec

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    Tomas Plekanec was the Montreal Canadiens highest scoring (and overall best) forward last season, registering 57 points in 77 games. His plus-eight rating was good for best among Habs forwards as well.

    Plekanec is a complete player, but because of heavy reliance upon him in both the offensive and defensive zones, he seems to wear out as the season goes on.

    On the road, when the opposition is given first change, he doesn't put up the greatest figures: He scored 16 of his 22 goals at home last season.

    I think that Plekanec will be nearing the top of the Habs scoring leader board again this season, and hopefully will be able to keep his scoring consistent throughout the year.

    One thing that never changes is his defensive game, and Habs fans should be grateful.

1. Michael Cammalleri

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    I think that with a bonafide power forward in Erik Cole playing on his line, Michael Cammalleri will finally have the space to do what he needs to do what he did in Calgary, when he scored 39 goals.

    Cammalleri's 19 goals and 47 points last season were a bit of a disappointment, although he was sidelined for some time with a separated shoulder.

    I truly believe that Cammy will have the breakout year in a Habs uniform that his fans have been waiting for, and I pray that he is able to endure the full season. 

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