Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Montreal Canadiens
For the last 16 years (12 with The Hockey News) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 17th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – The Habs didn’t do a whole lot, other than lose Shaw (dealt to Chicago). And he was a fantasy stud last season. However, you can consider that a “sell high” as we so lovingly call it in fantasy hockey, because Shaw had the season of his life. He’ll probably never get 47 points again, and he certainly won’t do it in just 63 games. Add in his PIM, Hits and solid plus-17 rating and he had himself a great year for fantasy owners.
Between trading away the agitating Shaw and Deslauriers, who is generally good for about three Hits per game, the Habs lost a lot of their physical edge. And they haven’t really replaced that up front. Last season Montreal was the 17th most penalized team in terms of PIM. The NHL is a speed game today, and the Canadiens are going to put that to the test.
Ready for full-time – Noah Juulsen has missed huge chunks of time due to injury since turning pro two years ago and his development may have been stunted as a result. Priority One needs to be his just staying healthy and playing a full season. If he can do that and start moving his career forward again, he has a bright future as a solid puck-moving defenseman. The Habs picked him 26th overall in 2015 so they’ve invested a lot in him and will want to be careful. He won’t contribute to fantasy leagues this year.
Ryan Poehling made a bit of an impression in his first and only NHL game last spring. There is nothing like a hat trick plus the shootout winner against your team’s rivals to, uh, keep expectations in check. But that’s what fantasy owners have to do here. He’s likely going to top out on the second line, although if all things bounce his way he does have first-line upside. But he’s not getting to either line this season other than when subbing in for injuries. Keep expectations modest for the season ahead, though he should at least make the team and settle in on the third line. You can read more on Poehling here.
Gustav Olofsson might make the team initially because he needs to clear waivers in order to be sent down. A former second-round pick for Minnesota (46th overall in 2013), the 24-year-old has struggled with injuries over the last couple of seasons. Prior to that, he had a solid 2016-17 and shows some potential as a bottom-pairing player – just not a fantasy asset.
Nick Suzuki is the guy fantasy owners want to know about. Acquired from Vegas in the Max Pacioretty trade, Suzuki was immediately Montreal’s top prospect and is a potential first-liner. He’s close to NHL-ready, but would be best served putting in his first professional season at the AHL level, with perhaps a cup of coffee with the big club at some point later.
Riley Barber was a very good prospect for Washington, but after a stellar rookie-pro campaign in 2015-16 he went sideways for two years. He didn’t show any progress. Last year in Washington’s training camp he was placed on waivers and he cleared. That seemed to wake him up because he finally found his mojo, tallying 31 goals and 60 points in 64 games for Hershey, to go along with 84 PIM and showing a bit of grit. The Habs signed him as an unrestricted free agent and there is a chance he won’t clear waivers again if placed there. If he shows that same edge in training camp then perhaps he replaces Deslauriers in the lineup.
Montreal Canadiens prospect depth chart and fantasy upsides can be found here (not yet ready for mobile viewing, desktop only right now)
Fantasy Outlook – Montreal had a terrible team heading into last year and kudos to Coach Claude Julien for getting the most out of them. Max Domi had a career season (72 points) and ditto for Tomas Tatar, Shaw, Phillip Danault and Jeff Petry, with Brendan Gallagher coming pretty close. Can Julien get that out of them again? Can he wake up Jonathan Drouin? If not, there is help on the way – Suzuki, Poehling and Cole Caufield each land inside my Top 30 fantasy prospect forwards, and there are a couple of pretty prospect defensemen (Alexander Romanov and Josh Brook) on the way in a couple of years as well. But for this season I have the Habs finishing 23rd in the league for goals scored. Goaltending is solid with Carey Price back there. But on defense, the team is not very deep beyond Petry and Shea Weber. So the kids cannot arrive soon enough.
Fantasy Grade: C (last year was D)
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2019 Offseason Fantasy Hockey Grades