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US Sports - NHL: Montreal Canadiens season preview

A year removed from making the Stanley Cup Final the Montreal Canadiens finished last in the NHL standings (22-49-11) and head into 2022/23 focussed on re-building with new blood throughout the franchise.

There may still be plenty work ahead in that re-building process in the months to come.

WhatNHL Season 2022/23
WhereUSA and Canada
When7th October 2022 - June 2023
How to watchPremier Sports & bet365's Sports Live Streaming

COL Avalanche +425, TOR Maple Leafs +800, FLA Panthers +900, TB Lightning +1000, CAR Hurricanes +1100

Shock pick

Montreal's dismal season wasn't all bad as they ended by winning the draft lottery to have the first overall pick from the 2022 NHL draft.

Centreman Shane Wright was projected to be taken number one, but the Canadiens shocked the home town crowd by going in a different direction selecting Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky instead.

Slafkovsky shot to fame at the 2022 Olympics in Beijing where he led the tournament for scoring with seven goals and won the most valuable player award. His performances helped Slovakia win bronze which was their first ever medal finish.

The 18-year-old is expected to make his NHL debut in 2022/23 after signing a three-year entry level deal, and his performances will be heavily scrutinised and inevitably compared to Wright, who landed fourth overall with the Seattle Kraken.

Youth movement

Slafkovsky joins Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Kirby Dach as the future of the Canadiens.

23-year-old centre Suzuki has been named the youngest captain in Montreal history, replacing Shea Weber who was traded to the Vegas Golden Knights this summer.

Suzuki led the Canadiens with 61 points last season (21 goals, 40 assists) and Caufield second with 43 (23 goals, 20 assists).

21-year-old Caufield was selected by the Canadiens in the first round with the 15th overall pick in 2019.

Dach, also 21, was acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks at the NHL draft where he was third overall selection in 2019.

Price problem

Long-time netminder Carey Price appeared in just five games for the Canadiens last season after entering the NHL Players' Association joint player assistance program.

The 35-year-old is not expected to be available in 2022/23 either due to complications in recovering fully from knee surgery in July 2021.

Jake Allen, 32, is again expected to be Montreal's main starter and be supported by Samuel Montembeault, 25.

Allen went 9-20-4 with a .905 save-percentage and 3.30 goals-against-average (GAA) while Montembeault had an 8-18-6 record with a .891 save-percentage and 3.77 GAA.

The pair are a clear downgrade on a healthy Price, who won the Vezina and Hart Memorial Trophy in 2014/15 as the NHL's best goalie and most valuable player.

Placing Price on long-term injury reserve has given the Canadiens a cap relief of $10.5-million which in-part they have used to tie-down Dach to a new four-year contract and acquire Sean Monahan from the Calgary Flames.

In 712 regular season appearances for Montreal, Price went 361-261-79 with a .917 save-percentage and 2.51 GAA. In the playoffs he appeared 92 times with a 43-45 record, a .919 save-percentage and 2.39 GAA.

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Monahan addition

27-year-old Monahan insists he is ready to supplement the Canadiens' offence in 2022/23 after having surgery on a hip problem which has hampered him in recent seasons.

Monahan's production in the past two years has dropped significantly from his first seven seasons in the NHL.

He never scored less than 20 before 2020/21 but delivered just 10 goals in that season and eight last time. But assuming a return to full health, there's much hope that the three-time 30-goal scorer can re-find his past form in a new uniform.

Faith in St. Louis

It was all change off ice for the Canadiens last season with Jeff Gorton joining as executive vice president of hockey operations and Kent Hughes replacing Marc Bergevin as General Manager.

Coach Dominique Ducharme was also fired in early February with hall of fame forward Martin St. Louis brought in to lead the bench.

Despite having no professional coaching experience, St. Louis improved Montreal's form from 8-30-7 through their first 45 games to 14-19-4 and he was awarded with a three-year contract at the seasons end.

St. Louis' biggest influence came on Caufield who had just a single goal upon his hiring in February and finished with 23 in the final 37 games of the season.

Work to do

The new season will be the first full under the new management team and while there are positive pieces from which to build, there is clearly much work to do.

The defence is muddled after Jeff Petry was traded to Pittsburgh Penguins and Alexander Romanov moved to the New York Islanders.

Experienced David Savard, Mike Matheson and Joel Edmundson remain, but the remaining three spots are up for grabs with rookies Kaiden Guhle and Justin Barron expected to be given an opportunity.

St. Louis will be content with the forward group that he has to work with, but the question marks in goal are alarming and Allen's ability to take on the number-one role, or a potential move from management, will likely be the difference between competitiveness, or not.

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