Handing out awards to the best and worst Montreal Canadiens players so far

Nov 27 2019, 12:40 pm

The Montreal Canadiens are a little more than a quarter of the way through their 2019-20 regular season schedule, and we’re still not quite sure what to make of this team.

On November 15, the Canadiens went into Washington and delivered what looked like a statement 5-2 win over the NHL-leading Capitals.

Since then, things haven’t gone well. They’ve lost five straight games, dropping their record to 11-8-5. The Habs’ most recent two defeats were particularly embarrassing.

Last Saturday’s 6-5 home loss to the New York Rangers was a game they held a 4-0 lead in and ended up not even getting a point out of it. Then came Tuesday night’s 8-1 demolition at the hands of the Boston Bruins.

We don’t know what’s going to happen the rest of the season. We do know what’s happened so far, and today we’re going to analyze that and hand out some awards through this point in the year.

MVP: Shea Weber

  • Honourable mentions: Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Tatar

After being plagued by injuries over the last two seasons, Shea Weber has played in all 24 games for the Canadiens so far, and he’s played very well. His 19 points rank second on the team and are tied for the seventh most among all NHL defencemen. His eight goals also rank second on the team and are tied for second among all blueliners.

Weber plays in all situations for Montreal and his average ice time of 23:25 is the second highest mark on the team. The Habs couldn’t be happier with what they’re getting from their captain so far.

Biggest surprise: Phillip Danault

  • Honourable mentions: Tomas Tatar, Joel Armia, Victor Mete

It’s not as though Phillip Danault came out of nowhere. He’s been a valuable member of the team the last few years. Last season he finished seventh in Selke voting and also chipped in 53 points.

But the continued uptick in his offensive performance has been a pleasant surprise, with 17 points (6-11-17) through 24 games. Danault set a career high with a 0.65 points per game mark last year, and this season he’s raised that even further so far, up to 0.71.

His six goals so far this season are already halfway to his total of 12 from last year. Combined with his strong defensive play and faceoff acumen, Danault has turned into a terrific all-around contributor for Montreal.

We’ll also give an honourable mention to Victor Mete, who already has three goals in 24 games this season after scoring zero in 120 games over his first two seasons.

Biggest disappointment: Jesperi Kotkaniemi

  • Honourable mentions: Paul Byron, Max Domi

His season was interrupted by a groin injury that cost him seven games, but with just three points (2-1-3) on the year, the Habs still haven’t gotten nearly enough from Jesperi Kotkaniemi in the 17 games he’s played in.

At this point, it’s fair to wonder if the Canadiens did Kotkaniemi a disservice by bringing him to the NHL as an 18-year-old last year. Perhaps he needed some more time to develop.

Best rookie: Nick Suzuki

  • Honourable mention: Cale Fleury

Not much competition for this one.

Cale Fleury has just one point in 19 games and has been a healthy scratch a few times. Ryan Poehling has spent most of the year in the AHL and didn’t record a point in the four games he’s played for the Canadiens.

As for Nick Suzuki, he has 12 points through 24 games (6-6-12) and has gotten things going after a slow start. The 20-year-old has six points in his last seven games and has started to showcase the dynamic offensive talent that made him a first-round pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017 and the prized return of the Max Pacioretty trade.