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Canadiens’ 2022-23 Season Player Grades

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In this series, The Hockey Writers will look back at the performances of the Montreal Canadiens in the 2022-23 season. The goal is to analyze the team’s performance to assess each player’s contributions. Considering the sheer number of injuries leading to 38 players playing on the team this past season, this wouldn’t be a list but a novel. So, the cut-off in games played will be set to 30 NHL games. 


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The Canadiens did finish 28th in the NHL standings. Despite that, there were some good moments over the year and even some progression, but that doesn’t mean everyone deserves to be praised.  

Canadiens Veterans 

The grades here are based on performance and if they met the expectations of their play or not. Keeping in mind that they are on a rebuilding team that is consistently outmatched, no one is given a failing grade, but some could have been if the expectations were to be a playoff team. 

Nick Suzuki – A- 

Nick Suzuki’s first season as captain of the Montreal Canadiens went well. He didn’t force himself to try and meet anyone’s expectations. All things considered, he met all the expectations for the role, played a leadership role on the ice, and even was a quiet leader off the ice.

Nick Suzuki Montreal Canadiens
Nick Suzuki, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

On the ice, he set a new career high in goals (26) and points (66). More importantly, he is the Canadiens’ Iron Man as he was the only player to play all 82 games this season and is the only player to play every game over the last three seasons. 

Samuel Montembeault – A- 

He took advantage of his opportunity and stepped up and became the starter for a rebuilding team. He showed he can be a solution to “who will be the backup in the long term” and at only 26 years old, he can still progress and maybe even become a true 1B option in tandem on a contending team. 

Cole Caufield – B+ 

Why not give a higher grade? The injury takes away from his total. Also, his defensive play still needs some improvement, but that is only to nitpick. What he has shown is he can become one of the top goal-scorers in the NHL. He finished the season tied for the goal-scoring lead on the team with 26 goals, yet only played 48 games. Had he played a full season, that is a 45-goal pace. As his entry-level contract (ELC) expired at the end of the 2022-23 season, the only real question that needs to be answered is what term and cap hit his new contract will be.  

Related: Canadiens’ 2022-23 Season Can Still Be Viewed as a Success 


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Mike Matheson – B- 

The only thing knocking Mike Matheson’s grade down is being injury prone over the season. Playing only 48 games, the lowest number of games played in a non-shortened season. Despite that, he did have a career-high in points with 34 (a 58-point pace over 82 games). When he played, he averaged nearly 25 minutes per game, playing in all situations, and showed he is capable of being the veteran that can help lead and mentor the Habs’ young blue line in the mid-term. 

Kirby Dach – B- 

Kirby Dach came to the Canadiens in a blockbuster trade that cost the team the services of a very popular player Alex Romanov. Dach was given a top-six role and showed that the Chicago Blackhawks gave up on him too soon. In his fourth NHL season, he broke out and scored a career-high in goals (14), assists (24), and points (38). Being given a real opportunity and the confidence of his coach made a big difference in improving his approach to the game. Despite only playing in 58 games, this season showed he is capable of becoming the top-six center the Habs needed to join in a tandem with Suzuki. 

Josh Anderson – B – 

Josh Anderson remained a big-bodied, speedy winger playing a classic power forward style, which is a highly valuable, and increasingly rare asset to have on any NHL team. He played 69 games this season, scoring 21 goals.

Josh Anderson Canadiens
Josh Anderson, Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With the Habs need for this type of winger and players with size, he is highly likely to return to play a top-line role barring general manager (GM) Kent Hughes getting an offer he can’t refuse

Jake Allen – C+ 

Jake Allen suffered injuries again this season, which limited him to only 42 games started. He had his most difficult season statistically, having his lowest save percentage in his career at .891. He did have as many as five rookie defensemen playing in front of him and faced more than his fair share of high-danger shots. Even with all that, his professionalism gave the Canadiens a steadying presence in goal and a mentor for Montembeault. 

Brendan Gallagher – C- 

He brings his 100% on every shift, the only problem is his 100% is only 50% of what he had to give only four years ago. He is in decline, but he does bring a level of leadership and an ability to set a positive example for the young core to emulate. His grade is low because of the injury history that is catching up to him due to his style of play and his contract, a $6.5 million cap hit for five more seasons that will be nearly impossible to trade. 

Jonathan Drouin – C- 

Jonathan Drouin earned himself a solid grade this season. He did have yet another year shortened by injuries, and he did have issues scoring goals, only scoring two, but he was able to produce offensively, scoring 29 points in 58 games which is a pace of 41 points over 82 games. That is solid third-line production. With his rocky history in Montreal over the last six seasons, his penchant to play on the perimeter, and his difficulty playing defensively, he is still highly likely to be allowed to test free agency.  

David Savard – C – 

Having a veteran who wants to be in Montreal and can add some leadership skills is valuable if he isn’t forced to play above his abilities for an entire season. David Savard did provide 20 points and led the team in blocked shots, as he played the entire season in a top pairing, shut down role. That is far above his skill level, as he is best suited to play on a third pair and be a penalty-killing specialist.  

Joel Edmundson – C- 

Joel Edmundson has been unable to play a full season in his career. He does have a back problem that can impact his play going forward, but he is still a capable second-pair defender who can complement and mentor a young defender. He says he wants to remain in Montreal, but with the depth of the left side of the Canadiens’ blue line, and him entering the final season of his contract paying him $3.5 million, he may have played his last game in a Habs sweater 

Christian Dvorak – C – 

Christian Dvorak should be an ideal third-line center who can play a defensive role. That type of player is a valuable asset in that he can take on some of the harder-to-play minutes on the penalty kill to allow the top center to focus more on their offensive play. Scoring 28 points in 68 games (a 36-point pace over 82 games) is in line with that type of player  

Mike Hoffman – D- 

Mike Hoffman is exactly what is expected of him, a one-dimensional offensive player that is a power play specialist. He has very little to give beyond a great shot that provided 14 goals in 67 games this season. Entering the final season of his contract paying him $4.5 million in 2023-24, it is certain Hughes will try to move him out of Montreal to make room for one of the younger forwards that will graduate full-time from the American Hockey League (AHL). 

Denis Gurianov – D- 

Did he do enough to earn a contract? Yes, but not at the salary level of his qualifying offer of $2.9 million. He did earn one or two years at $1 million or less. If Hughes holds onto him, it’s because he needs someone to be a fill-in for the bottom six next season. 

Paul Byron – No Grade 

Paul Byron missed the entire season due to injury and may need to retire. If he does, he deserves the thanks and congratulations of everyone who had the pleasure of watching him play. 

The remaining grades are: 

  • Rem Pitlick, Joel Armia, Micheal Pezzetta, Alex Belzile, Chris Tierney– D+ 
  • Denis Wideman – D- 

Canadiens Rookies 

These grades are based on performance, and expectations being met or not. Due to the vast number of injuries, call-ups, and being on a generally weaker team, they are graded on a curve that also takes into account their potential. 

Raphael Harvey-Pinard – A-  

Even though he was a seventh-round pick and is an undersized forward, Raphael Harvey-Pinard showed he belongs in the NHL. His gritty, no-nonsense approach is reminiscent of Gallagher’s.

Rafael Harvey-Pinard Montreal Canadiens
Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Playing in 34 games, he was able to score 14 goals (a 33-goal pace over 82 games) and 20 points while playing up and down the lineup. This versatility and capability to produce offensively will see him earn an NHL roster spot in Montreal next season. 

Kaiden Guhle – B + 

Kaiden Guhle led all rookie defensemen in Montreal in average ice time at 20:31. He showed that he can play a highly mobile and physical style. He has the potential of becoming a complimentary top pairing, minute-eating defenseman. His 18 points in 44 games (on pace for 33 points over 82 games) show he still has some untapped offensive skills. 

Justin Barron – B- 

Despite starting the season in the AHL, Justin Barron showed he is becoming a staple on the blue line as a second-pairing power-play specialist. His mobility and speed allow him to be an effective two-way defender. 

Jordan Harris – B – 

Jordan Harris is an excellent skater and plays a cerebral style of defense. As a defender with a smaller build, he relies on his smarts to provide him with an advantage. With 17 points in 65 games, he has shown he can produce respectable offensive numbers and be a reliable second-pairing defender who makes few mistakes. 

Arber Xhekaj – B- 

Perhaps the biggest surprise out of training camp was to see an undrafted rookie defenseman earn an NHL job. Arber Xhekaj did that and more, he became an instant fan favorite for his highly physical style and his ability to defend himself and his teammates, earning the respect of the heavy-weight fighters in the NHL. Before he went down with an injury, he led all defensemen in goals (five), and his mobility and size give the Habs a very rare type of player.  

Juraj Slafkovsky – C+ 

He has the potential to become a game-breaking player with his size and skill, but for this past season, the expectations placed on Juraj Slafkovsky as the 2022 first-overall pick may have been too high for him to live up to.

Juraj Slafkovsky Montreal Canadiens
Juraj Slafkovsky, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by David Kirouac/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

There will be debates on if he was rushed into the NHL or needed to play in the AHL instead, but he did show some progression over the season until he was injured. Last season, playing professionally in a lesser league, he scored five goals and 10 points. This season, he scored 10 points in a similar number of games in the best league in the NHL. 

Jonathan Kovacevic – C- 

Jonathan Kovacevic was a waiver wire pickup at the start of the season and became a steady, reliable player for the Canadiens. He was second on the team in games played at 77 and quietly provided an average time on ice of 17:25 while also playing well on the penalty kill.  

Jesse Ylonen – C – 

Jesse Ylonen showed flashes of his speed and blistering shot and will need to work on his consistency before he can become a full-time NHL player. 

With 38 players to have played at least one game with the club this season and ending the year with 14 players on the injured list, the chaos that it creates can’t be ignored when assessing players. Some were forced to play above their skill level or before they were fully ready to assume an NHL role. The Canadiens finished 28th in the NHL and will now have the opportunity to add another core player in the upcoming 2023 NHL Entry Draft. 





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