While the Montreal Canadiens were unable to seal the deal on their Cinderella run in the playoffs, General Manager Marc Bergevin seems to have structured a team that’s built to last. The three young talents on the team—Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi—are undoubtedly the organization’s future, but they largely lack physicality.
That’s where Zachary L’Heureux comes in. Predicted to be drafted late in the first round, L’Heureux is a big, nasty forward who could add a physical dimension to whatever line he is on while also producing on the offensive side of the puck.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at this guy.
What L’Heureux brings
Many of you will notice that L’Heureux is a francophone, hailing from Montreal specifically. While this isn’t necessarily a huge deal, the Canadiens organization has been criticized in the recent past for not having enough players from Quebec. (From ‘For the first time in a century, no Quebecer will suit up for the Habs,’ Montreal Gazette, 5/10/2021)
L’Heureux, of course, adds much more than just his birthplace. The young, gritty player has been compared to Brad Marchand and Nazem Kadri in his style of play. These are not names we Canadiens fans much like to hear, but another name that comes to mind is Brendan Gallagher. L’Heureux has no problem getting into the corners, laying hits, and frustrating the opposition. Sound familiar?
This is precisely the kind of play the Canadiens organization needs, moving forward. Caufield and Suzuki are supreme talents that any reasonable Canadiens fan hopes will remain with the club for a very long time, but they are not the most physical players in the world. This can make things difficult if they are playing against a line that can easily bump them around.
L’Heureux could establish equilibrium on a physically inferior line. Not only is he mean and physical, but he is strong on the puck and has great edgework, making tight situations manageable. Standing at just 5-foot-11, he is a lot like Gallagher in stature, too. L’Heureux is also an indication of a renewed breed of young talent that is reminiscent of the hockey played in the nineties. Pure physicality.
In this way, he reminds me of Alexander Romanov—a young player who has a mean streak, just like L’Heureux. And this is probably where the Canadiens may be a little hesitant when considering if they want to sign the power forward. L’Heureux appears to be an undisciplined player. He has been suspended four separate times, totalling 13 games in all. That kind of behaviour cannot be allowed to continue should he be chosen by the Canadiens.
It will be up to management to figure out if they are willing to invest time in ironing out the issues with L’Heureux’s game, but if they elect to move forward, rest assured that they are acquiring a great talent. Having a good balance of pure talent (Caufield and Suzuki) alongside young players who don’t mind laying the body (Romanov and L’Heureux), the Canadiens have the potential to be an absolute force to play against in the future.
As I mentioned above, L’Heureux is not just a solid body, but he has the ability to create something special on the offensive side of the puck. During his 2020-21 campaign with the Halifax Mooseheads, L’Heureux potted 19 goals and raked in 20 assists for 39 points in just 33 games. Don’t let his physical play fool you—L’Heureux has soft hands and high hockey IQ.
He also provides substantial help on special teams. With Phillip Danault declining a six-year deal worth $30 million last fall, the Canadiens are potentially going to see their best forward on the penalty kill departing from the club. Assuming that Danault does take off, the Canadiens will need to find two-way forwards who are immensely effective on the penalty kill. L’Heureux has had a huge impact on special teams, and there’s no doubt that his abilities will transfer to the NHL.
“When he [L’Heureux] is in his zone, he will still show aggression even though it is less than what it was previously. With that being said, L’Heureux will deliver open ice hits in an effort to silence the cycle and regain possession of the puck. Below, you will find an example of L’Heureux’s willingness to get gritty and deliver open ice hits to shut down the rush.” –Josh Tessler, SMAHT Scouting
The bittersweet part about L’Heureux is that, just like virtually every prospect this year, he is not a ready-made player. He will almost certainly not be playing in the NHL in the 2021-22 season, and that will have to be something taken into consideration. If the Canadiens organization manages to get his undisciplined play under control, L’Heureux could be a force to reckon with in a couple of years.
Bergevin has created a solid foundation for this team to succeed, and now it’s a matter of finding young talent that can protect and add to the stellar play of Caufield, Suzuki, and Kotkaniemi. L’Heureux is very possibly the exact player this organization needs with the 31st overall pick this draft season.
As with many young kids who grow up in the Midwest, CG played a lot of hockey. His love and appreciation for the game is why he’s here, writing for The Hockey Writers, covering his two favorite teams: Montreal Canadiens and San Jose Sharks. But he writes other things, too, including a debut novel that is set to come out in July of 2021. You can find him on Twitter @TheLastSisyphus.