3 Canadiens Poised for Bigger Roles in 2022-23

It’s been an eventful summer for Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes, who stole the show at the 2022 NHL Draft and who has been busy on the offseason trade market, acquiring the likes of Kirby Dach, Evgenii Dadonov, and Michael Matheson. This roster reshaping, which will continue over the next weeks and months, means that several players will inherit bigger roles this season.

Related: Top Canadiens Keys to a Successful 2022-23 Season

Jordan Harris, Rafaël Harvey-Pinard, and Jesse Ylönen, who all played games for the Habs in 2021-22, will once again fight for roster spots once again while prospects Kaiden Guhle, Emil Heineman, and no. 1 overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky are serious candidates to make their NHL debuts at some point over the next year. The overarching theme this season under head coach Martin St. Louis will be continued growth and development, both individually and as a team. As a result, these three players should see their responsibilities expanded.

Jake Allen

It may be surprising to see Jake Allen’s name on this list because Habs fans are fully aware of what the veteran goaltender is capable of at this stage of his career, but his health will influence Montreal’s level of success in 2022-23 almost as much as the state of Carey Price’s knee.

Jake Allen Montreal Canadiens
Jake Allen, Montreal Canadiens
(Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Injuries limited the 31-year-old to just 35 games last season and his presence in front of the net was sorely missed. The hope is that he stays healthy and can take on a good chunk of the starts over an 82-game schedule. Even if Price can return to playing shape for an extended period, he likely won’t make more than 40-45 appearances, so Allen’s availability will be necessary to provide stability between the pipes which was lacking in a big way last year. He’ll also take the pressure off Samuel Montembeault who can safely assume the backup role if Price is forced to the sidelines again.

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There has been speculation that Allen will be traded given the demand for goaltending around the league and the Canadiens’ need to shed cap space, but he’s an important part of the rebuild which will only be magnified during this upcoming transition year. 

Justin Barron

Justin Barron showed glimpses of his potential in his limited opportunities after being acquired from the Colorado Avalanche at the Trade Deadline, but an injury cut his season short. He appears ready for full-time NHL duty, and he’ll be thrust into the spotlight on the Habs’ blue line following the departures of Jeff Petry and Alexander Romanov. It will be up to him to prove he’s ready for the opportunity.

Related: Canadiens Defence Will Have a Different Look Under Hughes

The right side of the defence is especially thin and if Hughes isn’t able to add a veteran defenceman before the puck drops in October, the 20-year-old will probably be called upon to play a top-four role alongside Matheson, Joel Edmundson, and David Savard. He may even see some regular power play time.

Justin Barron Montreal Canadiens
Justin Barron, Montreal Canadiens
(Photo by Francois Lacasse/NHLI via Getty Images)

If Barron shows that he can hold his own playing next to someone like Matheson, it not only changes the complexion of the group with a dynamic, smooth skating, and strong puck-moving pairing, but it also removes some of the urgency to spend valuable cap space to bring in some short-term external help.

Kirby Dach

Dach has yet to hit his stride since being drafted no. 3 overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2019 and the Canadiens are hoping that a change of scenery will bring out the best in him.

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He’ll have the chance to be an integral piece of Montreal’s talented young core for many years to come. This season, he’ll get an extended audition in the no. 2 centre hole and will get his fair share of offensively gifted wingers to play with. The 21-year-old brings an impressive combination of size and skill, two elements that Montreal has been missing down the middle for a long time.

Kirby Dach Chicago Blackhawks
Kirby Dach, Chicago Blackhawks (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With the Habs, Dach will be put in a position to thrive with more quality ice time as a member of the team’s top-six forwards, and he’ll be well-surrounded at the centre position with Nick Suzuki in front of him and Christian Dvorak playing behind him in the no. 3 spot. It’s a recipe for a breakthrough season in his new uniform.

Success for the Canadiens in 2022-23 won’t necessarily be measured by wins and losses, but it will be considered a victory, as well as a crucial step in the right direction if this trio excels in their roles.