5 Bold Canadiens Predictions for 2023

The Montreal Canadiens have hit the halfway point of the 2022-23 season and while their overall record is better than last year at this time, it’s clear the team is still suffering through rebuilding pains and the roster remains a work in progress with significant holes to fill.

Sign up for our regular 'Habs Newsletter' for all the latest.

The arrival of 2023 means that the fun is about to begin for the front office as they continue to look forward and implement their plan for sustained success in the future. With that in mind, here are five bold predictions for the Habs during this next calendar year.

Edmundson Will Be Moved at the Deadline

Kent Hughes aced his first Trade Deadline in 2022 and will be looking for a repeat performance over the next few weeks. Just like the Artturi Lehkonen deal, the general manager will manage to trade a player still under team control beyond this year and that player will be Joel Edmundson.

Joel Edmundson
Joel Edmundson, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Too many contending squads are looking for defensive help for Hughes not to get an offer he can’t pass up. The veteran defenceman has struggled on the ice, but he’s playing out of position on the top pair, something he won’t do on a playoff team, and his intangibles off the ice are invaluable. Edmundson is also Hughes’ best chance to acquire another first-round pick given Sean Monahan’s injury and the fact that management is considering bringing him back in recognition of how valuable he’s quickly become.

Slafkovsky Will Finish the Season in Montreal

Held pointless over his last 12 games, Juraj Slafkovsky has hit the proverbial wall and the 18-year-old rookie’s cold streak unsurprisingly coincides with his team’s current free fall. Fans and media members are calling for him to be sent to the American Hockey League (AHL) for a stint with the Laval Rocket to regain his confidence.

Related: Canadiens Prospect Report: Post 2023 WJC

So far, Hughes hasn’t given in to the pressure, and it doesn’t look like he will. Management feels that the NHL is the best place for the Slovak right now to continue his development. They have their reasons, and it will be interesting to hear what they are because their top prospect is now one year closer to unrestricted free agent (UFA) status. During the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading, Darren Dreger indicated that he believes Slafkovsky will be sent down eventually, but Hughes doesn’t want to make a knee-jerk decision during this skid. While he should see some time in Laval, perhaps during the Canadiens’ extended break around NHL All-Star Weekend at the beginning of February, he will look to finish the season on a high note in Montreal.

Canadiens Will Draft Twice in the Top 10

The NHL Draft is less than six months away and Montreal is in a prime position to add more elite young talent to their prospect pool after a prosperous draft in 2022 which included selecting Slafkovsky first overall. Not only will they have their lottery pick this year during the festivities in Nashville, but there’s a strong chance that the Florida Panthers’ first-round pick, which they acquired in the Ben Chiarot trade, will also be a lottery selection thanks to their struggles this season.

Latest News & Highlights

While it would be fun and bold to guess that the Habs will land Connor Bedard, especially since they will likely get two cracks at him, let’s go with a safer prediction instead: the Canadiens will make two picks in the Top 10 and one will be in the Top 5. In a deep draft which is loaded with talent at the top, this lottery outcome would be a great luxury. It would allow them to select two potentially game-changing pieces that will be part of the team’s new core while also giving them the flexibility to prioritize positional needs with their later picks. It would accelerate the rebuild in a big way, which is precisely what Hughes is trying to do.

Hughes Will Make Another Summer Splash

Last summer, Hughes stole the showing during the draft in Montreal when he struck two separate deals to land Kirby Dach, who has taken his game to another level while playing alongside Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield.

Chances are he’ll make another splash during this coming offseason to add another key piece, perhaps a top-four defenceman who can help the Canadiens’ awful power play. Josh Anderson and several prospects could be used as trade bait in a potential trade.   

Beck Will Make the 2023-24 Opening Night Roster

After trading Owen Beck to the Peterborough Petes ahead of the Trade Deadline in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), James Richmond, general manager and head coach of the Mississauga Steelheads, predicted that his now-former player will be playing in Montreal next year. Chances are, he’ll be proven right.

Owen Beck Montreal Canadiens
Owen Beck, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The centreman’s progression since being selected at no. 33 overall by the Habs in the 2022 NHL Draft has been nothing short of impressive. In addition to a strong NHL training camp debut, he put up 17 goals and 40 points in 30 games with the Steelheads and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Juniors. Mature beyond his years, Beck plays a complete game and seems to make something happen each time he’s on the ice regardless of the occasion. He’s reliable and does all the little things well that help teams win games which is precisely what the Canadiens need.

The second half of the season is shaping up to be somewhat of a slog for the Habs, but fans still have lots to look forward to as preparations begin for the 2023-24 campaign and beyond.