The Montreal Canadiens may have lost one of their top young players and a potential top-six centre after declining to match the $6.1 million offer sheet tendered to Jesperi Kotkaniemi by the Carolina Hurricanes, but they used their compensation to trade for a player who is better suited to fill that role now and for the foreseeable future. Here are a few cool things to know about Christian Dvorak, Montreal’s newest acquisition.
He Can Play in All Situations
The 25-year-old, who has four years remaining on his contract which carries an average annual value of $4.45 million, is a versatile centre who plays a solid two-way game and can also pack an offensive punch. Last season with the Arizona Coyotes, Dvorak put up 17 goals and 31 points in 56 games. He also won 52.1% of his faceoffs and averaged 18:24 of ice time per game. Eight of his 17 goals came with the man advantage and four were game-winners.
On the power play, Dvorak gives the Habs a new weapon from the slot thanks to his size and potent shot to go along with the likes of Cole Caufield and Mike Hoffman who will be firing pucks from both faceoff circles. A triple threat they haven’t had in some time.
“He’s not going to be the player that’s going to wow you but his detail to the game is very good, he plays an honest game, he’s a natural centre. There’s a lot to like about Christian Dvorak,” said Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin.
He’s All Business on and off the Ice
Dvorak spoke with the Montreal media on Monday for the first time since the trade and it was somewhat striking to hear how matter of fact and straight to the point his answers were. He is very aware of the type of player he is, both his strengths and weaknesses and what he wants to do to improve.
It’s more of the same on the ice. His goal celebrations are subdued, and he approaches every game with a workman-like attitude, similar to Patrice Bergeron, the player he models his game after.
“The one thing about him that people probably don’t know is he’s a very competitive, quiet sort of leadership guy. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for that because he’s quiet, but he’s very competitive. He’s not going to play necessarily with tons of physicality, but he’s got a lot of jam, and he’ll go to the net, and he’ll take a punch in front of the net if he has to,” a Western-based scout told Sportsnet reporter Eric Engels.
He Had a Prolific Junior Career in London
Dvorak made a name for himself in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with the London Knights. Playing alongside Mitch Marner and Matthew Tkachuk, he put up 109 points (41 goals, 68 assists) in 66 games during the 2014-14 season. As captain of the Knights the following season, he amassed 121 points in 59 games, including a league-leading 52 goals, and led his team to a Memorial Cup title.
He also played one year with his new Habs teammate, Josh Anderson, while in London. At the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship, the Illinois native scored eight points in seven games to help the United States finish third in the tournament.
His junior prowess enticed the Coyotes to select him in the second round (no. 58) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
A Canadiens Trade Parallel
The Dvorak acquisition has eerily similar traits to the 2018 trade that brought Max Domi to the Canadiens from Arizona in exchange for Alex Galchenyuk. Galchenyuk, a former no. 3 overall pick by the Habs just like Kotkaniemi, struggled to establish himself in Montreal despite showcasing flashes of his talent and upside, was traded for Domi, a former London Knight and a more proven NHL commodity just like Dvorak.
“They love their hockey there in Montreal we all know that. The fans love the team a bunch, so definitely very excited to get up there and help them win some hockey games,” said Dvorak.
While Dvorak and Kotkaniemi weren’t traded one-for-one, the parallels between the two scenarios are evident.
While it’s tough for fans to see the Canadiens walk away from Kotkaniemi’s potential so quickly, Dvorak will be a perfect fit with the kind of team that Bergevin has built during his tenure in Montreal. He is underrated by many after spending the first five years of his career away from the spotlight in Arizona. Now, he’s ready to start a new chapter in a hockey market where the spotlight shines brightest with lots of talent to showcase and most importantly, much left to prove.