Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes has sealed his first deal ahead of the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline, acquiring Denis Gurianov from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Evgenii Dadonov.
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Given how Dadonov struggled this season in a Habs uniform after getting sent to Montreal this past summer by the Vegas Golden Knights, many expected a late draft pick in return for his services, but instead, head coach Martin St. Louis and the development staff have another reclamation project on their hands, an inconsistent player with untapped potential who should benefit from a change of scenery. A smart roll of the dice that could pay off in a big way.
Signs of Promise
Selected in the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at no. 12 overall by Dallas, Gurianov has shown glimpses of his talent for long stretches, especially early in his career.
Related: 2023 NHL Trade Deadline Tracker
During his first full season with the Stars in 2019-20, the 25-year-old winger put up 20 goals and especially made a name for himself during the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs in the Edmonton and Toronto bubbles, posting nine goals and 17 points in 27 games. His biggest goal came in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final when he scored in overtime to put Dallas into the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2000. His nine goals and 17 points are the most by a Dallas Stars rookie in the postseason and rank second in franchise history.
He followed up his impressive 2019-20 campaign with consecutive seasons of 30 and 31 points, respectively. His size coupled with his offensive ability had more than a few people convinced that he was going to be part of the Stars’ core for a long time. It’s been a challenging year for Gurianov in 2022-23 however, and now is a good time for him to hit the reset button with his new team. He’ll get more ice time and opportunities with the Canadiens and should thrive playing for a coaching staff that preaches offence first. Case in point, during his first practice on Feb. 27, he was on the Habs’ first line with Nick Suzuki and Mike Hoffman, so it looks like he’ll get the perfect opportunity to prove himself during his debut against the San Jose Sharks.
“I want to see him in practice, I want to see him in games, I want to make my own first impression versus being influenced by somebody what I should be expecting because I don’t think everybody sees it the same way,” explained St. Louis.
Given their similar attributes, perhaps Gurianov will find inspiration in the way his new teammate, Josh Anderson plays and carries himself on the ice.
A hockey player by day and a beatboxer by night? While he went to school in Russia, Gurianov decided to peruse YouTube so he could teach himself how to beatbox after seeing a professional do it first-hand. He admits that it’s just for fun and that his attempts don’t always work. He also likes Russian rap, but since arriving in North America, he’s come to appreciate Nirvana, Metallica, and even a little country music.
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He represented his country at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship in Montreal, so he’s familiar with the atmosphere at the Bell Centre, but it will be a whole different feeling when steps on that famous ice surface for the first time in a Canadiens jersey. He chose to wear no. 25 with the Habs because it’s the same number he wore while playing his junior hockey in Russia where he also grew up watching his favourite players, compatriots Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin.
The Habs are taking a chance on Gurianov while also betting on their ability to turn his game around. He’ll be given all the tools to succeed and can return the favour by living up to his potential to become a key piece for the Canadiens going forward.