Canadiens’ News and Rumours: Niku, Hoffman, Anderson & Poehling

The Montreal Canadiens preseason has begun, and the team is already full of signings, injuries, and battles for a spot on the team. The action will start getting hot and heavy as we count down the days before the regular season. Here is the latest news and rumours out of Canadiens camp so far.

Canadiens Sign Niku

The Canadiens added more defensive depth this week when they signed defenceman Sami Niku to a one-year, two-way contract for $750,000 in the NHL and $475,000 in the AHL. Niku played in six games for the Winnipeg Jets last season and was the top defenseman in the AHL during the 2017-18 season. He is a solid puck-moving defenceman who has a great transition game and can provide the team with good offence from the back end.

Sami Niku
Sami Niku, former Winnipeg Jet (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Niku isn’t the most vigorous defender and is often prone to mistakes when caught in his zone for too long. This is a huge reason why he had a hard time cracking the Jets’ lineup. He was a seventh-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, and the Canadiens are hoping a change of scenery will help him get back into the NHL. The 24-year-old has played 54 games over four seasons with the Jets, scoring two goals and ten points.

Canadiens’ Hoffman Out With an Injury

Recently signed forward Mike Hoffman will miss up to four weeks with a lower-body injury. In the offseason, Hoffman was signed to a three-year $13.5 million contract by the Canadiens to provide much-needed offence. He played with the St. Louis Blues last season, where he scored 17 goals and 36 points in 56 games. He has scored 25 goals or more five times in his career and is a power-play specialist.

Mike Hoffman St. Louis Blues
Mike Hoffman, now with the Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images)

Hoffman’s injury occurred on his last skate before traveling to Montreal for training camp. He participated in media day but failed his physical. It is an undisclosed injury affecting his lower body. Head coach Dominique Ducharme suspected last week that Hoffman wouldn’t be ready for opening day and now could miss the first week of the season.

Anderson Speaks Out About Drouin

Canadiens forward Josh Anderson commented on teammate Jonathan Drouin’s mental health struggles. Drouin came out recently about why he left the team last season, saying he was dealing with anxiety and insomnia issues. Drouin said he was thinking about hockey constantly and was awake for days at a time. He finally decided to get help and stepped away from the game for the rest of the season.

Members of the team were in constant contact with Drouin during their Stanley Cup run, especially Anderson. He is glad that Drouin is now happy, seems rejuvenated for this season, and how he is even more focused not only on hockey but himself. Drouin spoke highly of the support he got from players and the league and was glad with his decision to temporarily walk away from the game.

Poehling Will Get Every Opportunity to Make the Team

Ryan Poehling looks to be the player the Canadiens want to play as their third-line center. Poehling played over 16 minutes of the first preseason game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and played a pretty solid two-way game. He did very well on faceoffs and had a good forecheck and backcheck throughout the game.

Ryan Poehling Montreal Canadiens
Ryan Poehling, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Poehling had an excellent season with the Laval Rocket last year and wants to continue his progress with the Canadiens. The 25th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft is trying to prove he is NHL material and that his first game with the Habs wasn’t a fluke. Poehling will be one of the most-watched young players this season in training camp, and so far, he’s putting on a good show.

Canadiens Drop First Preseason Game to The Leafs

The Canadiens played their first preseason game against the Leafs in Toronto. It was the first time they met since the Canadiens eliminated the Leafs in seven games in the first round of the 2021 playoffs. The Leafs won the lackluster game 4-1, with Tyler Toffoli scoring the lone goal for the Habs.

Tyler Toffoli Montreal Canadiens
Tyler Toffoli, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Curtis Comeau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Canadiens played a pretty even first period but trailed 1-0 going into the second. The Leafs dominated the second period, where they scored twice and held the Canadiens with zero shots until the final five minutes of the period. Trailing 3-0 in the third, the Canadiens exchanged goals with Toronto. Some players that stood out in the game were Poehling, Alexander Romanov, Gianni Fairbrother, Cole Caufield and Micheal McNevin.

The Canadiens also played a red versus white game at the Bell Center, where Team Red defeated Team White 5-2. Caufield left the game, feeling discomfort, but is listed as day-to-day, and Ducharme doesn’t believe it’s anything serious. Joel Armia, Joshua Roy, Alexander Romanov and Ryan Poehling had strong games.

Next week should be even more interesting as the Canadiens will make the first few cuts to the roster and play back-to-back games against the Ottawa Senators at the end of the week.

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