Greg Pateryn’s Future with the Canadiens

Greg Pateryn’s Road to the NHL:

Greg Pateryn’s road to the NHL was definitely not an easy one. Pateryn played college hockey at the University of Michigan before being drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Before ever playing a game for the Leafs, Pateryn was traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Mikhail Grabovski. Pateryn then spent the majority of three years developing with the former Canadiens AHL affiliate, Hamilton Bulldogs. Last season, after paying his dues in the minors, Pateryn played 17 games with the Habs. He proved that he could keep up at the NHL level, as he played steady, responsible hockey.

Pateryn has struggled to find himself a solidified spot in the Canadiens lineup thus far in his NHL career. Last season, he was on the cusp of earning a spot in the top-six – before GM, Marc Bergevin traded for defenceman Jeff Petry from Edmonton. Pateryn was pushed out of the lineup due to the overcrowding on the Canadiens defence. When defenceman Nathan Beaulieu left the opening round series of the 2015 NHL playoffs due to injury, Pateryn was able to step in and play solid hockey for the Habs. He had three assists in seven postseason appearances.

Habs’ GM Marc Bergevin re-signed his main trade deadline acquisition, Jeff Petry, in June – thus, once again, making Greg Pateryn’s job a lot harder. Pateryn is now considered the seventh defencemen on the Canadiens’ depth chart; he is still yet to have earned a permanent spot with the team. While the current Canadiens’ top-six have more NHL experience than Pateryn, he is proving that he is ready to challenge for a full-time NHL role.

 Greg Pateryn’s Foreseeable Future:

Canadiens fans and management are satisfied with Pateryn’s play, as he has shown that he can play steady hockey when called upon. Many Habs fans are open about wanting Pateryn to play over some more experienced, established defencemen. The fact is, the Canadiens have nine defencemen currently with the big club. As a result, Greg Pateryn and fellow defenceman, Jarred Tinordi, often find themselves as the odd men out of the lineup. Recently, injuries on defence have allowed the Canadiens to look to Pateryn and Tinordi to offer defensive support. With these injuries, though, the Canadiens also recalled 25-year-old, Mark Barberio from the St. John’s IceCaps of the AHL. The offensive-minded Barberio put up 20 points in 26 AHL games before being recalled. The Canadiens now have three young, eligible defencemen fighting for an NHL roster spot.

The Montreal Canadiens have an extremely crowded blueline, with the majority of their defencemen signed comfortably for the next few years. However, there is one defenceman, Tom Gilbert, who is only signed through 2015-16. At this stage in his career, Gilbert is still very valuable to the Canadiens, as he leads the team in blocked shots, and is a key member of their penalty-kill. That said, the right-handed defenceman – who has an annual average salary of $2,800,000 per season, is best suited for a bottom pairing role. Greg Pateryn is 25, he is also right-handed, and he has proven that he is capable of playing as a bottom pairing, defensive-minded NHL defenceman.

It is hard to see the Canadiens re-signing Gilbert, despite his value to the team. Giving Greg Pateryn that roster spot saves the team some money, and allows a young, talented, and most importantly – prepared defenceman to get NHL minutes. Greg Pateryn could fill in on that bottom pairing, and eventually, work his way up through the roster. This isn’t to say that he will one day be a top-pairing defenceman for the Habs, rather, it is saying that Pateryn could gain the team’s trust, and earn more playing minutes, along with potential penalty-kill time. Ultimately, due to the abundance of defencemen, Gilbert can be replaced by any of three aforementioned young defencemen.

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Many believe that due to Pateryn’s readiness, and due to the depth on defence, the Canadiens have an expendable defenceman for a potential trade. Greg Pateryn may not need to wait until Tom Gilbert’s contract expires, before he gets a shot at being a regular for the Habs. The bottom line with Pateryn, is that he offers a solid, rugged defensive style of play, that is much-needed on the undersized Canadiens. Some may also argue that the Canadiens could use a bottom pairing, shut-down defenceman to compliment their otherwise offensively gifted defence core. Pateryn could eat up anywhere from 15-20 minutes of ice-time, once he has some NHL experience, and the coaching staff’s trust. He’ll never score the beautiful goal, or lead the team in points – but he will definitely provide a steady, hard-hitting presence on the back-end.

Habs’ GM, Marc Bergevin, is known for saying that a team “can never have too many defencemen.” That said, there comes a point where young, qualified defencemen should be able to get NHL ice-time. The Montreal Canadiens have other needs that could be addressed, potentially by dealing one of their nine NHL caliber blueliners. The majority of Habs fans, though, would like to see Greg Pateryn with the team for years to come.