It seems that every season, at least one young hopeful steps up and becomes a key player on their team. These players breakout and become known around the league as bona-fide contributors. It takes time for younger players to become accustomed to life at the professional level, but once they do, and once an opportunity presents itself, these players can step up and establish themselves.
Luckily for a few Canadiens’ players, opportunities are awaiting within the team lineup. It isn’t always clear which players will seize these opportunities, but here are a few likely candidates.
At 23, Andrighetto is looking to solidify his place within the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup. The forward is a natural scorer that had some success with the team in his 44 games last season, as he scored 17 points. Fortunately for the Swiss winger, as the 2016-17 season approaches, the Habs find themselves with an open slot in the top-six that is up for grabs. At 5 feet 10 inches, Andrighetto isn’t the biggest player in stature, but that isn’t to say that he can’t have a big impact on a scoring-challenged team. Given the right linemates, the winger could step into the top-six role and impress many in the coming season.
A former third round draft pick, Andrighetto should step up and seize the opportunity that is presenting itself within the Habs lineup to start the coming season. He’ll be in for a challenge, though, since there’ll be a fair bit of competition standing in his way. If he can maintain his role within the Habs lineup, Andrighetto is a great breakout candidate that could end up seeing a fair bit of ice time, including power-play minutes this season.
Similarly to Andrighetto, Carr will be looking to fill into the top-six slot that is still somewhat undetermined for this coming season. The winger’s 2015-16 season was cut short due to a serious knee injury, but a healthy Carr is looking to pick up where he left off in 2016-17. Since the very start of the Alberta native’s stint with the Habs, he was impressive. There’s no better start to one’s NHL career than scoring their first goal on their first shot on their first shift. He only got to play 23 games with the team last season, where he recorded nine points. Carr became known for scoring clutch goals for his team as he became more familiar to the Habs’ fanbase.
Consistency will be key for the 24-year-old through training camp and the preseason. He must prove that he can maintain his Brendan Gallagher-esque energy levels as he looks to impress his team’s coaching staff prior to opening night. If Carr can’t solidify his spot within an NHL lineup soon, he risks fading into the minors for good.
Possibly the most important Habs’ breakout candidate, Beaulieu will be looked at to play more serious minutes in 2016-17. With 151 NHL games under his belt, the 23-year-old defenceman may be ready to breakout as a prominent top-four blueliner for his team this coming season.
Beaulieu’s fellow left-handed defencemen on the roster are Andrei Markov, Alexei Emelin and Mark Barberio. The 37-year-old Markov (who has surgically repaired knees) played just under 24 minutes per game last season. If the Habs want to keep the veteran fresh, they’ll look to divvy out some of his ice-time to younger players. Beaulieu could be the beneficiary, though he’ll have to earn his ice time over both Emelin and Barberio.
Beaulieu’s offensive abilities helped earn him some power-play time last season, and he hopes to get more special-teams time in the coming year. The defenceman was selected in the first round of the 2011 draft due to his smooth skating, offensive ability and defensive responsibility. In his last year in junior, Beaulieu recorded 52 points in 53 games while maintaining an overwhelmingly positive plus/minus. He will look to step up more on the offensive side of things this season. If the Ontario native is given enough ice-time and the right defence partner (potentially Shea Weber), he could start contributing more offensively than he has until this point in his NHL career. With a few tweaks to his game, Beaulieu could prove to be very valuable for the Habs in the coming season.
Plus, the Dark Horses
Some other Habs that can potentially breakout in the coming season are: Artturi Lehkonen, Michael McCarron and Charles Hudon. All three of these players have minimal (or no) NHL experience, but will be looking to make an impact if given the opportunity. More patience may be required with these three, as it may not be their time to shine just yet. That said, Habs fans should keep an eye on them, as they may surprise in the coming months.
Ultimately, someone is going to have to step up this season, so who will it be?
My money would be on the defenceman, Beaulieu. The well-respected youngster seems to have found his rhythm in the league, and he’ll try to cement himself as Markov’s successor as the season rolls on.
As the old saying goes, ‘the opportunities are there for taking’ for the Habs’ youngsters. The question is, which player has the tools to truly make their mark in the team in the coming year?
I’m a Montreal Canadiens columnist and lifelong Habs fan. Follow me on Twitter (@gregkatz19) for all kinds of hockey talk, and to be up to date on my newest articles. I previously wrote for Too Many Men on the Site, a part of Fansided NHL.