One thing has become increasingly clear about the current Canadiens management; they really like grinders with character. Lucas Lessio is another player who fits that mold. That being said, it makes perfect sense that he was acquired through a trade that sent Christian Thomas to the Arizona Coyotes.
Once part of the Canadiens' organization, he was inserted into the St. John's IceCaps lineup. Through 18 games with them, he looked good while tallying nine points, and earned himself a call-up to the big club. Due to the insane amount of injuries that befell the Habs this year, he was but another replacement player relegated to a tough role.
As a perfect microcosm for Montreal's 2015-16 season, Lessio was injured in his first game with the team after being recalled from the IceCaps. When he came back, he played limited minutes in a grinding role. He did surprisingly well keeping the puck away from Mike Condon and Ben Scrivens, but he was another replacement that suffered with tough usage.
With the injuries mounting in the Habs roster, Lessio was brought up on February 1, only to get injured by a Radko Gudas low-bridge in his very first game. His absence was short, but in total he only managed to suit up for 12 games with the Canadiens this season.
Having played only 28 games with Arizona over the prior two years, there's more unknown about him than there is hard data to ponder. That being said, his 12-game audition with Montreal was far from a failure, especially when you consider that he was rather buried in the lineup.
Through his 12-game audition, he registered a less-than-impressive 46.73 CF%. Only Mike Brown, Michael McCarron, Stefan Matteau and Jacob De La Rose posted worse possession numbers. It's obvious that he doesn't put enough pucks on the net, but he also was limited to 46.7% of his shifts starting in offensive territory.
Contrary to his usage in the AHL, Michel Therrien identified Lessio as a shot-suppressing forward with a strong physical game, and didn't give the former second-round pick much opportunity to put pucks on the net. That strategy was a sound one, as Lessio boasted the second best shot-suppression numbers on the team with 26.12 shots against per 60 minutes played; only Daniel Carr had better numbers, and he was used in a more offensive capacity.
All of this however must be taken with a grain of salt, because 12 games is a rather small sample. He has not been able to secure a full-time NHL role, either with the Coyotes or the Canadiens. Bouncing between the AHL and NHL and back again can't be easy on a player's confidence, or ability to develop lasting chemistry.
He spent most of his shifts with Torrey Mitchell and Michael McCarron, while also seeing a healthy dose of Stefan Matteau and Mike Brown. It would be easy to criticize his numbers at face value, but much like Michael McCarron, he was hardly put in a position to succeed.
It has to be said that through the month of March he began looking more comfortable, sneaking some impressive rushes into the offensive zone. He still only collected two points over his short season in Montreal, though it's reasonable to expect him to contribute at least a little bit more if given the right opportunity, and linemates.
He will have to combat a crowded bottom-six talent pool to play his way onto the Canadiens' starting roster next year, but he was a better fourth line option than many of the players in that role this season. The pending RFA could be a useful 12-13th forward, or an interesting young veteran for St. John's should he fail to make the team straight out of camp.
Should Montreal elect to re-sign him in the offseason, they'll likely give him a fair shot in training camp. Nothing will be guaranteed, but if the stars align he could be wearing the CH next season.