After inking a one-year contract with the Habs in June, Sven Andrighetto is poised to to make the most of this opportunity to prove to the Montreal Canadiens that he is worth more than that $650,000 he is going to earn this season.
Amid all the darkness that was the 2015-16 Montreal Canadiens season, Andrighetto proved to be one of the few bright spots after being called up at the end of November, when Torrey Mitchell went down with a lower body injury. He was sent back down to the AHL after a 17 game stint in which he put up four goals, one assist and a plus-five plus/minus rating.
He was called up again at the beginning of February, and stuck with the team for the rest of the season, ending the year with seven goals and 10 assists in 44 games, playing in a variety of situations and with different linemates.
These basic statistics do not do justice the underlying potential of this player. A deeper look justifies why the 23 year-old Swiss native is ranked in the top ten of Habs players under 25 years old.
Andrighetto was deployed in mainly offensive situations, and had a positive impact on possession, maintaining a Corsi-for rating that was generally positive, averaging out to a 52.95 percent rating for the season. Averaging 13:07 of ice time last season, he was in the mid-range of forward deployment and did see a little time on the powerplay.
He played on the top line near the end of the season alongside Max Pacioretty and Alex Galchenyuk. There, he raked in four assists over six games before Dion Phaneuf knocked him out of the lineup for a week with an upper-body injury. His offensive output for the season was comparable to the mid-upper echelon of Habs forwards, with 1.64 points per 60 minutes.
Andrighetto moved down a spot from eighth last season to ninth this year. A few players on last year’s list are no longer with the Habs, which would cause one to expect Andrighetto to move up a few notches, but he was surpassed this season by a couple of players you will soon read about. Most EOTP panelists had him ranked between eighth and tenth, with one high vote of fourth from Cara, and a low of 12th from Justin.
Top 25 Under 25 History
This is Andrighetto’s fourth year of eligibility for this list. He started on the fringe of the list in his first year with the organization ranked at 26th. At the end of the 2014-15 season he had climbed to eighth position after a very strong showing with the Habs.
Andrighetto is an offensive player. His shooting ability, accurate wrist and snap shots, as well as offensive instincts are what got him into the NHL. He has great speed on his skates, and mobility that allow him to launch attacks and make quick moves in the offensive zone. He is an elusive skater, and had one of the best penalty differentials on the team last season, with a plus-six.
Most offensively gifted prospects tend to lack on the responsibility side of their game, but this is not the case with Andrighetto, who was on the ice for more goals for than against on a team that lost most of its games last season, with a goals-for-against differential of plus-seven.
This doesn’t mean there is no need for improvement in Andrighetto’s defensive game. Most of his zone-starts were offensive, leading to insulated minutes and a clear definition of his role as a player with less trust to get the job done in the defensive zone.
At five-foot-ten-inches,and weighing in at 187 pounds, he is on the smaller side of NHL players, but is built not to get pushed around. If he can use his frame and low center of gravity to develop better positioning and defensive awareness, he will serve himself well in getting more ice time, which at this point is the major thing holding him back from being more than just an insulated offensive threat.
Andrighetto’s new contract does help secure his place in the NHL a little bit. He is no longer waiver exempt, and will therefore have to clear waivers in order to be sent down the AHL. His skill set makes him an unlikely candidate to clear waivers, thus, he does not have to worry about being sent down as he has to in seasons past.
However, there is a glut of right-wingers in the organization at the moment, including Brendan Gallagher, Alexander Radulov, and Andrew Shaw, who are all higher on the depth chart than Andrighetto, and will make it more difficult for him to break into one of the team’s top two or even three lines.
He has proven to have offensive gifts, however, he has to be insulated from the more defensive aspects of the game in order to be effective. This holds him back somewhat, as his average ice time was around that given to third or fourth liners. When he had a chance to play on the top line near the end of last season, and logged around seventeen to eighteen minutes a game, he was somewhat inconsistent, holding his own in some games, but struggling in others.
Both management and the coaching staff will be looking for more consistency from him this season, and with a one year contract in his hands, this is certainly his chance to prove whether or not he can manage the defensive side of his game, and also produce offensively in order to merit a raise and longer term contract.
With several players in the Canadiens system, there is some internal competition to pressure Andrighetto’s development into a more complete player. This will certainly be his goal next season, and is an achievable target given how he has developed thus far. Needless to say, this upcoming season is definitely the most important season in his pro career.