Montreal Canadiens fans and media have debated the futures of Alex Galchenyuk and Nikita Scherbak for years. The debates have lasted so long it’s sometimes easy to forget that Galchenyuk is only 23 years old while Scherbak is 22.
Their centre last night, Jonathan Drouin, is also 22. That’s an insanely young line for two players with as much NHL experience as Drouin and Galchenyuk and someone with as much upside as Scherbak.
Are they making instant impacts like Auston Matthews or Connor McDavid? Of course not. But these three players, plus forwards Artturi Lehkonen (22), Charles Hudon (23), Brendan Gallagher (25) and Phillip Danault (24) are all players you can continue to build around. On defence, Victor Mete (19) is coming into his own.
The Canadiens have depth and it is still young. People thinking this team needs a complete rebuild from the ground up are wrong. It needs changes, perhaps even a major change. But there is a base here.
Players like Max Pacioretty, Jeff Petry, and Paul Byron are also at an age where they can be expected to continue to contribute. Now, the Canadiens may need to trade one of their big pieces in order to get better somewhere else — you need to give something up to get something — but the outlook is better than it would appear by looking at the standings and large contracts alone.
The Canadiens played a great game last night. Getting close to 50 shots on one of the best teams in the league is good. Them being competitive is good. And they are without their best defenceman and two regular forwards.
There’s a lot of negative energy surrounding the Canadiens, and with good reason. They are having a bad year. But to ignore the positives, especially from the young players, would be criminal, and it is a definite reason for optimism for the rest of the year and going forward.