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EOTP staff predictions for the 2019-20 season

We offer our opinions on who the best players will be, and look at the end-of-season awards.

NHL: SEP 19 Preseason - Panthers at Canadiens Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Before the Montreal Canadiens’ season begins tonight, we shared a few thoughts on how we see the year will play out. We predict some performances for the Habs, as well as take a stab at predicting which teams and players will finish at the top at the end of it all.

Starting us off will be Eyes On The Prize’s newest addition to the staff.

Canadiens predictions

Anton Rasegård

Bounce-back player: The time has finally come for Artturi Lehkonen to show the league his true worth. I am a believer in Lehky! Let’s say 18 goals and 45 points.

Breakthrough player: Considering this pre-season it would be easy to make this a slam-dunk win for Nick Suzuki. But considering the Habs’ lack of defensive depth, I am going to go ahead and say Cale Fleury. After cracking the lineup opening night, he will continue to have a similar rise as Victor Mete had a couple of seasons ago, proving himself to be a legitimately good NHL defenceman.

Best player: Best highlight reel after the season? Carey Price. Most consistently good throughout the season? Jeff Petry.

End-of-year position: Sadly, just outside looking in exactly like last year. Most importantly this year is that a few of the young guns find their stride and that the team continues to build and improve on what was good 2018-19 season.

David St-Louis

Bounce-back player: Noah Juulsen. I truly hope this happens for Juulsen. The defenceman has the tools and the defensive aptitudes to play top-4 minutes down the road. But the projection gets murkier ever year due to multiple freak injuries. A healthy season or even half-season, be it in Montreal or Laval, would be a relief for the player, helping him get back on track.

Breakthrough player: Jordan Weal. This guy has hidden abilities and only needs a chance to show it. Every line the coaching staff places him on suddenly becomes effective. He is what the Habs hoped to get in Matthew Peca. He plays with speed, can evade pressure along the walls like few other Habs and, on top of it, his deceptive act should make him an integral part of the powerplay.

He has 50 point potential if he finds himself in the top-6. It could happen due to injuries, but I think there is a chance he is moved up there strictly based on his combination of solid and skillful play.

Best player: Max Domi. The experience of a year at center should him help retain his career-high production.

End-of-year position: I think this is another development year for Montreal. They realistically reach the playoffs in 2020-21. A participation this year is only a bonus in my mind.

Marc-Antoine Lévis

Bounce-back player: There would normally be quite the list of players who could fit here. Jonathan Drouin, Noah Juulsen, Charles Hudon, Artturi Lehkonen, Joel Armia and the list goes on. In my case, I would say Jonathan Drouin is probably the most likely candidate to bounce back. He had a tough end of the season last year and his pre-season hasn’t been so great. He will most likely try and prove his doubters wrong by having a strong year, or at least consistency.

Breakthrough player: I believe Nick Suzuki and Cale Fleury will both be players with breakthrough. They will force their way into the lineup and show that Montreal prospect pool had a good reason to be hyped.

Best player: I think Domi will still be the points leader on this team. He thrives in such an environment and he’s working for his next contract. This will be a good year for him.

End-of-year position: 5th in the Atlantic and most likely miss the playoffs again. I don’t think Montreal will be able to squeeze in without the top 4 in the Atlantic. I feel like the Panthers will surpass us due to their coaching and goaltending. NHL wide: 18th overall in the standings.

Justin Blades

Bounce-back player: Victor Mete will score not just one, but multiple goals this season to snap his NHL-longest goal drought. Offence in the part of his game that makes people question his high spot on the team, and a bit of finish will help ease some of those concerns.

Breakthrough player: Nick Suzuki’s awareness and offensive skills are going to benefit plenty of players, and Mete will be one of them. I don’t think it will be long before Suzuki is getting time on the top power play, but he won’t need the odd-man situation to be effective. As long as his teammates get into position, Suzuki will hit their sticks with pucks, or finish off their passes equally well. I don’t think 40-45 points are out of the question for such a talented forward in his rookie year.

Best player: Brendan Gallagher will be the engine that drives the team once again. Having him hit the 30-goal mark will be critical if the Canadiens are going to overcome their lack of elite talent and make the post-season.

End-of-year position: The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning have to be seen as locks for the top two seeds in the Atlantic Division. I think the battle among Montreal, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Florida Panthers will be much tighter than some are predicting. If the Canadiens can perform well in those two season series, they will be at least a wild-card team.

Julian McKenzie

Bounce-back player: Jonathan Drouin should be the easy slam dunk pick for this category. But I’m not convinced that he will, despite the work he put in over the summer. The player I’m looking at to bounce back is Arturri Lehkonen, who literally couldn’t buy a goal for 29 games straight. He’s not doing that again this season. A 20-goal season from him would have Habs fans ecstatic and I think he’ll be closer to that number this year.

Breakthrough player: Nick Suzuki has shown throughout the preseason that he’s a National Hockey League player. He may still need some adjusting, but I think he’ll stand out as their breakthrough player.

Best player: Max Domi, who will lead the team in points for the second straight season.

End-of-year position: 5th in the Atlantic (miss the playoffs). I think the Canadiens will look good with youth they’ll have in the lineup, as well as the proven talent in front of them. The problem is, too many teams in front of them are still better than the Habs.

Jared Book

Bounce-back player: Artturi Lehkonen. He’s been hit with bad luck and bad finishing for the last two seasons after his solid rookie year, but that ends this year. Not only will he bounce back, but...

Breakthrough player: Lehkonen will break through. Starting the year with Max Domi and Nick Suzuki will allow him to flex his offensive muscles. He will lead the Canadiens in goals and will exceed the 30-goal mark this season.

Best player: Carey Price. A more managed workload will allow him to flex his muscles and re-enter the Vezina conversation, leading the team to the playoffs.

End-of-year position: They’ll make the playoffs as the top Wild Card team. Another semi-bold prediction: They’ll be closer to 3rd in the Atlantic than 3rd in the Wild Card.

Patrik Bexell

Bounce-back player: Ärtan, L’Arttiste, the Finnish Dynamo - Artturi Lehkonen. He can’t shoot negative percentages his whole NHL career. However, on a line with Domi and Suzuki he might just have to shoulder the defensive workload once more. Still, if they can give him the puck and he can find confidence in his shot again he can go on a spree, and bounce back to how he performed in the SHL playoffs with Frölunda.

Breakthrough player: The Engine, the Smiling Samurai - Mr. Suzuki. He has the tools to come out blazing and keep the pace up, especially if he finds chemistry with his linemates and stays healthy.

Best player: Jeff Petry.

End-of-year position: I have said Montreal will reach the playoffs in both of the podcasts I have been invited to, and I will stand by that. I still think it will come down to how the Metropolitan pans out as Montreal will have to fight for a wild-card spot. Once in the playoffs you’ll never know what will happen and with a healthy Carey Price and newfound confidence in a speedy team that wants to play, we could see energy much like the North American U23 team showed in the last World Cup.

Andrew Zadarnowski

Bounce-back player: Shea Weber. It may seem weird to nominate the team’s #1 defenceman and captain in this category, but the reality is that Weber has faced two consecutive injury-plagued seasons, which has resulted in split public opinion on Weber, stemming all the way back to The Trade. This season Weber will finally prove beyond a shadow of a doubt why he elicits leaguewide respect from those in the know, as he will re-establish his dominance, while also racking up the goals with his blistering slapshot from the point.

Breakthrough player: Ryan Poehling. He’s not on the opening-night roster, but I have little doubt as to the impact he will have when he does finally make it to the NHL. He’s probably already sitting as the first call-up option amongst forwards, and sure, he won’t score four goals per game on average, but his physical presence and smart puck handling will be a difference maker. On a team full of young promising players, Poehling will emerge as the most promising.

Best player: Carey Price. As if there was any doubt that the team revolves around Price. There appears to be a renewed focus and determination on his part, to match the slightly raised expectations of the team as a whole. Veterans and rookies alike look to make their mark, but the team will beat to the drum of Carey Price, and rest assured he will steal more than a few games for the Habs.

End-of-year position: Fourth in division. Wildcard winner.

NHL predictions


MVP: Hard not to say Connor McDavid, right?

Calder: Cale Makar showed off his skills during the end of last season. With Barrie gone, he will have an even bigger role on the Avalanche blue line.

Eastern Conference winners: Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference winners: Colorado Avalanche

Stanley Cup champs: Colorado Avalanche. The biggest question mark against this scenario is naturally between the pipes, which leads us to...

Conn Smythe winner: Philipp Grubauer. If Colorado manages to squeeze through and win a Cup, they need their goaltenders to rise to the task. We know about their firepower up front and we know about their talent on the blue line. If Grubauer can muster up a Binnington-esque hot streak in the playoffs, he could push the Avalanche to a Cup and himself towards a serious MVP consideration.


MVP: Connor McDavid. It’s not the most exciting answer, but it’s a safe bet every year.

Calder: Cale Makar. I like his name. He’s also a pretty dynamic defenceman who will get plenty of power-play time with a star-studded first wave.

Eastern Conference winners: Pittsburgh Penguins.

Western Conference winners: Colorado Avalanche.

Stanley Cup champs: Pittsburgh Penguins.

Conn Smythe winner: Sidney Crosby.


MVP: Connor McDavid. He’ll carry his mediocre team as far as he can go. He’s most likely heading for another 100 pts season.

Calder: That’s a tough one. As much as I would like to say Suzuki would challenge for the Calder, I doubt it. Realistically, it will be Either Jack Hughes, Cale Makar or Kaapo Kakko. I don’t remember a year where so many young players could win it. I’ll go against everyone and say the New York Rangers product will it. (That’s Kakko)

Eastern Conference winners: Tampa Bay Lightning. They’re still too strong.

Western Conference winners: Vegas Golden Knights. The west is fairly open for them to do well again.

Stanley Cup champs: Vegas Golden Knights. I like ‘underdogs’. Or I simply don’t want the stacked Lightning team to win it all. Your pick.

Conn Smythe winner: I’d like to say Pacioretty would be the Conn Smythe winner but that’s a bit too much. Mark Stone. He’s pretty damn good.


MVP: Alexander Ovechkin

Calder: Jack Hughes

Eastern Conference winners: Boston Bruins (over Capitals)

Western Conference winners: St. Louis Blues (over Golden Knights)

Stanley Cup champs: Blues go back-to-back

Conn Smythe winner: Vladimir Tarasenko


MVP: Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche

Calder: Jack Hughes. By the way, that New Jersey Devils team looks nice.

Eastern Conference winners: Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference winners: Colorado Avalanche

Stanley Cup champs: Colorado Avalanche

Conn Smythe winner: Mikko Rantanen


MVP: Nathan MacKinnon

Calder: Cale Makar

Eastern Conference winners: Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference winners: Vegas Golden Knights

Stanley Cup champs: Tampa Bay

Conn Smythe winner: Brayden Point


MVP: It goes to Taylor Hall who has an incredible cast surrounding him in New Jersey.

Calder: This was the only pick I think I got right last year with Elias Pettersson. This year I belong to “the Church of Kakko”

Eastern Conference winners: Tampa Bay Lightning

Western Conference winners: San Jose Sharks

Stanly Cup champs: A Swedish defender will hoist the cup and i think it will be Mr. Erik Karlsson. It is my belief that the Eastern Conference is a bit tougher and an ‘easier road’ to the Final will help the Sharks in the end.

Conn Smythe winner: I’d say Erik Karlsson because I really, really like him.


MVP: Nathan McKinnon

Calder: Kappo Kakko

Eastern Conference winners: Carolina Hurricanes

Western Conference winners: Colorado Avalanche

Stanley Cup champs: Colorado Avalanche

Conn Smythe winner: Nathan McKinnon