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Tomas Tatar made a name for himself in his first season in Montreal

From throw-in to fan favourite, Tatar rejuvenated his career.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

When Tomas Tatar joined the Montreal Canadiens, it was hard to imagine where he would fit in. A year later, it’s hard to imagine the team without him.

When the trade of captain Max Pacioretty was announced, the main parts of the deal were Nick Suzuki and the second-round pick the Canadiens acquired. Tatar, who had four goals and two assists in 20 regular-season games for the Vegas Golden Knights and played in only eight of the team’s 20 playoff games, was an afterthought. Vegas had to retain just under 10% of his contract, which ran for three more seasons.

Tatar was given an opportunity with the Canadiens, playing with Brendan Gallagher and Phillip Danault for most of the season. That line ended up being one of the best lines in the entire league.

It wasn’t just his contributions on that line that made him a fan favourite. The goal below came in a game against Vegas, and given everything we’ve mentioned you can imagine how much he wanted to score. That goal, and others throughout the year, made the 28-year-old famous for his intensity and celebrations.

Tatar is a skilled forward, and he was able to show off his hands with his new friends on the Canadiens’ top line. He ended up scoring 25 goals, just off a career best, and added 33 assists for a career-high 58 points.

His contributions also came because of his tenacity and hard work which made him a weapon anywhere on the ice.

He exceeded all expectations anyone had for him at the time of the trade. He came in with no pressure and excelled, filling Pacioretty’s spot on the top line seamlessly — all before Suzuki played a game in the NHL.

Tatar was remarkably consistent throughout the season. There was only one full month where he didn’t score at least nine points, and he had seven in that one. It should be noted that the month of January was also when Claude Julien was trying different things and placed Tatar on other lines.

When we look at Tatar’s season and his path from afterthought to first-liner, it tells us a lot about how we look at players. Team chemistry, style of play, and linemates are very important to how a player is perceived and how much you can expect from them. It is clear that Tatar just wasn’t a fit in Vegas’s style and roster construction, for whatever reason. Coming to Montreal, potentially more motivated, he became the player he was in his prime in Detroit.

Tatar’s strengths make him someone who can be a chameleon in the lineup. As a hard-working, skilled winger on a team full of defensive centres, he doesn’t need to play an all-around game. Should he be able to replicate the play he showed last year, the Canadiens are going to be set up well to make a run to the playoffs.