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Montreal Canadiens Organizational Players of January

In a month highlighted by deflating injury news for Cole Caufield, other players stepped up to provide the entertainment.

Detroit Red Wings v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

NHL Player of the Month: Kirby Dach

Martin St-Louis had tried a few times to run a one-two punch down the middle with Nick Suzuki and Kirby Dach in the first half of the season, but with offence hard to come by, he kept feeling the need to place Dach on Suzuki’s wing. Following a terrible stretch that extended beyond the holiday road trip that erased any thoughts of the team making the playoffs, the coach decided to just stick to his plan to have those two players pilot their own lines.

The strategy was to pair Dach with Mike Hoffman, and that duo has stayed together while a cast of options including Josh Anderson, Evgenii Dadonov, and Jesse Ylönen rotated through the opposite wing. Dach’s playmaking talents and transition play were key features of those trios. He finished with six goals and four assists in 14 games played despite the inconsistency of linemates, doing more of the finishing work himself.

Now that Caufield is out for the season, there’s no reason to switch Dach back to the wing. He can continue to develop his game as a centre and figure out the position in an environment when results don’t matter. He ended the month with five consecutive game playing over 21 minutes, and three goals in that stretch are proof that he’s relishing the increased responsibility.

Honourable mention: Samuel Montembeault

Montembeault had to play the majority of the games in January as Jake Allen went down with an injury. He started every game from January 9 to 24, winning four of those eight starts. Apart from one poor outing versus the Florida Panthers that only lasted 40 minutes, he held the Canadiens in every game to give them a chance to win.

He finished with a save percentage of .915, and ranked fifth in the NHL for the month in goals saved above average, projected to have stopped about five goals more than an average netminder would have.

His workload will be reduced now that Allen is back, but now there’s a real debate about which one is the better goaltender, which is a good problem for a tandem to have.

Player to watch: Rafaël Harvey-Pinard

Had he been up with the team for more games, it’s entirely possible that Harvey-Pinard would have been our player of January. He played only seven games, but already sits tied for eighth in goals on the roster with five.

At first his contribution was mostly energy on a fourth line that St-Louis was using to build momentum, but Harvey-Pinard quickly found a scoring touch and ended up with four goals in the last three games he’s played.

That performance was enough to keep him up with the NHL club as it goes through a 10-day break. When action resumes on February 11, he should be back in the Canadiens’ lineup, perhaps even on the top line where he found himself at the end of the last game.

AHL Player of the Month: Joël Teasdale

The old saying goes, “some have greatness thrust upon them,” and for Joël Teasdale that couldn’t possibly be any more true than it was in the month of January. With many of the Laval Rocket’s top stars on recall to the NHL and several more still missing due to injury, it was the undrafted prospect who stepped up in a huge way. Over the course of the month, Teasdale tallied eight goals and five assists, including a hat trick against the Hershey Bears to secure an overtime victory.

He is now up to 22 points in 31 games this year, just six off his career best from last year, and it’s likely that he’ll pass that in short order. His success has come from being more patient with the puck in his expanded role; he’s choosing his shots well and putting himself into the high-danger areas to cash in.

While Anthony Richard remains the star on this team, Teasdale is providing a sorely needed secondary threat. If he can keep his pace up when the team begins to get healthy and bodies return from the NHL, there’s a real chance for the Rocket to make some noise in the second half of the season.

European Prospect of the Month: Oliver Kapanen

Coming off a strong world junior championship, Kapanen has continued his play in Liiga scoring one goal and four assists in nine games. Kapanen hides in the shadows putting together a similar season as Jesse Ylönen did in his D+2 season where he had .42 PPG and Kapanen currently has .46 PPG. It speaks to the development that is left for Kapanen who plays in a top six-team this season, whereas Ylönen played in a bottom-four team at that time of his career.

Kapanen still struggles in the face off circle when up against men which, in some ways, is more concerning as Kapanen isn’t projected as a top scorer and it is his overall intelligent and sacrificing play that earns him a spot on this list.

North American Prospect of the Month: Riley Kidney

We could have shouted out Owen Beck for his first NHL game, or Joshua Roy for his stellar gold medal run with Team Canada at the 2023 World Junior Hockey Championship. Lane Hutson was a hair off of being the laureate for January as well, with his 12 points in seven games since rejoining Boston University post-World Juniors. However, what Riley Kidney has done since his trade to the Gatineau Olympiques is nothing short of mind-boggling.

The Habs’ 63rd overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft has earned 23 points in only eight games with the Olympiques in January. This was despite being kept off the scoresheet in his first match for his new squad, suiting up for them mere hours after the announcement of the transaction.

One thing that has improved massively in Kidney’s game since last year has been his inside play. Now much more willing, and especially much more capable of gaining the middle with the puck, Kidney has now started using that threat to open up better passing lanes, skate the puck into dangerous ice himself, and back the defence pair up on his own.

His habit of throwing pucks toward the slot constantly to create offence is still present, but the newfound inside play has taken time away from that non-translatable habit and transferred it to a very translatable one.

Kidney’s projection has improved. The previous prognostic was a third-line winger at best. This newfound tool has turned his upside into his likely outcome, leaving room for improvement and the possibility of Kidney cracking a top six down the line. There are some kinks to iron out, especially in terms of decision-making and skating, but Kidney is looking more like a projectable player with every passing viewing.

Players of October
Players of November
Players of December

EOTP Players of the Month archive

Patrik Bexell, Matt Drake, Jared Book, and Anton Rasegård get together to discuss the players of the month for January.