Projecting the Montreal Canadiens’ 2017-18 power play
Which newcomers can help the Habs on the man advantage, and which regulars should be given more opportunity?
For years the Montreal Canadiens were perhaps one of the least threatening teams on the man advantage, mired in mediocrity. They were 25th in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. Last year, they took a huge leap in terms of improving their play with the extra man, as they were 13th in the NHL in terms of power play percentage, at 19.6%.
Now, going into 2017-18, there has been plenty of change to the roster. How can those personnel decisions improve the power play from last season, and how will they fit into the man advantage units with the other offensive talents on the team?
The 22-year-old will be a huge addition to the Canadiens’ power play, as he brings an infusion of skill, creativity, and pure offensive instinct. The former third-overall pick had a breakout season last year, putting up 53 points, 26 of them coming on the power play. He was a key member of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2016-17, especially once Steven Stamkos was ruled out for the season following yet another knee injury.
Drouin has showcased the skill and ability to take over a game when it matters, and his quick decision-making could be vital in developing a dangerous power play for Montreal. On the Lightning power play, he often played the point, and could be seen leading the breakout. This led to him being able to effectively control and orchestrate the man advantage.
He’s just as effective, if not moreso, when it comes to setting up his teammates. The following video begins with an almost identical breakout to the first, but he instead sets up Nikita Kucherov for a goal.
Needless to say, he has the vision and ability to make a real impact in Montreal’s offensive schemes this year, and he gives Claude Julien a very versatile weapon.
Perhaps one of the biggest question marks for the Habs this year, the Czech defenceman comes from the KHL after a season where he was named to the First All-Star Team. His 34 points in 59 games played ranked him fifth among KHL defenders.
An offensive defenseman, he possesses good vision, a strong puck-moving ability, and knows when to jump into the play, all of which should translate very well to the power play. He played a key role for Vityaz in 2016-17, and was courted by various NHL clubs before ultimately choosing Montreal.
This game against Dynamo Minsk displays Jerabek at his best. With two goals and three assists, he displays his offensive prowess to its fullest.
If Andrei Markov doesn’t re-sign in Montreal, Jerabek could be placed on the top power-play pairing with Shea Weber, as he has the passing ability to quarterback the play. He seems to have an underrated shot as well, which could fool goaltenders and defenders alike.
The young Finnish forward had a very good rookie campaign, potting 18 goals and surpassing even optimistic expectations. A reliable two-way forward, he could be the beneficiary of some additional time on the power play for the Canadiens if given the opportunity.
Lehkonen has a truly underrated shot with an impressive release that will only improve with time, and this seems to be one of the main reasons why he was successful offensively this past season.
He would most likely be placed on the second unit, and he could be used as a triggerman on his off wing on the right side. His release and accuracy are tremendous, and his offensive potential could be tapped with consistent power-play time this coming season.
The much-maligned forward recently signed a new three-year deal with Montreal, and looks to be one of the centrepieces of Claude Julien’s offence this year. He was demoted to the fourth line near the end of the coach’s first season, but this may have been tough love as he sees the true potential his young forward possesses.
Alex Galchenyuk has already become a staple on the Canadiens’’ power play, scoring 15 points on the man advantage this past year, and is an effective weapon once the Habs take the offensive zone.
The question is where he fits on the unit. He has demonstrated in the past a wicked one-timer on his off wing, so perhaps playing him as a right-winger on the power play could bring him success, as seen previously:
However, many still view him as the Habs incumbent number-one centre, even if Bergevin and company have stated they do not. Galchenyuk has the skill to lift this team’s offence to new heights, he simply needs to be placed in the right situations to do so.
A top-unit deployment centring Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Drouin would be extremely dangerous, and would cause opposing teams to adjust to having three prominent threats on the ice at once.
The Canadiens finally seem to be willing (or perhaps forced, with his upcoming waiver eligibility) to give the young prospect a shot on the roster this season, and his offensive capabilities may be useful on the special teams units. After posting back-to-back 50-point AHL seasons before recording 49 last year, many believe he is ready for the NHL.
His versatility as both playmaker and finisher would be conducive to a strong showing on the power play, as he could play either the wing or a centre position. Offensive awareness is one of his biggest strengths, and he might be a player who surprises with his output this coming season.
He will need to earn his coach’s trust if he makes the roster, but he could become a key component on the Canadiens’ power play sooner rather than later.
In conclusion, the Canadiens’ power play has the potential to improve significantly from last season, both from players that are new to the team and others who perhaps need a bit more time on the man advantage to use their offensive skills to the max.
Perhaps the biggest help, however, will be a full training camp under Claude Julien, in which the team can perfect the systems he wishes to put in place.