The Situation at Center

By Bob Trask – The center ice position has been a bone of contention for the Montreal Canadiens for as long as most of us can remember. There have been some solid individual players like Saku Koivu and Tomas Plekanec but not much depth and never a superstar.

Marc Bergevin tried to address the situation through trades (Jonathan Drouin) and the draft (Jesperi Kotkaniemi) but came up short. After the season mercifully ended for the Canadiens, Kent Hughes took his first swing at improving the center ice position with the acquisition of Kirby Dach.

So how do the Canadiens look now?

Incremental Improvements

Nick Suzuki

The Canadiens don’t have a 1-2 tandem like Auston Matthews and John Tavares in Toronto but there should be some incremental improvements internally.

Nick Suzuki is still only 23 years old and should continue to improve over the next 3-4 years. Jake Evans is 26 years old and has played less than 2 full season in the NHL. He has the potential to improve as well. Christian Dvorak is also 26 years old and showed marked improvement once Martin St-Louis took over as coach.

With a lot of players not reaching their full potential until they are about 28 years old, incremental improvements from this trio shouldn’t be unexpected. And with St-Louis behind the bench the improvement from the group could be more than expected.

Dach vs Poehling

With three centers returning (at this point anyway), it is fair to compare Kirby Dach to Ryan Poehling for the remaining center position. That doesn’t mean Dach will start on the 4th line as Poehling often did but the players share similar attributes.

Both players are on the bigger side – with Dach have a 2″ height advantage – but neither are particularly physical players. Poehling and Dach have both suffered wrist injuries that may have affected their offensive performance – and Poehling has also been sidelined more than once with “upper body” injuries.

Kirby Dach

In watching highlights of both players, Dach seems to be the more skilled puck handler and statistics support this argument to some degree. However, Dach may have had the opportunity to play with skilled linemates more often than Poehling so the comparison may not be entirely fair.

Poehling also had a better shooting percentage than Dach. Some of that may be attributed to Dach’s wrist injury but Poehling might just be a better shooter. It’s hard to know at this point.

A quick comparison of the two players can be seen here:


I am not sure how to read the stats but it seems like Dach may have contributed more defensively base on his DPS (defensive point share) numbers.

The Wild Card

The wild card in all of this is the Pierre-Luc Dubois situation. There has been a lot of chatter about a potential trade to Montreal but until it happens, if it happens, the Canadiens have to proceed with what they have – Suzuki, Dvorak, Dach and Evans.

The Potential

Of all the current Canadiens’ centers, Kirby Dach has the potential to show the greatest improvement. A 45 point season from Dach along with incremental improvements from Suzuki, Dvorak and Evans would give Montreal the best depth at center it has had in years.

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5 thoughts on “The Situation at Center

  1. I think we have had two challenges – finding the right Cs and developing/deploying them properly. Habs Cs have potential now and this coaching team should get improvement from them. Of course trading for a true #1C would be very helpful.

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