Logjam at Left Wing

By Bob Trask – As it currently stands, the Montreal Canadiens have a glut of players whose best position is left wing. It starts with Cole Caufield but the depth chart also includes Juraj Slafkovsky, Jonathan Drouin, Mike Hoffman, Rem Pitlick, Michael Pezzetta and now Rafaël Harvey-Pinard. In the system are Joël Teasdale who has had a hot hand in Laval, Anthony Richard also continues to put up points in the AHL and Sean Farrell is on fire in the NCAA. Emil Heineman is playing this season Europe but could come back across the pond to challenge for a position in Montreal. That is a lot bodies; did I miss someone?

Drouin is a UFA at season’s end and it remains to be seen if he is in the club’s long term plans. Harvey-Pinard, Pezzetta and Teasdale are RFAs who will be looking for new contracts and all three have shown they deserve some consideration but, at best, only one of the three is likely to stick with the Canadiens next year.

Both Heineman and Farrell may have the ability to play on the right side and even it that is the case, there are still a large number of players vying for limited opportunities. Caufield, of course, is a lock at and Slafkovsky will likely line up on the 2nd or 3rd line this season. That leaves two openings, and maybe three, if one of these players earned a spot on the roster as an extra forward.

Kent Hughes

If Kent Hughes can’t get a reasonable return for Mike Hoffman at the trade deadline, he could start next season with the goal of trading him at next season’s deadline. That would create a depth chart of Caufield, Hoffman and Slafkovsky as the left wingers on the top three lines. Who would be number four? It’s hard to imagine Drouin in that role. Harvey-Pinard has shown that he deserves a chance but Heineman and Farrell could push for spots in training camp. Pezzetta and Pitlick look set to become extras while Richard or Teasdale would have to blow the doors of the competition to make the team.

If Hughes is able to trade Hoffman but not Drouin, he might consider re-signing Drouin to play on one of the top three lines. That creates a similar situation for the remaining opening on LW to what it would be if Hoffman remained with the team. Of course, both Hoffman and Drouin could be long gone before next season but even if they are, there are still more bodies than positions available.

With the trade deadline approaching there a good chance that the roster picture for the Canadiens could become even more cloudy before it clears up. Joel Edmundson, Sean Monahan, Josh Anderson, Christian Dvorak, Hoffman, Drouin and Dadonov have all been mentioned is various trade scenarios. Some reports have even mumbled the names of Jake Allen and Jake Evans as possible trade candidates. No one knows what the final result of these trades could be, not even Kent Hughes. He may have some targets in mind but until deals are done he can’t be sure what he will get in return.

The good news is that Hughes along with Executive V-P of Hockey Operations Jeff Gorton and head coach Martin St-Louis have had a good chance to evaluate their talent and consult with the scouting staff. It will give them a big head start over last year when they were dropped into their respective positions at mid-season and were working with much less information.

Stay tuned. The logjam at left wing will be resolved but it will take some time.

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