The Montreal Canadiens enter the 2023-24 season with the third-youngest roster in the entire league according to eliteprospects.com. This is behind only the Buffalo Sabres and the Columbus Blue Jackets. With so many young players on the roster, in turn, there is also lots of untapped potential. But of these players, which are most likely to reach that potential this season and have breakout years? Let’s take a look at which Montreal Canadiens players are poised for breakout years in 2023-24.
Montreal Canadiens Breakout Players for This Season
To jump start things, a man who opened the season versus the Toronto Maple Leafs with a two-goal performance, despite losing 6-5 in a shootout. The newest member of the Canadiens young forward group is 22-year-old Alex Newhook. The former Colorado Avalanche registered 30 points in 82 games last season. Newhook spent a large chunk of last season centring the Av’s third line with less-than-ideal wingers due to the team’s injury struggles. However, after the trade, Newhook gets a chance in the Canadiens top six to begin the season. He will be flanking Kirby Dach, with Juraj Slafkovsky on the other wing, rounding out the team’s new second line. Newhook should also get time on the team’s second powerplay unit.
His speed and skill have been on full display this preseason and this speed could see him replacing Paul Byron in a penalty kill role as well. Newhook will see much more ice than he ever did with Colorado, as well as better linemates to complement him. All these factors have the 22-year-old native of St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador poised for a breakout year.
Kirby Dach is one of the Montreal Canadiens players with the most breakout potential on the entire squad. Dach showed last season that he’s ready to centre his own line, and he’ll get that opportunity to start the year. As mentioned, Dach will be centring Alex Newhook and 2022 first-overall-pick Juraj Slafkovsky. A line that features a lot of youth as well as a lot of untapped potential. Dach has looked like a man on a mission thus far in the preseason and it appears as though he’s ready to take the next step in his development. Dach has arguably the highest ceiling on the Habs roster and he could breakout into a star this season. If healthy, expect Dach to smash his total of career-high of 38 points in just 58 games that he set last season.
The only defenceman on this list, Kaiden Guhle is also poised for a breakout campaign. The 21-year-old will be starting the year on the team’s second pair alongside Johnathan Kovacevic. Unlike the majority of last year, Guhle will have Mike Matheson insulating him on the top pair. This relieves much of the pressure that the youngster was faced with last year due to injuries to the blue line. This insulation will allow Guhle to further develop his game. Although Guhle at such a young age showed so much maturity and poise regardless.
Guhle had 18 points in only 44 games last year with little to no powerplay time. Arber Xhekaj is currently expected to quarterback the second unit, but it’s possible that we could see Guhle take on that role at some point. Regardless, Guhle’s previous point totals should be easily surpassed this year. The young defenceman has shown flashes of brilliance this preseason and in the first game of the regular season too. Furthermore, he has been constantly activating on the rush and in the offensive zone, making smart transition plays, and showing poise and awareness in the defensive zone. Guhle’s matured well beyond his years and has the most breakout potential of any defenceman on the team’s roster for this season.
All the Montreal Canadiens Roster Players Poised for Development
The Montreal Canadiens have so many players on the roster that could breakout this season. It definitely makes it difficult to limit this list to only three names. However, these are the three who are most likely to breakout this season. Some honourable mentions include Juraj Slafkovsky, Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Justin Barron, Jordan Harris, and Arber Xhekaj. In contrast, outside of maybe Harvey-Pinard, it’s unlikely we see those potentials reached this season. Alex Newhook, Kirby Dach, and Kaiden Guhle are far more likely to tap into their potential and breakout in 2023-24.
Main photo: David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports