It certainly wasn’t the dream 100th season for the Montreal Canadiens. In a season that was supposed to be about reflections upon past glory and a celebration of the present, five representatives of the Habs’ future were able to provide brief glimmers of hope to varying degrees this season.
Matt D’Agostini, RW (6th round, 190th overall, 2005)
The 6’0, 200-pound winger joined the club for just one game in the 2007-08 season, but that just whet appetites for the rugged, two-way play and opportunistic goal scoring that D’Agostini would eventually provide. D’Agostini spent times alternating between the ice and the press box during the latter part of this season, but the Sault Ste. Marie native was able to get in 52 games at the NHL level this season.
D’Agostini showed glimpses of his potential, scoring 12 goals and adding nine assists in the NHL this year. However, his -17 rating shows that this two-way forward needs to work on his defensive play. His grit, work ethic, and willingness to do the dirty work — which, in turns, leads to the majority of his goals — earned him a favored-son status in Montreal and led some to question why some more-talented teammates were in the lineup ahead of him, due to perceptions of lack of work.
D’Agostini dominated the AHL in his brief experience this season, scoring 14 goals and adding 11 assists in just 20 AHL games. He’s also found himself in action in one playoff game to date and looks to have locked up a roster spot on the club next season.
Ben Maxwell, C (2nd round, 49th overall, 2006)
Maxwell has seen limited action in the NHL this season, but his very presence in the lineup is a surprise considering he’s just one year removed from the junior ranks. That said, his performance in his 73 AHL games certainly warranted his call-up.
At the AHL level, Maxwell, the first of the club’s two second-round selections in the 2006 NHL entry draft, showed a nose for the net and a willingness to mix it up. In his 73 games, Maxwell contributed 22 goals and added 36 assists. He also served 58 penalty minutes.
While his seven-game stint at the NHL level was less than productive, he didn’t look out of place on the roster. Maxwell was held off the scoresheet and finished the season -1, with two penalty minutes.
Max Pacioretty, LW (1st round, 22nd overall, 2007)
Another professional rookie, the highly-regarded Pacioretty made the jump to the NHL quickly, splitting his time almost evenly between the NHL and AHL. Pacioretty’s jump to the professional ranks may be even more impressive than Maxwell’s considering this time last year he was still a member of the University of Michigan Wolverines.
Pacioretty isn’t burning out any bulbs in the professional rinks, but he has shown flashes of the power forward promise that the club has so obviously cherished. As a freshman last year with the Wolverines, Pacioretty scored 15 goals and added 24 assists in 37 games. That promise, a 6’1, 200-pound frame, and hands that can be alternately hard and soft led the club to sign him to a professional contract over the summer.
Pacioretty rewarded the club with six goals and 23 assists in 37 AHL games, and three goals and eight assists in 34 NHL games. He didn’t look out of place in the defensive end either, finishing the year at -3 and adding 27 penalty minutes.
On a club whose heart has often been called into question, Pacioretty’s impressive blend of size, grit, and goal-scoring potential should earn him a long look for a roster spot next year.
Greg Stewart, LW (8th round, 246st overall, 2004)
The Canadiens signed Georges Laraque this off-season to fill the enforcer void on a club that’s traditionally been perceived as small. Instead, Stewart ran with the opportunities given to him in light of Laraque’s injuries to lay claim to the club’s enforcer role.
The 6’2, 220-pound Kitchener native saw action in 20 games this season, finishing with just one assist and a -4 rating. He also added 32 minutes in penalties. Those numbers were in addition to his season totals of seven goals, 17 points, and 170 PIMs in 51 games with the Bulldogs. Stewart’s physical presence was a welcome addition to the NHL roster and filled the rather large void left by Laraque’s combination of injury and ineffectiveness.
Yannick Weber, D (3rd round, 73rd overall, 2007)
The Canadiens traded for Habs’ retread Matthieu Schneider to quarterback the power play, and when Schneider got injured, Weber got the call.
Weber has been touted as the power-play quarterback of the future, and was passable in his three-game NHL stint. He never looked out of place, picking up one assist. In the AHL, however, Weber absolutely shone. He has been named to the AHL’s all-rookie team, following a season when he scored 16 goals and added 28 assists in 68 games. Weber’s also played one game in the NHL playoffs this season, but looks to be a significant part of the club’s future as early as next year.