Cole Caufield, Juraj Slafkovsky, Montreal Canadiens, Nick Suzuki, Rafael Harvey-Pinard

ESPN’s 2023-24 Canadiens Projections: The Good & the Bad

With hockey season quickly approaching, those participating in fantasy hockey got an early look into the ESPN 2023-24 point projection. In total, 318 players received projected point totals for this season, including 12 members of the Montreal Canadiens. A total of 11 players in the NHL may reach the 100-point plateau, with Toronto Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews sitting on the outside looking in with 99 points.

Some of the Canadiens listed are a part of the predicted top-100 point producers this season, with a surprising amount of offensive improvements across the board. Health will play a role in those players achieving these totals, as the Canadiens were pummelled with injuries last season, finishing the year with 751 man-games lost. Of course, some may regress on Montreal’s roster, including some leaving fans scratching their head.

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Strangely enough, the prediction models include four Canadiens forwards finishing the year with at least 20 goals or more. The last time this happened was in the 2014-15 season, when head coach Michel Therrien had an arsenal of firepower, including Max Pacioretty, Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, and Tomas Plekanec. Montreal also made the playoffs that year, losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round.

The Good: Caufield & Suzuki Lead Offensive Charge

Starting with the least surprising predictions, and likely the easiest to achieve, are Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki leading the team in the 1-2 slots. Caufield projects to produce 42 goals in 76 games, becoming the first player on the team to do so since Vincent Damphousse hit 40 in the 1993-94 season. He was reduced to 46 games last season, but even so, his 26 goals give fans a good impression of what he can do over a complete season. If he can stay relatively healthy, the Canadiens could have one of their own competing for the Rocket Richard Trophy.

Cole Caufield Montreal Canadiens
Cole Caufield, Montreal Canadiens (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

With every scoring winger comes a centre that knows where to find him, and that’s where Suzuki comes in. The total point projection for the Canadiens’ captain sits at 66 points, the same as last season, but could surpass this total with Caufield on his wing for an entire season. Montreal’s power play was abysmal last season, finishing in 29th with a 16.1 percent rate, but could see a drastic swing in the right direction with more stability on both waves.

The Bad: The Overestimation of Slafkovsky & Harvey-Pinard

Surprises aren’t always positive and sometimes make little sense, which is the case with the numbers given to Juraj Slafkovsky and Rafael Harvey-Pinard. The two young forwards join Caufield and Suzuki in the 20-goal club, scoring 22 and 21, respectively, while Slafkovsky projects to reach 55 points — an improvement from his 10 points in 39 games during his rookie season. While this may go a long way to improve the Canadiens’ chances of being competitive, there’s a low probability of either attaining these totals.

Harvey-Pinard reached 14 goals last season, sparking a rise in momentum and a bigger role on the team. While the Canadiens were riddled with injuries all season, few took advantage of their opportunities more than Harvey-Pinard. On top of an impressive second half, he also put up those totals in 34 games, but the chance to play with Suzuki as he did may not arrive this time. With the Canadiens acquiring Alex Newhook and the team remaining healthy, Harvey-Pinard’s time will likely be in a bottom-six position.

Rafael Harvey-Pinard Montreal Canadiens
Rafael Harvey-Pinard, Montreal Canadiens (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Although Slafkovsky’s game highlighted some positives, his lack of time due to health issues and some issues with his physical game raised some concerns. The Canadiens’ 2022 first-overall pick will be a great player with some patience and development, but the belief of going from six goals in 39 games to 22 in twice as many appearances seems far-fetched. Perhaps Slafkovsky’s offseason training will pay off, and he’ll see more time in the top six, but for now, it’s too early to predict such a meteoric rise in production.

Canadiens’ Projections Lead To Intriguing 2023-24 Season

With most experts predicting the Canadiens to finish somewhere between 25th and dead last, it’s a wonder how they’ll finish so low if they can get this type of production out of several players. Some regressed compared to last year’s totals, including Brendan Gallagher and Josh Anderson, and injuries playing a part in the team’s success again could be a factor. Having a 40-goal scorer and three with 20 or more puts them in good contention to be competitive, at the very least.

These are simply a matter of opinion, of course, and the data is collected purely on speculation and determining success with a team’s offseason moves and how they look heading into this season. It can be left up for debate on both ends whether these predictions are as close to accurate or a wild swing for the fences, but one thing remains certain — take them with a grain of salt. They’re fun for determining who to select in a fantasy hockey draft but should never become a tool for placing your hopes or money on.


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