• Elite Hockey Experience
 

Eastern Canadian Pillars

2020-02-05

It`s been a painful seasons for the Montreal faithful, with the Habs currently mired in 31st place in the EHE standings and on pace for only 46 points (an 18-54-10 record), which would be the worse season ever recorded in the EHE.  The bright spots have been few and far between for Canadiens’ fans, but the rebuild is starting to bear fruit.

While top prospects like Kirby Dach, Peyton Krebs, Philip Broberg, Patrik Puistola and Serron Noel are years away from making a serious impact on the EHE roster and young pros like Elvis Merzlikins, Isaac Ratcliffe, Michael Rasmussen and Jordan Kyrou still have some maturing to do, there are a few bright lights that will be featuring on the blueline in the near future.

Travis Dermott of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Christian Wolanin of the Ottawa Senators and Victor Mete of the NHL’s Canadiens, all acquired in separate trades over the last four months, could all become staples of the defense corps for years to come.

Dermott was the first to join the Habs, in a trade with the Sharks (for Christian Fischer) and may be the most advanced of the three.  Since Sheldon Keefe replaced Mike Babcock as Leafs coach, Dermott has averaged 17:30 minutes per game on the Leafs and could see his role grow in short order.  Several defenseman above him on depth chart may be moving on, as Jake Muzzin and Tyson Barrie are pending UFAs and, despite the fact that he is an RFA, Cody Ceci may not receive a qualifying offer from the Leafs.

Dermott has been a steady puck moving defenseman in the OHL (0.65ppg in three seasons) and the AHL (0.49ppg in one and half seasons), so his style of play should thrive with the offensive system in place in Toronto and he could end up as a steady top four defenseman who gets 2nd unit power play minutes.

5 hours up the 401, we visit in with our second defenseman, the most recent acquisition, Victor Mete (acquired in the Nick Foligno trade with the Blackhawks).  Despite the fact that Mete is the youngest of the three defenseman, he is the one with the most experience in the NHL, having already logged 164 games, and counting, before his 22nd birthday.  Mete was a surprise rookie in his 18 year old season, making the Habs out of camp and even spending some time with Shea Weber on the top pairing.

He is still developing, but has averaged 16:39 per game thus far in his career and has also demonstrated the puck-moving abilities desired of modern defensemen, with 0.6ppg across 3 junior seasons.  Consistent top 4 minutes are sure to be coming his way in the near future if he continues to progress as he has.

It is 2 hours west of Montreal on the 417 that we find the final member of our triumvirate in Christian Wolanin (acquired from San Jose in the Josh Anderson trade) and on the surface, he seems to be longest shot of three.  The soon-to-be 25 year old is the oldest of the three and was drafted the latest, 107th overall in 2015, but he could potentially make the biggest impact.

Playing on a woefully thin Ottawa Senators blueline will afford him plenty of opportunity to demonstrate his considerable puck moving abilities.  In his last two full seasons he put 35 points in 40 games in 2017-18 (leading North Dakota of the NCAA in scoring as a defenceman) and 43 points in 70 games in his first pro season in 2018-19, which he split between Belleville of the AHL and the Sens (31 points in 40 games in the AHL, 12 points in 30 games in the NHL).

It is unlikely that any of the three will become top-pairing, All-Star level number one defenders, but all three should make for solid, puck-moving top four defensemen, and that’s not a bad start to this rebuilt Canadiens blueline.