If you haven’t already noticed, there’s a particular characteristic that has stood out in some of the new faces Marc Bergevin has been bringing to the Montreal Canadiens these past few weeks.
Size, strength and toughness are high on Bergevin’s shopping list during this offseason. It hadn’t been more apparent until Tuesday, when he sent away Max Domi to the Columbus Blue Jackets and then followed suit with his first two picks at the NHL Draft.
The Canadiens have been characterized as a team that was too small for quite some time and it can be argued they don’t have a sufficient amount of grit. The team tried to outhit the Philadelphia Flyers in their first-round series in the playoffs this past summer, but the Flyers were always quick to win position battles in front of Carey Price and more often than not it led to goals.
The team has taken steps to address their need for more size this offseason, starting with the acquisition of a big body in defenceman Joel Edmundson, a former St. Louis Blue and Carolina Hurricane who can hit and impose himself on opposing players.
Now through the Josh Anderson acquisition, the team has addressed a need for size and scoring at forward.
“We needed to add some size and grit on the wing,” Bergevin said.
Domi, along with a 2020 third-round pick, was sent to the Blue Jackets for the 6-foot-3, 222-pound winger. The new Hab was reportedly coveted by a number of teams despite not playing much this past year while recovering from a torn labrum in his left shoulder. But, when healthy, he’s seen as a player who can skate and put the puck in the net. He did so 27 times during the 2018-19 season.
“I’m going to continue to play the physical way I play and bring that to Montreal,” Anderson said.
To get him, the Habs had to part ways with a centre who wasn’t even guaranteed a top-six position with his now former team. Domi will likely slot in behind Pierre-Luc Dubois in Columbus. But Bergevin was content to get Anderson in exchange.
“It’s a fit for Columbus and it’s a good fit for us,” Bergevin said.
Hours after the trade, the Canadiens took defenceman Kaiden Guhle with their 16th overall selection. The scouting report on Guhle describes him as a big defenceman who can stop opposing rushes in their tracks, while also being a good skater.
“I think I’m very physical. I’m very good (at) skating, two-way defenceman. I like to be hard on the other team’s best players,” Guhle said. “I like to make a good first pass, jump into the rush, use my skating to my advantage.”
“We like a lot of things about his game,” Bergevin said. “His leadership, his skating, his size, his mobility, his character, and he’s won before so for us it was very appealing not to pass (on him).”
The Canadiens also took a flyer on Luke Tuch, the brother of Vegas Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch, with their first second-round draft choice. Tuch is a 6-foot-2, 203-pound power forward type who isn’t afraid to be physical (there’s that word again). There’s already some who believe that the younger Tuch could be better than his older brother.
“I play a power forward game and I play a mean game,” Tuch said. “I think I’m really good in front of the net and in close situations and I think I also have a heavy shot. I think Montreal picked me because they trust my abilities and I think I can complement their players pretty well.”
Guhle and Tuch have a ways to go in their development, as do other picks from this class like Jan Mysak (No. 48 overall) and Sean Farrell (No. 123). But if Guhle and Tuch progress according to plan, alongside players Edmundson and Anderson, the Canadiens could soon be known as a team that’s not much fun to play against.
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