The Montreal Canadiens have been looking for a number one centre who is ready to play at the NHL level. Unfortunately, they haven’t found anybody yet — but they do have Tomas Plekanec, who has been a key part of the Habs throughout his career.
Over the past nine years, Tomas Plekanec has led the Habs in faceoff wins. He’s been a part of the team for most of his career and is on pace to play his 1,000th NHL game in the second game of the season; making him just the sixth player in the history of the Canadiens franchise to play at least 1,000 games with the club.
Where Tomas Plekanec Fits In With the Habs
The third line centre spot belongs to Tomas Plekanec. Plekanec fits perfectly on the third line for the Habs. The Habs have a ton of youth on the team and are going to need a veteran presence like Tomas Plekanec. Playing on the third line takes the pressure off Plekanec to score and allow him to play his own game. It also gives the Habs a solid third line centre. This gives Pleky about 15-16 minutes a game against a team’s bottom six. Last season Tomas Plekanec won 56.7% of draws on the defensive side of the game compared to 49.6% on the offensive side of the game. As a penalty killer, this would benefit the Habs greatly.
Why is Plekanec so Under-Valued
When Habs fans discuss the team’s centres Plekanec isn’t a name that is praised a lot. He’s not a scorer or a huge point-getter, but he does all the smaller things for the Habs that go unnoticed.
Plekanec brings veteran leadership to a team that is filled with youth and could be a mentor for younger players. Over the past 9 seasons, Montreal has seen a lot of changes but one thing that has stayed the same — bar a 17 game stint in blue and white — is Plekanec in a Habs uniform.
The Habs Have Better Options Up The Middle
The Canadiens currently have five centres listed on their roster; Plekanec, Jonathan Drouin, Byron Froese, Matthew Peca, and Phillip Danault. There are rumours that Drouin is expected to move back to centre this year, which gives the Habs the option of putting either Drouin or Danault as their top centre. The third line will be centred by Plekanec and the fourth line should be featuring a few of the Habs prospects. This may not be the ideal scenario but it’s the Habs best option at the moment.
In 155 games with the Habs Danult has put up 24 goals along 46 assists for 70 points. He is 52.4% on faceoffs in those 155 games with the Habs. Danault who was one of the bright spots for the Habs last year was also 52.8% on faceoffs despite only playing in 52 games due to injury. Danault was strong on offensive zone faceoffs winning 54.5% offensive zone faceoffs. Only Andrew Shaw (57.6%) had a higher percentage on offensive zone faceoffs last year.
In his first season in Montreal, Drouin put up 13 goals and 33 assists in 77 games. On the powerplay Drouin shone, racking up 22 out of 33 points on the season. Drouin does have the ability to score, as he showed during the 2016-17 season with Tampa when he scored 21 goals in 73 games, but his best attribute is his distribution in odd-man situations. Drouin’s faceoff percentage was only 40.6% in the offensive zone and had a 42.6% rate on faceoffs overall.
Why This is the Best Option for Montreal
Montreal is in a rebuild right now so youth is key. Some of the key names include Jesperi Kotkaneimi, Ryan Poehling, Noah Juulsen, Nikita Scherbak. This year the Habs could find out how these prospects perform at the NHL level in a full-time role, especially when it comes to their centres.
The Habs fourth line should feature a few of the young centres the Habs have in their system. Jacob de La Rose, who saw time last year at centre is one of the options. In 55 games he managed four goals and 8 assists for 12 points but only managed to win 44% of his faceoffs.
Another option they have is Matthew Peca who they signed to a two-year deal. Peca has only played in 20 career NHL games and spent most of last year in the AHL with the Syracuse Crunch. He had 12 goals and 29 assists for 41 points in 68 games with the Crunch. It will be interesting to see how much playing time Peca gets this year with the Habs.
There won’t be much pressure on these rookies to perform seeing that Montreal isn’t expected to be anywhere near playoff contention. This year may not be the Habs year but down the road, they could be dangerous with the prospects they have in their system. For more info on what the Habs have check out Ben Kerr’s TSP Report on the Habs Prospects
Montreal Still Needs Plekanec
Tomas Plekanec still has a pivotal role to play in Montreal and is a bigger asset than most people believe. Yes, he is 35, but he’s a face-off specialist which is something that the Habs need to bridge the gap. The Habs addressed this need when they loaded up on centres at the Draft, now it’s time to lean on age and experience, while the team’s new-found youth develops.
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