Next up in our fantasy hockey sleeper series is the Montreal Canadiens. Teams in transition often have multiple sleeper and/or breakout options. The Canadiens are no exception. The Canadiens have several veterans who have underperformed in recent years and several young players approaching breakout thresholds gaining ice time.
Let’s be real though, with only two defensemen with over 200 NHL games played and no true number-one goalie, it will be another long year.
After reviewing the Canadiens sleeper candidates it becomes obvious they are victims of being a bad team. Lots of bottom-of-the-end fantasy roster options, but not a lot of ‘wow’ options.
They have a heater of a breakout candidate to discuss, so let’s skip any further banter and get to it.
Fantasy Hockey Sleepers from the Montreal Canadiens
Alex Newhook (Breakout Candidate)
This was a really intriguing trade when it went down. The Avalanche received the 31st and 37th picks in the 2023 NHL entry draft and Montreal landed Newhook. The Avalance received good value and Newhook received a much-needed fresh start. He gets an opportunity to carve out a top-six offensive role with the Canadiens.
At 159 games played, he sits 41 games from his breakout threshold. Buried in a third-line role on a very deep Avalanche team, Newhook could never assert himself into a top-six role. He has averaged 13:46 ice time per game and 1:22 on the power play for his career. Newhook will be given every opportunity to set career highs in both areas this year.
The only first power-play locks are Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield. Josh Anderson’s unique skill set could take a third forward slot, leaving one spot open.
Due to the age of the Canadiens roster, they will spend a lot of time defending and in transition. It is going to be a tough year for the team as a whole. They are more likely to draft top five than they are to sniff a playoff spot. This alone will place a ceiling on Newhook and his new teammates alike.
If you own Newhook, you need to be patient. With a mid-season breakout threshold, the first half of the year could be disappointing. A reasonable first-half expectation would be 20 to 23 points. If Newhook does break out, he will deliver a much bigger second half. In a keeper or dynasty pool, this is a player I have on my watch list and would target if he starts slow. I love taking advantage of impatient GMs.
Expect career highs across the board for Newhook. Anything above 50 points this year is a bonus (we need to remain realistic). 2024-25 is where you will really reap the benefits of Newhook.
Admittedly, this seems like a long shot. Injuries have really derailed Gallagher’s career and relevance to the fantasy hockey community. That my friends, is exactly why he is here.
He’s always been a bit of an underdog, hasn’t he? An undersized player that plays with a chip on his shoulder.
Considering Gallagher is only rostered in 15% of Fantrax pools and is only drafted in two percent of pools – this isn’t a recommendation to draft Gallagher.
This is a flag him and watch him suggestion. There will be safer options available in the last round of most pools you should take.
If healthy, Gallagher does bring the potential for 50 to 55 points, 200 or more shots, and a hit per game. He’s the type of player you match with pure skill, that Michael Bunting sandpaper type of player.
It’s been four seasons filled with injuries. Health will be the key to Gallagher finding any semblance of his old self. A healthy Gallagher should never be counted out.
A 2020 first-round pick, Guhle wasted little time making an impact for the Canadiens. Due in part to the lack of experience and lack of depth of the Canadiens, Guhle finds himself with top pairing opportunity.
Known for his defensive game, the offense is an added plus. We shouldn’t expect much more than 40 to 50 points in any given season for Guhle. Not unless he displays a gear we haven’t seen yet.
Like a broken record, his shots on goal need improvement. Just above one per game, and that’s not enough to be an impactful offensive defenceman. Even an incremental increase to 1.5 per game will display hope for that coveted two per game I seek on my blue line.
Sophomore seasons can be tough, especially for defensemen. Guhle though, isn’t that pure offensive player, he brings the full multi-cat package to the table. This should help insulate him from the traditional sophomore slumps. Don’t get me wrong, he has good offensive upside. But, he’s more Jake Muzzin than Drew Doughty.
He’s a big player that will fill your multi-cat stat sheet night in and night out. In 44 games he produced 18 points, or .41 points per game, a 33-point pace. It’s not a stretch to project 40 points this year. Add in close to two hits and two blocks per game and we have a burgeoning multi-cat stud on our hands.
Samuel Montembeault/Cayden Primeau
The Canadiens provide the luxury of a sleeper at forward, defense, and goalie. It doesn’t always work out this way.
With no true number-one goalie, this is the most intriguing storyline in the Canadiens training camp.
I had a tough time deciding which goalie to cover. In the end, I made up my own rule and included them both. The Canadiens traded Casey DeSmith, which opens up a roster spot for one of them. Jake Allen is the steadfast 1B option, at least for now.
The Canadiens spent three of their nine draft picks on goalies. , Kent Hughes clearly identified this position as a weakness in the organization. I agree, I don’t see a long-term solution in the system currently. Time will tell on the new draft class.
Montembeault started last year on fire with save percentages of .931 and .919 in October and November. He faded from there. In part due to the Canadiens being a bad team and also the wear and tear of the NHL season. He should get the first crack at the number one job.
Cayden Primeau sits in the wings hoping this is finally the year he can take a step forward. With back-to-back .909 seasons in the AHL on subpar teams, Primeau played better than the numbers suggest. He’s not waiver exempt so the Canadiens will have a tough decision to make on October 10th.
It’s possible they start the year with three goalies on the roster. I don’t see a world where Primeau or Montembeault clears waivers, not at $1 million and $890K salaries, respectively.
Neither likely gets more than 45 games this year. In desperation, one of these goalies should produce safe numbers that will not crater your goalie stats, in the event you suffer an injury to one of your main starters.
Honorable mention to Kirby Dach. At 6’4″, I think we see slow progression from him versus a real breakout or 2023-2024 sleeper option. I didn’t forget him, I presented options I believed offered larger production increases.
Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @doylelb4; where you’ll find as many hiking musings as you will fantasy hockey
Make sure to check out all of the sleepers and breakouts of the 2023 fantasy hockey season!
Looking for more great fantasy hockey analysis? Check out our 2023 Fantasy Hockey Draft Kit for team previews, rankings, and all the sleepers you can shake a stick at.