Fantasy Puck Preview: Montreal Canadiens

Scott Cullen
9/30/2008 3:34:07 AM
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Few teams are entering this season with the kind of expectations that will be placed on the Montreal Canadiens this year, their 100th season.

There's nothing wrong with high expectations, though, when it comes as a result of maturing young talent and the addition of even more skilled players.

The money man for the Canadiens is 35-year-old Alex Kovalev, whose 84-point season last year was the second-best output of his 15-year NHL career. Duplicating that production will be challenging for a player that has historically run hot and cold, but as long as Kovalev holds a spot on the power play (where he scored 47 points last year), he's going to be a quality offensive contributor.

Kovalev's success last season came as he developed chemistry with rising young talents Tomas Plekanec and Andrei Kostitsyn.

Plekanec is a speedy centre who plays both ends of the rink and has improved in each of his three NHL seasons and he should just be entering his prime years.

Dazzling winger Andrei Kostitsyn flashed brilliance in his first full NHL season and it's only a matter of improving his consistency for his number to climb as he matures.

Newcomer Alex Tanguay will face plenty of pressure as a Francophone star in Montreal, but it's still a better situation for him than playing on a checking line in Calgary, as he did last season. Before his 58-point season last year, Tanguay tallied 238 points in 221 games over the previous three seasons and the Canadiens will hope for production along those lines.

Though Robert Lang has slowed, now that he's 37, he's put up 50 or more points in eight straight seasons and is a proven power play performer.

Sergei Kostitsyn impressed in his rookie season, showing skill and versatility that will serve him well as his career develops, though expectations need to be reasonable for a 21-year-old coming off a 27-point season.

Veteran Saku Koivu will still need ample power play time if he's going to remain productive enough for fantasy interest, but he's riding a streak of five straight seasons scoring 55 points or more and that may well continue.

Christopher Higgins scored a career-high 27 goals and 52 points last season and the 25-year-old should be capable of even more, but opportunity may determine whether or not that's even possible. Such is the challenge of finding quality ice time in Montreal these days.

On the point, Andrei Markov is one of the best in the league, with his 58 points last year representing a career best. Even if the triggerman beside him on the power play will change, due to Mark Streit's free agent departure, Markov's production figures to remain high.

Roman Hamrlik still has some game left in him as well, but he'll need a strong plus-minus if he's going to hold fantasy value coming off a season in which he managed 26 points.

There isn't much fantasy value on the rest of the defence corps, as Komisarek was the next-highest returning scorer with just 17 points.

Franchise goaltender Carey Price had a terrific rookie season, but faltered in the postseason, so there will be added motivation for the 21-year-old to erase that memory. Given the starting job right away this year, and playing for a team considered a Stanley Cup contender, Price figures to be among the top fantasy goaltenders in the game.

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