Fantasy Puck Preview: Montreal Canadiens

Scott Cullen

9/13/2009 6:20:44 AM

A busy summer brought a lot of new faces into Montreal, giving the Canadiens hope for a rejuvenated attack, but it will require a steep learning curve for all these new teammates to become productive together.

Michael Cammalleri was a big-ticket free agent signing, coming off a season in which he tallied a career-high 39 goals and 82 points with Calgary. Can he do it again?

Cammalleri dropped to 47 points in 63 games in 2007-2008 after notching 80 points the year before, so another point-per-game season may be come some time later in his Montreal stay. Even if he's not a point-per-game scorer, though, Cammalleri could certainly top last year's leading scorer, Alex Kovalev, who finished with 65 points.

Montreal also invested significant money (to say nothing of assets) when they acquired Scott Gomez from the New York Rangers. Gomez managed 58 points last year, his lowest total since 2002-2003 and he'll be expected to do better than that in Montreal.

The third of Montreal's smallish scorers added this summer is Gomez's former linemate with the New Jersey Devils, Brian Gionta. Gionta came out of the lockout and put up 48 goals and 89 points in 2005-2006 -- the same season that Gomez tallied 33 goals and 84 points -- before his scoring dipped to the 45-to-60 point range over the next three seasons. If Gionta and Gomez can recapture their past glory, then they'll be in for big seasons.

Perhaps Montreal's most skilled forward, Andrei Kostitsyn didn't have the anticipated breakout season in 2008-2009, scoring 23 goals and 41 points, after notching 26 and 53, respectively, the year before. There's no question Kostitsyn has the skills to score 30-plus goals, but the 24-year-old still needs to prove he can score consistently.

If Kostitsyn is going to take off, it could come as a result of a bounce back from Tomas Plekanec, who has had good chemistry with Kostitsyn in the past, but Plekanec is coming of a 39-point (with a career-worst minus-9) campaign.

Should the Habs' second line get back on track, it could mean good things for third-year forward Sergei Kostitsyn who, like his older brother, has shown some skills, but is maddeningly inconsistent. As such, he's more a player to watch, rather than one worthy of investing a draft-day selection.

Montreal's second-leading scorer last year, defenceman Andrei Markov, has been a steadily productive blueliner, increasing his point totals in each of the last four seasons, leading up to last year's career-best 64 points. With his combination of points and power play points, Markov is a high-end fantasy defenceman, but his mediocre plus-minus and low penalty totals keep him from ranking with the very best.

Newcomer Jaroslav Spacek may not score as much in Montreal as he did in Buffalo last season, when he tied his career-high with 45 points, but the 35-year-old has established his credentials as a competent power play defenceman and will likely provide good late-round fantasy value.

If Montreal is going to accomplish anything as a team this year, however, that success will require vast improvement from goaltender Carey Price. Still just 22, Price struggled in his second NHL season, but if he can perform more like he did as a rookie, yet do it over 60 games, he'll be a quality fantasy 'tender. Considering his troubles last season, Price should be a veritable bargain bin selection in many leagues.