Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki are slowly cementing themselves as one of the top duos in the NHL. However, they can’t seem to find someone to fill the void on their wing full-time. Many players have been given a chance in the role. The best fit thus far has been Kirby Dach. The trio found lots of success early last season before Caufield and Dach went down with injuries. Despite this, Head Coach Martin St. Louis has stated that he knows that line works, and for the time being they’d like to develop Dach as a centreman.
Kirby Dach unfortunately went down with another injury and won’t be playing again this season. This has weakened the team’s depth and forced some line juggling to start the year as we have seen the likes of Rafael Harvey-Pinard and Josh Anderson on the top-line wing. However, neither has been able to find consistent production or success. Both lack the creativity and finishing ability required to play with the Canadiens top duo. So with that being said, who is the best candidate to play on Caufield and Suzuki’s wing?
Caufield and Suzuki’s Linemate Options
Monahan was a staple on the Caufield and Suzuki line to start last season before going down with a season-ending injury. This opened the way for Dach to make his way onto their wing. Monahan found much success and chemistry with the duo which has also been evident on the power play this season. Monahan currently is centring the team’s third line alongside veterans Brendan Gallagher and Tanner Pearson. However, we could see this change sooner rather than later. Monahan currently is pacing the team in goals with six as well as adding four assists. He is proving that he deserves a shot with better linemates.
Christian Dvorak is expected to return soon for the team. This means either Newhook or Monahan will likely be shifted to the wing, leaving Dvorak to centre the third line. If chosen, Monahan provides the creativity needed to complement the duo as well as some much-needed defensive capability. Leaving Caufield and Suzuki more opportunity to focus on the offensive side of the game and spend less time in their own end.
Alex Newhook has been a bright spot for the Canadiens so far this season. Newhook was recently acquired from the Colorado Avalanche over the summer. The newcomer already has three goals on the year and has looked dangerous in his short time with the Habs. His production has dipped recently. Conversely, this dip is much in part due to his linemates. Juraj Slafkovsky and Josh Anderson have struggled to start the season combining for just one goal and two assists through 11 games each.
Newhook’s playmaking ability and speed are being wasted on this line, which is why upon Dvorak’s arrival, he should considered for a top-line role. Newhook’s combination of speed and playmaking would be a great compliment to Caufield and Suzuki. He is also one of the best puck retrievers on the team. His game is much better suited for the wing rather than at centre so he would be a wise consideration to fill the void on the wing.
One of the more unlikely candidates to play on the top line is youngster Joshua Roy. Roy just earned AHL Rookie of the Month honours after amassing 12 points in only seven games. This includes a five-point outing where Roy had a hat-trick. At only 20 years old, Joshua Roy is dominating the AHL on a struggling young Laval Rocket team. Roy’s combination of size and skill would be a tremendous compliment on the top line for the Habs. His hockey IQ and offensive creativity as well as defensive awareness and forechecking ability may be the combination that Caufield and Suzuki need.
With Joel Armia being recalled last week, the spotlight now shifts to Joshua Roy as the next likely recall if an injury were to occur. This may not be his only path to the big club though. Juraj Slafkovsky has struggled mightily to start the year and could benefit from some time in the AHL. This would open the door for Roy to insert himself into the Canadiens lineup. If he thrives in a role with Caufield and Suzuki, he could be the long-term solution they have been searching for. However, the habs may opt to let the youngster thrive in the AHL this year rather than rush him into the lineup too soon.
For now, it appears that Harvey Pinard and Josh Anderson will remain on the top line. However, with the imminent return of Christian Dvorak, it will be interesting to see who ends up there. Will we see Monahan or Newhook shift to the wing? Or could we see the arrival of youngster Joshua Roy if the Canadiens decided to send down Juraj Slafkovsky? Only time will tell, but finding a consistent linemate for the duo of Caufield and Suzuki should be one of the Canadiens top priorities. Even if this means looking at options outside the organization.
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