The Montreal Canadiens are heading into the 2023-24 season with, let’s call them low expectations. They fell to the bottom of the NHL standings in 2021-22 and were the fifth worst team in the league last season.
Not many people are expecting them to climb much higher in the coming year, especially in a tough Atlantic Division. The Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Boston Bruins and Florida Panthers all still have great teams, and the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres could be two of the most improved teams in the league.
While many are not anticipating a great season from the team, The Hockey News released its preseason writer’s poll and they have one of the Habs picked as being the breakout player of the league in the coming season.
Cole Caufield has shown flashes of brilliance in his young NHL career, and signed a massive contract extension that kicks in this season. The writers at THN expect his production to increase much like his salary.
You could argue Caufield has already broken out, but injuries have held him back from putting together a monster season. Yet.
He did score 26 goals in 46 games last season before being injured. That had him on pace for 46 goals over a full season. THN questions whether the Canadiens sniper can get to 50 this season. If he stays healthy, he should be coming close.
Of the 34 voters in the poll, only four had Caufield, but he did receive more votes than anyone else.
Martin St. Louis also got one vote in the poll as the first coach to get fired, and the Canadiens received one vote as the team most likely to win the draft lottery. In better news, the Bruins were voted as the most likely team to suffer a setback this season, while the Lightning and Panthers received a couple of votes each in that category as well. Perhaps the Atlantic won’t be as tough as originally expected.
It is just a fun preseason poll, but it is interesting to see Caufield getting recognized as the player most likely to have a big breakout in the coming season.
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