Montreal Canadiens general manager Kent Hughes
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Trade Looming: Kent Hughes Has Absolutely No Choice But to Move On From a Promising Young Defenseman

Published January 14, 2024 at 10:02

At this point in the season, we are able to identify major flaws in the rebuilding of the Montreal Canadiens, as well as a major strength that is being built within the organization.

Starting with the positive, it is clear that the future of the franchise will go through the depth of the Tricolore's defense.

Already with the main team, there are several elements that are developing very well despite the team's generally mixed success. Kaiden Guhle, Justin Barron, Jordan Harris, and Jayden Struble are three defenders aged 23 and under who could be part of the long-term plans.

Among them, Guhle is certainly one of the key pieces for the future of the club's blue line.

However, the future of the defensive brigade doesn't stop there. Among the prospects, we can count on Lane Hutson and David Reinbacher as two key upcoming members for the Canadiens.

Currently with the Laval Rocket, two other youngsters are making waves in the AHL: Arber Xhekaj and Logan Mailloux.

In his first professional season, Mailloux's progression has been meteoric. He has 22 points in 35 games, including eight goals, placing him third among rookie defensemen in the league, behind two future elite talents, namely Brandt Clarke and Olen Zellweger.

Xhekaj's performance with the farm team is astounding. While he played a more limited role in Montreal, the opposite is true for him in Laval where he forms, with Mailloux, the preferred pair of coach Jean-François Houle.

His impact was immediate to the point where the Rocket is one of the teams of the moment since his arrival, while it was one of the worst before. The team's record in the last 10 games is 8-1-1. In these games, Xhekaj has three goals and eight points.

Among other defensemen with promising potential, we should not overlook the Swede Adam Engstrom, as well as the Russian Bogdan Konyushkov, and the Quebecer William Trudeau.

It is now evident that there will not be enough places for everyone in Montreal, and Kent Hughes will have to act to solve his main organizational problem, namely the lack of offensive punch.

Apart from Joshua Roy and Filip Mesar, who are two young players with the potential to eventually make their place in a top-6, their impact in the NHL is far from guaranteed.

The Canadiens are one of the worst teams in the league for goals scored, despite the fact that the defense is one of the best offensively. This therefore indicates that the club's attack is sorely lacking in offense and this is where Hughes must absolutely act quickly.

He will have to take advantage of the abundance of young defensive talents to meet this critical need for the success of the rebuild.

The summer of 2024 will be crucial for the general manager to remedy this critical situation.
January 14   |   376 answers
Trade Looming: Kent Hughes Has Absolutely No Choice But to Move On From a Promising Young Defenseman

Which defenseman would you trade first?

Jordan Harris27272.3 %
Logan Mailloux3810.1 %
Arber Xhekaj277.2 %
Jayden Struble3910.4 %
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