In this edition of Montreal Canadiens News & Rumors, I’ll try to help Canadiens’ fans stay up to date with news that’s emerging from the team.
Item One: Cole Caulfield Looks Strong in University of Wisconsin NCAA Play
Talk about a great two-game series. During his first game on Monday night against the Penn State Nittany Lions, Cole Caufield scored his first goal of the season as his Wisconsin Badgers won 6-3. Then, during his team’s second game on Tuesday night, the Canadiens’ top prospect Caufield scored a hat trick for his Badgers against the same Penn State squad in a 7-3 victory.
It wasn’t as if Caufield wasn’t scoring before these two games: he just wasn’t scoring goals. He entered the first game of the series having assisted four times in four games, so now he stands at eight points (four goals and four assists) in six games.
In game video highlights, Caufield looks smallish on the ice – he’s 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds. But he’s strong on the puck. The 19-year-old forward was scheduled to play in Europe this season; however, when the NCAA announced it would play its season he stayed close to his Wisconsin home. It’s his second year playing for head coach Tony Granato at the University of Wisconsin.
Caufield was chosen by the Canadiens during the first round (15th overall) of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. He’s a pure scorer, which showed against an overwhelmed Penn State team.
Caufield is heading towards the Canadiens’ roster, although he might still be about two years away. There’s no doubt he’s one of the top prospects in the Canadiens organization. Once Caufield makes the jump to the NHL level, he could become a regular goal scorer for a long time.
Item Two: Contract Talks Between Phillip Danault and the Canadiens? Not yet.
It’s a bit surprising but not problematic that Phillip Danault and the Canadiens aren’t talking contract. The reason it’s a bit of a surprise is that, during October, it was reported that Danault and the Canadiens had begun “general discussions” about a new contract. At the same time, it’s not problematic because Danault won’t become a UFA until after the 2020-21 season.
Perhaps the talks are simply stalled – as is almost everything else – because of the COVID-19 slowdown. Still, I can’t imagine the Canadiens don’t want to wrap up the 27-year-old Quebec native for a long time. Danault has now finished five successful seasons with the team and seems to be getting stronger every season. He scored 53 points in 81 games during the 2018-19 season and then scored 47 points in 71 games during the 2019-20 season.
Danault also plays a strong defensive game. He’s a good face-off man and got votes for the Selke Trophy his last two seasons. In fact, after the 2019-20 season, he finished sixth in Selke Trophy voting just after Mark Stone.
Finally, he’s a character guy. It was just reported late last week that Danault had been awarded the Jean Beliveau Trophy for the 2019-20 season. That trophy is given to the Canadiens’ player who best exemplifies leadership within the community. By winning the award, Danault was able to donate a $25,000 prize from the Canadiens’ organization to a charity or charities that he chose.
Danault used the award to give $20,000 to the Marie-Pierre and Phillip Danault Fund of the Foundation Jasmin Roy Sophie Desmarais. That organization’s mission is to fight bullying, discrimination, and violence in schools. He then provided $5,000 to the Montreal Canadiens Children’s Foundation, which encourages physical activity and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle among underprivileged youth aged 4 to 17.
Danault’s one of the good guys! I’m thinking it’s only a matter of time before he’s signed by the team.
Item Three: No Way Claude Julien Will Quit Coaching
Canadiens head coach Claude Julien might have had a scare in August, but that doesn’t mean he’s ready to quit coaching. In fact, he hoping to coach as long as possible. Canadiens’ fans will recall that Julien had to leave the bubble in August during the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a heart “procedure.”
However, yesterday he reported: “Right now, I’m back 100 percent.”
He added, “My heart is 100 percent. So the only thing that was hurting me for a while was the fact that the blood flow wasn’t going through my heart with one of the arteries being blocked. I think that’s been fixed and I’m back to being 100 percent, so as long as my health is good, and my passion and excitement remains, I’d love to keep coaching as long as I can.”
Julien is inked on a five-year contract that runs through the 2021-22 season. He’s had a good run as an NHL coach and currently sits 13th in wins in NHL history and 18th in games coached.
No doubt he’s as excited as anyone with the additions the team added during the offseason. Many hockey pundits believe his team had the best offseason of any NHL club.
Item Four: Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s Time Playing in Finland Is Over
This week it was announced by Assat of Finland’s Liiga that Jesperi Kotkaniemi’s contract had ended. It’s expected that Kotkaniemi will now return to North America to quarantine for two weeks and then work himself into shape for the 2020-21 season.
During his loan to Finland’s top division, he scored two goals and six assists in 10 games. He’s likely to become the Canadiens third-line center during the upcoming season.
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