Canadiens’ Denis Gurianov Finding His Game and a Home


When Montreal Canadiens common supervisor (GM) Kent Hughes acquired Denis Gurianov from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Evgeny Dadonov on the commerce deadline, he was playing that the transfer would assist the rebuild greater than including draft picks. Finding gamers who deserve a second probability has been a frequent theme in Hughes’ brief tenure and factors to his religion in his growth workers. With that in thoughts, he determined that Gurianov discovering his recreation and changing into a top-nine ahead was extra doubtless than a mid to late-round draft choose making it to the NHL.

Gurianov has the pace, dimension, and taking pictures potential of an NHLer, however there are the reason why he was seen as expendable for a depth participant. The Canadiens should resolve if they are going to lengthen him a qualifying supply to retain his rights, signal him to a contract with time period in trade for a decrease cap hit, or enable Gurianov to turn out to be an unrestricted free agent on the finish of the season. The determination comes down as to if or not he has improved sufficient to earn a new contract.

Canadiens Relying on Development

Gurianov is a wonderful straight-line (north-south) skater. He has pace to burn on the get away that may explode previous defensive protection, and he’s able to pressuring defenders on the forecheck. Along with an imposing 6-foot-3, 205-pound body, he can bodily dominate opponents, strip pucks together with his attain and shield possession alongside the boards on the cycle.

Denis Gurianov, Montreal Canadiens (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

That being stated, he hasn’t proven consistency in making use of these abilities. He has had a number of alternatives to show himself below a number of head coaches in Dallas, however they seen that he solely put his abilities to make use of when it gave him a private benefit. Gurianov was unable to earn many alternatives as a consequence of his lack of consistency taking part in inside their construction, particularly within the defensive zone.

Related: Canadiens’ Player Development Changes Having a Big Impact

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The excellent news is that Canadiens head coach Martin St. Louis and participant growth director Adam Nicholas have a fashionable strategy to growth, which has proven early returns with the rookies on the roster. All season, they’ve talked concerning the significance of an individualized strategy, and how centered work within the video room and on-ice instruction can be utilized. However, no general plan or particular person ability growth might be executed with out a fundamental understanding of a participant.  

“As Marty said, he wanted to take time to understand who he was as a player and as a person. It’s really difficult to take a guy into a team, give him two games and figure out what his strengths and weaknesses are and ‘we’re going to fix you right away.’ There’s an assimilation process to me, too, in terms of the environment, the dressing room, getting to know how a player accepts constructive criticism and is best able to incorporate it. So, we see there’s elements of his game that he needs to improve — just to let his skill set shine more consistently, and there’s a consistency element in general.”

– Kent Hughes (from Pierre Lebrun, ‘LeBrun: How the Canadiens are approaching the Bedard lottery, Caufield contract and more, with Kent Hughes,’ The Athletic, 21 March, 2023)

After 12 video games in a Habs sweater, St. Louis now has some familiarity with Gurianov as a individual and participant. They’ve executed some work to assist him combine into Montreal’s system, however have solely simply begun to work on his hockey IQ, his potential to anticipate the circulate of play, and establish benefits. 

Canadiens Have a Project in Gurianov

Even at 25 years outdated, Gurianov’s abilities are nonetheless uncooked, particularly after being buried within the Stars’ backside six. With solely two objectives in 42 video games this season, his utilization affected his manufacturing. However, the crew is competing for a Stanley Cup, which limits alternatives for creating gamers. This isn’t a difficulty for a rebuilding crew like Montreal that has been decimated by accidents.

The heavy lifting might be in bettering Gurianov’s defensive play. Even changing into common defensively would considerably assist his probabilities of incomes a contract. His consistency on the backcheck remains to be a work in progress, however he additionally must work on his positioning. As an offensive participant, it must be simpler for him to establish creating offensive performs and place himself in these lanes, however, to date, he’s nonetheless a step behind.

Since his arrival, Gurianov’s goalscoring charge, 5 objectives in 12 video games for 0.42 objectives per recreation, is encouraging, particularly since 4 of his 5 objectives have come at five-on-five. However, to enhance on these numbers, he might want to establish and exploit extra taking pictures alternatives, and to take action, he’ll must be extra situationally conscious and discover these open pockets close to the online. The use of a energy ahead like Josh Anderson on his line has allowed Gurianov to give attention to that and not the tougher work alongside the boards.

The Canadiens want shooters who can complement all of their playmakers, so Gurianov ought to discover a dwelling in Montreal. His pace can also be a good weapon taking part in alongside a sturdy transitional participant like Kirby Dach or Nick Suzuki. He has proven enchancment in his engagement, possession stats, and utilization as a result of he has been positioned in a top-six function, and the teaching workers has empowered Gurianov to make use of his instruments and unleash his scoring acumen, making this a nice commerce within the brief time period. But he hasn’t proven he can maintain it long-term as a consequence of his inconsistencies in efficiency.

As a restricted free agent this summer season, Gurianov’s qualifying supply ought to match his present one-year $2.9 million contract. While he hasn’t proven sufficient to earn that quantity, a decrease cap hit for 2 years could be becoming, particularly if it provides not less than one Habs prospect extra time to develop within the minors. He’s confirmed he can fill a third-line function in addition to add a taking pictures choice on the second unit of a energy play. While he’s nonetheless creating good habits in all three zones, he has proven sufficient to be signed to a short-term deal.


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