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I want to see Alex Newhook start the season on the first trio

Kent Hughes had a busy summer. He let some guys go, he traded players who didn’t fit the team’s vision, he even traded for Jeff Petry before sending him to Detroit…

But the highlight of his off-season was definitely the acquisition of Alex Newhook. The GM was looking to get his hands on a talented young player who has been slow to blossom in the NHL, and that’s exactly what he got when he picked up the player who was selected one spot below Cole Caufield in the 2019 draft.

Newhook’s arrival is exciting in itself, because in Colorado he was never able to establish himself as an NHL impact player. Martin St-Louis has made no secret of the fact that the newcomer will have the opportunity to make his mark this season on an offensive trio… And that’s what I want to talk to you about today.

Training camp will allow the coach to try things out, but in my eyes, Newhook has to start the season on the first line no matter what.

Let me explain.

Everyone will agree that Nick Suzuki will pilot the first unit and everyone will agree that Cole Caufield will be at his side. That said, ever since the two good friends were paired together, the search has been on for the one who will be able to complement them on a regular basis.

On paper, Newhook fits in well with this trio. Suzuki and Caufield aren’t the fastest players in the line-up, which is why we liked to put Josh Anderson on the wings of the first line, but the experiment never really worked.

Let’s take Anderson out of the equation.

I’m taking into account that Kirby Dach will start the season at center because last year, he showed great signs of progression at his natural position. That’s the Habs’ plan, by the way. We went looking for him with the goal of making him one of the club’s top two centers of the future.

He’s been so good that, at one point in the season, we even wondered if he’d become the club’s first center before too long:

If I rule out Kirby Dach and Josh Anderson, I also rule out Sean Monahan. The reason is simple: “Mony” may be responsible on the ice, but he’s not the fastest, and that’s what Suzuki’s trio needs: speed.

In my eyes, Slaf isn’t ready to fill such a role… And even if logic dictates that Rafaël Harvey-Pinard gets the opportunity to shine because he shone alongside the captain in the final stretch of the 22-23 season, it’s far from guaranteed.

My trios would look like this, if I were Martin St-Louis:

Caufield – Suzuki – Newhook

Slafkovsky – Dach – Monahan

RHP – Dvorak – Anderson

Gallagher – Evans – Pezzetta

To me, this is the logical puzzle.

Dach would have the opportunity to continue developing at center, and Monahan’s experience might help him reach the next level…

Slafkovsky would have an offensive role without necessarily playing on the first line…

And Rafaël Harvey-Pinard would be paired with more all-around guys, giving him a little more freedom on the ice.

I’m more interested in the top-6 and Newhook’s role, though. The sniper – playmaker – speedster combination we’re seeing on the first line makes me salivate, even if we’re talking about a trio that isn’t necessarily big on the ice…

And in an Atlantic Division that’s becoming increasingly fierce with the additions of Ryan Reaves, Max Domi, Bokondji Imama, Milan Lucic and Zack MacEwen, it’s true that they could get shuffled around…

But I still think it’s worth a try. Because when you put together three talented players like Caufield, Suzuki and Newhook… Sometimes, magic can happen.

And that’s what we’ve been waiting for in Montreal for so many years.

Breaking news

– The opposite would have been surprising, it seems to me… Wouldn’t it?

– My goodness.

– Yes!

– The American line-up is taking shape.

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