The Montreal Canadiens are looking to take another step forward in 2024 and to do so, some players will need to have a good year of growth, and health will be important. With the younger players pleading their cases for a big spot on the roster, the competition is as tough as it’s ever been at camp, and versatility could prove important for players looking to establish themselves.
One particularly interesting example of this is for a player like Michael Pezzetta to add some other elements to his game, so he can earn more ice time, which he is adamant about doing.
During his interview at the Canadiens training camp press conference, Pezzetta spoke about his interest in playing on the penalty kill. He wants to round out his game and blossom into a stronger defensive forward, which in turn could earn him a penalty-killing role. He wants to contribute more to the team and continue to be a player who other teams need to be aware of on the ice.
The grit that he brings to the lineup is very important, and he has the respect of the room because of it. So the fact that he has been transparent about his goals for 2024 and beyond, is very telling of his personality. But the physical play and forechecking can be replicated by many of the younger players coming up, the willingness to grow his defensive game could earn him more reps, which could show a big step forward for Pezzetta in 2024.
Unless he has an offensive explosion, there’s not much space for him in the top nine, but he could establish himself as a fourth-line glue guy, and secure a nice extension with a little higher price tag. He could become a very good meat-and-potatoes type of player, and those are the kind of players that help you get through the toughest matchups. Another player who you can expect to see giving his 100 percent every night, much like teammate Brendan Gallagher.
He loves to be in the middle of everything, and he is in the goalies’ grill. His knack for deflecting pucks makes him a thorn in their side, and he isn’t afraid to play until the whistle every shift. Adding another element to his straight-line style would go a big way in allowing his confidence to grow.
It’s easy to see he has the tenacity, and speed to keep up with the play. He has great stick positioning in the offensive zone, which could improve the likeliness of him developing it in the defensive zone. His strength and toughness should also help him squeeze the opposition against the boards, creating 50/50 puck battles, which could translate to less time defending in open space.
Pezzetta does what the team needs him to do, and that is how he has earned each minute that he has played for the Canadiens. That won’t change this year, and the likeliness of him seeing more ice time seems to be pretty high. He is a competitive, fiery guy and that will be a big reason why he could get his wishes and be an even bigger difference maker for the Habs.
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