Cole Caufield played in just 46 games last season before he had a season-ending shoulder surgery that kept him sidelined. Clearly, the Canadiens had zero concerns about Caufield returning to form in 2023-24, giving him an eight-year extension earlier this Summer. In Wednesday’s preseason contest versus the Senators, he squashed any doubt.
In fairness, I don’t anticipate many people were all that concerned about the injury having any lasting effects on Caufield’s play. But it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to assume there may have been some rust on Caufield’s behalf. Or perhaps even some timidness as he gets used to contact again.
Instead, Caufield potted a goal and an assist in the Canadiens win over the Senators, their first preseason victory since 2019. And those weren’t cheap points either. He was all over the ice, engaged and dominant, exactly what you want to see.
Who else but Goal Caufield 🔥 pic.twitter.com/fU3o8wkRYL
— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) September 28, 2023
Now it’s only preseason, and that wasn’t exactly the Senators’ A-Team, so don’t use this performance as the reason you bet on Caufield to win the Rocket. But it was still an excellent showing for him, as well as a few other Habs (I thought it was one of Slafkovsky’s best games as a Hab). He was engaged, registering five of the Canadiens’ 21 shots on goal, and even threw his body around a little bit. It’s less about the win or the production and more about the process.
If he plays like that every night, as he did last season, it’ll pay dividends in the end. I was going to be interested to see how he started the season. Would there be some rust there? And if so, how long would it take for him to shake it off? It appears as though he’s already answered that question.
Expectations are high his season for Caufield, with some sites even touting him as the potential breakout player of the year for this season. He was on pace for 46 goals last year before he got hurt and has 48 goals in his last 83 games. Can he get to 50 this year? It’s not out of the question.
But one thing’s for sure: Canadiens fans haven’t had a goal scorer as gifted as Caufield in a long time. Even hitting the 40-goal mark would be an achievement far too many Canadiens fans have never seen done before. It’s hard to see Caufield failing to reach that total if he can stay healthy. But one thing is for sure: I’m not worried about that shoulder, not even in the slightest.