Many expected Juraj Slafkovsky and the Montreal Canadiens would miss the Stanley Cup Playoffs. There were reasons to be excited about this team entering the 2023-24 NHL season. However, they still seemed a ways off from competing in an Atlantic Division that was loaded with talent. That ended up being the case this season.

The Canadiens have been eliminated from playoff contention. Montreal wasn't necessarily terrible, at least not on the level of the San Jose Sharks or Columbus Blue Jackets. Still, the Habs are certainly not ready to take that crucial next step. General manager Kent Hughes is still working through the rebuilding process.

Whether Montreal is able to make a step in 2024-25 remains to be seen. That said, there are reasons for fans of the NHL's most storied franchise to be optimistic. And with that in mind, let's go over two reasons for Canadiens fans to have hope for their team next season.

Juraj Slafkovsky finds his game

Montreal Canadiens left wing Juraj Slafkovsky (20) looks on during warm-up before the game against the Philadelphia Flyers at Bell Centre.
David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

The Canadiens made an interesting decision in 2022. Montreal passed on consensus top-pick Shane Wright in favor of Slovakian winger Juraj Slafkovsky. Slafkovsky made an impression in his first year in North America. In fact, he made the NHL roster right out of training camp. However, he struggled, and his rookie year unfortunately ended due to injury.

It seemed as if this season would also go poorly for Slafkovsky. He started the season rather slowly, having just a goal and an assist through 15 games. The Slovakian winger found his game, though, and emerged as one of the team's best players. So far, the 20-year-old has 16 goals and 44 points through 75 games.

Juraj Slafkovsky has shown he can contribute at the NHL level. The Canadiens are surely happy with his development this season. And if it continues, the Habs will be in a very good spot next season. Especially if players such as Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield also play to their potential in 2024-25.

Solid goaltending

The Canadiens entered the 2023-24 NHL season with their goaltending situation rather clear. Veteran Jake Allen would share the net with younger puck-stopper Sam Montembeault. However, the Habs had explored trading Allen over the summer. And it didn't seem as if he had a long-term future in Montreal.

That turned out to be true. The Canadiens traded Allen to the New Jersey Devils at the NHL Trade Deadline. This paved the way for 24-year-old goalie Cayden Primeau to become a full-time option. He became the backup to Montembeault for the rest of the season.

So far, the tandem has proven to be a solid one. Montembeault has played in 37 games this year, posting a .908 save percentage and 6.2 goals saved above expected. Primeau has matched his .908 save percentage while playing 19 games while recording 2.8 goals saved above expected.

Of course, Montreal could use more out of this duo. And let's not forget that goaltending is the most volatile position in all of hockey. However, these two have played well given the circumstances. That is certainly a promising sign for the immediate future. Even if neither of these goalies develops into the goaltender of the future in Montreal.

If the Canadiens are to make noise next season, these goalies will have to play a vital role. The Habs don't have the talent to compete with teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs or Boston Bruins quite yet. But if Sam Montembeault and Cayden Primeau take even a small step forward, Montreal could a club to watch.