The Nation Network continues our series on the seven Canadian franchise’s all-time rosters of drafted players. While unrestricted free agency gets more focus each summer, the draft is much more important to an organization’s long-term success.
The NHL Entry Draft is the scouts’ championship. It is very difficult projecting how good teenage hockey players will be in the future, but that’s the job description of NHL amateur scouts. This series is all about the scouts and who they picked. Because often, once a player is selected, the scouts have very little say in his future development.
1. The player had to be drafted by the organization. This won’t include players like Maurice Richard or Jean Beliveau. There was no draft when they played, so neither will be on the Canadiens team. Ken Dryden was drafted by Boston, so he wasn’t eligible either.
2. Players need to be slotted in the position they played the most. Mark Messier, for instance, did play left wing early in his career, but he is a centre.
3. We are picking the best possible lineup, similar to the Olympic rosters. Players who had the best career, even if the majority wasn’t with the organization who drafted them.
4. For organizations like the Flames, who were in two different cities, their all-time roster includes players drafted by Atlanta and Calgary.
5. We didn’t pick any extra skaters, just a 20-man roster.
The Canadiens were one of only six teams around for the first official draft in 1963, and they’ve been involved in all 57 drafts. For this project we are focusing on the NHL amateur draft (1963-1978) and the NHL entry draft (1979-present).
Canadiens Forwards (Draft number and year)
Steve Shutt (4th, 1972) — Saku Koivu (21st, 1993) — Guy Lafleur (1st, 1971)
Stephane Richer (29th, 1984) — Mike Ribeiro (45th, 1998) — Claude Lemieux (26th, 1983)
John Leclair (33rd, 1987) — Tomas Plekanec (71st, 2001) — Pierre Mondou (15th, 1975)
Mats Naslund (37th, 1979) — Guy Carbonneau (44th, 1979) — Brendan Gallagher (147th, 2010)
The left side was stacked with three 50-goal scorers and Naslund, who scored 100 points, and that left Max Pacioretty, Shayne Corson and Bob Gainey off the team. Guy Carbonneau didn’t make the team solely as a checker — he also has the fourth most points of any Canadiens centre. They’ve drafted many centres who had solid 1,000-game careers — all four on the team in addition to Andrew Cassel and Craig Conroy — but they’ve yet to draft a dominant offensive centre. The highest point total of any drafted Habs centre was Keith Acton’s 88 points in 1982. He never scored more than 58 points in another season.
Mondou, despite having his career cut short due to a stick in the eye, still had the fifth most points of any Habs right winger, wiith three solid 30-goal seasons. Gallagher made the team ahead of Valeri Bure and Michael Ryder.
Canadiens Defencemen (Draft number and year)
Larry Robinson (20th, 1971) — Chris Chelios (40th, 1981)
Andrei Markov (162nd, 1998) — PK. Subban (43rd, 2007)
Rod Langway (36th, 1977) — Eric Desjardins (160th, 1991)
The Canadiens might have the best top-pair of any franchise among drafted D-men. I’d love to know what the Habs were thinking trading Chelios to Chicago, along with a second round pick, for a 29-year-old Denis Savard. That turned out to be a brutal trade for the Habs as Savard only played three seasons in Montreal while Chelios (who played seven years in Montreal) went on to play another 19 NHL seasons.
The Habs left side was very deep and Ryan McDonagh and Mathieu Schneider didn’t make the cut.
Canadiens Goalie (Draft number and year)
Patrick Roy (51st, 1984)
Carey Price (5th, 2005)
These were the two obvious choices, and Roy was voted the starter. While the Habs have struggled to draft a true #1 centre, they’ve had excellent success with goalies. In addition to these two they’ve also drafted Tomas Vokoun, Jose Theodore and Jaroslav Halak. They’ve drafted nine goalies who went on to play 300+ games including Phil Myre, Rick Wamsley, Michel ‘Bunny” Larocque and Mathieu Garon.
The Canadiens built a lot of their the four-in-row dynasty through the draft selecting Lafleur, Robinson, Shutt, Gainey, Mondou, Doug Risebrough, Mario Tremblay, Rejean Houle and Rick Chartraw.
Since the 1979 expansion the Habs have drafted a lot of solid NHL players, but they haven’t found many elite players in the first round.
They didn’t have a first rounder in 1979 and then in 1980 they chose Doug Wickenheiser first overall instead of Denis Savard.
Price was an outstanding pick in 2005, and Koivu had a great career, while others like McDonagh, Pacioretty, Corson, Cassel, Mark Hunter, Petr Svoboda and Ron Hainsey have had solid NHL careers.
But they haven’t drafted an elite offensive star in the first round since the took Lafleur and Shutt back-to-back in 1971 and 1972.
Montreal has drafted the most players, 23, who played 1,000+ NHL games, so they’ve had success getting NHL players, but their bid for an elite offensive player has been limited since 1972.
Who would you have on the Habs all-time drafted roster?
NATION NETWORK SERIES..
We launched this series yesterday with the Oilers.
You can see the Maple Leafs roster here.
And later this week we will unveil have Vancouver, Calgary, Ottawa, Winnipeg and then some American teams next week.