Yesterday we took a look at five draft picks that really did not work out for the Montreal Canadiens. Of course, they have also made some picks that stand out as being legitimate steals. Today, we're going to have a look at five of those, and then take a vote on which one takes the top spot.
Oddly enough, some of the greatest Habs players of all time were not drafted. Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Henri Richard, Jacques Plante, and Doug Harvey are some examples of legends who came up through the junior ranks and tried out, or were signed under old rules before the draft was popular.
Quick disclaimer before I get to my top five. Yes, I will be leaving the likes of Guy Lafleur aside here. What I'm looking for are picks that weren't necessarily expected to pan out, but ended up bringing ridiculously good value. something either way down in the draft, or out of left field. An obvious selection of a generational talent at first-overall doesn't really fall into that category.
But I digress. Here are your top five options from which to select.
1. Larry Robinson, 20th-overall in 1971
Career stats in Montreal: 1202GP, 197G, 686A, 883P
Guy Lafleur may have been the headlining selection for the Canadiens in 1971, but I would argue that the real home run was Larry Robinson, selected with their second-round pick. Robinson was the backbone of the Canadiens defence on those dominant 70's teams, and to get him in the second round is unbelievably good value.
He is the fifth highest scorer in club history, and the highest scoring defenseman by a sight. What's funny is that they actually got quite lucky that nobody else scooped him up, because they had two chances in the first-round after Lafleur, but didn't take Robinson.
At seventh-overall, they took Chuck Arnasson, who would only play in 19 games for the club. Then at 11th-overall they took Murray Wilson. Now, Wilson does have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup four times with the Habs, but he was nowhere close to the contributor that Robinson was, nor is he a member of the Hall of fame as Robinson is. They lucked out, and thus Larry makes it on to this list.
2. Brendan Gallagher, 147th-overall in 2010
Career stats in Montreal: 260GP, 77G, 79A, 156P
Gallagher still has a long career ahead of him, but as a fifth-round pick who is now a bonafide top-line right winger in the NHL, he definitely deserves to be on this list. In hindsight, it is abundantly clear that his size pushed him much further down the draft board than he should have gone, and it has benefited Montreal greatly.
He's not just a top-line right winger, he's one of the very best in the entire NHL. It is rare to find that type of talent in the second-round, never mind to do so way down in the fifth. Many players selected in those rounds often don't even make it to the NHL, so we're talking about ridiculous value with Gallagher.
As mentioned, he still has a lot of hockey left in him, so we'll see where he takes his career, but for now he has 100% earned his spot on this list, and your consideration in the vote.
3. Andrei Markov, 162nd-overall in 1998
Career stats in Montreal: 928GP, 113G, 423A, 536P
Eric Chouinard, Mike Ribeiro, Francois Beauchemin, Andrei Bashkirov, and Gordie Dwyer. The Canadiens picked all of those names in 1998 before The General. Yet, only one of those names can still be found on the team's current roster. In the sixth-round, they found one of their highest scoring defensemen in club history. Insane value.
The Canadiens did not have a great draft in 1998. They missed out on a lot of great players, and the benefit of hindsight leaves much to be desired from that particular year. However, the fact that they managed to grab a franchise blueliner in Markov as late as they did really saves it for them.
4. Tomas Plekanec, 71st-overall in 2001
Career stats in Montreal: 843GP, 216G, 337A, 553P
Tomas Plekanec is the saviour of the 2001 Canadiens draft class. Before him, they picked Mike Komisarek, Alexander Perezhogin, and Duncan Milroy (lol, 5GP). After him they picked Martti Jarventie (1GP), Eric Himelfarb (0GP), Andrew Archer (0GP), and Viktor Ujcik (0GP). Plekanec is the only reason that draft year isn't a wash now.
At the present time, he is the highest scoring active player in Canadiens history. He is a staple in the middle of the ice for the Canadiens, and a highly consistent two-way forward. There is a reason that he has stuck around in Montreal for as long as he has, and it would be nice to see him retire with the Canadiens.
5. Patrick Roy, 51st-overall in 1984
Career stats in Montreal: 551GP, 289W, 175L, 29T/OT
Goaltenders are as enigmatic as prospects come. The reason that that position is not often drafted in the first round is because you never really know for sure. They take longer to develop, and there are few sure bets that aren't named Carey Price. Patrick Roy, however, was one of those sure bets, and it is a miracle that the Habs got him in the third round.
As tumultuous as his departure from the team ended up being, few will forget what he did as the MVP on the two most recent Stanley Cup winning iterations of the team. Only the great Jacques Plante has more wins in the Habs crease than he, and only Carey Price has a shot at catching him anytime soon. Heck of a player to snag in the third round of any draft.
The Habs have made many great picks, and in selecting my top five, I tried to stick to picks that are either benefiting the team right now, or had a major impact on the past. Naturally, that will leave out a few people that maybe should deserve a mention. As such, I have made two categories for honourable mentions that were hotly debated amongst myself and the EOTP staff.
Honourable mentions: Goaltenders
|Carey Price||fifth-overall, 2005||447||233||155||36|
|Jaroslav Halak||271st-overall, 2003||101||56||34||9|
|Tomas Vokoun||226th-overall, 1996||1||0||0||0|
When the Canadiens didn't win the Sidney Crosby sweepstakes, they got the next best thing with Carey Price. Some pundits felt the pick was "off the reservation," but many saw it as a very apt choice at fifth-overall. Personally, I wanted that pick from the moment they didn't get number one, so I left him off the list.
Jaroslav Halak was a ninth-round pick, and led the team to one of the craziest, unfathomable playoff runs ever. Unfortunately things didn't pan out for him when stacked up against Price, so I also left him off the list.
Tomas Vokoun didn't make my list because he only played in one game for the team, and was lost to the Nashville Predators in the 1998 expansion draft. Still, for a ninth-round pick, he went on to have a great career. What could have been is worth the honourable mention.
Honourable mentions: Future Captains
|Saku Koivu||21st-overall, 1993||792||191||450||641|
|Guy Carbonneau||44th-overall, 1979||912||221||326||547|
|Max Pacioretty||22nd-overall, 2007||481||174||140||344|
Saku Koivu is one of the more beloved figures in Montreal hockey, and at 21st-overall coming off a Stanley cup, he was somewhat of a steal that far down the order. He also captained the team through some dark years, beat cancer, and is the highest scoring european-born player in club history.
Guy Carbonneau was a bit of an afterthought following the 1979 draft, but he wound up winning two cups with the Canadiens, and was the captain for the second go-around. Worth a mention here.
Max Pacioretty is obviously the current captain, and one of the best pure scorers in the league. You don't often get talent like that once you get deep into the first-round, but the Canadiens got that in spades with Pacioretty. Great pick, and worth a mention.
Finally, I suppose I have to mention P.K. Subban. Drafted the same year as Pacioretty, the former Habs blueliner was chosen at the excellent bargain spot of 43rd overall. Had they not made the decision to trade him away, a decision I very much disagree with for the record, there is a good chance he would have made my top-five.
And there you have it folks. The voting will be limited to the five options that I have laid out in my list, but as always, we welcome you to choose "other" and discuss what you feel is the best Canadiens draft pick in the comments!