The NHL Entry Draft is one of the most important annual events for every team, as it is an opportunity to ensure a successful transition from a current roster to a future, hopefully more successful, version of their franchise. For that reason, being prepared, scouting high and low, and taking risks are a necessity.
Over the years, as competition grew more fierce, the scouting radius became bigger, scouting staffs grew, and eventually coordinating the whole operation and making final decisions became too much for a general manager to handle.
This series looks at the people responsible behind the scenes who were directly responsible for drafting for the Montreal Canadiens, and what their luck was at the draft table.
André Boudrias (Draft Years: 1984-1995)
André Boudrias started his playing career with the Montreal Junior Canadiens of the QMJHL along with Yvan Cournoyer, and spent 12 seasons in the NHL. After he retired, he became an assistant coach with the Québec Nordiques under Jacques Demers, and then worked as a scout for Central Scouting Bureau (CSB) for two seasons.
Boudrias joined the Canadiens organization on June 13, 1983 as assistant coach for the American Hockey League’s Nova Scotia Voyageurs, the Canadiens farm team at the time. His role was specifically to develop the recruits for the team of Head Coach John Brophy.
On February 3, 1984 it was announced that Boudrias would return to Montreal from Nova Scotia to head the modernization of the scouting department, using computers to collect all scouting information (both from Central Scouting and their own notes) on prospects in preparation for the entry draft. A full history of each player would be developed.
“André is the most competent person to be leading this service. He earned his stripes as an assistant coach with the Nordiques, and then two years at the CSB. We obviously won’t let the computer make the decision for us, but this way we will be able to rapidly obtain detailed information for each prospect available at the entry draft. We will be able to go as far back as midget. As the Canadiens hold the Whalers’ first pick worth a top five [at the 1984 draft], we cannot get it wrong.” - General Manager Serge Savard
On June 1, 1984, in preparation of the entry draft, it was announced that Claude Ruel would step down from his role of leading the draft to become Director of Player Development. Boudrias became Director of Recruiting, with all scouts report in to him.
The 1984 draft was considered exceptionally strong beyond Mario Lemieux, Kirk Muller, Ed Olczyk, and Al Iafrate, who were considered slam dunks to go in the first four spots ahead of Montreal’s pick. The league held this draft in such high regard that it became the first one to be televised, and was even broadcast in some arenas on closed circuit TV.
The Habs would in fact pick twice in the first round, having traded starting goaltender Rick Wamsley and picks to St. Louis for their first- and second-round picks.
Whatever preparations the Canadiens had been making since February certainly took a sharp turn when a young Czechoslovakian Petr Svoboda defected from his home country to come to North America, and immediately shot up everyone’s lists based on his performance at the most recent World Junior Championship, where he ranked first among defencemen in points, ahead of highly touted prospects such as Jean-Jacques Daigneault and Sylvain Côté. Serge Savard trusted his scouts Neil Armstrong and Claude Ruel, who saw Svoboda play, and he made the final call.
The other player selected in the first round by the Canadiens, Shayne Corson, drew comparisons to Bob Gainey from Savard. “I would have taken him fifth overall if I couldn’t get Svoboda, because he was a player who we liked a lot.” Two other players selected that year both came from the Granby Bisons of the QMJHL: Stéphane Richer (second round) and Patrick Roy (third round).
As the league was becoming more inclusive of Europeans and the opportunities the continent presented for expanding the talent pool for drafting, Boudrias remained old-school and didn’t believe that Europeans had what it took to play in the NHL. Ex-Habs player and European scout J.C. Tremblay recommended several players for the organization to consider, but they were always passed over, to the benefit of the other NHL teams. The Canadiens relied too heavily on players out of Western Canada, and these players rarely paid off. Under Boudrias, the team drafted a string of first-round busts in the late 80s and into the mid 90s.
On October 17, 1995, a date that goes down in Canadien infamy, President Ronald Corey fired general manager Savard, head scout Carol Vadnais, and, after 11 year of drafting, Boudrias, blaming them for the team’s lack of success.
ANDRE BOUDRIAS’ DRAFT TRACK RECORD
- Total players drafted: 157
- Total players who attained the NHL: 73
- Success rate: 46%
- Best draft: 1984. Four draft picks played 1,000 NHL games or more, and were major contributors to the 1986 and 1993 Stanley Cup victories.
- Top 5 best picks: Patrick Roy, Saku Koivu, Stéphane Richer, John LeClair, Mathieu Schneider.
- Fun fact: Drafted in the 12th round of the 1984 draft out of the Verdun Juniors of the QMJHL, goaltender Troy Crosby didn’t really make a dent in the Canadiens organization outside of a few training camp appearances. His son, Sidney, is currently having one of the greatest NHL careers in a generation.