The draft first started in 1963 and was called the NHL Amateur Draft until 1979 when they renamed it the NHL Entry Draft. Since the drafts first started, the Montreal Canadiens have made some pretty great choices throughout the years, such as Guy Lafleur in 1971, Saku Koivu in 1993 and Carey Price in 2005.
While I’m sure they’re satisfied with the majority of their choices, there is always bound to be a few busts that they wish they could take back, such as Terry Ryan in 1995, David Fischer in 2006 and Louis LeBlanc in 2009.
Imagine if they could redo the draft knowing what they know now; how great would that be? But that’s what drafts are for – taking chances on young talented prospects who may or may not produce at the highest NHL level. There are several talented big-name players throughout the years that the Habs could have chosen but decided to go in a different direction instead, such as picking a player at a certain position they needed or someone with size, etc.
With that said, here is a list of the top 15 NHL superstars that very easily could have ended up playing for the Canadiens had their management made the slight change of drafting them instead.
15 Filip Forsberg
The Montreal Canadiens had the 3rd-overall draft pick in 2012 and chose Alex Galchenyuk. Although he is a good player with 204 points in 336 games, there’s been much talk surrounding his future with the team such as several trade rumors, and not to mention the fact that although he’s better at center, the coach keeps putting him on wing. With that being said, they had the option to choose Filip Forsberg who was drafted 11th by Washington.
Although he was drafted by the Capitals, Forsberg has spent his entire five-year NHL career thus far with the Nashville Predators from 2012 to the present day and has 191 points in 264 regular season games. He has racked up over 50 points in the last three consecutive seasons (twice he produced over 60 points). He also has 26 points in 42 playoff games.
Although they’re both talented players, if we compare the two, I think the Habs would have been better off with Forsberg over Galchenyuk.
14 Simon Gagne
The Montreal Canadiens had the 16th-overall draft pick in 1998 and chose Eric Chouinard who played one season with them and recorded 4 points in 13 games. They could have very easily chosen Simon Gagne who ended up being drafted 22nd by Philadelphia.
Gagne had a great career between 1999 and 2015 mostly with the Philadelphia Flyers (11 seasons with them), Tampa Bay Lightning, Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins. He produced 601 points and a +129 plus/minus rating in 822 regular season games. And he had four seasons where he racked up over 60 points. He then recorded 59 points in 109 playoff games. He also helped Los Angeles win the Stanley Cup in 2012.
This Quebec native would have no doubt been a fan favorite had the Canadiens drafted him.
13 Niklas Kronwall
The Montreal Canadiens had the 13th overall draft pick in 2000 and chose Ron Hainsey who spent two seasons with them and tallied 2 points in 32 games. They also had the 16th pick and chose Marcel Hossa who didn’t do much better with 19 points in 59 games. They twice passed up the much better Niklas Kronwall who was drafted 29th by Detroit.
Kronwall has spent his entire 13-year NHL career thus far with the Detroit Red Wings from 2003 to the present day. In 795 regular season games, this defenseman has 378 points with 157 of them produced on the power play. In six of those seasons, he produced over 30 points and even reached over 50 points in 2008-09. He then appeared in 109 playoff games and earned 47 points. He helped the Red Wings win the Stanley Cup in 2008.
It’s a shame the Habs didn’t pick up this great point-producing defenseman.
12 Dan Hamhuis
The Montreal Canadiens had the 7th overall draft pick in 2001 and chose Mike Komisarek who spent six seasons with them and tallied 58 points, along with 496 penalty minutes in 361 games. If a physical defenseman is what the Habs were determined to get, they could have instead chosen Dan Hamhuis who was drafted 12th by Nashville.
Hamhuis has spent 13 seasons thus far in NHL (2003 to the present day) between the Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars. He has 319 points, 588 penalty minutes and a +74 plus/minus rating in 951 regular season games. He can also deliver hits, block shots and is known to occasionally drop his gloves. He has also appeared in 62 playoff games and tallied 21 points.
The Canadiens received physicality with Komisarek, but Hamhuis could have done all that and contributed more to the score sheet.
11 Alexander Steen
The Montreal Canadiens had the 14th overall draft pick in 2002 and chose Chris Higgins who spent five seasons with them and recorded 151 points, along with a -13 plus/minus rating in 282 games. They could have instead chosen Alexander Steen who was drafted 24th by Toronto and ended up having a much better career than Higgins.
Steen has so far spent 12 seasons in the NHL from 2005 to the present day between the Toronto Maple Leafs and St. Louis Blues. He has produced 532 points (including 163 of those points recorded on the power play), along with a +44 rating in 822 regular season games. During his career, he has produced over 50 points five different times including the last four consecutive seasons. He has also appeared in 61 playoff games and recorded 31 points.
Although Higgins wasn’t a horrible player, the Habs could have gotten a lot more with Steen.
10 Anze Kopitar
The Montreal Canadiens had the 5th overall draft pick in 2005 and chose Carey Price. Had they opted to choose a player other than a goaltender, they could have picked Anze Kopitar who was drafted 11th by Los Angeles.
Kopitar has spent his entire 11-year NHL career thus far with the Los Angeles Kings from 2006 to the present day. So far he has produced 736 points and a +69 plus/minus rating in 840 regular season games. He has racked up over 50 points in all but one season. He has also appeared in 75 playoff games and earned 64 points. He helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. He was also awarded both the Frank J. Selke Trophy and Lady Byng Memorial Trophy in 2016.
The Habs definitely hit the jackpot with goaltender Carey Price, but they could have just as easily received a star center with Kopitar.
9 Claude Giroux
The Montreal Canadiens had the 20th overall pick in 2006 and chose David Fischer who never ended up playing any games in the NHL. If they had passed on him, they could have picked Claude Giroux who was drafted just two picks later at 22nd overall by Philadelphia.
Giroux has had a fantastic career thus far, playing all 10 seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers from 2007 to the present day. So far in his career, he has played 656 regular season games and has produced 575 points (including 237 of those points recorded on the power play). He has racked up over 50 points in six of his last seven seasons (including the last four consecutive years).
There’s no doubt that the Habs are regretting their bust of a pick in Fischer and wishing they would have picked the very talented Giroux.
8 Evgeny Kuznetsov
The Montreal Canadiens had the 22nd overall draft pick in 2010 and chose Jarred Tinordi who, in four seasons, had played a total of just 46 games and tallied 6 assists. He failed to earn a permanent spot with the Habs and eventually got traded. Instead, they could and should have chosen the very talented Evgeny Kuznetsov who was drafted 26th by Washington.
Kuznetsov has spent his entire four-year NHL career thus far with the Washington Capitals and has produced 182 points, along with a +53 plus/minus rating in 261 regular season games. In his last two consecutive seasons, he has racked up over 50 points and even produced a team-leading 77 points in 2015-16. He then appeared in 39 playoff games and tallied 19 points.
With Tinordi ending up being such a bust, it’s too bad the Canadiens missed out on the very talented Kuznetsov.
7 Jeff Carter
Jeff Carter was chosen 11th in 2003 by Philadelphia – just one spot after Kostitsyn. He’s had a great 12-year NHL career so far from 2005 to the present day playing for the Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and currently the Los Angeles Kings.
So far in his career, he has produced 650 points (which includes 187 power play points, 20 shorthanded points and 73 game-winning goals), along with a +74 plus/minus rating in 877 regular season games. He has racked up over 60 points six times, including the last three consecutive seasons. His best season so far was in 2008-09 when he produced a team-leading 84 points in 82 games. He has also appeared in 116 playoff games and recorded 74 points. He helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014.
This power forward could have definitely helped the Canadiens had they drafted him.
6 Dustin Brown
Dustin Brown was drafted 13th in 2003 by the Los Angeles Kings. He has spent his entire 13-year NHL career thus far with the Kings from 2003 to the present day.
He has produced 506 points (154 of those were recorded while on the power play) in 964 regular season games. He earned over 50 points during five consecutive seasons from 2007-08 to 2011-12. He is also a very physical player who has 2,977 hits which averages out to over three hits per game. As for the playoffs, he has appeared in 81 games and tallied 46 points. He helped the Kings win two Stanley Cups in 2012 and 2014. Also in his career, he was awarded the NHL Foundation Player Award 2011 and the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award in 2014.
If we compare him with Kostitsyn in terms of physicality as well as producing points, the Canadiens would have been a lot better off choosing Brown.
5 Zach Parise
Zach Parise was drafted 17th in 2003 by New Jersey. He has spent 12 seasons in the NHL so far from 2005 to the present day playing for the New Jersey Devils and now currently the Minnesota Wild.
So far in his career, he has produced 661 points (206 of those were power play points) and a +84 plus/minus rating in 830 regular season games. In eight of his twelve seasons, he had racked up over 50 points. His best season so far was in 2008-09 when he racked a team-leading 94 points in 82 games. In fact, he led his team in points during five seasons. He has also appeared in 94 playoff games and earned 71 points.
Parise can rack up points, has a great plus/minus rating, and does not spend a lot of time in the penalty box. He would have been a great asset for the Canadiens if they had drafted him.
4 Ryan Getzlaf
Ryan Getzlaf was drafted 19th in 2003 by Anaheim. He has spent his entire 12-year NHL career thus far with the Ducks from 2005 to the present day.
In 861 regular season games, he has racked up 814 points (with 293 of them produced on the power play) and an excellent +145 plus/minus rating. He has racked up at least 50 points in all but two seasons and he has produced over 60 points in the last four consecutive seasons. He can also play a physical game with a total of 1,454 hits which averages out to just under two hits per game. He has also appeared in 121 playoff games and recorded 118 points. He helped the Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2007.
Getzlaf is a strong power forward who could have certainly helped the Canadiens had they drafted him.
3 Brent Burns
Brent Burns was drafted 20th in 2003 by Minnesota. So far, he has spent 13 seasons in the NHL from 2003 to the present day playing for the Minnesota Wild and currently the San Jose Sharks.
So far in his career, this point-producing defenseman has recorded 499 points in 879 regular season games. He has racked up at least 60 points in each of his last three consecutive seasons and in the last two years he has produced over 70 points. He can also throw his body around with a total of 1,104 hits. He has also appeared in 64 playoff games and tallied 39 points. He was awarded the NHL Foundation Player Award in 2015.
This large 6’5” – 230 pound point-producing defenseman could have definitely helped the Canadiens’ blue line had they drafted him.
2 Ryan Kesler
Ryan Kesler was drafted 23rd in 2003 by Vancouver. He has spent 13 seasons so far in the NHL from 2003 to the present day playing for the Vancouver Canucks and currently the Anaheim Ducks.
So far in his career, he has posted 551 points in 897 regular season games. He has produced over 50 points five times, including the last two consecutive seasons. He’s also a physical player who has delivered a total of 1,316 hits and has a total of 830 penalty minutes which includes 28 majors. He’s even great at the defensive aspect of the game which is why he was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy in 2011. He has also appeared in 97 playoff games and earned 63 points.
Had the Canadiens drafted Kesler, they would have received a talented center man who can pretty much do it all.
1 Corey Perry
Corey Perry was drafted 28th in 2003 by Anaheim. He has spent his entire 12-year NHL career thus far with the Ducks from 2005 to the present day.
So far in his career, he has racked up 717 points (including 228 which were recorded on the power play) and a +96 plus/minus rating in 886 regular season games. In nine of his twelve seasons, he has racked up over 50 points and in four of those seasons he produced over 70 points. His best season so far was in 2010-11 when he produced 98 points in 82 games. In fact, he was awarded both the Maurice Richard Trophy and Hart Memorial Trophy in 2011. He also plays a physical game with 892 hits and has 1,012 penalty minutes which includes 28 majors. He has appeared in 114 playoff games and earned 89 points. He helped the Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2007.
The Canadiens definitely could have used Perry in their lineup had they drafted him.
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