Over the past fifteen years, the Montreal Canadiens have been notoriously good at finding diamonds in the rough in the later rounds of the NHL Entry Draft.
On the current roster alone, the Habs have gotten major return on later round picks. Brendan Gallagher, most notably was a fifth rounder in 2010. Tomas Plekanec was a third-round pick in 2001. Alexei Emelin was also a third round selection, taken in 2004. Of course, we can also throw P.K. Subban into that mix, a second round pick in 2007.
There have been other late-round Montreal selections who have flourished, be it in Montreal or elsewhere, at some point in their careers; notably Mikhail Grabovski, Mark Streit and Jaroslav Halak.
One thing the Canadiens have not been good at, until recently at the very least, is hitting home runs with their first round picks. While selecting a roster player is nice, first round picks are the players you're hoping will mature into top-end, first line studs that will ultimately be the cornerstones of your Stanley Cup contending (and winning) franchise.
For whatever reason, the Canadiens have managed to botch more than their fair share of first round picks. Whether they picked the wrong guy, ruined a player through poor development, or shipped the guy elsewhere and watched him flourish in a different uniform, the Habs, overall, have had a ton of trouble developing the players that should have been the easiest to turn into high-end talent.
While they've hit on a few over the past 15 years, the number of whiffs outweighs the number of hits significantly - and a trip down memory lane will prove that.
16 2000 - Ron Hainsey (13th), Marcel Hossa (16th)
Montreal Stats: 32 GP, 1 G, 1 A, 2 P, +2, 12:42 TOI
Hainsey was supposed to be a big, offensive-minded defenseman to complement the Habs blueline of the early 2000s. He never got much of a chance in Montreal, but went on to have a decent career, posting his best numbers while with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Montreal Stats: 59 GP, 10 G, 9 A, 19 P, +2, 13:43 TOI
The Habs had already messed up with the first Hossa, Marian, when they took Jason Ward ahead of the future Hall of Famer in 1997. They figured that by taking his younger brother, Marcel, they could make up for that massive blunder.
Wrong. Hossa did nothing in Montreal, and didn't do much during the rest of his NHL career, either.
Pick #13: Justin Williams - A big RW who has been infinitely more productive in his nearly 1,000 game career than Hossa ever was.
Pick #16: Niklas Kronwall - A strong, physical, effective blue-liner who could have locked down the Habs backend alongside Andrei Markov for the following 15 years.
15 2001 - Mike Komisarek (7th), Alexander Perezoghin (25th)
Montreal Stats: 361 GP, 12 G, 46 A, 58 P, +13, 17:56 TOI
Komisarek actually turned out to be a pretty solid pick for the Habs. He was a big, physical defensive defenseman who complemented the offensive wizardry of Andrei Markov perfectly for several seasons. Unfortunately, a devastating loss in a fight with Milan Lucic seemed to have effectively ruined Komisarek's career. Montreal wisely let him walk - he caught on in Toronto, where he ultimately flamed out.
Montreal Stats: 128 GP, 15 G, 19 A, 34 P, +16, 10:57 TOI
For a fleeting moment it seemed like Alexander Perezoghin would turn out to be a flier/risk worth taking. He didn't put up huge numbers but the tantalizing talent was on display.
Then he bolted, never to return. Good riddance.
Pick #7: Dan Hamhuis - If the Habs had a redo and wanted another defenseman, Hamhuis is the clear-cut choice.
Pick #25: Mike Cammalleri - Since Perezoghin was a late first-rounder we dipped into the second round for our replacement. It could have just as easily been hometown boy Jason Pominville, too.
*The Habs missed on both Cammalleri and Pominville in round 2, electing to instead take Duncan Milroy, who played 5 NHL games in his career. Carry on.
14 2002 -Chris Higgins (14th)
Montreal Stats: 282 GP, 84 G, 67 A, 151 P, -13, 16:40 TOI
Like Komisarek, it was looking like Chris Higgins was meant to be a Hab. He worked hard, scored goals and overall won over the entire city. Whispers of his potential as Saku Koivu's eventual successor as captain grew louder and louder with each passing season.
It wasn't until Higgins spouted off about his potential to become a 40 G, 40 A player did things start to go south for the American winger. He raised the bar to a level he could never achieve and it earned him the ire of a once loving fan-base. He was eventually sent to the Rangers in the Scott Gomez deal.
Pick #14: Alex Steen - Steen, taken 24th by Toronto, has blossomed into an offensive dynamo, while Higgins has been relegated to second or third line duties in Vancouver.
13 2003 - Andrei Kostitsyn (10th)
Montreal Stats: 379 GP, 99 G, 111 A, 210 P, +8, 15:17 TOI
Kostitsyn was a boom-or-bust pick: an enigmatic player with a lot of high-end offensive talent. He showed flashes of it in Montreal, especially in 07-08, during Alex Kovalev's best season as a Hab. Kostitsyn was expected to breakout after that season, but it never happened. He fell out of favor quickly in Montreal. After a stint in Nashville, he went to the KHL, never to return.
Pick #10: Ryan Getzlaf - The Habs could have taken practically anyone else after Kostitsyn in the first round of the '03 draft and they would have come out looking golden. Getzlaf fits the bill here because he's the big centre the Habs have lacked for awhile, but they would have done just as well with Zach Parise or Corey Perry, among others.
12 2004 - Kyle Chipchura (18th)
Montreal Stats: 68 G, 4 G, 10 A, 14 P, -17, 10:24 TOI
If you watched Kyle Chipchura at the beginning of his NHL career, you're sitting there today scratching your head, baffled by the fact that he's still holding down an NHL roster spot. To say Chipchura was bad in Montreal is an understatement. Let's not rehash bad memories.
Pick #18: Travis Zajac - The Habs took the wrong center in the middle of the '04 draft. While Zajac has tapered off a bit, he's still a much better option that Chipchura ever was or ever will be.
11 2005 - Carey Price (5th)
Montreal Stats: 435 GP, 223-153-50, .919 SV%, 2.44 GAA
FINALLY. Someone we can say good things about. We all remember Carey Price's early struggles, but his excellent play over the last three seasons (especially last year) has quieted any and all doubters.
Pick #5: Carey Price - There's no need to reach elsewhere here, not even for Anze Kopitar. Bob Gainey hit a grand slam with this one.
10 2006 - David Fischer (20th)
Montreal Stats: ZERO.
That's right. ZERO. David Fischer never played a game in the NHL. He didn't even play a game for the Habs AHL affiliate. He was never signed to a pro contract by the Canadiens.
The word "bust" doesn't do this pick justice.
Pick #20: Claude Giroux - The Habs missed out on yet another top-flight center and this one was playing literally an hour and a half away from them in junior. A massive failure all around.
9 2007 - Ryan McDonagh (12th), Max Pacioretty (22nd)
Montreal Stats: Traded to the Rangers as a prospect.
If Bob Gainey had been a little bit more patient, a little more prudent, and a lot more attentive to his scouts, the Habs would likely still have McDonagh and would have one of the top defensive cores in the league. Instead, McDonagh is captaining the vaunted Rangers, while the Habs have nothing to show for their former first-round selection
Montreal Stats: 399 GP, 144 G, 136 A, 280 P, +47, 16:55 TOI
By far the Habs best first round pick outside of Price in the past fifteen years. Pacioretty is the favorite to wear the C for the Habs for the duration of his contract, and he's been an inspiration to teammates, coaches, and fans alike, battling through serious injuries and coming back stronger each time. Not to mention he's figured out how to do that scoring thing pretty well, too.
Pick #12: Ryan McDonagh
Pick #22: Max Pacioretty
The Habs struck gold on both picks. They wouldn't have to do anything differently, besides not trading McDonagh for a bag of pucks, of course.
8 2008 - Traded Pick for Alex Tanguay
The Habs traded the 25th overall pick to the Calgary Flames for Alex Tanguay. In the moment it seemed like a brilliant move. The Habs we're coming off a first place finish in the Eastern Conference and their offense looked to be in peak condition with Alex Kovalev and Saku Koivu leading a charge of young up-and-comers like Mark Streit, Tomas Plekanec, Chris Higgins, Andrei Kostitsyn, Michael Ryder and Guillaume Latendresse.
Adding Tanguay was supposed to further load up a crop of forwards that was on the cusp of contending for a championship. Instead, the whole team flaked out and barely made the playoffs in the team's centennial year, only to get swept in the first-round by the Boston Bruins.
Pick #25: John Carlson - The Habs would have been better off using the pick, as the Tanguay experiment bore no results. John Carlson would have been another nice fit on the Habs blueline. Derek Stepan was also available - he went in round two.
7 2009 - Louis Leblanc (18th)
Montreal Stats: 50 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 P, +4, 10:59 TOI
Let's put the cards on the table here: if the fact that Louis Leblanc wasn't a Montreal boy and the 2009 Draft hadn't been in Montreal, there's a decent chance the guy doesn't get taken by the Habs in the first round. Politics will always be an issue in Montreal and for one night it appears the Canadiens let it get the better of them.
Many will scoff at that notion, saying Leblanc never got a fair shake in Montreal. Perhaps, but no other team was willing to give him a shot, period. He recently signed a two-way deal with the Islanders, but there's a better chance of David Fischer making the NHL this year than there is for Leblanc to "get his fair shake" and actually do anything productive for the Isles.
Pick #19: Ryan O'Reilly - O'Reilly went in the second round, so everyone missed on him initially, but he's done enough to earn a spot in a first round re-draft.
6 2010 - Jarred Tinordi (22nd)
Montreal Stats: 43 GP, 0 G, 6 A, -2, 13:16 TOI
The Habs were lauded for their selection of behemoth rearguard Jarred Tinordi back in 2010, but things haven't worked out as planned up to this point. Many people, including Tinordi, we're likely expecting Tinordi to already be a staple on the Habs blue line. It's taken longer than expected, but it's hard to give up on a guy with that kind of size and physical ability.
Pick #22: Jarred Tinordi - A lot of this has to do with the fact that we haven't seen Tinordi in the lineup for an extended period of time. Justin Faulk and Tyler Toffoli went in round 2, but would we be raving about them the way we do after only 43 games? Probably not.
In a worst case scenario, the Habs can definitely get some value for Tinordi if they have no other choice but to trade him.
5 2011 - Nathan Beaulieu (17th)
Montreal Stats: 87 GP, 1 G, 8 A, 9 P, +17, 15:12 TOI
For awhile there it looked like Beaulieu was about to hop into the same boat Tinordi has been on. Thankfully, Beaulieu got his shot last season and ran with it. He was impressive in his 64 regular season games and just as good after returning from injury in the playoffs. Beaulieu will be a staple on the Habs blue line this year and, hopefully, for many years after that.
Pick #17: Nathan Beaulieu - No need for a redo here. The future looks bright for Beaulieu.
4 2012 - Alex Galchenyuk (3rd)
Montreal Stats: 193 GP, 42 G, 62 A, 104 P, +10, 14:43 TOI
Alex Galchenyuk has been the highest scoring player of the 2012 Draft up to this point, so that's a good sign.
However, there's still some concern surrounding the young American. He's still playing on the wing, when everyone expected him to be at center by now. If it doesn't happen this year, it may never happen.
That said, his numbers have increased every year and the Habs have purposely been taking their time with him. They might be ready to unleash him this year and if his junior numbers are any indication, all doubts about his offensive capabilities could be gone before long.
Pick #3: Alex Galchenyuk - He's the highest scoring player from the draft and the Habs would stick with him here.
3 2013 - Michael McCarron (25th)
Montreal Stats: None.
McCarron continued the trend of big bodies being brought in by GM Marc Bergevin. After slow start to his career in London, his offensive numbers shot up this season. He was traded to powerhouse Oshawa, where he was put in more of a two-way role, one that he thrived in. McCarron looks like he'll be a solid NHL player in a few years time.
Pick #25: Michael McCarron - No one taken after McCarron has been good enough to warrant any doubts about this pick up to this point.
2 2014 - Nikita Scherbak (26th)
Montreal Stats: None.
Ask any casual Habs fan what they think of Nikita Scherbak and they will likely start gushing about the young Russian. If all goes well, it looks like the Habs found their top-end RW of the future. Sherbak has already started to fill out his frame and could get his first taste of the NHL as early as this season.
Pick #26: Nikita Scherbak - No one taken after McCarron has done anything of note yet, while Scherbak has continued to turn heads in the juniors.
1 2015 - Noah Juulsen (26th)
Montreal Stats: None.
Juulsen was taken by the Habs mere months ago. He's projected to be a smooth-skating, top-end offensive defenseman. He's been invited to Canada's World Junior camp, so that's a good sign. We'll know more about him by the end of this season.
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