The NHL Entry Draft is the most exciting time of year for hockey prospects, as well as the teams and general managers who have to decide who they want to draft as part of their team. Hockey fans from all over watch the Draft and are excited to see who the new additions to their favorite teams will be. Will they be the next “great one” or will they never make it to the National Hockey League?
The first NHL Amateur Draft was held in 1963. The Montreal Canadiens had the first ever draft pick and chose Garry Monahan first overall.
The Canadiens have had at least one first round draft pick in every year since 1963 except in 1979, 1999 and 2008. They have also had the first overall draft pick on five different occasions: Garry Monahan in 1963; Michel Plasse in 1968; Rejean Houle in 1969; Guy Lafleur in 1971; and Doug Wickenheiser in 1980.
The Canadiens have had a total of 76 first round draft picks in the last 54 years, some who have became Hall of Fame members and others who most of us haven’t even heard of.
Let’s take a look at the 8 best and 7 worst first round draft picks the Montreal Canadiens have made.
15 Best: Pierre Mondou
Pierre Mondou was drafted 15th overall in the 1975 NHL Amateur Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. The 5’10, 175 pound center spent his entire eight-year NHL career with the Canadiens from 1977-78 to 1984-85.
Known as a great penalty killer, he recorded 456 points in 548 regular season games. He also produced 44 power play goals and 5 shorthanded ones. During the eight seasons he played with the Habs, he ranked second among his fellow teammates in plus/minus rating (+215) and ranked third overall in goals (194) and assists (262).
In five of his eight seasons, he produced at least 50 points, with his best season being in 1978-79 when he racked up a very impressive 72 points in 77 regular season games.
He also helped the Canadiens win three Stanley Cups – 1977, 1978 and 1979.
14 Worst: Robin Sadler
The Montreal Canadiens had the 9th overall draft pick in 1975 and chose the 6’2, 180 pound defenseman Robin Sadler. He seemed to be a great point producing defenseman because prior to being drafted, he played for the Edmonton Oil Kings in the WCHL for the 1974-75 season, racking up 93 points in 66 regular season games.
He attended the Canadiens training camp in 1975, but after disliking the experience, he chose to go home. He was then drafted 18th overall in the 1975 WHA Amateur Draft but never played a game with that league either.
In 1976-77, he chose to play for Vastra Frolunda in the Swedish League, followed by one season in the AHL with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. He then spent the rest of his hockey career overseas playing in Austria.
Needless to say, Robin Sadler was certainly a waste of a draft pick, but the Canadiens made up for it by later drafting Pierre Mondou 15th overall in that same round.
13 Best: Saku Koivu
Saku Koivu was chosen 21st overall in the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. This 5’10, 180 pound center spent the first thirteen years of his NHL career with them from 1995-2009 and served as their team captain during his last nine seasons.
He had a very illustrious career with the Habs, producing 641 points in 792 regular season games. During his thirteen years with them, he ranked first among his fellow teammates in games played (792), goals (191), assists (450) and points (641). He also led the team with 245 power play points (including a team-leading 66 goals), 35 game-winning goals and 7 overtime goals.
Although the Canadiens were unable to win another Stanley Cup during that time, Saku Koivu did earn two very important awards. He was awarded the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy in 2002 for showing the best qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the sport. He was then given the King Clancy Trophy in 2007 which is given to the player who shows leadership qualities both on and off the ice, along with making a noteworthy humanitarian contribution to the community.
12 Worst: Ray Martyniuk
The Montreal Canadiens thought they hit the jackpot when they drafted Ray Martyniuk 5th overall in the 1970 NHL Amateur Draft. At the time, he was one of the highest ever drafted goaltenders. Prior to being drafted, the 5’10, 165 pound goaltender spent three years in the WCHL with the Flin Flon Bombers, putting up fantastic numbers and even winning a trophy as the top goalie.
He never did play in the NHL. He did have a successful amateur career, playing the American Hockey League, Western Hockey League, Central Hockey League, International Hockey League and the Western International Hockey League.
The Montreal Canadiens wasted that draft pick on Martyniuk, but chose Chuck Lefley with their second first round pick (6th overall), who turned out to put up decent numbers for the Habs.
11 Best: Pierre Bouchard
Being the son of Hall of Fame member and former Canadiens defenseman, Emile “Butch” Bouchard, there were high expectations for Pierre Bouchard and he didn’t disappoint. The Montreal Canadiens drafted him 5th overall in the 1965 NHL Amateur Draft.
The 6’2, 205 pound defenseman spent the first eight seasons of his NHL career with the Canadiens from 1970 to 1978. He wasn’t a big point producing defenseman, tallying just 82 points in 489 regular season games. But he helped in other big ways, recording a very impressive +136 plus/minus rating. In fact, he was never in the minuses in any of his eight seasons with them. He also wasn’t afraid to deliver hard hits without getting overly penalized, tallying just 379 penalty minutes and never reaching over 70 minutes in the box in any of his seasons with the Habs.
He also helped the Canadiens win five Stanley Cups – 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977 and 1978.
10 Worst: Elgin McCann
The Montreal Canadiens only had one first round pick in the 1967 NHL Amateur Draft (8th overall pick) and wasted it on Elgin McCann. The 5’8, 175 pound right winger never did make a NHL appearance.
Prior to being drafted, he put up fantastic numbers in the CMJHL playing for the Weyburn Red Wings and racking up 63 points in 56 regular season games. Although he never played in the NHL, he did have a decent amateur career playing in several different leagues: the American Hockey League, Central Professional Hockey League, International Hockey League, Central Hockey League, Eastern Hockey League, the Central Senior Hockey League, and the British Columbia Senior Hockey League.
Of course, we can’t really blame the Habs for picking McCann, as only one player of all the eleven first round draft picks actually played in the NHL.
9 Best: Rejean Houle
The Montreal Canadiens chose Rejean Houle 1st overall in the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft. The 5’11, 170 pound winger spent his entire eleven-year NHL career with the Canadiens in two separate stints with them, from 1969-70 until 1972-73, and again from 1976-77 until 1982-83.
During his time with the Habs, he produced 408 points and a +180 plus/minus rating in 635 regular season games. His second time with the Canadiens (1976-1983) proved to be much better than his first stint with them, racking up at least 50 points in four of those seven seasons, and at least 40 points in every one of those seven seasons except his last, where he played just 16 games.
He also helped them win five Stanley Cups – 1971, 1973, 1977, 1978 and 1979.
8 Worst: Louis Leblanc
The Montreal Canadiens drafted Louis LeBlanc 18th overall in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.
The 6 foot tall, 188 pound center made his NHL debut during the 2011-12 season and played a total of 42 games with the Canadiens that year, registering 10 points. He didn’t play for them again until the 2013-14 season, when he appeared in eight games but failed to earn any points.
He didn’t do much better playing the American Hockey League with Montreal’s affiliate team, the Hamilton Bulldogs. He played a total of 163 regular season games with them between 2011 and 2014, but managed just 68 points and an unimpressive -29 plus/minus rating.
In June 2014, the Montreal Canadiens traded Louis LeBlanc to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a conditional 5th round draft pick in 2015. He then announced his retirement from hockey in 2016 at 25 years of age.
7 Best: Bob Gainey
The Montreal Canadiens chose Bob Gainey 8th overall in the 1973 NHL Amateur Draft. The 6’2, 200 pound left winger spent his entire sixteen-year NHL career with the Canadiens from 1973-74 to 1988-89.
He had a pretty impressive career, producing 501 points and a +196 plus/minus rating in 1,160 regular season games. He helped the Canadiens win five Stanley Cups – 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1986. He also served as their team captain during his last eight seasons with them.
He was awarded four consecutive Frank J. Selke Trophies (1978-1981) which is given annually to the best defensive forward during the regular season. In fact, he was the first ever recipient of the trophy which began in 1978. He was also awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1979 for being the most valuable player to his team during the playoffs.
Gainey was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1992. His number 23 jersey was later retired by the Montreal Canadiens on February 23, 2008.
6 Worst: David Fischer
The Montreal Canadiens had the 20th choice in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft and they claimed David Fischer.
At the time of the draft, the 16-year-old defenseman was playing for Apple Valley High School in Minnesota. Measuring at 6’3 and 185 pounds, he never did make it to the National Hockey League. He spent four seasons playing for the University of Minnesota, followed by two seasons in the ECHL with the Florida Everblades. He played two games with the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League in 2011-12, but that was it. He has since been playing overseas.
If the Canadiens would have passed on Fischer, they could have claimed one of the other prospects who turned out to have great careers: Claude Giroux (drafted 22nd), Patrik Berglund (drafted 25th), and Nick Foligno (drafted 28th).
5 Best: Carey Price
The Montreal Canadiens drafted Carey Price 5th overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The 6’3, 225 pound goaltender has spent his entire NHL career thus far with the Canadiens which began during the 2007-08 season and continues to this very day.
So far, Price has played in 479 regular season games, earning 254 wins (including 38 shutouts), 162 losses and 54 overtime/shootout losses. He also has an impressive 2.42 goals against average and a .920 save percentage.
Price is currently ranked fourth among all NHL goaltenders who have ever played for the Canadiens with 254 wins. He should, however, easily move up to third place since he’s only 4 wins behind Ken Dryden and is 35 wins behind Patrick Roy for the second spot.
Price’s best season was in 2014-15 when he recorded 44 wins (along with 9 career-leading shutouts) in 66 regular season games played. Also that year, he was awarded three very impressive awards. He was given the Vezina Trophy for being the best goaltender of that season. He was also awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy as the most valuable player of the regular season. And he received the William M. Jennings Trophy which is given annually to the goaltender who has played at least 25 regular season games with the fewest goals scored against them.
4 Worst: Lindsay Vallis
Lindsay Vallis was chosen 13th overall in the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. The 6’3, 207 pound right winger spent four seasons in the Western Hockey League (1987-1991) playing for the Seattle Thunderbirds and producing a very impressive 285 points in 268 regular season games.
He then spent the following three seasons (1991-1994) playing for the Fredericton Canadiens in the American Hockey League, earning 102 points in 211 regular season games. He actually made his NHL debut on January 5, 1994 in a game against the Quebec Nordiques, but didn’t earn any points. He never played in another NHL game for the rest of his career.
He spent the remainder of his hockey career playing for various minor leagues: American Hockey League, West Coast Hockey League, and United Hockey League.
The Montreal Canadiens made up for their unimpressive first round pick by choosing talented defenseman Patrice Brisebois in the second round.
3 Best: Steve Shutt
Steve Shutt was drafted 4th overall in the 1972 NHL Amateur Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. The 5’11, 185 pound left winger spent pretty much his entire career with the Canadiens beginning with the 1972-73 season. He was later traded to the Los Angeles Kings in November 1984 and played the last 59 games of his NHL career with them.
During his time with the Canadiens, Shutt produced 776 points and a spectacular +409 plus/minus rating in 871 regular season games. During those thirteen seasons, he racked up at least 50 points in nine of those seasons and even hit the 100 point mark in 1976-77 with 105 points (including a massive 60 goals scored) in 80 games. He also scored at least 30 goals in nine consecutive seasons from 1974-75 to 1982-83.
He helped the Habs win five Stanley Cups – 1973, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979. He was then inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1993.
2 Worst: Terry Ryan
Terry Ryan was chosen 8th overall in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens. The 6’1, 200 pound left winger spent four seasons (1992-1996) in the Western Hockey League with the Tri-City Americans, earning a very impressive 212 points in 191 regular season games.
He did play a total of eight NHL games with the Montreal Canadiens between the 1996-97 and 1998-99 seasons, but failed to record any points. Also during that time, he played 127 regular season games in the American Hockey League with Montreal’s minor league affiliate, the Fredericton Canadiens, and recorded 82 points.
He was obviously a much better minor league player, which is where he spent the remainder of his career playing for several different leagues. He never played in another National Hockey League game.
1 Best: Guy Lafleur
The Montreal Canadiens sure hit the jackpot when they drafted Guy Lafleur 1st overall in the 1971 NHL Amateur Draft. The 6 foot tall, 185 pound right winger spent the first fourteen seasons of his NHL career with the Canadiens from 1971 to 1985.
He racked up a phenomenal 1,246 points and a +477 plus/minus rating in 961 regular season games. He produced over 100 points in six straight seasons from 1974-75 to 1979-80. He is also ranked first overall among all Canadiens players in franchise history in assists (728) and points (1,246).
He helped the Montreal Canadiens win five Stanley Cups (1973, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1979). He also won many awards during his fantastic career:
3 Art Ross Trophies (1976, 1977, 1978) for producing the most points during the regular season.
3 Lester B. Pearson Awards (1976, 1977, 1978) for being the “most outstanding” player in the NHL.
2 Hart Memorial Trophies (1977, 1978) for being the most valuable player during the regular season.
1 Conn Smythe Trophy (1977) for being the most valuable player during the playoffs.
The Montreal Canadiens retired his number 10 jersey on February 16, 1985. He was then inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1988.