A lot of ink has been spilled through the years assessing Trevor Timmins’ competence as head of scouting and, more recently, as assistant general manager for the Montreal Canadiens. In April of 2020, Corey Pronman of The Athletic polled 15 NHL scouts on a variety of subjects, including the best and worst teams when it came to scouting and drafting. They placed the Canadiens in the bottom three of the entire league in these categories, alongside the Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers (from ‘NHL Scout Poll,’ The Athletic NHL, 4/6/20).
Despite this less-than-enviable position in the poll and some lackadaisical draft choices in the past 20 years, it is clear that Montreal has drafted exceptional talent in that span. Here is a look at the five best draft picks from 2000 to 2009, taking into account impact on the Canadiens franchise, as well as individual and collective accomplishments.
No. 5: Jaroslav Halak
Jaroslav Halak was drafted 271st overall by the Canadiens in the 2003 NHL draft. As a seventh-round selection, Halak is a tremendous pick by Timmins and his team, as the Slovakian goalie is still playing in the NHL at a high level in 2020.
Halak is most famous among Canadiens fans for backstopping the team’s deep playoff run in the spring of 2010, winning two Game 7s against Alex Ovechkin’s powerful Washington Capitals and the defending champions Pittsburgh Penguins. Halak posted a .923 save percentage in 18 games that spring, coming short against the Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Related: Carey Price’s Many Backups
Rumors of, and calls for, Halak’s return to the Canadiens as Carey Price’s backup for the 2020-21 season have started emerging as the search for a decent backup have failed since… Jaroslav Halak. However, he was re-signed by the Boston Bruins for the upcoming season, putting an end to rumors and hopes alike.
No. 4: P.K. Subban
Drafted in the second round (No. 43) of the 2007 draft, P.K. Subban developed into a dominating force on Montreal’s blue line. As an offensive D-man with silky skating, a wicked slapshot and a contagious personality, Subban quickly became a fan favorite at the Bell Centre. During his tenure, chants of “P.K.! P.K.!” became a staple of the famed amphitheatre.
Subban’s growth with the Canadiens hit a high note in 2012-13, when he won the Norris Trophy for best defenceman in the NHL. After putting up 38 points in the lockout-shortened season, Subban exploded with three consecutive seasons of more than 50 points.
In the spring of 2014, he guided the Canadiens to a deep playoff run, putting up an impressive 14 points in 17 games as Montreal reached the Eastern Conference Final.
The Canadiens fell short of reaching the Cup Final in 2014, in part due to Carey Price’s injury in Game 1 of the Conference Final against the New York Rangers. However, Subban’s performance electrified the city for a few months, and was the last time the Canadiens had relevance in the playoffs.
Related: Subban-Weber Trade Revisited
Subban was traded by Marc Bergevin in the summer of 2016 for current team captain Shea Weber, in a deal that shook the hockey world. He went to the Stanley Cup Final that year with the Nashville Predators, putting up 12 points in 22 games and building an interesting rivalry with Sidney Crosby, but falling short of the championship.
No. 3: Tomas Plekanec
Tomas Plekanec was drafted 71st overall in the 2001 NHL Draft from Kladno in the Czech Elite league, where he had put up decent numbers as a teenager. After playing a few seasons with the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL, Plekanec developed into a strong NHL player with defensive acumen and offensive upside.
In fact, Plekanec, nicknamed Pleky, became one of the touchstones of the Canadiens roster for more than a decade. His reliable two-way game and steady offensive output made him a fan and coach favorite during his tenure with the Canadiens from 2003 to 2018. He also represented the Czech Republic internationally every year from 2006 to 2018, including twice in the Olympics.
The culmination of his hockey career came on Oct. 15, 2018, when he played his 1000th game in the NHL, a feat only 337 players in the history of the game have accomplished. Pleky‘s total of 1,001 games in the NHL is a testament to his durability, work ethic and constant desire for improvement.
No. 2: Max Pacioretty
Max Pacioretty was drafted 22nd overall by Montreal in the 2007 NHL Draft out of Sioux City in the USHL, where he had been named rookie of the year. He became a perennial 30-goal scorer on the Canadiens team, putting up more than 60 points and 30 goals five times in his tenure with Montreal.
Pacioretty became the Canadiens’ 29th captain in 2015, filling that role for three years before being traded to the Vegas Golden-Knights in exchange for Tomas Tatar, Nick Suzuki, and a second-round pick that became third-round selection and interesting Swedish prospect Mattias Norlinder. On top of this massive trade haul, Pacioretty’s legacy as a pure goal-scorer and franchise captain will remain inscribed in the Canadiens history for years to come.
Pacioretty has represented the United States internationally four times, including once at the Olympics. He has gone on to have success with the Golden Knights since being traded, namely putting up 11 points in only 7 games in the 2019 playoffs.
No. 1: Carey Price
Drafted fifth overall in 2005, Carey Price has not disappointed. The list of honors he has received throughout his career is extraordinary. Two years after his draft, he impressed at the 2007 World Junior Championship, winning the gold medal, as well as best goalie in the tournament and tournament MVP. The same year, he backstopped Montreal’s AHL-affiliate, the Hamilton Bulldogs, to their first Calder Cup in team history with a baffling .937 save percentage.
In the years since, Carey Price has played 682 games, winning 321 of these to overstep Montreal legend Jacques Plante as the winningest goaltender in the Canadiens history. He has been invited to seven All-Star games, won an Olympic gold medal, a Hart Trophy, a Vezina Trophy, a Ted Lindsay Award and many more accolades.
One single achievement still eludes him: the precious Stanley Cup. With more and more players on the Canadiens intent on winning, it might be that Price will have his chance, but if not, he will still remain one of the best players to ever wear the bleu, blanc, et rouge.
In conclusion, Montreal’s draft history looks like a stormy sky with scarce patches of bright sunlight filtering through. The Canadiens have drafted tremendous talent, as this article emphasized: some perennial talent and one true franchise player between 2000 and 2010. Unfortunately, they have not been able to build a Cup-winning team in the past 20-odd years, and it becomes obvious that the lack of scoring depth, defensive behemoths and backup goaltending the Montreal Canadiens suffer today might have been prevented by a more cunning use of scouting and drafting.