The Montreal Canadiens are perhaps the most well-known team in the NHL. They have earned a whopping 24 Stanley Cup wins throughout the years, more wins than any other team in the NHL. With such a prominent legacy, fans and hockey analysts alike have been scratching their heads in recent years, wondering why the Canadiens have not been performing as consistently as in the past.
In the past decade or so, Canadiens management has selected a lot of interesting picks in the NHL Entry Draft. Some of these choices have pushed the team further ahead, such as Carey Price, Brendan Gallagher, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi, while others have not lived up to expectations.
With the 2019 NHL Entry Draft only weeks away, we are going to take an in-depth look at some of the Canadiens’ biggest draft busts since 2008.
At the 2008 Draft, former general manager, Bob Gainey decided to trade away the team’s 25th overall pick along with their second-round pick in 2009 in exchange for Alex Tanguay.
The Canadiens’ next selection came at #56 where they chose forward Danny Kristo.
Kristo, who hails from Eden Prairie, Minnesota, was ranked 40th among North American players by NHL Central Scouting and was one of the top American-born players eligible in the draft.
The Canadiens drafted the former Eden Prairie High School standout out of the highly praised US National Team Development Program, where he played alongside other players such as Kyle Palmieri of the New Jersey Devils, and former Vancouver Canucks first-round pick Jordan Schroeder.
After being selected by the Canadiens, Kristo made the transition to the USHL where he played for the Omaha Lancers along with teammate and Canadiens 2009 first-round pick Louis Leblanc. In Omaha, he had a terrific season, scoring 57 points in 50 games, which put him second on the Lancers in terms of points, behind only Leblanc.
After such a strong season, Kristo took his talents to the University of North Dakota where he played Division 1 College Hockey. At North Dakota, he starred in all four seasons, racking up 161 points in 157 games, while also earning a degree. During that time, he won gold at the 2010 World Junior Championships and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award in 2013.
At the completion of his collegiate career and five years after the 2008 Draft, Kristo finally signed a two-year entry level deal with the Canadiens in April of 2013.
Kristo reported to the Habs’ affiliate in the AHL, the Hamilton Bulldogs, which was at the time in Hamilton, Ontario where he had three assists in nine games.
Those nine games would be his last as a member of the Canadiens’ organization, as later that summer he was traded to the New York Rangers in exchange for Christian Thomas.
Since being dealt away from the Habs, Kristo has yet to play a single game in the NHL and most likely never will.
The 2016-17 season was his last in North America, as he decided to move his game overseas. In 2017-18, he played for Dinamo Riga in the KHL and this past season he started the year in Brynas of the Swedish Elite League but was later acquired by SC Rapperswil-Jona of the NLA (Switzerland).
The 2008 draft was terrible for the Habs. In the 11 years since, not one of the Canadiens’ selections has played a single game in the NHL.
The 2009 NHL Entry Draft was filled with talent and included some of today’s brightest stars. Among those picked was Louis Leblanc, who was chosen by the Canadiens’ at #18.
By taking Leblanc with the 18th overall pick, the Habs passed on players like Chris Kreider, Marcus Johansson, and Ryan O’Reilly, all of whom have turned out to be excellent players in the NHL.
Leblanc, who grew up in the Montreal suburb of Kirkland, was one of the top players in Quebec and many would have thought he’d be a sure shot to reach the NHL.
At 15 years old, he played for the Midget AAA Lac St-Louis Lions, a team well-known for developing players like Alex Killorn, Jonathan Drouin, Mike Matheson, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic. After his rookie season with the Lions he was drafted 18th overall in the QMJHL Draft by Val D’Or, and if it weren’t for rumors swirling around about Leblanc strongly considering playing in the NCAA, he could have been selected as high as first.
Instead of reporting to Val D’Or, Leblanc played another year in Midget AAA and scored a whopping 54 goals in 43 games, along with 152 penalty minutes.
In the summer of 2008, Leblanc made the decision to pass on the QMJHL again and head to the USHL to play for the Omaha Lancers alongside 2008 Canadiens draftee Danny Kristo. While playing for the Lancers, Leblanc tallied 59 points in 60 games which put him 10th among all USHL players and solidified his chances of being selected in the first round of the NHL Draft.
Leading up to the draft, many scouts and analysts weren’t sold on Leblanc because of his commitment to play at Harvard University, which at the time, wasn’t considered to be a strong program within the NCAA. However, Canadiens management didn’t flinch and chose the Kirkland-native with their 18th overall pick.
Leblanc then reported to Harvard where he only played one season. He signed with the Habs during the 2010 off-season and played the following season in the QMJHL for the now defunct Montreal Juniors.
Following his season in the QMJHL, Leblanc bolted for the pros and began the 2011-12 season in Hamilton of the AHL before being called up to the Canadiens in November. He played a total of 42 NHL games that season where he notched 10 points.
Leblanc played a total of 50 games in a Habs uniform before being traded to the Anaheim Ducks in the 2014 off-season for a conditional fifth-round pick. He never saw any action with the Ducks and remained in Norfolk, which was Anaheim’s AHL affiliate at the time, for the season. At the end of the season, Leblanc and the Ducks parted ways, and the former first-round pick’s career was in shambles.
Leblanc then signed a tryout contract with the New York Islanders in 2015 but was cut from the team in the last stage of the training camp.
With no NHL contract, Leblanc decided to test the waters in Europe in hopes to revive his career. In what would be his final season as a hockey player, he played for three different teams in three different European leagues. The last of which, was a four-game stint in the Swiss-A League for HC Lausanne, where he scored only one goal and added 25 penalty minutes. He retired from hockey at the age of 25.
Since retiring, the former Habs pick has returned to Harvard to complete his degree, while also being a volunteer assistant coach on the men’s ice hockey team.
With the 22nd overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the Canadiens chose 6-foot-6 defenseman Jarred Tinordi from the US National Team Development Program.
Tinordi was born in Minnesota when his father Mark was the captain of the Minnesota North Stars. He was, however, raised in Maryland outside of Washington, D.C. as his father was traded to the Washington Capitals.
When the Canadiens chose the big, raw, defenseman they thought they could develop him into a top-four shutdown defenseman who could match up against some of the league’s top players and be a force on the penalty kill.
After only two seasons with the London Knights in the OHL and four seasons split between the minors and the NHL, it was clear that the Habs’ plan for Tinordi was a failure. The NHL’s pace continued to get faster and Tinordi’s mobility and ability to process the game could not keep up.
In 2016, the Canadiens traded the 6-foot-6 defenseman along with Stefan Fournier to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Victor Bartley and John Scott. He only appeared in seven games with the Coyotes. Tinordi has yet to score his first NHL goal.
This past season, Tinordi played for the Milwaukee Admirals, the AHL affiliate of the Nashville Predators, and was the team’s captain.
In 2012, the Canadiens hired Marc Bergevin as the team’s general manager. His first chance to make his mark on the Habs’ legacy was the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
After taking Alex Galchenyuk with the third-overall pick, the Canadiens’ next pick was at #33 where they selected Swedish forward Sebastian Collberg.
Leading up to the draft, Collberg was one of Sweden’s top prospects and was a member of the 2012 World Junior team that won a gold medal. The World Juniors tournament normally consists of 18 to 19-year-olds, but Collberg was only 17 and amassed an impressive seven points in six games en route to the Gold Medal.
In NHL Central Scouting’s final rankings, the skilled Swede was ranked third among eligible players in Europe. He was ranked ahead of Anaheim Ducks defenseman, Hampus Lindholm and San Jose Sharks center, Tomas Hertl.
Habs fans and management thought that they had a real talent in Collberg, but he never lived up to expectations.
Related: Sebastian Collberg – The Next Ones
After the draft, he returned to Sweden where he bounced around from league to league, but most of his time was spent in Frolunda of the SHL.
The closest Collberg ever came to playing for the Canadiens was in April of 2013 when he joined the Hamilton Bulldogs for a two-game stint at the end of their season.
In 2014, Collberg was the main piece in a trade that brought Thomas Vanek to the Habs from the New York Islanders. That deal was one of Bergevin’s best, as Vanek turned out to be one of the Canadiens’ best players in their 2014 trip to the Eastern Conference Final.
Following the trade to the Islanders, he played two seasons for Bridgeport Sound of the AHL along with a seven-game stint in Stockton of the ECHL, and never cracked the Islanders lineup.
In 2016, the former Canadiens’ second-round pick returned to Sweden where he has played for the last three seasons.
In the upcoming season, Collberg is scheduled to play in Austria for Graz of the EBEL.
The 2013 NHL Entry Draft was highlighted by Nathan MacKinnon and Seth Jones, but the draft, as a whole, was loaded with quality players who have turned out to be some of the game’s biggest stars.
Unfortunately, the Habs chose Michael McCarron from the USNTDP with the 18th overall pick and the rest is history.
McCarron is a 6-foot-6 power forward who hails from Grosse Pointe, Michigan and has an older brother, John, who was drafted in 2012 by the Edmonton Oilers in the sixth round.
After being drafted by the Canadiens, Michael, unlike his brother John who attended Cornell University, opted to play Major Junior for the London Knights of the OHL rather than play in the NCAA.
The towering forward played two seasons in the OHL. In 2015, he was traded from London to Oshawa, where he won the Memorial Cup.
Related: 3 Canadiens With Something to Prove
In the next season, McCarron played 20 games for the Canadiens, tallying only two points.
Since being drafted in 2013, he has yet to solidify himself on the Canadiens’ roster, nor has he shown any potential to be a player that the team can rely on in the future.
In 70 career games, the former first-round pick has only two goals and six assists, along with 110 penalty minutes.
Nikita Scherbak was drafted 26th overall by the Canadiens in 2014.
The dynamic winger from Russia was supposed to fit the role of a top-six forward who could produce offensively and be a threat on the power play.
Before coming to the Canadiens organization, Scherbak played two seasons in the WHL with Saskatoon and Everett, where he showed tremendous offensive potential, averaging over a point per game in each season.
Scherbak made the jump to the pros in 2015 when he played 48 games for St-John’s of the AHL. The following year he saw some game time with the Canadiens but spent the majority of the year in the minors.
The Scherbak experiment ended this past season when the Habs placed the young forward on waivers, where he was picked up by the Los Angeles Kings.
Related: Time for Canadiens to Play Scherbak
He played only eight games for the Kings and was placed on waivers a little over a month after joining the team. After that, the 23-year-old from Moscow was assigned to the Ontario Reign of the AHL, where he finished off his season.
Scherbak’s career is by no means over, but time is quickly running out for the former Canadiens hopeful.
Hope For The Future
Although the Montreal Canadiens have made a lot of poor decisions in recent years with their draft picks there is still hope for the team in the near future.
As I’ve mentioned before, the team has made some great choices in recent years as well. All there is to do now is wait until the 2019 NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver to see if the Habs are going to push their legacy farther, or add to the list of draft busts.