On May 2, 2012, the Montreal Canadiens announced that former NHL defenseman Marc Bergevin would be serving as the team’s new general manager.
The announcement came a month after the firing of former GM Pierre Gauthier when the Canadiens finished last in the Eastern Conference.
Before Bergevin Served the Canadiens
Before becoming a part of the renowned Canadiens organization, Bergevin spent seven seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks, where he took on numerous roles, including scout, assistant coach, director of player personnel, and assistant general manager.
In Bergevin’s seven seasons with the Blackhawks, he won one Stanley Cup and played a key role in a management team that was responsible for rebuilding a struggling franchise and turning it into a consistent contender for the Stanley Cup.
When Canadiens ownership chose Bergevin for the role of general manager, they were expecting him to bring the team some much-needed magic that he brought to the Blackhawks in order to bring the Habs back to the top of the standings.
Since being hired in 2012, Bergevin has played a major role in selecting a total of 50 players for the Canadiens in the last seven NHL Entry Drafts.
The Habs have had a first-round pick in each of the last seven drafts since hiring Bergevin, including three selections in the top 10. With these picks, he has made some solid choices that are shaping the team in a new direction.
Bergevin has made some interesting choices with the Canadiens, and we are going to take an in-depth look at the five best players that have been selected by him.
#5 Artturi Lehkonen
The 2013 NHL Draft was one of Marc Bergevin’s first biggest opportunities to make his mark on the Canadiens organization. For the 2012 Draft, Bergevin was only hired a little over a month before and was getting adjusted to his new team.
The Canadiens had eight picks in 2013, including the 25th-overall pick, along with three others in the second round.
In the six seasons that have passed since the draft, the Canadiens’ best choice has proven to be their last choice in the second round, Artturi Lehkonen.
Lehkonen, who hails from Piikkio, Finland, is a left-handed winger, and is currently a regular in the Canadiens lineup.
Leading up to the draft, Lehkonen was ranked as high as ninth by NHL Central Scouting for players outside of North America. The high ranking came as no surprise, as in his draft year, he tallied more points in the Finnish Pro League than 2018 third-overall pick and current Habs forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi.
After being drafted in 2013, Lehkonen returned to KalPa of the Finnish Elite League and was a member of the gold medal-winning Team Finland at the 2014 World Juniors. Other current NHL stars from that team include Teuvo Teravainen (Carolina Hurricanes), Esa Lindell (Dallas Stars) and Rasmus Ristolainen (Buffalo Sabres).
In 2014, Lehkonen made the jump to the Swedish Elite League where he played for Frolunda. In his second season with the team, he led Frolunda to an SHL Championship, by scoring 11 goals and 19 points in 16 playoff games. That would be Lehkonen’s final season playing in Sweden, as the Canadiens’ management felt that his game was ready for the NHL.
In 2016, Lehkonen made the team out of camp and has never looked back. In his first three seasons, he has tallied 80 points in 221 games and has appeared in six playoff games when the Habs last made the playoffs in 2017.
Lehkonen’s statistics up to now are nothing to brag about, but he continues to show tons of potential at both sides of the rink and has become a sign of hope for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
#4 Alex Galchenyuk
In 2012, the Canadiens drafted Alex Galchenyuk with the third-overall pick. This was Bergevin’s first draft pick as a member of the Canadiens organization.
From an early age, Galchenyuk was highly touted, and it came as no surprise when he was taken first overall by the Sarnia Sting in the 2010 OHL Draft.
Galchenyuk is of Russian nationality but he is a citizen of the United States as he was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin when his father was playing hockey for the Milwaukee Admirals in the IHL.
In Galchenyuk’s first season in the OHL, he notched 83 points in only 68 games, and put himself in the conversation to be one of the NHL’s next bright stars.
Although, before the 2011-12 season, Galchenyuk suffered a torn ACL and was forced to miss almost the entire regular season. By the end of the season, he was ranked fourth among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting and behind eventual NHL ‘busts’ Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko. Despite being injured for his entire draft year, Galchenyuk’s talent and scoring ability were too good for Bergevin and his scouting staff to pass up on.
Since being drafted in 2012 by the Canadiens, Galchenyuk has played seven seasons in the NHL, six of which were with the Habs until he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for Max Domi in June 2018.
In Galchenyuk’s six seasons as a Canadien, the Habs made the playoffs four times, including a trip to the Eastern Conference Final in 2014 that saw the Canadiens fall to the New York Rangers in six games.
Galchenyuk’s time in Montreal will bring a lot of mixed reviews. On the ice, he was a top-six forward with fantastic offensive abilities, but because of a lack of commitment to defense, he and former Canadiens head coach, Michel Therrien, never seemed to gel properly.
Off the ice, Galchenyuk had trouble managing the distractions of playing in a city like Montreal. He was rumored to be seen out partying a lot and was even involved in a domestic violence case in 2016, where he was the victim of abuse.
Galchenyuk may not have been seen as a terrific draft choice by many Habs fans and some will disagree with my stance on him, but out of all the players drafted in 2012, Galchenyuk ranks second in career points with 296 behind Nashville Predator Filip Forsberg, who was taken at #11 by the Washington Capitals.
Galchenyuk is also the main reason why the Canadiens were able to acquire Domi, who just had a career year in his first stint with the Habs and fits very well in Bergevin’s quest to build the Canadiens into a consistent Stanley Cup contender.
#3 Ryan Poehling
In 2017, the Montreal Canadiens selected Ryan Poehling with the 25th-overall pick in the draft.
In 2016-17, Poehling played NCAA Division 1 hockey at St. Cloud State University. This was his first year at St. Cloud and he tallied 13 points in 35 games. Those numbers may not seem great, but keep in mind that Poehling came into St. Cloud as a true freshman, as he was 17 years old upon his entry, and players in the NCAA can sometimes be as old as 24.
In Central Scouting’s final ranking, Poehling was ranked 13th among North American skaters, which also made him the highest-ranked prospect in the NCAA.
When the Habs chose Poehling, they addressed one of the organization’s biggest needs. As a 6-foot-2 centerman, he brings size and skill to a team that has struggled to find depth at the center position for a long time now.
At the conclusion of St. Cloud’s 2018-19 season, Poehling decided to forego his senior season and turn pro. The Lakeville, Minnesota native signed his entry-level contract with the Habs on March 31, 2019 and played his first NHL game a week later against the Toronto Maple Leafs. In what was a night to remember, Poehling scored a hat trick and added the shootout winner in the season finale. This game was also Bob Cole’s final game as an announcer for “Hockey Night in Canada” after 50 years.
Don’t expect Poehling to continue at a three goals per game pace, but you can expect to see him develop into a solid two-way centerman for the Habs and potential team captain in the future. It would be quite special to see the 25th-overall pick, who sports the #25 jersey, lead the Canadiens to their 25th Stanley Cup.
#2 Mikhail Sergachev
After a mediocre season in 2015-16 that saw the Canadiens finish 13th in the Eastern Conference, the Habs were awarded with the ninth-overall selection in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.
With that pick, they decided to draft Russian-born defenseman Mikhail Sergachev of the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL.
Sergachev is a 6-foot-3, 216-pound left-shot defenseman with smooth skating ability and the ability to create plenty of offense from the back end. His game is well suited for today’s NHL, and it came as no surprise when he landed in the top 10 of the draft.
By taking Sergachev at #9, the Habs took a pass on some other highly regarded players, such as Charles McAvoy (Boston Bruins), Jake Bean (Carolina Hurricanes) and Jakob Chychrun (Arizona Coyotes). Both McAvoy and Chychrun have solidified themselves as some of the league’s next brightest stars, and while Bean has only played two games in the NHL thus far, he’s shown plenty of potential while playing for the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, and it’s just a matter of time before he too asserts himself as a full-time defenseman for the Hurricanes.
Since being drafted in 2016, Sergachev has won a Memorial Cup, a bronze medal at the 2017 World Juniors, and has been traded to Tampa Bay Lightning.
On June 15, 2017, the Canadiens traded Sergachev and a conditional second-round pick to Tampa Bay in 2018 in exchange for Jonathan Drouin and a conditional sixth-round pick.
Two years after being traded, Sergachev has been quite the acquisition for a Lightning team that recently tied the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings for most wins in the regular season with 62.
In Sergachev’s first two seasons in Tampa Bay, he has tallied 72 points in 154 games and has been an integral part in the team’s success. While Sergachev has turned out to be the player that Habs management expected him to be when they drafted him, the Canadiens have failed to reach the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, and Drouin, the key acquisition in the Sergachev trade, has failed to meet expectations.
#1 Jesperi Kotkaniemi
In 2018, the Montreal Canadiens selected Kotkaniemi with the third-overall pick. The 6-foot-2 center from Finland was exactly what the Canadiens needed. He is extremely skilled and plays a positionally-sound game.
Kotkaniemi was ranked as the #1 center by NHL Central Scouting going into the draft, and with the Habs lacking depth down the middle in recent seasons, he was the perfect match for the team.
Having such a high pick in the draft with such a talented group of players to choose from in the first round, the Canadiens could have easily chosen higher ranked prospects such as Filip Zadina or Brady Tkachuk
Both Zadina and Tkachuk play on the wing and are exceptionally great talents who carried much more hype due to their popularity going into the draft, but the Canadiens staff did not succumb to the pressure of the media and outside noise, instead opting to choose the player that fit the demands of their team in particular.
Going into the 2018-19 season, most fans and hockey analysts would have predicted that Kotkaniemi would go back to his native Finland for another year in order to develop as a whole and be more prepared to handle the rigors of playing an 82-game schedule at the NHL level. That, however, was not the case, as the young Finnish centerman gave management no choice but to have him start the season with the big club.
Kotkaniemi not only stayed with the Canadiens for the entire season, but also exceeded expectations by playing almost every game of the season and being one of the Canadiens’ best players. The rookie notched 34 points in 79 games and proved to Habs management that they made the right choice in choosing him with their third-overall selection. He also made history with his first full season in the league as he is the first player born in the 2000s to play in the NHL.
Will These Newly Drafted Players Revive the Team?
In my opinion, the Canadiens have drafted very well in 2017 and 2018, but only time will tell if these players can develop into strong NHL players. Some of these players include Joni Ikonen (2017, 58th overall), Josh Brook (2017, 56th overall), Jesse Ylonen (2018, 35th overall), Alexander Romanov (2018, 38th overall), Jacob Olofsson (2018, 56th overall) and Jordan Harris (2018, 71st overall).
If Bergevin and his staff can continue to draft top notch talent and make the right deals in the offseason, the team is bound to be a force to be reckoned with again soon enough.