Sometimes, as the Montreal Canadiens have discovered time and again, it’s not about worrying who’s going to be taken immediately before you pick at the NHL Entry Draft. It’s about who’s going to be taken immediately after.
As the Habs get set to make selection No. 26 in the first round on Friday, they might do well to consider who the Anaheim Ducks might take next in order to prevent history from repeating itself. For example:
2009: Louis Leblanc over Chris Kreider
In what will become a trend on this list, the Habs opted for a native Quebecer over a player who turned out to be, well, better, when they picked Louis Leblanc back in 2009. After failing to catch on with the Habs, Leblanc was traded away for a fifth-round pick a year ago to the Ducks and is now trying to ply his trade overseas in Switzerland.
Meanwhile, Chris Kreider has developed into a clutch power forward with the New York Rangers, with 21 goals this past regular season and 18 playoff tallies already over the course of his young career.
Just imagine that rare combination of size and speed (6’3”, 223 pounds) barreling towards opposing goalies… Or don’t if you’ve repressed memories from last year’s playoff run.
One more “what if” to add to the list I suppose.
2006: Ben Maxwell over Milan Lucic
Similar to Kreider, Canadiens fans aren’t too fond of Boston Bruins power-forward Milan Lucic. Granted, part of that has to do with him playing for Boston. Another part is he’s Milan Lucic.
Yet another part may be he doesn’t play for Montreal, though. Selecting Ben Maxwell ahead of him in the second round of 2006, the Habs as a result have foregone the benefits of Lucic’s two 60-point and three 20-goal seasons up to now. And maybe a working Mike Komisarek as well.
2005: Philippe Paquet over Patric Hornqvist
While the last picks of drafts are often mere formalities to get the damn things over with, the Nashville Predators gambled on eventual five-time 20-goal-scrorer Patric Hornqvist with their 230th-overall pick in 2005.
Montreal meanwhile took defenseman Philippe Paquet with pick No. 229. He got as far as the ECHL. Hornqvist got as far as playing on a line with Sidney Crosby as recently as last season.
2003: Maxim Lapierre over David Backes
While most Habs fans would want a do-over in regard to Montreal’s first-round selection of Andrei Kostitsyn at No. 10 overall, the Habs did get over 100 goals out him, while the No. 11 selection, Jeff Carter, hasn’t enjoyed nearly as much statistical success as some other picks from that especially deep 2003 draft (excluding the two Stanley Cups).
Instead, take a look to the second round of that draft, where the Habs drafted pest-extraordinaire Maxim Lapierre with pick No. 61. St. Louis Blues captain David Backes, who has scored 20 goals five times in his career, was taken at No. 62.
1997: Jason Ward over Marian Hossa
Before signing with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2009, all Marian Hossa had accomplished in the NHL was accumulate three ho-hum 40-goal seasons. Over his modest 336-game career, Jason Ward didn’t even manage 40 total goals.
Now that Hossa has won three Stanley Cups and is likely on his way to the Hockey Hall of Fame once he retires the disparity between a single pick in a given draft has rarely seemed larger.
Ward wasn’t really a bust in that the 1997 draft class was weak overall. If the Habs select a few picks later that year instead of at No. 11, Ward just gets forgotten in the annals of history as one more prospect from that year that didn’t pan out instead of being forever linked to Hossa and labelled a disappointment.
What’s truly disappointing is how Hossa is still playing and how a desperate-for-offense Montreal team looks right now instead of with the above five players in the lineup.
1994: Marko Kiprusoff over Sheldon Souray
Defenseman Marko Kiprusoff didn’t enjoy nearly as much success as his brother, goaltender Miikka, or the player that was taken immediately afterwards, fellow d-man Sheldon Souray. While Souray would eventually become a Hab nearly six years later, that’s more than four seasons longer than the elder Kiprusoff’s entire NHL career. He played 24 games with the Habs in 1995-96 and came back to play 27 games with the New York Islanders in 2001-02.
1991: Brent Bilodeau over Glen Murray
It’s not that Glen Murray was a superstar. It’s that defenseman Brent Bilodeau was that much of a bust.
Bilodeau, who hails from Alberta and stands 6’4”, 230 pounds, was the only pick in the 1991 draft’s first round to have never played a single game in the NHL. Not every pick turned out to be a star, but enough did (Eric Lindros, Scott Niedermayer, Peter Forsberg, Alexei Kovalev, Markus Naslund, etc.), that Bilodeau is arguably the biggest Habs bust in history. For his part, Murray did okay, scoring 651 points in over 1000 NHL games.
Bilodeau was clearly picked for his size, which might serve as a cautionary tale were it not for the fact that Murray is no slouch at a listed 6’2”, 221 pounds. So, size isn’t necessarily overrated. It just has to come with skill.
1984: Jim Nesich over Brett Hull
Whereas all but one NHL team skipped over Brett Hull 116 total times, the Canadiens have the dubious distinction of having held that 116th pick… and having used it to take Jim Nesich. One pick and a Hall-of-Fame, 19-year NHL career later, Hull has 1391 total points in 1269 games. Nesich? None and none.
1984: Eric Demers over Gary Suter
Staying in 1984, Montreal took left-winger Eric Demers at No. 179, obviously missing out on Luc Robitaille, another steal of the draft taken at No. 171. Had the Habs only had the presence of mind to draft a defenseman instead, they could have landed Gary Suter.
Suter isn’t just Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan’s uncle. He’s Miracle on Ice defenseman Bob’s brother, as well… And, yes, an NHL blue-liner in his own right who scored 845 points in 1145 games.
1983: Thomas Rundqvist over Dominik Hasek
The Canadiens can be forgiven for not looking for another goalie in 1983. They had already selected Vladislav Tretiak in the draft (yes, that Vladislav Tretiak) and had former Vezina Trophy-winner Richard Sévigny in nets (with Rick Wamsley, Mark Holden, and eventually Steve Penney).
So, with their 198th pick in 1983 the Canadiens likely tried to take a chance to shore up their scoring up front with Thomas Rundqvist. Unfortunately, Hasek ended up with 18 more points in his career (and 733 more games).
Thankfully, the Canadiens did just fine when they took Patrick Roy the next year. It’s the years between 1996 and when Hasek retired (if he ever even did) that ended up being the problem.