Top five Habs drafts of all-time

Yesterday, I wrote about the Montreal Canadiens’ worst draft of all time.

Maniacduhockey photo, via Wikimedia Commons

Andrei Markov belongs to one of the top five drafts in Habs history.

Today, I thought I would focus more on the positive, and list the Habs all-time best drafts.

I used several criteria in trying to decide this list. First, I looked at how the drafted players performed with the Habs. It doesn’t matter what they did with other teams afterwards (although I may mention it). Really, since it was a Canadiens draft pick, it should only matter what they did wearing a Canadiens jersey.

Second, the more later round gems really help. Sure, drafting Bob Gainey eighth overall was an awesome selection, but when the other 15 players chosen played a total of 24 games for the Canadiens, that’s not a great draft.

And finally, the more picks that played for the Habs, the better. Having six players that aren’t considered superstars but played 800 games apiece for the Habs is better than one or two superstars, but no one else from the same draft.

Note that it’s really hard to judge the last 10 years or so, as many players are just getting started on their careers. In 2007, for example, the Habs chose Pacioretty, Subban and Weber. But it’s hard to judge those players until they get more games under their belts.

So here are what I consider to be the top five drafts in Habs history.

#5

1998: Mike Ribeiro, Francois Beauchemin, Andrei Markov, Michael Ryder

This was a pretty solid draft all around for the Habs, except for the first rounder (Eric Chouinard at pick #16, but at least we didn’t wind up with pick #28, Scott Gomez. Oh wait…). This draft may have been higher if it wasn’t for the fact that the first two names on the list were gone before they truly developed into the players they were capable of bein.

Mike Ribeiro was a talented player for the Habs, and led them in points one season (he’s since become an all-star with Dallas).

Francois Beauchemin was another solid player, but never had the opportunity to play with the Canadiens (only one game). He’s since won a Cup in Anaheim.

Andrei Markov is still with the Habs when he’s not injured. But he’s been one of the most under-appreciated defencemen in the league in the last seven years or so. When everyone was raving about Mike Green leading the league in points with 70 a few years back, Markov put up a quiet 64 points that same season. He’s sixth in all-time points by a Habs defenceman, and if healthy, should pass Patrice Brisebois (ranked fifth) and Serge Savard (ranked fourth) this season.

Michael Ryder is not known for his defence, but he scores goals. Since the 1990-91 season, only 12 Habs have scored 30 goals in a season. Ryder did it twice. And he’s the only Hab since 1999 to have back-to-back 30 goal seasons. He’s since won a Cup with the Bruins.

And in case you’re keeping track of the three players that left the Habs: In return, we received Janne Niinima, a fifth round pick (Andrew Conboy), and that’s it.

#4

1979: Gaston Gingras, Mats Naslund, Guy Carbonneau, Rick Wamsley

It must have been a tough time for these draftees. They were drafted at the end of a dynasty, and then saw the Habs fall from playoff grace throughout the 1980s thanks to other powerhouse teams usurping them. But three of them won at least one Stanley Cup with the Habs.

Gaston Gingras had two stints with the Habs. In his second time with the club, he helped the team win the Cup in 1986. He was traded to Toronto in between those stints (for a pick that turned out the Benoit Brunet).

Mats Naslund is the only Habs player of the last 32 years to get 100 points in a season. He scored 40 goals twice, and was dynamite in the playoffs. In the 1986 Cup run, he had 19 points in 20 games. He was even better in 1987, with 22 points in 17 games.

Guy Carbonneau won two Cups with the Habs (and another later with Dallas). He wasn’t relied upon to put the puck in the net, but he did have 10 straight seasons scoring at least 15 goals (no easy task when you’re playing against the other team’s top lines night after night). He was a shutdown specialist (being rewarded with the Selke trophy three times), was great at faceoffs, awesome at the penalty kill and was a team leader.

Rick Wamsley is the only guy on the list not to win a Cup as a Hab (although he got his revenge in 1989 as a member of the Calgary Flames). He put up decent enough numbers as a Hab (going 27-12-5) in the 1982-83 season. The year before, he and fellow Habs goalie Denis Heron split the Jennings trophy.

#3

1987: John Leclair, Eric Desjardins, Mathieu Schenider

Every one of these players won a Cup as a member of the Habs, so that has to count for something.

Most people remember John Leclair as either the 50-goal scorer in Philly, or as part of the lopsided trade that saw him go to the Flyers for Mark Recchi. But I always think of something different. Every time I hear his name, my mind goes back to the finals in 1993, when he scored in two straight overtime games in L.A. to put the Habs up 3-1 in the series. And he scored them pretty early in the overtime games too.

Eric Desjardins is probably most famous for the game during the 1993 finals when Marty McSorley had his stick measured. Desjardins scored on the powerplay (his second of the night) to tie the game late. He then scored in overtime to win it for the Habs. He was the first defenceman in finals history to score a hat trick, and finished with 14 points in 20 games. Desjardins played in an all-star game for the Habs as well. He was also part of the deal that saw Leclair go to Philly.

Mathieu Schneider had two stints with the Habs. In his first stint, he helped the team win the Stanley Cup. In his second stint, he scored 17 points in 25 games.

#2

1971: Guy Lafleur, Larry Robinson, Murray Wilson

This one pretty much writes itself. Guy Lafleur and Larry Robinson hold many Habs records.

Lafleur won three straight Art Ross trophies as the league’s scoring leader and two Hart trophies as the league’s most valuable player. He also won a Conn Smythe trophy as the most valuable player in the playoffs. In total, he won five Stanley Cups in 12 seasons with the Canadiens. Plus, he released a disco album.

With the Habs, Robinson was looked upon to shut down the other team’s top players. He was looked upon to score goals. He was looked upon to man the powerplay, and provided leadership. He did all these things, and was one of the best in the league at doing each of them. In 17 years with the team, Robinson won six Stanley Cups, the Conn Smythe trophy as the league’s most valuable player in the playoffs in 1978, and two Norris trophies as the league’s best defenceman (in 1977 and 1980). In 1976-77, he had a plus/minus of +120, second-best of all-time.

Murray Wilson wasn’t as decorated as his draftmates, but he still managed to contribute to the Habs. He ended up with three Stanley Cup rings.

#1

1984: Petr Svoboda, Shayne Corson, Stephane Richer, Patrick Roy

These four players were the Canadiens’ first four picks in 1984. None of the next 10 players ever played a game in the NHL.

Petr Svoboda was a solid defenceman, blocking shots at will (it wasn’t as popular back then as it is nowadays). He played nine years for the Habs, and helped with the Cup win in 1986.

Shayne Corson had two stints with the Habs. In his first, he won a Cup and also played in an all-star game. Seen as a gritty type player, Corson wasn’t afraid to throw his weight around. But he could also pot some goals. In 1989-90, he had 31 goals and 75 points. Corson would shine in the playoffs. When the Habs went to the postseason in 1991, he had 9 goals in 13 games. In his second stint with the Habs, he also made the all-star team.

Stephane Richer is the only Habs player to score 50 goals in a season since Guy Lafleur in the late 1970s. And not is he the only Hab to do it, he’s done it twice. In the 1987-88 season, he exploded for 50 goals. He followed that up with a disappointing season where he scored 25 goals, but helped the team make it to the Stanley Cup finals. He found his form again in 1989-90, as he scored 51 goals and had a career-high 91 points. In total, he played seven seasons with the Habs, and never scored less than 20 goals in any of those seasons.

Two years after being drafted, as a rookie, Patrick Roy led the team to the Stanley Cup. He won the Conn Smythe trophy that year as the league’s most valuable player in the playoffs. In the next seven years, Roy won three Vezina trophies as the league’s best goalie and four Jennings trophies for having the lowest goals against average. In 1993, Roy again led the Habs to a Stanley Cup, and again, he won the Conn Smythe trophy. That year, the team tied a NHL record with 11 straight wins, and set a new record with 10 straight overtime wins. Roy was a fierce competitor with the Habs. In the 1994 playoffs, he was diagnosed with appendicitis. He missed one game, and then took shots so he could keep playing (he won his first game back). When the Habs were eliminated, he had his appendix removed. The Habs retired his number in 2008.

So there you have it. The five best draft the Habs have ever done. What do you think was the Habs best draft ever?

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