Welcome to Last Word’s Draft Boom and Bust series. As the 2020 NHL Entry Draft approaches, we decided to examine each team’s best and worst pick since the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. The biggest boom is a player that had the best value relative to where they were selected. Meaning, no one in the first round will be considered a team’s best value pick. However, the biggest bust picks will almost always be in the first round. We will examine each player, why they were picked where they were, and what their NHL career was like. Today, we look at the Montreal Canadiens draft, and their biggest boom and bust.
Montreal Canadiens Draft Boom and Bust
Being drafted as an undersized right-winger in the fifth-round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, the road to the NHL was not going to be easy for Brendan Gallagher. First of all, being a fifth-round pick, the percentage of actually making it to the show was slim. Add that to being 5’9”, it was not going to easy for Gallagher to achieve his dreams. However, 10 years after Gallagher was drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, he finds himself as a pivotal player for the organization. He is a leader on and off the ice and the heart and soul of the Montreal Canadiens lineup.
In his years playing junior hockey, Gallagher spent his time with the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. In his rookie season, he scored 10 goals and 21 assists in 52 games. However, he exploded in the 2009-10 season where he scored 41 goals and 40 assists for 81 points in 72 games. He also went on to score 11 goals and 21 points in 16 playoff games.
The following season was Gallagher’s best with the club as he surpassed all his previous best point totals. He scored 44 goals and 47 assists for 91 points.
In 2011-12, Gallagher represented Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships where the team came away with a bronze medal. He was named team captain of the Vancouver Giants after James Henry was traded. Gallagher finished that season playing 54 games, registering 41 goals and 36 assists for 77 points. Gallagher finished his junior career being the all-time scoring leader for the Giants.
The 2012-13 NHL season did not start in October as there was a lockout. During this time, Gallagher played for the Habs AHL affiliate Hamilton Bulldogs. He registered 10 goals and 10 assists for 20 points in 36 games in his first taste of professional hockey. The lockout ended and the NHL season got underway in January where Gallagher started his rookie season. Gallagher put together a solid season for the Canadiens, scoring 15 goals and 13 assists for 28 points in 44 games. He also registered two goals in five playoff games. Because of his strong play, Gallagher was a finalist for the Calder Trophy. He came up short in voting, however, finishing second to Jonathan Huberdeau.
Gallagher would develop into a solid scoring option for the Canadiens. He hovered around or above the 20 goal mark for the next three years and would score over 40 points each year. His production dipped in the 2016-17 season, however, he bounced right back producing back to back 30 goal seasons and registering over 50 points each year. Before this season went on pause, Gallagher had registered 22 goals and 21 assists for 43 points in 56 games. He has been one of the most consistent players for the Canadiens since he entered the league and currently is the driving force of one of the most productive lines in hockey alongside Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar.
Canadiens Spark Plug
What makes Gallagher even more special is his never give up mentality. Gallagher may be small but he plays like he is 6’5” 240 lbs. His in your face style of play gets under the skin of his opponents and drives goaltenders insane. His attitude and work ethic was rewarded with being named an alternate captain prior to the 2015-16 season. A position he holds to this day. Gallagher is living proof that it is not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog. He is an inspiration to all players who lack size and is the heartbeat of the Montreal Canadiens.
Other Notable Booms
You can’t mention a draft boom list for the Montreal Canadiens without including P.K. Subban. While he wasn’t drafted as late as some of the other members of this list, he is still considered a boom being drafted in the middle of the second round. Subban was the 17th defenceman drafted in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Despite that, he leads all defenceman in points from his draft year. He sits 10th overall in scoring, and 13th in terms of games played.
Subban has gone on to have a marvellous career. He’s a three-time NHL Allstar. Subban represented Canada multiple times. Twice in the World Junior Hockey Championships and was apart of Team Canada in the 2014 Olympic Games where they captured a gold medal. He also won the James Norris Trophy during to 2012-13 NHL season for the league’s best defenceman. He’s amassed 105 goals and 321 assists for 426 points in 713 games. This to go along with 18 goals and 62 points in 96 playoff games. Subban still has a long career remaining and during his time with the Canadiens was thought of as one of the league’s premier defenders.
Victor Mete has proven to be another notable boom draft pick for the Montreal Canadiens. He was drafted in the fourth round, 100th overall in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. While defencemen normally take longer to develop and crack the NHL line up, that was not the case for Mete. Although still developing, Mete was able to crack the Habs lineup just one year after his draft year. He has seen a ton of ice time on the top pairing with Shea Weber and has developed into a smooth-skating puck-moving defenceman for the Habs. Despite being a fourth-round selection, Mete has played the 13th most games out of all players in his draft year with 171.
Jaroslav Halak is another name we would like to mention as a boom pick for the Canadiens. The Habs selected Halak in the ninth round, 271st overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The ninth round does not even exist anymore in terms of NHL drafts. Being a ninth-round pick and making the NHL is a massive accomplishment in itself. Let alone having the career Halak has had. Halak carried the Canadiens to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010, upsetting both Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite this, the Canadiens elected to hold on to Carey Price, who is not too shabby himself.
Halak has gone on to be very successful with his other teams. He has played in 520 games registering a record of 272-167-58 while recording a goals-against-average of 2.48 and a save percentage of .916. He also has 50 career shutouts. While his career is winding down, he is still thought of as one of the leagues best back up goalies and currently serves as a 1B option for the Boston Bruins.
Many people will read this name and think… who? That’s warranted. Fischer is a complete afterthought for the Montreal Canadiens and one of the biggest blunders they’ve made on the draft floor. The Canadiens drafted Fischer in the first round, 20th overall in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He didn’t come close to getting a shot at the show. The closest he got to the NHL was playing two games for the Houston Aeros in the AHL in the 2011-12 season. If you can even consider that close.
Despite not making the NHL, Fischer kept his playing career alive. He spent three seasons in the DEL playing for the Krefeld Penguins and most recently spent the last four seasons playing for Klagenfurt AC in Austria. Nowhere near where he expected to be after being a first-round pick.
The Habs really botched this pick, as two picks later, the Philadelphia Flyers selected Claude Giroux. Giroux was the type of player the Habs have needed for what seems like an eternity and managed to miss. Now, of course, hindsight is 20/20. Fischer was ranked higher than Giroux. So we can say the pick was warranted. However, for Habs fans, it has to hurt.
Other Notable Busts
This was one of the most exciting picks for Habs fans. The draft was in Montreal, the Habs had the 18th overall selection, Louis Leblanc was still available, how could the Montreal Canadiens not draft him? When they did, the arena exploded. Habs fans everywhere were celebrating the Canadiens finally drafting a Quebec born star in the first round. The first one since picking Eric Chouinard in 1998. And then… crickets. Leblanc never lived up to the hype. He managed to only play 50 games for the Canadiens registering five goals and five assists. He spent most of his career in the AHL and did not overly impress there either.
Leblanc signed with the New York Islanders in 2015 as his last shot to try to make the NHL. However, he was cut from the team and the two sides mutually agreed to terminate the contract. Leblanc then tried his luck overseas between the KHL as well as in Slovakia and Switzerland all in 2015-16. Over the three leagues, Leblanc played a total of 15 games, registering five points. He announced his retirement from hockey on June 29th, 2016.
Nikita Scherbak was yet another promising offensive star who just could not crack the NHL roster fulltime. He put up some productive years in the AHL but just could not find his game at the NHL level. Scherbak was drafted in the first round, 26th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. He managed just 37 total games in the NHL between the Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings, recording six goals and two assists. Scherbak had the skills, but his work ethic was questioned at both AHL and NHL levels. Scherbak decided to make the leap to the KHL for the 2019-20 season. Between Omsk Avangard and Chelyabinsk Traktor, Scherbak has played 31 games, registering three goals and eight assists.
Michael McCarron is the prospect that Canadiens fans could not wait to crack the lineup but he just could not do it. Everyone was routing for him. He was thought to be the big centre of the future for the Canadiens. The centre they desperately needed for years. However, McCarron never developed into what fans wanted him to be. He only managed to play 69 career games thus far, scoring two goals and eight points. At the time of the draft, the Canadiens were believed to be reaching on him as it was. Just trying to fill the need. The part that really hurts is the pick immediately after McCarron was Shea Theodore. A player the Canadiens could DESPERATELY use right now to fill the hole that’s been left behind by Andrei Markov since the departing in 2017.