Meet the all-time all-drafted team for the most storied – not to mention, most successful – franchise in hockey history. It’s no easy task to comb through nearly 50 years of the Montreal Canadiens at the NHL draft, trying to whittle down their many, many memorable selections into one 20-player roster.
However, like Original Six cohorts Boston and Detroit (and Chicago and the New York Rangers and Toronto), many of Montreal’s biggest names had arrived on the scene before the advent of the NHL amateur draft in 1963. In other words, you won’t find (inhale) Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau, Doug Harvey, Howie Morenz, Jacques Plante, Henri Richard, Newsy Lalonde, Dickie Moore, Serge Savard, Bernie Geoffrion, Yvan Cournoyer, Bill Durnan, Elmer Lach, Aurel Joliat, Jacques Lemaire, Guy Lapointe, Toe Blake, Georges Vezina and others (exhale) on the Habs’ all-time all-drafted team – for the simple fact that they weren’t drafted. So, yes, that’s a pretty big asterisk, considering all of these players rank among the all-time top 25 greatest players in Montreal’s franchise history.
Still, the Canadiens’ success at the draft table since 1963 leaves plenty of star power from which to choose. This is especially true on the blueline and in goal, as well as on the wings, but it should be noted that this group is a little thin down the middle, at least on the offensive side of the puck.
Let’s get into it.
The first line is pretty obvious. Saku Koivu stands alone as the best all-around center ever drafted by Montreal, and he’s got 1970s linemates Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt on either side. The feisty Koivu provides playmaking and a defensive conscience, freeing up Lafleur and Shutt to terrorize opposing goaltenders. It might not be Blake-Lach-Richard, but it’s not bad.
The second line sees Tomas Plekanec with Claude Lemieux on the right side and Mats Naslund on the left. Andrew Cassels received consideration to center this line – he was drafted by Montreal and has slightly better career stats than Plekanec – but Plekanec put on his turtleneck and went to work in Montreal for years, while Cassels plied his NHL trade elsewhere. So, Plekanec gets the nod. This isn’t a high-octane unit, but Lemieux’s big-game clutchness and Naslund’s offensive creativity complement Plekanec’s two-way play, not to mention there’s some edge on this line, too.
The third line will never be scored upon. Not ever, not by anybody. It features perhaps the two greatest defensive forwards to ever play the game in center Guy Carbonneau and his Selke Trophy-winning predecessor Bob Gainey at left wing. It goes without saying that they’re first forwards to jump over the boards for the penalty kill. Brendan Gallagher joins the unit to provide grit, scoring punch and endless annoyance.
On the fourth line, two-way Craig Conroy beats out the likes of Doug Risebrough and Darcy Tucker for the center role, with consistent 30-goal scorer Mario Tremblay on the right side and 50-goal game-breaker Stephane Richer on the left. Richer’s explosive scoring potential was the deciding factor as he beat out John LeClair, Max Pacioretty and Shayne Corson for the spot.
The blueline is so loaded that this team might not need a goalie. It’s Larry Robinson and Chris Chelios on the first pairing. Can you imagine? Good luck finding an inch of space against those two all-timers. The second pair features Viacheslav Fetisov – yeah, that’s right – and Rod Langway. (Fetisov was drafted by the Habs in 1978 but never signed or played for them, and was redrafted by New Jersey five years later.) This duo is as rock-solid defensively as the top pair, with an equal amount of momentum-shifting physicality, but not quite as much offense. On the third pairing it’s P.K. Subban and Petr Svoboda, but if you want to sub in Andrei Markov or Eric Desjardins or Ryan McDonagh, well, it’s an embarrassment of riches back there for Montreal.
In net, there’s Patrick Roy and Carey Price. So if an opponent can somehow break through the checking of Gainey-Carbonneau-Gallagher, then manage to get around Robinson-Chelios, all they have to do is put the puck past Roy or Price. That doesn’t sound impossible at all…
Here’s a look at Montreal’s all-time all-drafted team. The 20-player lineup is based on players’ entire NHL body of work.
Saku Koivu (21st, 1993)
Tomas Plekanec (71st, 2001)
Guy Carbonneau (44th, 1979)
Craig Conroy (123rd, 1990)
Guy Lafleur (1st, 1971)
Claude Lemieux (26th, 1983)
Brendan Gallagher (147th, 2010)
Mario Tremblay (12th, 1974)
Steve Shutt (4th, 1972)
Mats Naslund (37th, 1979)
Bob Gainey (8th, 1973)
Stephane Richer (29th, 1984)
Larry Robinson (20th, 1971)
Chris Chelios (40th, 1981)
Viachelsav Fetisov (201st, 1978)
Rod Langway (36th, 1977)
P.K. Subban (43rd, 2007)
Petr Svoboda (5th, 1984)
Patrick Roy (51st, 1984)
Carey Price (5th, 2005)