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Canadiens Drafts In Retrospect: 2007 Draft Among All-Time Best



Montreal Canadiens re-draft 2007

Welcome to our newest summer series in which we will evaluate various Montreal Canadiens drafts with the benefit of hindsight.

To kick off the series we will take a look at one of the best drafts in team history: 2007.

Although the Canadiens managed to emerge from the darkness that was the late 1990s and the early 00s, an era which resulted in three consecutive years without a playoff appearance, things were still far from encouraging when evaluating the team’s long-term potential.

By the start of the 2006-07 season, players such as Andrei Kostitsyn, Alexander Perezhogin, Kyle Chipchura, Ryan O’Byrne, and Guillaume Latendresse led the charge as the team’s best prospects, whereas their future starter, Carey Price, was far from a sure bet.

It’s also worth noting the team decided to select defenceman David Fischer with their first-round pick in 2006, which, in retrospect, may have been one of the worst first-round picks in recent team history.

To make matters worse, the team failed to qualify for the playoffs, despite earning 42 wins while being coached by Guy Carbonneau. One additional win would have ensured they had a chance to win Lord Stanley’s Cup.

The team was stuck between a rock and a bad draft pick.

And there was one person in particular that took the brunt of the criticism: general manager Bob Gainey.

For many, the mere fact that Gainey traded reliable defenceman Craig Rivet to the San Jose Sharks in February was a sign that he had given up on the team. And to a certain extent, you could argue that keeping Rivet in the lineup could have led to a playoff appearance.

Nevertheless, Gainey decided it was time to move on from the defensive defenceman, sending Rivet and a fifth-round pick to the Sharks in exchange for a little-known defenceman named Josh Gorges, as well as San Jose’s first-round pick in 2007.

The trade would go on to become one of the most important decisions in franchise history, one that is still paying off, in spades, to this day.

Montreal Canadiens 2007 Draft Picks

The Canadiens owned nine picks heading into the weekend: 12th, 22nd (SJ), 43rd, 65th, 73rd, 133rd, 142nd, 163rd, and 192nd overall.

Patrick Kane was expected to be the first name called in 2007, but beyond him, the overall talent level of the draft class was questionable, to say the least. Players like Kyle Turris and James van Riemsdyk were expected to be decent players, but they were far from blue-chip prospects.

Defenceman Karl Alzner, who would eventually have his contract bought out by the Canadiens, was chosen fifth overall.

Heading into the 2007 Draft, the Canadiens needed a little of everything in their prospect pool, but given their draft position and the talent available, very few expected them to fill several organizational weaknesses.

With Thomas Hickey (4th overall), Alzner (5th), and Keaton Ellerby (10th) off the board, the Canadiens turned to a high-school defenceman with the 12th overall pick: Ryan McDonagh.

McDonaugh was compared to Keith Carney prior to the Draft, the epitome of underwhelming, with some outlets suggesting he was the 15th-best defenceman available.

With the pick the Canadiens acquired from the Sharks, the Canadiens once again reached into the American high-school ranks, picking USHL forward Max Pacioretty 22nd overall. Pacioretty had been compared to Taylor Pyatt before the draft, yet another underwhelming comparison.

Late Value

Trevor Timmins and Co. were not done yet.

With the 43rd-overall pick, the Montreal Canadiens chose a high-flying defenceman from the Ontario Hockey League: P.K. Subban. Although many will claim they knew Subban had elite potential, you’d be hard-pressed to find any outlet that ranked Subban among the top 120 players available, let alone the top 45.

Central Scouting had him ranked as the 102nd-best skater in North America.

They also found a very useful player in the third round, drafting defenceman Yannick Weber 73rd overall.

Brass Tacks

Finding one player that will make an impact in the NHL is usually considered a decent draft.

Finding two is excellent.

Finding four, on the other hand, is as rare as finding a working milkshake machine at McDonald’s.

But in this case, not only did Timmins find four players that would eventually go on to have good NHL careers, but he also found three All-Stars, including one that would eventually go on to win the James Norris Trophy as the best defenceman in the NHL.

Simply put, the 2007 Draft should have set up the Canadiens as a contender for the foreseeable future. And to a certain extent, it did push them into the realm of legitimacy, but there’s no denying it ended up being a squandered opportunity.

Before playing a single game for the Habs, Gainey decided to trade McDonagh along with Chris Higgins, Doug Janik, and Pavel Valentenko to the New York Rangers in exchange for Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt, and Michael Busto, one of the worst trades in NHL history.

Subban and Pacioretty, on the other hand, did play for the Canadiens, and they were among the most exciting players in the lineup, but the lack of supporting talent, particularly up front, was too much to overcome in the playoffs.

Subban was eventually traded for Shea Weber, who was then sent to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Evgenii Dadonov. Dadonov was flipped for a handful of games from Denis Gurianov, which is where the trade tree ends in this case.

But Pacioretty’s trade tree lives on, and the roots couldn’t be stronger.

In 2018, the Montreal Canadiens traded Pacioretty to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for Tomas Tatar, and 2019-second round pick, and the 13th overall pick at the 2017 Draft: Nick Suzuki.

MUST READ: Canadiens 2022-23 Season in Review, Suzuki Leads The Charge

Of course, at the time most analysts, including myself, thought that Cody Glass was the player the team should have acquired, and the word on the street was that general manager Marc Bergevin was also intent on a return including Glass, but the Golden Knights insisted Glass, the 6th overall pick in 2017, was not available.

Undaunted, the Canadiens made the deal, with Suzuki joining the Habs before he had a chance to play a single game for the team that drafted him, much like what happened to McDonagh.

And the rest, as they say, is history.