If you have been around the NHL for some time, if you have followed trends, you will have noticed that the last team to win the Stanley Cup becomes the “norm” to build a winning franchise. Back when the Canadiens won their last two Stanley Cups, it was believed that you needed to have excellent goaltending if you wanted to hope to win the Holy Grail of hockey excellence. In the Red Wings’ run, it wasn’t as important as having a true number one defenseman ala Nicklas Lidstrom, or the Blackhawks with Duncan Keith. Now with the Penguins lifting Lord Stanley, you need quality centremen. The truth sits somewhere in between: you need a good team, filled with players willing to do what it takes to win and that, no matter what position they play at.
As many feel like the centre position is pivotal (pun intended) in order to win as it stands today, November 2nd, 2017, let’s see what the Canadiens have done in order to try to draft players at that position. Understanding that drafting 17-18 year-olds in the top rounds doesn’t guarantee success, let’s see if the franchise has attempted, or not, to address the need that many are planting on Habs’ GM Marc Bergevin.
Since 2009, the Canadiens have drafted a total of nine (9) centremen in the top 3 rounds, and have tried converting one more, Michael McCarron, from the wing to centre. In a year when they lacked second and third round pick (2010), they took a flyer on centre Mark MacMillan in the fourth round. Results? Obviously not great as the team is still trying to fill that void. Does that mean that they haven’t tried? Allow me to doubt it.
Centre of attention
In 2009, the Habs selected Louis Leblanc (remember the fans chanting his name at the Bell Centre?) 18th overall. What could go wrong? A local, young future star pivoting the Canadiens’ top line? Need I say more? That year, the Habs had no second round picks and they selected Joonas Nattinen in the third round, 65th overall. That one unfortunately didn’t pan out either.
2010 was tough on Trevor Timmins as the team’s head draft man had no second or third round picks to play with. Still, he took a chance on selecting a centre, Mark MacMillan, with the 113th overall pick. Mark unfortunately moved on this year but as a fourth round pick, he was a long shot, let’s admit it.
After a dismal season seeing the team lose Carey Price for the season, the 2012 saw the Canadiens have the third overall pick and with it, they drafted a player whom they thought would be the team’s number one centre for years to come. Alex Galchenyuk has shown flashed of greatness, but much more disappointment than anything and he’s been reverted back to the wing by a second coach now. We know the rest of the story.
In 2013, the team drafted Michael McCarron (25th), Jacob De la Rose (34th) and Connor Crisp (71th). The last two were potential centres, and they are still attempting to see if McCarron can become a good centre, although it seems like he won’t be a top-six player at that position. We cannot say that the team hasn’t tried to fix this whole at centre, at least not that draft year!
2015 was another year with which Timmins had no second round picks so he selected Lukas Vejdemo (87th) in the third round that year. Time will tell if this was or not a good selection but when drafting that late, it takes time for those players to develop to the point of having an impact at the NHL level.
Timmins selected William Bitten in the third round of 2016, having no second round picks once again. Bitten is showing some very good things at the CHL level, which should leave the fan base hopeful.
We all know what the 2017 draft brought the Canadiens as both Ryan Poehling (25th) and Joni Ikonen (58th) drew much attention on the international stage this past summer. Those two could very well become, in due time, a very good one-two punch down the middle for a team in much need of such depth.
As we can see, we can argue all we want about Trevor Timmins’ effectiveness at drafting, but there is no denying that the lack of depth at the centre position was NOT a oversight by the team or its management team. Sometimes, teams need to catch a break with players coming out of nowhere, or players developing and turning into what scouts saw in them in junior. Here’s hoping that the drought is coming to an end… until a new trend comes along with the next Stanley Cup winners. Go Habs Go!