The Montreal Canadiens are famous for producing and keeping talented youngsters.
In the past, the Habs would get first pick on the local talent, and keep hold of big stars such as Guy Lafleur and Jean Beliveau for season after season. These days, you need good draft picks to get the best rookies. The Boston Bruins were blessed with the Maple Leafs’ naivety of giving up the second overall draft pick last season to acquire the rights of Phil Kessel. With that No. 2 pick, the Bruins drafted and later signed Tyler Seguin, who has slotted into the NHL like a hand in a glove.
It looked as though things were looking up when the Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal’s feeder team) won the AHL’s Calder Cup in 2007. Since the Dogs’ triumph four years ago, most of the roster have come through to the NHL. However, only two players from that Calder Cup team remain in the organization. Maxim Lapierre is the latest of a long line of Calder Cup winners to leave Montreal. Only Carey Price and Andrei Kostitsyn remain at the Bell Centre following the departures of Jaroslav Halak, Kyle Chipchura, Matt D’Agostini and Ryan O’Byrne.
Lately, however, the Habs might have finally turned to their young and promising stars. Defenseman PK Subban oozes confidence, and despite his naivity often letting him down this season, he has made a promising start with a lot of ice time. Offensively, Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais are beginning to show they have what it takes to stay in the NHL. Pacioretty has 11 points in 20 NHL games this season, including four in his last three games.
The Habs have a lot of severe injury problems with Andrei Markov, Josh Gorges and Mike Cammalleri out for the foreseeable future (just to name a few). The Habs may be forced to stick with their young guns at the moment, but come the end of the season, they will have to grow up quickly.
A realistic goal for the Habs, who have 59 points at the All-Star break, is to win the Northeast Division. They currently trail Boston by four points in the division standings, but are still in the thick of the playoff picture.
The confidence and enthusiasm of Pacioretty, Desharnais, Subban and Swedish centre Andreas Engqvist may be the difference in the closing stages of the regular season. Others have tried and failed in recent years, and it is up to the youngsters to show they are good enough to stay in Montreal.