When the Montreal Canadiens were busy scouting hockey prospects from all over the world, they didn’t have to look to far with the Montreal Rocket of the QMJHL playing in the same building as the Habs, in the Bell Center. With the 2002 NHL entry draft the Habs had a chance to land one of top Rocket players coming off a solid performance in the U-18 tournament. They liked Michael Lambert so much, that they even traded two picks in order to move to obtain his services and select him in the fifth round, 99th overall. When the 2003 NHL entry draft came around, the Canadiens decided to take a similar chance on some of the Rocket players, as they selected an unheard of three players from the same team. Being able to get a first hand view of the Rocket must have had a major impact for the scouting department, as they selected Cory Urquhart and Maxim Lapierre in the second round, 40th overall and 61st overall. But they weren’t done yet as they took a late flyer on tough guy Jimmy Bonneau in the eighth round, 241st overall. Never before has there been a total of four prospects playing in the same organization for the same team, but assistant general manager Andre Savard and director of player personnel Trevor Timmins had to see something in each player to take a chance on them regardless of where they played. Having ex Habs coach Alain Vigneault taking over the coaching duties for the Rocket and the team being owned by ex Habs general manager Serge Savard, may have been an important factor in the decision to select so many players from the same team.
In the following season the Montreal Rocket relocated to Prince Edward Island, where the team found themselves to be a welcome addition to the hockey community, and the players responded well as the team was able to continually be ranked in the top ten of the entire CHL, an impressive feat while adapting to their new home. The move by the Canadiens management to select so many players from one team also was a successful decision as they saw three of the four players finish the season 1-2-3 in team scoring, as Lambert, Uruqhart and Lapierre were able to find much success in their offensive production. Often playing on the same line together, the Lambert, Urquhart and Lapierre at times formed one of the most dominate lines in the entire CHL. Often overlooked but not to be forgotten, Jimmy Bonneau while not producing much offense compared with the other Hab prospects in PEI, he was able to establish himself as one of the top enforcers in league while also being able to be an effective hockey player and showing a lot of progress in his overall skill level.
This season was a breakout season for the teams leading scorer Michael Lambert, as he was able to shake off a somewhat disappointing season after being draft, to set career highs in all offensive categories. Not only did he lead the team in scoring, but was routinely in the top ten in scoring in the entire league and he lead the league in shots on goal with over 300 shots on goal in just 66 games. His 42 goals are also a major improvement over his career high of 29 which he set in his draft year. Not far behind Lambert, Cory Urquhart was able to duplicate his impressive numbers as he was second on the team in scoring, with almost the exact same numbers as the prior season even though he battled through a tough hip injury and some other minor injuries as well. Both were able to represent their country in the Remax games but were overlooked in their chance to play for Team Canada’s U-20 team. Perhaps the most impressive improvement came from Maxim Lapierre who is the youngest of the four, and playing in his second season in the QMJHL. Lapierre was able to increase all of his offensive numbers while also playing a much more physically intense game and was a model of consistency showing hard work and effort on a nightly basis. Tough guy Jimmy Bonneau was even able to triple his offensive production, as he went from six points to a respectable 19 points and was able to contribute more then just his fists, which helped his team win games in an increased role on the team.
As the regular season has just ended, the Rocket will start their playoff run in hopes of making it to the Memorial Cup, as they face-off against the Quebec Remparts in the first round which should be interesting test for coach Vigneault and the Rocket to see how far they can go in this years playoffs. With 20 year old Lambert and soon to be 20 Urquhart, it’s unclear if they will be back with the Rocket next season or not, but the team will have one of the better two way players in Lapierre and tough guy Bonneau back for sure baring any sort of trade or spectacular showing at the Habs training camp this summer. One has to wonder if the Habs will consider dipping into the talent pool again this June when the 2004 entry draft rolls around.