How many years have Habs fans worldwide been saying that the team will be ready for a Cup push in a few years? Sound familiar? Of course it does, realistically, those years have passed, more years than anyone could have anticipated. Truth be told, the future is now.
No one could argue that the Montreal Canadiens currently have a great young crop of talent. Ten out of the twenty-three players on the roster this year are twenty-five or younger and thirteen are under thirty years of age. Fortunately, it’s not just any young players within the organization, its players who were cautiously drafted and developed slowly before making the jump. Let’s evaluate the squad’s most valuable assets under the age of 25;
Christopher Higgins, 24: Drafted in the first round back in 2002 out of Yale University. Played two seasons with the Hamilton Bulldogs from 2003-2005 and put up 99 points. Higgins then made the jump to the National Hockey League officially at the age of 22 in the 2005-06 campaign. He has since progressed to being one of the Habs most lethal offensive and defensive threats, and at the tender age of 24, it can only improve.
Mike Komisarek, 25: Long time pal of Chris Higgins, Komisarek was drafted a year earlier, 7th overall in the first round. Listed at 6’4 and 240 pounds, the intensity and physical style of #8 is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Montreal Canadiens. Following two successful years at the University of Michigan, he then moved on to the Hamilton Bulldogs where at the young age of 21, was called up regularly to play for the big club. Komisarek has proved his worth and is unsurprisingly one of the Habs top 4 defenseman.
Tomas Plekanec, 24: He turns 25 years old on Halloween and so far he has exceeded any of the organizations expectations. Drafted in the third round in 2001, Plekanec was a steal and has since proven that at only 5’10 and 194 pounds, he can play with the big boys. During the Canadiens downslide last season beginning with that loss against the Bruins on Dec 26th 2006, Tomas Plekanec was one of the rare bright spots for the remainder of the season, capturing the Molson Cup in January and finishing second on the team in +/- with a +10, and ranked second on the team with 2 shorthanded goals.
Kyle Chipchura, 21: Already labeled as the next Captain of the Montreal Canadiens, Chipchura looks like the real deal. Even though he has yet to play a regular season game with the bleu-blanc-rouge, he won a job with the club with his defensive play and face-off strength in pre-season play. Drafted 18th overall in 2004 by the Habs, Chipchura is a born leader and provides depth up the middle for years to come.
Carey Price, 20: Where do you start with a young protégé like Price, MVP at the 2007 World Junior Championships, 2007 CHL goaltender of the year, WHL top goaltender for 2006-07 season, 2007 Calder Cup most valuable player. Enough said, and if Price lives up to the hype and his recent accomplishments, the Habs won’t have a goaltending controversy for a very long time. Great move on the club for keeping Price and it should only be a matter of time before he is playing 60 + games with the squad.
Whether you’re a Habs fan or not, you have to admit that the depth is apparent. Skilled young players with a lot of promise, is a winning combination. The task that lies ahead is keeping the young core happy, motivated, and playing their best. If the current young squad can stay together for at least a few years, the results just may come. Let’s not forget, the Edmonton Oilers learned how to lose together when they went down to the NY Islanders in the ’83 finals, before capturing 5 cups in 7 years. Mario Lemieux and company took several years of growth before winning back to back Stanley cups in ‘91 and ‘92.
The possibilities are endless with this edition of the Canadiens, and it’s clear that the Habs haven’t had this much depth in at least a decade. So enough of all this future talk, the Montreal Canadiens have the team to get it done sooner rather than later.